Archive for the ‘Farmers’ Markets’ Category

Pied Piper Pies, Bakery Tour

Thursday, March 31st, 2016

Pied Piper Pies is located in Highland Falls, a quaint town in New York’s lovely Hudson Valley. All the delicious pies in this recently opened shop are made from scratch using Suzanne Carroll Quillen’s home recipes for fillings and crust.

The eatery has two strong advantages: a corner location and an energetic owner.

Meet Suzanne - owner of Pied Piper Pies.

Day two!

Front counter display.

Daily menu.

Chicken pot pies!

Snickers pies!

Ginny and I tried several delicious pies. We'll be back to try more!

Suzanne began as a home-based business, selling her pies at area farmers’ markets and festivals.

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Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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Friday, February 19th, 2016

For something different to offer your customers, bake with pears! Every year when in season, I make a few pear pies and strudels. This fruit has a pleasant, unique flavor.

Pear strudels.






The most important point about pear filling, is that pears should not be treated like apples. The filling needs to have an abundance of spice. That’s the single biggest mistake most people make and then complain it was a terrible, tasteless pastry.

Pear Tips:
1. Unlike apples, pears need to be ripe before baking. Otherwise, they have little to no flavor and the crunchy texture of apples. About pears. How to tell when a pear is ripe, plus other facts.
2. Remember, you are not making apple pie  or apple pastries, you are baking with pears. I’ve seen far too many recipes for pear filling that have no spice or just a pinch of cinnamon. Use enough spice to add flavor to your pie. I suggest using up to 50% more spice than you would if baking an apple pie. Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cardamom are all good spices to use.
3. For the crust, use any pie or strudel dough, phyllo leaves, or puff pastry dough. Below is my flaky pie crust recipe.

Pear strudel.


yield: 6-8 medium-small strudel
5 cups all-purpose flour (approx. 1¼#)
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups vegetable shortening (1#)
¾ cup cold water (or use part vodka, part water)
extra flour for rolling out dough

Pear filling
6-8 ripe pears
½ cup sugar, or to taste
1 tablespoon mixed spice, your choice of nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, cardamom
½ cup flour (or ¼ cup cornstarch)

1. For filling, I gauge how much I need by how many strudels I will make. Approximately 1 pear per strudel. Mix all ingredients and set aside.
2. Line baking pan with parchment paper and preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
3. For dough: In a large bowl, lightly mix flour and salt, then cut in shortening. When mixture looks fine-grained, drizzle in water and mix into a ball. Knead lightly, separate into pieces. Use at once (or wrap and chill for one hour or up to five days
4. For strudels, roll dough into a rectangle, spread filling, roll up and place seam side down on prepared baking sheet. Slit dough deep enough  to reach the middle of the strudel. This helps the center dough bake properly.  If you wish, tops can be brushed with water, milk, butter, or beaten egg. You can also sprinkle with sugar.
5. Bake in preheated 375° oven 45-60 minutes. Strudels are done when juice has bubbled out for a few minutes.
6. Let cool at least an hour before cutting. If wrapping for market, cool thoroughly before wrapping. To freeze, cool to room temperature then wrap well and place in freezer.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! With the trend toward home-made, seasonal, and local, your customers would appreciate purchasing fresh fruit pastries. If you want to be known for your incredible pear pastries, remember to NOT treat them like apple products.

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Guessing Production Amounts, FAQ

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

Week to week, the number of market shoppers can vary greatly. But a covered shopping area when it rains may help keep visitation fairly steady.

Question: How do you estimate how much to bake when selling at a farmers’ market or festival for the first time? What about when you have a seasonal booth at a farmers’ market? Does it vary week to week?

Answer: This is not a problem unique to our baking businesses. All industries face this question. But when we’re working with perishables, especially for one-day events, it can be quite challenging. For special events such as a yearly festival, find out the expected turn-out and how many similar vendors will be there. Typically, only 10% of fair-goers purchase baked goods. Divide that number by how many vendors make similar products. For example, if 3,000 is the expected turn-out, 300 shoppers might buy baked goods. If there are two other baked goods vendors, you may sell 100 items. Speculating further, multiply your average product price by 100 and then deduct the vendor fee, cost of goods, travel expenses, and incidentals (are you buying drinks or lunch for yourself?) from the gross amount.

It’s different when you have a regular booth at the market. You can build up a loyal following and have customers pre-order each week. But many things affect sales – the weather; holidays preceding or following the market day; if any crazy diets are a growing fad (remember the low-carb fad?); and the new products your competitors may bring to the market.

Do the best you can, and keep track of sales. Eventually you’ll get better at guessing. But know when to cut your losses. Learn from your experiences. Don’t be stupid. Someone once posted on a forum asking for advice. She and her mom were making dozens of products to sell at a weekly flea market. They had no car and used public transportation to haul everything around. There were many weeks when they had no sales even though their prices were cheap. She asked for advice and received numerous responses from people who had no business experience, such as – stick with it you’re not a quitter, sample your products, hold a raffle, drop your prices.

My response: you need to stop immediately. Every week you are losing money. Find another venue (flea markets are notorious for drawing bargain hunters) and re-evaluate both your products and your pricing. She got rather snippy with me.  Clearly, she was not looking for business advice, only looking for people to support her misguided attempts.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! If you are in business to make money, please don’t be stupid. Do your market research and don’t take advice from well-meaning but non-business people.

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Do We Need Insurance?

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

In our current world, most of us assume that insurance is a necessity. Motor vehicle laws require it, as do mortgages and other types of bank loans. Most farmers’ markets also require vendors to carry insurance.


But for small legal home-based food businesses, there is no requirement, so you have some leeway. Think about your personal comfort level and the products you make. Only non-potentially hazardous baked goods (products that do not require refrigeration) are allowed for most home-processor permits. These types of baked goods are the lowest risk food category and have less risk (for food borne illness) than organic spinach.

Assess your risk and think about your products. For example, if you make gluten-free or other allergy-related  items, your risk is greater than someone who only bakes plain breads and rolls.

If I was legal (had a permit or license), did not make allergy-related products, and only made foods allowed under the cottage food law, I would not purchase insurance. I’m a rule-follower and not a risk taker, but I’m also a pragmatist. I would only purchase insurance if I was a farmers’ market vendor. My preference has always been to sell wholesale, which is allowed under some CFL permits. If your permit allows you to sell wholesale, any store you approach would already have insurance. Stores carry it to cover all their vendors’ products. If an owner or manager tells you that you must have insurance, either they do not carry insurance (red flag alert) or it’s their way of telling you good-bye.

If you decide to purchase insurance, call around and ask local agents for quotes. And look at the Food Liability Insurance Program (FLIP). Be aware that insurance companies only insure legal businesses.

I can’t tell you what to do, but I can tell you what I would do in your situation. I think, for the most part, the people who really benefit from home processors buying insurance, are the insurance companies. They might be the ones in a no-risk category.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Remember, assess your products. For small legal home-based food businesses, insurance is a matter of personal comfort.

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Cinnamon Buns, Quick Fix

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015


We love cinnamon buns at my house. If we’re in a hurry and can’t wait several hours for a yeast dough, I have successfully used a biscuit mix to satisfy our craving.

Your homemade mix or a boxed mix works well.

Stir ingredients in a large pot. No mixer necessary.

Add liquid, stir, and dump onto a floured surface.

Knead lightly and form into flat ball.

Roll into rectangle, pour on lots of cinnamon sugar.

Roll up and cut into pieces. A bench scraper/dough cutter can be used to cut the dough

and clean your counter, too.

Nifty tool!

Place cut rounds into greased pan and bake immediately. No proofing!

When cool, frost and eat.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Quick fix buns are not the same as those lovely yeasted cinnamon buns. But we’re talking quick fix and they work just fine for hungry customers.

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Strawberries, Local and Seasonal

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

Strawberries for sale at our local farmers' market.

It’s strawberry season! Photo below shows a tasty, unusual idea, from sugar me sweet bakers. Owner Ginny Farris used swiss meringue butter cream on top of fresh strawberry cupcakes to mimic the appearance of ice cream scoops.

Strawberry cupcakes from sugar me sweet bakers.

Other berry good product ideas: stir small pieces of strawberries into muffin, cake, or cupcake batters. Or make strawberry pies –  everything from two crust to hand held pies and poptarts. And then of course there’s the beloved classic strawberry shortcake.

Remember that product size impacts the consumer – medium and individual-sized portions are less expensive and easier to sell. Plus, it’s a way for customers to purchase their own small samples. Post a sign that you take orders for other sizes.

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Home-Based Baking at its Best! Homemade products using local and seasonal produce are sure winners in area farmers’ markets.

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Handmade Cones, New Product Idea

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

Several years ago when I worked in corporate R&D, I tested an interesting cone-shaped product from a large bakery manufacturing company. It was dark brown, made from pretzel dough, sprinkled with large salt crystals, and shaped like an ice cream waffle cone but with the texture of a sturdy cracker.

The brochure said it was a new product for ice cream shops. But I kept picturing it as the perfect vehicle for savory foods and salads. This was the mid-1990′s when fairs and festivals were expanding their visitor base and the fast food industry was promoting hand-held meals. Since then I’ve occasionally seen small pretzel cones advertised by the Joy Ice Cream Cone Company, but it’s never caught on. Sadly, the salty waffle pretzel cone didn’t gain momentum. I was heartbroken.

That was a new product developed long before it’s time. Now, however, with the advent of healthy, handmade, artisan style everything, the time might be right! If anyone was interested in handmade cones, you could make healthier ice cream waffle cones using whole grain flour, organic ingredients, and/or flavored with herbs or spices.

Or make salad cups! Excellent for hand held on the go eating.

Last week on Facebook I posted a video from America’s Test Kitchen that featured how to make ice cream cones.

The video features how to make artisan ice cream cones.

Learn the complete how-to by watching the video.


Home-Based Baking at its Best! If you decide to try pretzel cones and need help (but preferably, you need testers) you know where to find me…

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Pastry Squares Using Summer’s Fresh Fruits

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

Blueberry Pastry Square

Fresh fruit products sell very well during the summer months. Fruit squares – pies that are baked in slabs and cut into pieces for individual sale – are excellent sellers at farmers’ markets, coffee shops, and convenience stores.

For these types of fruit bars I like using a flaky pie crust recipe, but any favorite dough will work. Roll out a piece of dough large enough to cover the bottom of your pan, spread fruit filling over the dough, then top with another piece of dough. For experienced bakers, a lattice top looks nice but weaving the strips can be hard. Or use a streusel topping, which is easy and quite attractive.

If making a large sheet seems daunting, start practicing with smaller pans. Below, a loaf pan is quite manageable.

Peach filling over dough, in an 8x4 loaf pan.

The peach bars are sliced and sold with a heavy dusting of confectioners' sugar.

Bake until the top crust is brown and the filling has started to bubble. Cool completely before cutting, or the filling will not hold up.

If using local and seasonal produce, make sure your signs and labels reflect this. Adding the farm’s name is a good marketing strategy and is appreciated by your friendly neighborhood farmers.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Seasonal and local are key words.

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Value-Added Products in the Local Economy

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

Fo bakers, pies are a great example of value-added products.

Value-added food products are foods that use ingredients that are enhanced or changed to increase their value. The term is usually applied to farmers who take raw produce and turn it into products which can be sold at a higher price. Typically this refers to produce which has been transformed into specialty foods such as jams, preserves, and jellies; salsas; sauces; vegetables; and of course baked goods such as fruit pies, crisps, cobblers, muffins, etc.

Small peach pies are excellent market sellers.

For bakers it means taking raw ingredients to create baked goods. Fruit pies seem to be the most appealing, but other produce can enhance your basic recipes to create a seasonal and healthful allure.

Clockwise from top left: Onion stuffed breads, plum frangipane tarts, corn muffins, peach strudel, blueberry muffins, apple pear coffeecake.

Using local ingredients increases your sales appeal. An article in Bake magazine explains, “Over the past 10 years, there has been a surge in consumer demand for locally produced foods, along with widening availability… More than half of consumers seek out locally produced foods… and almost half are willing to pay up to 10% more for such items. One in three would pay up to 25% more, and a third of consumers also claimed to consciously purchase local foods at least once a week.”

Home-Based Baking at its Best! If you are using local ingredients such as produce, dairy, or eggs, proudly market yourself to shoppers in your area.

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Food Safety and the New Food Entrepreneur

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015


This photo was taken on a hot summer day at the farmers’ market. Food was not covered, flies and yellow jackets were feasting on the pizzas, and the vendor was eating while handling food.

The issue of food safety scares me. I’m always amazed that more people don’t get sick from eating prepared foods purchased outside the home, whether from a supermarket, restaurant, or farmers’ market. (I’ve written many times about violations at farmers’ markets).

I’ve been in the food industry for more than thirty years and I’ve seen first-hand how food is handled by people working in commercial kitchens. Throughout my book, The (Faux) Pastry Chef: How I Found My Baking Fix, I write about many of the repulsive things I’ve seen. From the introduction, page 3:

For foodies interested in a look behind the scenes
I’m sorry if this book spoils your appetite. When I purchase items in a bakery or eat in a restaurant, I often think back to what I observed in the kitchens where I worked. I have to not think about what might be happening when my food is being prepared.

New food entrepreneurs with no food/business background are some of the worst offenders. Folks who are new to the business world are often so excited about a dream come true, but so overwhelmed with responsibility, food safety often ends up at the bottom of their to-do list. Food Safety News has a salmonella story which does not surprise me. Expert: Boston Restaurants Closed for Salmonella Had ‘Pitiful’ Food Safety Program. If you are a food entrepreneur, please remember that food safety belongs at the top of your priority list. A healthy customer is a repeat customer.

For more about this subject: Food Safety News has updated information about food borne illness outbreaks and food recalls. More about food recalls from the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Home-Based Baking at its Best! My best advice to everyone who wants to contribute to good public health: Never sell any food you wouldn’t eat yourself.

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