It has been oven fifteen years since I came up with the idea that a home bakery produces the best and tastiest baked goods. Years ago there were many women who could bake an excellent apple pie, or heavenly pound cake. Today most women are too busy to bake anything, and the few that do have a smidgen of time are to busy to bake anything. The idea that there are no real bakers around to bake and even fewer real down home bakeries got me thinking; a paradigm shift needs to occur now, right now. We need bakers, really great bakers, not folks who are going to prepare those God awful pastries sold at Panera and Au Bon Pain. I mean good old fashioned pastry, the sort that goes stale tomorrow and must be used in bread pudding because they are no longer good for anything else.
What would it take to get people baking again? Food prices are skyrocketing. Gas prices are just sinful. Bosses aren’t hiring and people are stressed and frustrated. Yeap, it’s time to bake. Baking relieves stress, baking gives a persona a sense of accomplishment and baking feeds the body and the soul. Several weeks ago I went right to work designing a course that would teach the home baker how to start a little baking business.
The course I created is titled, How to operate a successful home-based bakery. I currently have seven participants and we are having a blast. I have no doubt that a few have cold feet, but all see the potential in baking from home and selling their goods to the public. People are hungry for good down-home baked goods. I venture to say many of us don’t even remember what a cake from scratch taste like anymore.
It’s no secret small home-based businesses have been surviving and even thriving since the beginning of time. How many remember Tupperware? Anyone remember Watkins products that were sold door to door? Today there have been many changes that have occurred around how information is used and disseminated and the advancement in telecommunication technologies has both helped and hindered micro-businesses. The new technologies now make it possible for producers and consumers to connect in a more timely and efficient manner. This is a key element for the micro-business owner operating out of his/her home. Business owners can now contact customers at the click of a mouse and promote their products and services via the Web and email adverting.
The forms of advertising now available are both inexpensive and expensive depending on if you want the bells, whistles and search engine optimization and keyword analysis. Home-based business owners now have access to market research to enhance business success. Micro-owners can investigate how competing businesses are positioning their products and capturing customers in multiple markets. The economic field is expanding and that means home-based business owners must narrow their niche market and target customers outside their traditional market areas. No matter what the product, you still must offer impeccable service, a quality product and the right price; this fact is true whether you are Benny’s Home-Baked Breads or Au Bon Pain.
The manner by which we eat baked goods is going to change. My prediction is we are heading toward the way of the European. The portions of food will get smaller and smaller, but with that the quality will go higher and higher. This will not be known for several years, but life in America is changing and it is changing at neck snapping speeds. If you are fortunately enough to live in a rural area, where the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will inspect your kitchen and allow you to operate a home-based bakery, go for it. Bakers take heed however, you will need to research the market and make sure there is a need for your services; test the waters so you don’t drown.
If the prospects look promising research what it would take to run a micro-bakery in your home. You may want to operate it on the weekends, selling at your local farmer’s market or at a local farmer’s vegetable and fruit stand. Consider contacting some of the local restaurants or coffee shops and see if they would be interested in carrying your products. Talk to the Department of Agriculture or Food Safety about any kitchen inspections, licenses, and the liability insurance you will need; better safe than sorry. You may also want to supply your products to another bakery, i.e. miniature pastry shells that can be filled with lemon curd, pecan pie filling, or minced apples and cinnamon. Don’t jump in with both feet, give this some thought and let’s read about your home-based bakery in the next issue of Southern Living.
Clinton Louisiana Tea Cookies
Makes about 8 dozen small cookies
This is a simple little recipe I named after my grandmother’s home town.
3 cups sugar
2 cups shortening (i.e. Crisco)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract*
½ teaspoon maple flavor
5 ½ cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons cream of tartar
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup almonds, finely chopped (substitute pecans)
powdered sugar for dusting (optional)
Preheat oven to 350F
- Beat sugar, shortening and vanilla and maple flavor with an electric mixer at medium speed until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Continue beating until the mixture is smooth.
- Stir flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Add nuts. Stir into shortening mixture until well blended.
- Shape dough into walnut-size balls. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes until lightly brown around edged.
- Cook 2 hours on wire rakes. Dust cookies with powdered sugar.