Sunday, May 24, 2009
Baking to Sell
My friend and work colleague Andy has a nice little baking side business going, and has been successful selling scones, muffins, and cookies at several local shops. Last weekend, as part of a big local event, the church where Andy bakes was making plans to do their traditional fresh-doughnut stand, and they invited Andy to sell his baked goods during the event. Andy then asked me if I'd be interested in participating. We've actually talked about doing something like this for a while, but my schedule is often hyperbooked. Last weekend, I knew I would have the time, and I was definitely up for it. We talked and agreed that I would do some brownies and help Andy out with some cupcakes.
Side note: This was actually the second time we'd baked together. The first time, two of the three things I made -- recipes I've made any number of times -- were complete disasters because I cluelessly used pastry flour instead of all-purpose flour. I was concerned about making sure that everything worked out this time, so I brought a 25-lb. bag of all-purpose flour with me.
Ready with my most-reliable brownie recipe, I headed to the church kitchen after work the Wednesday prior to the event and made four batches of straight-up plain brownies, thinking of them as a blank canvas for future embellishment. The following Friday, I spent the day baking with Andy. I made a double batch of chocolate butter cream (a more traditional formula that used powdered sugar, which we thought would be more stable in case it was warm on Saturday) and a double batch of vanilla butter cream. The frostings were intended to be used on the cupcakes Andy was making (lemon-ginger, chocolate, and carrot).
I also made four more batches of brownies, including two with walnuts. The two batches with walnuts ended up as Rocky Road Brownies; the nutty base was topped with a heap of marshmallows, toffee bits, chocolate chips, and chopped walnuts. After they were cool, I drizzled them with a bit of chocolate glaze. Two pans became Peanut Butter Brownies, coated with a peanut-butter butter cream and garnished with half of a peanut-butter cup, then a splash of glaze. Two pans got the mint treatment: a mint-flavored frosting with a puddle of chocolate glaze in the center of the brownie; I stuck an Andes mint into each puddle of glaze. Finally, I had two pans left, one of which had been sliced and tested for quality-control purposes (ha). For the sliced batch, I piped a dollop of leftover mint icing, stuck in an Andes mint, then drizzled some glaze. For the second batch, I covered the brownie with chocolate butter cream, then sprinkled on some chopped pecans. Everything turned out well except for one batch of the Rocky Road Brownies; for some reason, they didn't set up completely in the center. (I suspect that I put too much batter in the pan, although I thought I had portioned the batter equally between the two pans.)
While I like to think that I am efficient in the kitchen, I am pokey compared to Andy. Even though he had a bit of trouble with one cupcake recipe, he managed to produce more stuff than I did. Of course, I also fussed a bit more knowing that this was going to be my chance to see if I could make something that people would not only want to eat but also would have to buy to be able to eat. I give Andy a lot of credit for getting me to think more about presentation.
In the end, it paid off. I ended up selling 57 of the 95 brownies I had made, and I know Andy did well with his array of stuff. Getting to see people's responses to the brownie display was incredibly gratifying; watching them enjoy the brownies was even better. I was surprised by the number of kids who went for the mint brownies; I had guessed kids would go for peanut butter first. Go figure.
Thanks, Andy, for letting me sit in on this one, and thanks to all the people who stopped by and had nice things to say.