The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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A surprising thing is happening across America; many foodies are trying their hand at baking from home to not only make extra income but sell delicious food products in their community. Today food crafters have more options when it comes to selling their specialty foods, and consumers are seeking out the unusual to compliment their daily meals. Visit any food cooperative, farmers market, or street food festival and you are bound to run across pickled okra, Plumhoney ®, chocolate truffle cupcakes and hot pepper cheese bread.


The new trend is to buy local, from local vendors enjoying foods that literally come from the vendor's kitchen to your dining table. The owner of the Turtle Box Bakery, Abraham Palmer of Carrboro, North Carolina not only mills some of his own wheat; he is working diligently to make a difference in the community by introducing consumers to how products are made from the ground up.


There are home-based bakers like Lilian Chavira, of Gellocake in Okemos, Michigan, who crafted a special kitchen in her basement, so she could create a bakery business operated solely from home. These food crafters have no intention of operating a traditional bakery and prefer to build a loyal group of customers that will purchase their baked goods and spread support via word of mouth.


One of the easiest food businesses to start is a small bakery. They are potentially low risk and depending on where you sell your goods, products can easily be moved from kitchen to customer.


The top 10 states that have cottage food laws, not only permitting but promoting home-based baking and food processing include:



  • Indiana

  • Iowa

  • New Hampshire

  • North Carolina

  • Oregon

  • Utah

  • Vermont

  • Virginia

  • Washington  

  • Wyoming


One of the first cottage food laws documented involved the state of Oregon with a 20 year history in the home food processing business and since 2009 the number of states creating "cottage food laws" as doubled. No doubt the struggling U.S. economy has played a pivotal part in motivating the increased interest in small food processing and home-based baking. It is something foodies can do from their home kitchen, allowing them to work around family obligations.


It should be pointed out that making a profit from a home-based bakery or home food processing business will not be easy. All too often food crafters assume that "if they make it, customers will come." Not so, developing any type of business, home-based or otherwise is challenging and involves that four letter work many wish to ignore; work.


There are few state records on how many home-based bakers and food processors there are across the nation, but one thing is for sure, as long as there is a market for unique specialty food products and fresh homemade baked goods there will be food crafters flexing their creative juices to make that next gourmet treat.

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On August 7, 2009 the release of a new movie starting Julia Child (Meryl Streep) and Julie Powell (Amy Adams) opens in theaters nationwide. The movie was written and directed by Nora Ephron and is an adaptation of two bestselling memoirs: Powell's Julie & Julia and My Life in France, by Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme. You can learn the plot by visiting the trailer and I won't bore you with that information. Over twenty seven years ago I had the honor of serving in the United States Navy and being stationed in Okinawa, Japan. It was a bitter sweet experience for a culinary obsessive compulsive cook like myself. Locating ingredients was a task and as a relatively new bride I was eager to prepare meals that were not only delicious but divine.


I have never really written about how I became so astute in the kitchen. I can say that I would not be the cook I am today were it not for a cookbook edited by Charlotte Turgeon titled The Creative Cooking Course. You must understand that during that time, military bases offered very little to choose from as far as ingredients go, so my now ex purchased three cookbooks so I could flex my culinary muscle; venture out into local markets and with the assistance of the Creative Cooking Course, a Betty Crocker Cookbook and one other that obviously was completely unimportant since I can no longer remember the title create culinary magic.


I bring this book up because it is through this book that I learned about food, food from all over the world. I cooked my way through this cookbook and I can tell you every recipe that worked and those that did not. Somewhere out there a budding novice is wondering how can I too become a great cook or baker? All I can share is that you must literally cook and bake your way into greatness. I think Nike said it best..."Just do it!" Julia Child once said, "never apologize." She was absolutely correct. Cook, cook, cook, bake, bake, bake and don't apologize. If someone does not like what you have prepared, fine...and as Jae would say, "keep it movin."


I had a copy of The French Chef years ago and found it quite boring, but recently I asked my daughter for a copy for Christmas. Now, over a half century old I can appreciate what Julia Child was trying to do and why. I too must encourage cooks and bakers to not settle, but rise up, grasp a good cookbook and cook, bake, "Just do it!"


 

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Have you ever developed an original recipe? Most people think it is some long drawn out process, but remember you are not Pillsbury test kitchen with thousands of dollars and test kitchen cooks to address ever question or issue.


When you find a recipe that is good, reliable and consistent...that's a keeper. If it is not, you have a couple of choices. Rework the recipe, refine it so it works, put it in the "to-do" pile for a later date or toss it. What you do depends on how much time you want to devote to recipe and only you can answer that question.


As you test, and retest, you will find a pattern to the process and it will fall into an everyday groove. I would suggest that you schedule time each month to test or at least review the recipes you are working on. Remember it's not just about recipes, this is a listing of products you can enter into contest, feature in a magazine or newspaper, include in a future cookbook or sell in your home-based bakery. When your bakery is up and running and a local journalist ask...may we have a recipe to attach to your story? What will you say, no they are all secret...


Always have a dozen or so recipes that are uniquely yours that you don't mind sharing...just in case.


You may also want to place a recipe in your marketing materials...not that people will prepare them necessarily, but to show you are open to sharing your knowledge and skill. You are a great baker and this is not the time to be shy!


Now with that said, you don't have to give out your best recipes, just things you don't mind sharing. Give it some thought.


There is an old saying, there is nothing new under the sun, and it is so true. It is easy to add a new twist to something, but food companies spend millions to create new products, it's a real challenge; but every once and a while an independent culinary innovator comes up with a unique and inspiring food, spice or taste. Take a look at what is missing out there on the grocery shelves... get creative. I would love to see an alternative to buttercream frosting, but I have not yet figured out what it should be, something sweet, creamy and not made with all that fat.


 

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Three years ago I moved to the Cary, North Carolina and quickly became aquatinted with my new rural surroundings. My neighbor suggested I visit the Raleigh Farmer's Market conveniently located on I-40 and Lake Wheeler Road, exit 297; and it turned out to be am unforgettable experience. I was soon taken back by this 75 acre facility providing up to 225,000 square feet of covered, climate controlled, year round retail and wholesale space. Sold were seasonal vegetables and fruits by the pound or by the bushel. There were homemade baked goods, jellies, jams, honey, and the North Carolina Seafood Restaurant serving up deep-fried Calabash-style seafood, with mounds of home fries and hush puppies.


On that beautiful Saturday morning the baked goods caught my eye. I had not seen snicker doodle cookies or buttermilk pies in years; the array of baked goods was awesome. Let there be no misunderstanding, these are serious bakers and they take as much pride in their products as the North Carolina farmers.


First time visitors will be amazed at the amount of food and the number of customers that rolled through the market and after talking to a number of the vendors there is not doubt that North Carolina is a special state; not because it grows more sweet potatoes than any other state in the nation, but because it actually encourages home food processing. Food entrepreneurs can try their luck at creating unique specialties like pickled okra and homemade snicker doodles; taking their culinary creations from kitchen to market.


Years ago when the United States was predominately rural there were many home-based bakers, farmer's wives who sold their jams, and jellies for pin money, along with homemade breads, pastries, cakes, pies and cookies. It is this opportunity that is fueling the local economy by providing local bakers the chance to share their baked goods and earn extra income. Who knows when that culinary hobby will turn into a full time venture?


North Carolina is one of twelve states that allow home-based food processors the opportunity to sell their goods directly to the public. In fact the idea of selling homemade baked good has become so popular there is now a gated area for home-based bakers at the Raleigh Farmer's Market; and featured are homemade carrot cakes, pound cakes, pies, a wide assortment of cookies, and breads; there is literally something for every sweet tooth at the market.


So, the next time someone says, "You really should think about selling that pie," you might want to mosey on down the Raleigh Farmer's Market and see if your sweet treat can stand the heat.


 

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