Website Changes

March 1st, 2013

Greetings everyone! This weekend the blog will be offline. My webmaster will be installing a newer version. The current blog will be moved and previous posts will be accessed through a new ARCHIVE button. For current readers this means past links to those posts will no longer work - you will have to do a search in the new ARCHIVE.

When I began this blog in March 2009, I had a steep learning curve. My baking skills are superb, my business skills are excellent. My website technical skills, however, are not the best. This is all in the hands of my webmaster.

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Will the real webmaster please stand up.

Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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CinnBuns for Home! Plus Blog Access Alert

February 26th, 2013

In my last post there was a large batch (twenty pound dough) recipe for cinnamon buns. Below, you will find a smaller two pound dough recipe. Plus a note about blog site changes.

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Cinnamon buns are a popular treat. These make a great addition to any product line.

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Cinnamon Buns

Yield: 2 pounds dough
4 scant cups flour – all purpose or bread flour, it doesn’t matter
¼ cup sugar
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
1 packet instant yeast (or 2 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast)
¾ cup warm water
2 eggs
¼ cup oil

PLUS soft butter and cinnamon sugar for filling

1. Put flour, sugar, salt, and yeast into mixer bowl. Stir.
2. Add water, eggs, and oil. Mix until a smooth ball of dough, adding flour when necessary so dough is not sticky.
3. Place dough in greased bowl; cover, set in warm place until doubled in size.
4. Bake all items 350 degrees F. until golden brown. If fillings are used, bake slightly longer.

Cinnamon Buns:
Roll out dough into rectangle, spread with butter (leave an inch border all the way around), sprinkle heavily with cinn/sugar, add chopped nuts and raisins if you like, roll up, cut into slices and place in pan. Press down on each bun, cover with wrap to stay moist, proof until puffed and ready to bake. For cupcake/muffin cinnamon buns: line muffin pans with paper cups, place small cinnamon bun pieces into cups. Proof and bake as above.

Dough works for any holiday bread such as Christmas Bread, Greek Easter Bread, or King’s Cake.  Loaves can be formed into pan bread (sandwich loaf), or shaped into rounds, braids, or any shape desired.

!!!!! This weekend, my blog will be offline for what I hope to be a newer more efficient blog format. If successful, all posts up through this Friday, March 1, will be moved and accessed through a new ARCHIVE button. All former links to those pages will no longer work. Please wish us luck!

Home based baking at its best!

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Recipe Alert: Cinnamon Buns for a Crowd

February 22nd, 2013

The Hudson Valley Baking Society made a large batch of cinnamon buns.

Cinnamon buns made by the Hudson Valley Baking Society.

A couple of weeks ago, Ulster BOCES Adult Career Education Center had an Open House and asked the Hudson Valley Baking Society to make something for the visitors. Something? We couldn’t think of anything more delicious or more fragrant than our popular cinnamon buns.

1 We worked alone

After a brief demonstration of quantity production

After a brief demo, everyone set to work.

everyone began to work.

After the buns were cooled and iced, we put them out for visitors

Once cooled and iced we set them out for visitors

made deliveries to a class

and made deliveries to a classroom.

tested for deliciousness by the administration

Testing for deliciousness by the administration.

cherry coffeecake and chatting

Back in the kitchen we chatted and made another batch of dough

extra dough for being creative

for coffee cakes and other creative shapes.

Sweet Dough Recipe
Yield: 20 pounds dough

10 pounds flour – all purpose or bread flour, it doesn’t matter
2 ½ cups sugar
¼ cup salt
½ cup instant yeast
7 ½ cups warm water
20 eggs
2 ½ cups oil

1. Put flour, sugar, salt, and yeast into mixer bowl. Stir.
2. Add water, eggs, and oil. Mix until a smooth ball of dough, adding flour when necessary so dough is not sticky.
3. Place dough in greased bowl; cover, set in warm place until doubled in size.
4. Bake all items 350 degrees until golden brown. If fillings are used, bake slightly longer.

Cinnamon Buns:
Roll out dough into rectangle, spread with butter (leave an inch border all the way around), sprinkle heavily with cinn/sugar, add chopped nuts and raisins if you like, roll up, cut into slices and place in pan. Press down on each bun, cover with wrap to stay moist, proof until puffed and ready to bake.

Dough works for any holiday bread such as Christmas Bread, Greek Easter Bread, or King’s Cake.  Loaves can be formed into pan bread (sandwich loaf), or shaped into rounds, braids, or any shape desired.

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Time for New Product Development

February 17th, 2013

We love eggnog! Rich and creamy and smooth and available as a seasonal product. I stocked up! But after the holidays we had extra eggnog in the fridge.

MrMacho said it was all mine. This meant recipe development time!

I used my poppy bread recipe as a base, left out the poppy seeds and replaced the buttermilk with eggnog. Then I added a pinch of nutmeg.

I used my poppy bread recipe as a base, deleted the poppy seeds, and used eggnog instead of buttermilk. Then I added a pinch of nutmeg and drank the remaining eggnog.

If winter is your slow time take advantage of the pause in business. Do your market research and think up new taste delights. What products would your customers enjoy? My question comes from years of business experience; it’s not just the eggnog talking.

Then sit down with a cup of tea and reward yourself with a nice warm slice of bread.

When you have a product that meets your approval, sit down with a cup of tea. And reward yourself with a nice warm slice of bread.

Home based baking at its best!

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Are You Ready for Valentine’s Day?

February 13th, 2013

Tomorrow is the sweet holiday. Whether you’re baking for family, friends, or customers: if you need quantity, here’s a quick fix…

quantity

One batch of cookie dough will reap reasonable quantity.

collage

Dipping in chocolate or melts does not take long. Packaging found at dollar stores.

If you have a business, or are thinking about starting a business, get organized and plan ahead. Keep holiday folders with ideas. Do market research in your local stores, on Facebook, and other internet searches. Tweak ideas to your particular business needs.

Happy Valentine’s Day to my favorite group of people!

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The (Faux) Pastry Chef Bakes Cookies

February 9th, 2013

Cookies are one of my favorite products. I love making cookies! At home or at my bakery, cookies are quick and easy and lend themselves to numerous varieties/line extensions. I won’t go as far as saying I’m the queen of cookies, that title is reserved for decorators such as Amber Spiegel of SweetAmbs, but after baking thousands and thousands of cookies, I’m as close to an expert as you will find.

One of my favorite recipes, suitable for quantity production, is a large batch sugar cookie that can be dressed numerous ways. For holiday baking and cookie tray production, the most efficient method is to first make colorful specialty cookies to highlight the assortment, then bake basic variety sugar cookies for the bottom layers.

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Bake colorful specialty cookies first.

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Then bake basic sugar cookie varieties to use for the base of your trays. Above, our recent HVBS fundraiser when we raised $1200 for our regional food bank.

Several years ago (a lifetime away, before BakingFix) I’d accepted a high-status position as the Executive Pastry Chef for a national market and bakery. My new employer had enticed me with flattery about my baking skills and superb instincts for running a business. But after a short training period I realized that I’d made a mistake.

If you’ve ever fantasized about the wonderful life of a pastry chef, here’s a peek into reality: from The (Faux) Pastry Chef: How I Found My Baking Fix page 56…

Perfectly Pointless Cookies
Three weeks before Christmas the cookie recipes finally arrived. The attached note said we were to bake a few of each and mail them to [person-in-charge Corporate Pastry Chef] Susan. Most of these recipes were tedious to produce and had flavor issues in the balance of spices. I decided not to comment. At least I had already learned something: don’t give feedback, no one wanted my opinion.

I had no idea how Susan had decided on shape, flavor, or appropriateness to both the holiday and the staffing. Overtime for the hourly workers was not allowed, so I had the privilege of making these new recipes all by my lonesome. The first recipe I baked included lots of dried fruits and a store-bought breakfast cereal as main ingredients. I can’t tell you what the binder was, or I’d be giving away a trade secret, but suffice it to say that it didn’t bind all that well.

The recipe made a large amount of dough and I had to scoop miniature-sized cookies from a huge 80-quart mixer bowl. The instructions noted that they needed to be mixed carefully, so the cereal didn’t get crushed. Get crushed? The hard metal mixer paddle, along with thirty pounds of dried fruit had already smashed that delicate and crispy cereal into crumbs. By the time I put the unbaked trays into the cooler, most of these globs had already fallen apart.

Another one of these tiny cookies was a simple dough with an egg wash to hold down “perfectly sliced nuts carefully placed on the center top with the points facing outward like a little star.” Oh, please. Any novice baker knows that a twenty-five or thirty pound box of thinly sliced nuts has been jostled, stacked, and crushed before it arrives at its destination. We would never be lucky to find enough perfectly sliced pieces with their points intact. And, place them exactly in the center with the points all in the same direction? If I lasted a year, which was looking doubtful, I would voice an opinion on the realistic production of Christmas cookies. This bakery needed a dough depositor, a relatively small piece of equipment that could replace the hand-scooping of all their products.

In addition to the Perfectly Pointless Cookies and Susan’s Cereal Nightmare Cookies, there were three or four others, each with their own problems and each quite time-consuming. I mixed all the doughs and scooped thousands of these little cookie balls. I baked a few samples from each of the recipes and they all looked perfectly pathetic. I just figured it was another failure to add to my list of failures.

When [Corporate Trainer] Seranne decided to send Susan the box, she preferred to bake off some herself because mine looked terrible. But her attempt was worse than the ones I had baked. Hers were burned, deformed and very anti-Christmas. Next to her cookies, mine looked ‘perfectly’ awesome…

When Phanh started his shift, Seranne asked if he had any recipes. He had just come from his full-time job at the Marriott; in his pocket was the Marriott Christmas cookie formula, a bland sugar cookie distinguished by a sprinkling of red or green sugar. I don’t know what happened to the unbaked refrigerated trays of cookies I’d already made, but now I was told to bake this misappropriated recipe under the Planet Feasty name.

The Joy of Cooking had better recipes. I stated my disappointment that Feasty’s, with Susan’s supposedly high standards, unethically took another business’ recipe. “This is a case of ‘Do what I say, not what I do,’” I wrote in my nightly report. Not that I cared anymore, I just wanted management to know someone was watching. The next day, a week before Christmas, Seranne called her sister, whose home-sized batch of nut cookies replaced the Marriott cookies…

Too bad they hadn’t asked me, cookie baker extraordinaire and their new Corporate Pastry Chef. The (Faux) Pastry Chef: How I Found My Baking Fix

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Many of my best-selling recipes can also be found in Home Baking for Profit.

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SweetAmbs: Entrepreneur of the Year

February 6th, 2013

The story of one entrepreneur who grew her talent and ideas into a unique business.

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Two years ago Amber Spiegel took my class Start & Run a Home-Based Food Business. Saturday I had the privilege of attending her Valentine’s Day Cookie Decorating Workshop.

SweetAmbs began as a hand-decorated cookie business; but her focus now is teaching classes and making tutorials of her specialized techniques. Other products can also be found in her online store.  Amber’s story is a classic case of someone with talent and a strong work ethic who sees an opportunity, taps into a growing trend, and is flexible enough to change her business focus to meet a growing market.

I asked to come observe and write another post so small home-based food processors can see there are many ways in which to start and grow a business.

The focus of this workshop was teaching how to use some of her favorite technique. Students learned how to thin down icing to flood consistency, flood a cookie, use the wet on wet technique, pipe a bead border, do brush embroidery, and how to paint with gold luster dust. It was a full day!

setting up before class is always a lot of behind the scenes work

Setting up before class entails behind the scenes work.

The room was set up before we began. All students received a tool kit, binder with recipes, supplier list, an apron, and cloth tote bag. Once class started, everyone was given fresh, fully baked cookies for practicing technique.

Amber demonstrated her perfect royal icing

Everyone gathered round while Amber demonstrated how to make royal icing. She then talked about the right consistency, how long icing will stay fresh, how to deal with air bubbles, and icing that separates.

Students received tubs of icing

Back at the table students received tubs of icing. Amber continued talking, sharing her immense knowledge.

Getting the color just right

Learning to mix the perfect shade.

How to simplify using pastry bags

How to simplify using pastry bags.

Demonstrated her flooding technique

Amber demonstrated her flooding technique. Then students returned to their seats to practice.

Students then practiced on fresh cookies.

Practicing on fresh cookies.

practicing and getting more help

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After each demonstration, students returned to their seats to do it themselves. Amber was in constant motion. She circled the room, watching each student and stopping to point out ways to improve technique. Throughout the day she shared secrets that one can only learn attending a class.

Amber demonstrated her wet on wet technique.

Amber demonstrated her wet on wet technique

to make lovely little hearts.

to make lovely little hearts.

Back at their seats, Amber demonstrated more.

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Above, Amber showed us the filigree technique.

Above, Amber showed us the filigree technique.

Next, the stunning brush on brush technique.

Next, the stunning brush on brush technique.

Throughout the day students learned tips and tricks from how to mix, to easy clean-up methods, to getting the perfect shade, to how to compensate if you’ve made  a mistake.

Amber was asked about her Christmas reindeer so she showed us how she did them.

In response to a question Amber demonstrated her Christmas reindeer technique.

Attending  a class allows for watching first hand, receiving one-on-one help, and as above, asking questions and receiving a live demonstration.

She was also asked about the icing transfer sheets.

Answering questions about her icing transfer sheets. The transfer allows for beautiful cookies when we are short on time.

Above, some other cookies and techniques.

Above, some other cookies and techniques. (Photo courtesy of SweetAmbs.)

For more information about Amber Spiegel, her online store and workshops, visit SweetAmbs.  And visit Amber on Facebook.

Several photos courtesy of SweetAmbs.com

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Stuffed Breads Class!

February 2nd, 2013

Our baking classes usually focus on sweet treats, but sometimes it’s a good idea to make meal items. In Wednesday’s class we made a basic bread dough which we used to make savory bread products.

Look what we made!

Look what we made!

After our bread dough was finished mixing we set it to rise and began talking

After our dough was finished mixing, we set it to rise and began talking

about filling choices and how to shape the products.

about filling choices and how to shape the products.

prepared our fillings

We then prepared our fillings

everyone got three pounds of dough

and everyone received three pounds of dough

and shaped whatever

to make into their choice of items.

slicing for the pull apart

Above, slicing a filled log for the pull apart pizza.

Teaching assistant Annie demonstrated how to slice the dough after it was almost fully proofed _ a very difficult task

Teaching assistant Annie demonstrated how to slice a fully proofed dough - a very very difficult task.

Annie again with the knife, this time she's slicing up the Mexican filled stuffed bread

Annie again with the knife, this time she's slicing up the Mexican-style stuffed bread.

we also sampled the pizza pie

We also sampled the pizza "pie"

The results are in!

The class results are in!

For more information about our business classes and our hands-on baking classes

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Stuffed Breads!

January 30th, 2013

Stuffed breads can be filled with a variety of savory foods and take many forms and

Stuffed breads can be filled with a variety of savory foods and be shaped in many ways. Above, as stromboli with a Mexican-type filling.

Teaching a class tonight on how to make savory bread items.

NEW! Breads Three, Savory Stuffed Yeast Breads
Using techniques we learned in Yeast Breads, we’ll make a basic dough for shaping into several meal-type items, such as stuffed breads (Stromboli), filled buns (calzones), pizza, and other items. Bring to class an apron, your bench scraper, and a big appetite!

bread dough

Bread dough rolled into rectangles.

This loaf rolled up with pizza sauce, cheese, and veggies. Chopped into pieces and placed in greased loaf pan.

Bread dough rolled up with pizza sauce, cheese, and veggies. Chopped into pieces and placed in greased pan.

Dough spread with refried beans, cheese, and veggies. Placed seam-side down on sheet pan with slits to facilitate baking.

Dough spread with refried beans, rice, cheese, and veggies. Placed seam-side down on sheet pan with slits to facilitate baking.

Pizza pull-apart loaf!

Pizza pull-apart loaf!

Spicy stuffed bread!

Spicy stuffed bread!

Meal-type products are always a good seller at farmers’ markets, convenience stores, and catering businesses selling meals-to-go. If your license allows for this product category, consider adding these stuffed breads to your product line-up.

Home-Based Baking at its Best!

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Bakery Tour! Prepare to be Wowwed!!

January 28th, 2013

The Gingerbread Construction Company has been on my must see list for more than a year. Recently, we had a chance to visit this bakery located in Winchester, MA.

 An unobtrusive little building in Winchester MA, a Boston suburb

The Gingerbread Construction Company is an unobtrusive little building in a Boston suburb.

 Where are the gingerbread houses? I know it’s past Christmas, but really, only a few of these small Valentine houses?

But where are the gingerbread houses? I know it’s past Christmas, but I was expecting a display. They only had a few small Valentine houses.

I was a little miffed but then we examined the display cases. The muffins were gorgeous!

I was a little miffed but then we examined the display cases filled with mouth-watering muffins. Gorgeous!

We went there for the gingerbread houses, then stayed for the muffins! Occasionally a bakery is able to successfully transcend its name to draw business for its other products. Business was steady with many customers purchasing a dozen or two. So apparently the Gingerbread Construction Company has transcended its name.

we selected one dozen muffins and a few cookies

We selected one dozen muffins and a few cookies.

reasonable prices

I was pleasantly surprised at the reasonable prices.

they were beautiful and huge and we were going to have cake for breakfast.

We were going to have cake for breakfast.

Our assortment included traditional flavors such as carrot, pumpkin, and blueberry, which were soft and sweet and fresh and cake-like. We also bought a few of the more unusual filled flavors such as lemon, strawberry shortcake, chocolate raspberry, and Boston cream. Toppings ranged from granulated or confectioners’ sugar, to cream cheese or chocolate. These were not muffins, but clearly: Cake.

left is a Strawberry Shortcake muffin, right is pumpkin

Strawberry Shortcake muffin on left, Pumpkin on right.

cut them each into quarters

We cut them each into quarters.

Left is  chocolate raspberry right is Boston Cream

Chocolate Raspberry on left, Boston Cream on right.

These are called muffins but they fit into the cupcake category: cakes with filling and frosting. Once we get to the idea that it’s okay to misname a product category, it’s only a short step to convincing the customer that cupcakes for breakfast is a decent idea. For example, look at that strawberry shortcake “muffin.”  The cake was soft and sweet and light. The filling was whipped cream and strawberries. Or Boston Cream filled with custard and slathered with chocolate.

I know the kids will appreciate the tip.

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But still, whether these are cakes or muffins, you will not be sorry if you stop by and purchase a few. You may even send me a note of thanks!

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