Archive for the ‘Recipe/Product Development’ Category

Clean Eating Trend, Good News or Bad?

Friday, April 22nd, 2016

Fresh produce and open air markets.

Is the clean eating trend good news for us? I’d say yes! For consumers, and society as a whole, we are all better off eating a more healthful diet. But not everyone is happy.

Sometimes, when I read a food industry trade magazine, I wonder: who are these people and why are they writing such nonsense? In a recent issue of Bake magazine I found a convoluted article, The paradox of choice, which explained their side.

The article began by talking about consumer TV habits. “Not long ago, Nielsen released an eye-opening report on the television watching habits of Americans. Despite the fact that the average number of TV channels received by US households increased dramatically from 128 to 189 within five years (a 48 percent jump), the average number of channels actually watched remained flat at just 17. More channels did not equate to viewing a wider selection.”

Apparently, they believe the number of increased stations should mean people can increase their viewing to match what’s available. Sadly, these folks don’t realize there’s a finite number of hours in each day. People chose from what’s available and if there are new programs, they stop watching older ones.

The article moved on, to the food analogy. “The same can be said about consumer eating habits. While Americans are moving in all sorts of different directions, as people become increasingly more selective about the foods they will and won’t eat, the overall number of food and beverage occasions consumed by the average consumer is flat, according to a new report by The NPD Group.”

Why, yes, of course the number of food and beverage occasions remains flat. Most people are not eating more, they are replacing what they eat with new choices. And with the healthy food trend, people are choosing healthier foods. Good for them! Trends happen, people change, and this trend bodes well for the other trends: eat natural, eat local, support your small businesses. And these small local businesses produce foods with fewer chemicals. Isn’t that a good thing?

Uh, oh, I kept reading. “Another equally menacing fact for food manufacturers and food retailers is consumers’ increasing demand for purity in their foods and beverages. Consumers are avoiding adulterated elements and looking for natural and fresh foods and beverages, as well as avoiding some of the processed foods on which many major food companies base their business.”

“Another equally menacing fact”? That seems to be a shame. But it sure is great for most home-based bakers who don’t usually add chemicals to their homemade baked goods.


Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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Recipe Development, Orange Almond Biscuits

Friday, March 4th, 2016

Orange Almond Biscuits: one recipe, two cookies.

Recipe development can be fun but it often takes several attempts to refine your new product. My client wanted a tasty, not-too-sweet, dry, long shelf life, healthier cookie suitable for eating with coffee, tea, or wine.

First attempt had the basics.

My first attempt had the basics – good sweetness level, texture, and health component. I made this several more times with some changes in both the recipe and technique.

I made the recipe several times to refine the final outcome.

I settled on two sizes and shapes, each with a different finish. The small logs were rolled in Turbinado sugar which gave them a wonderful crunch and added sweetness. The S shaped cookies (S is for sesame!) were rolled in sesame seeds. Recipe development was complete.


Orange Almond Biscuits
Yield: 30 ounces dough
• ½ cup butter, melted
• ½ cup sugar
• ¼ cup fresh squeezed orange juice
• 3 eggs
• ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
• ½ teaspoon orange extract
• zest from 1 orange
• 2 ounces almond meal
• 6 ounces whole wheat pastry flour
• 6 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour
• 1 tablespoon baking powder
• ½ teaspoon salt
• toppings, if desired, sesame seeds and/or Turbinado sugar

1. Mix butter, sugar, orange juice, eggs, extracts, and zest. (Use oil if you prefer. But if dough is sticky, refrigerate for easier handling.)
2. Add all dry ingredients and mix to combine.
3. Divide into equal-sized pieces, roll each piece into shape. Put topping into bowls and lightly press cookie in, then flip over and place on baking sheets. Sesame seeds make a nutty crunch, Turbinado sugar gives an extra sweetness and nice crunch.
4. Bake at 325° F for 30 minutes; drop temp to 300° F and bake longer, maybe 15 minutes. Turn off heat but leave in oven. If after cooling, these are still soft inside, bake again to dry out, 250° F for 30 minutes or so.

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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Benefits of Selling Wholesale

Friday, February 5th, 2016


Selling products wholesale can be a great way to grow your business, but you have to know the rules. If you are working under a cottage food law, find out if you’re allowed to sell wholesale. If you bake in a commercial kitchen with a full license, you have no sales restrictions.

Most people equate wholesale with volume but this is not always applicable. Wholesale is selling products to a business that resells those goods. If you sell your baked goods this way, that business is reaching a market you may not be reaching. So while you give the business a discount for, say, two dozen cookies, you make one sale and don’t have to stand at the farmers’ market selling one cookie to each of twenty four customers over the course of the morning.

Setting up for cake baking day. Small cakes are for the local deli and pizza shops; large cakes for a couple of restaurants.

Cakes and pies are prime products for sale to restaurants and eateries. Look at the items you already make and talk with a potential account about baking them a signature product – a cake or pie that no other restaurant can purchase. Price your products and give the business a discount. Typically, perishable products are discounted differently than shelf-stable merchandise. I offer a 25% discount from my retail price. Don’t let anyone pressure you into lowering your price. Not all of your products may be worthwhile for you to sell wholesale. Decide which ones you will offer and make a wholesale list for customers.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! I began my baking career under New York’s cottage food law, where wholesale is allowed. During the warmer months I sold retail at the local farmers’ market and wholesale year round to several businesses. My income supported myself and young daughter. Best of luck to you!

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Baking With Coconut Flour

Friday, January 15th, 2016

Whole wheat Apple Crumb Coffee Cake, with the addition of coconut flour.

I bought an interesting new ingredient recently, coconut flour. My background includes healthier baking so when I read that this ingredient has a relatively high protein and fiber content, I wanted to try it. Coconut flour has a slightly rough texture which leaves a gritty mouth feel; and a slight coconut flavor. I selected a recipe I’m familiar with, my Apple Crumb Coffee Cake, then added ¼ cup coconut flour and increased the apple cider from ¼ cup to 1 cup because this flour absorbs a lot of liquid.

Delicious! Slightly drier than my recipe so next time I will add an additional ¼ cup liquid.

I realized that in addition to its healthful qualities, the high absorption rate might be useful. In products such as pies and strudels, the extra coconut flour may help in keeping bottom crusts from becoming too soggy. Next, I made an apple/pear strudel.

As the fruit filling waited to be used, excess liquid pooled on the bottom.

Basic fruit fillings tend to have excess liquid. Most recipes compensate by adding flour, corn starch, or tapioca. But still, as it bakes more liquid seeps out and can contribute to a soggy crust, often with run-off.

I made two strudels, with coconut flour sprinkled only on one.

I added the fruit and rolled it up, making sure to place it seam side down on the baking sheet.

(A third hand would have been exceptionally helpful.)

Strudel on right had the coconut flour. Strudel on left had liquid that leaked and a somewhat soggier bottom crust. However, they tasted exactly the same.

If you’re interested in trying coconut flour, I suggest you make a small batch of a recipe you are already familiar with. Then experiment by adding a small amount of the flour and extra liquid.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! The trend for healthy foods is here to stay. Experimenting with new ingredients can be fun and benefit your business.

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Freezing Baked Goods, FAQ

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

Cranberry loaves sell especially well and freeze well. They're perfect for advanced production.

Now that holiday baking has started I often receive questions about using the freezer to jump start production. I always respond that freezers might be a good way to stock products for later sales.

Most large commercial bakeries schedule their production so most of their products go directly into the freezer. Their display cases are then stocked daily, from the freezer. Smaller bakeries bake and sell some of their products fresh, but also utilize the freezer to help keep their cases full and ease the daily workload.

The home baker can definitely utilize a freezer to manage production and sales. But it depends upon what type of freezer you own. In a refrigerator freezer, I wouldn’t keep baked goods longer than a couple of weeks. Frost-free (self-defrost) refrigerator freezers go through a thaw-freeze-thaw cycle. This removes the need for manual defrost, but it has a negative effect upon baked goods. In a manual defrost freezer, however, such as some upright or chest freezers, the temperature is constant so you can safely freeze baked goods for several months.


Home-Based Baking at its Best! Most baked goods freeze well. But it’s important to do shelf life testing to determine if freezing is right for each of your products.

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Apple Pie, FAQ

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

This pie was the best ever - flaky and flavorful.

Pile apples high with at least two varieties, use fresh spices, and taste filling before baking.

Consumers love pie! But baking pie seems to be problematic for many people. I am totally sympathetic to the pie-challenged, since pie making was not always my favorite baking activity. But practice definitely results in better pies. Over the years I’ve learned a few tips for making wonderful tasty and flaky apple pie:

About Apples
Sadly, I’ve found that recommendations for best baking apples were not always accurate.  I learned early in my bakery career there was inconsistency in those lists. My biggest irritation was piling a mountain of apples into the crust for making a mile-high apple pie; but then occasionally the apples baked down to mush while the pie crust stayed nice and tall. I solved the problem by using a mixed variety of 3 kinds of apples and from then on my apple fillings were always excellent.

Last week for home use, I bought two kinds of apples.  There are so many new varieties I wanted to try, I just picked ones that looked good to my hungry eyes. The pie was for family so I wasn’t concerned about customer complaints. It wasn’t until the next day when I was slicing those apples that I checked several internet lists and the two kinds I had purchased were both said to be “mush” in baking. Damn. I briefly considered making a strudel which would surely hide the problem, but I decided to make a pie and cut the slices thicker. Success! The “mush” prone thicker apples held up just fine. (I haven’t replicated this procedure but I would try it again the next few times I make apple pie. If you inadvertently buy apples that may not hold up in baking, and try this method, please email to let me know your results.)

Apple Pie Tips: 1. Use at least two varieties of apples.  2. Cut apples into both slices and smaller chunks. The smaller pieces fill in the crevices. 3. Most recipes don’t have enough flavor. After mixing your filling, taste it and see how you like the taste. Older spices tend to lose flavor so feel free to add more spice (and more sugar).

About Pie Dough
Recently I’ve been involved with a pie crust project which means lots of pie baking. As I researched the subject, I came across foodie/scientists, foodie blogs, and their “science of cooking” which is a misnomer (here’s one of the many articles I found.) Proper scientific methods include repetition to achieve repeated similar results. Unfortunately, many foodie/scientists jump to conclusions, write with authority, and create ever more myths. I am not a food scientist. I can only share what I have learned from practical application and baking thousands of pies (sometimes grudgingly) throughout my career.

Pie Dough Tips: 1. For many years I used ice cold water but on several occasions there was no ice water when it needed to be added to the mixer. My practical experience taught me that results for using ice water vs cold tap water were the same. Now I use cold tap water. (Warm water will soften the fat too much.) 2. I like a wetter dough which = softer dough, and easier to roll out. 3. I read all about the science of using vodka (actually any alcohol works, it depends upon the flavor and color you’re looking for) so I’ve been experimenting with using vodka for part of the water. To reduce the number of variables, my current pie project is only using vodka. 4. In family focus groups (taste and texture tests) I’ve learned that while butter is nice, an all-vegetable shortening and vodka makes for a flaky crust and a delicious taste.

Not a scientific study: Three year olds don't always like weird pie foods, top left, but five year olds will eat their own piece plus their brother's.

I still often use my part butter crust recipe, but below is a variation that results in consistently excellent pie.

yield: enough for two double crust pies
5 cups all-purpose flour (approx. 1¼#) plus extra for rolling
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups vegetable shortening (1#)
¾ cup cold water (or use part vodka, part water)

1. Have your filling ready, and set aside.
2. Pan spray baking tins and preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
3. In a large bowl, lightly mix flour and salt, then cut in shortening. When mixture looks fine-grained, drizzle in water/vodka and mix into a ball. Knead lightly, then separate into four pieces, two slightly larger. Use at once or wrap and chill for one hour or up to five days.
4. Don’t worry about working fast – take the time you need. Roll out larger pieces of dough and place in lightly greased pie pans. Trim any dough hanging more than ¼” over the edge. Add filling, roll out top crust, and place over filling. Gently roll edge of top and bottom crust together and press down to seal. Flute edges, or not, in any way you want. Vent top of each pie. If you wish, pie tops can be brushed with water, milk, butter, or beaten egg. You can also sprinkle with sugar. Or just leave plain.
5. Place pie pans on a cookie sheet with a large piece of parchment or aluminum foil under each pan. Bake in preheated 375° oven 45-60 minutes. Pies are done when juice has bubbled out for a few minutes.
6. Let pies cool at least two hours before cutting. To freeze, cool to room temperature then wrap well and place in freezer.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! If you have a home-based food business and do not make pies, consider adding this product line to your offerings. With the trend toward home-made, seasonal, and local, your customers would appreciate purchasing fresh pies any time of year.

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Shelf Life, FAQ

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

Uh, oh. My last bakery visit was disappointing. My purchases were less than acceptable. The culprit was shelf life: the taste and texture of old. They have now lost a customer. I will never return and never recommend this bakery.

Baked goods from my last bakery tour.

There are a few things that will hurt your business. At the top of the list is selling products past their shelf life. You don’t have to make everything fresh every day, since some products last longer than others. Biscotti and granola, for instance, can remain fresh for several months. Some muffins, however, will only last a day or two.

It’s important to know how long each of your products can remain fresh. This entails testing every recipe as part of your recipe and product development. Once you have determined the shelf life of each product, it’s important to act on this knowledge. Keep track of sales and which products are no longer fresh.

Apple and lemon bars, rear left, had soggy crusts and gummy fillings. Cupcake frosting had an unpleasant flavor from sitting too long in the display case. Raspberry on eclair was gummy, whipped cream was crusty, shell was soggy. Black and white cookie was soft, but also the same unpleasant old flavor.

This bakery used a color coding system. As you can see in the cookie below, a sticker was placed on the bottom of the paper cup.

Color coding is a common way to keep track of shelf life, but follow-through is necessary.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! It’s hard to lose money by not selling products, but in the long run it hurts more to lose business by chasing away customers.

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Easy Way to Develop New Products

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

Peach Mini-Pies

In our business it’s always a plus to come up with new products. The simplest way is to take your current recipes and look at how they can be tweaked into different products. For example, I baked the above peach pies by combining two of my reliable no-fuss recipes: a sweet crust, and a spicey peach pie filling.

I rolled out circles of dough, added filling, topped the pies with another piece of dough, and crimped as usual. Using a sweet crust was the only difference between this product and my usual peach pie.



While baking, I noticed the crimped dough didn’t hold its shape, the dough began to brown after ten minutes, and appeared totally baked a few minutes later. I dropped the oven temp to avoid over-browning and baked another ten minutes to give the peaches enough time to soften.



Usually my pies just pop right out of the tins but this time I had to run a sharp knife along the edge and sides. Good thing I used pan spray.

They looked different after baking, not like any pie I ever made. The sweet crust contained sugar and eggs which gave the pies a golden color; the sides and bottom were a deep golden brown; and the crimping had a pleasing pattern.

We couldn’t wait to try these new pies. The crust edges were chewy and flavorful while the sides and bottom remained tender, and the filling exploded with fresh nutmeg and sweet peach.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Look through your recipe file and try something new!

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Farmers’ Market Season!

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Fresh, seasonal, and local!

The summer markets are almost here.

Do you sell at a farm stand or farmers’ market? Now is a great time to think about summer sales. No matter what size market you attend,

large market

medium-sized market

or small

they all cater to shoppers interested in fresh goods. Take a new look at both your target market and your product line. Did last year’s customer ask you for products not on your menu?

Think about adding new products to capture more sales.




New products can be as simple as adding fresh produce from your local farms; or tweaking your visual application by changing the product size, packaging, or labels.

Home-Based Baking at its Best! Have you done your market research? Will you be adding new products this season?

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