Saturday, May 28, 2011

Follow Your Bliss .... and Learn in the Process!

In my pursuit of raising money for homeless kids while experimenting to discover a business I can do from home, I decided last week to do a bake sale at church. I brought samples of carrot bread and of my grandmother's herb biscuits (well, I added the herbs!), thinking I would get 3 or 4 orders. I got 13 orders - which will buy a lot of socks for homeless kids! And more importantly, make people aware of homeless kids.
After pacing myself all week, shopping one day, mixing the dry ingredients the next, mixing wet ingredients with the dry ingredients the next, and finally, baking today, I filled all the orders in my tiny kitchen with very little equipment! Here are some things I discovered along the way:

Carrot Cake Bread

 1) My first strength in baking is recognizing good recipes and improving them to make them taste better and make them healthier. As far as the recipes I used, I knew they would be good because they called for real butter! As far as making them healthier, I thought of adding flax seed to both the biscuits and the carrot bread, using organic eggs, and using 1 part wheat flour to 2 parts white flour instead of all white flour. The recipes didn't call for any of these ingredients!  Also, I thought to use 1 part brown sugar to 2 parts white sugar for the carrot bread for a richer flavor.

2) My second strength in baking is figuring out how to get ingredients frugally. I used herbs that I am growing in my garden, I know the best places in town to buy organic eggs (down the street from a local farm or from Fresh and Easy if the farm is out!), flour, sugar, etc (most of the bulk things I bought from Costco!) . I also know how to make my own baking powder (corn starch and baking soda) and brown sugar (white sugar and molasses), so I can make really good baked goods really cheaply!  And a dear friend gave me 100$ as seed money to buy more ingredients in bulk so we could raise even more money for homeless kids, so I was able to get things like 3000 square feet of plastic wrap for 10 dollars, and a few big mixing bowls (turkey basters from the 99 cent store!)

Garden Herb Biscuits
 3) My biggest area to grow in is efficiency in actually baking! Part of this is because I have never made myself learn how to be efficient - with just Pete and I, I am quite content if it takes me extra time to mix biscuit dough with a wooden spoon instead of an electric mixer - in fact, I enjoy the sensory experience! But with baking in bulk, this just won't do! I learned a lot of little tricks for efficiency I never thought of before, which to most people may seem like common sense, but I never cared about before! Like instead of forming each biscuit by hand (wearing gloves of course!), roll out the biscuit dough and use the edge of a cup to cut it out.

4) This is related to # 3 - I learned the importance of having the right tools to bake efficiently!  I've decided to start looking on Craig's List, or garage sales and thrift stores, for a good deal bread machine, and for an electric mixer, the kind with a bowl connected. Also, I am going to borrow a bigger kitchen, with more than one oven!

5) Pete and my friends were right - I need to raise my prices!

My Conclusion - At this point, I am not efficient enough and don't have the equipment to make much of a profit off of baking to do it as a regular business.  Also, if I am going to start a for-profit business, I want to invest little or no money (and I don't want to invest in a baking license at this point). But I still love baking for people and I want to help homeless kids, so as I can aquire some basic equipment and find a big kitchen to borrow, I'll do occasional, maybe monthly, bake sales with friends, as I am up for it. As far as making any sort of real supplemental income to help us get out of debt, I think I will pursue teaching Greek to homeschoolers, as a blogging friend suggested.

What is your bliss?


  1. Sounds like a successful first bake sale. Your baked goods sound wonderful. I am a pretty good baker but I've never mastered biscuit making. I would have bought some of your Grandma's herb biscuits:-)

  2. Patti Bee - I'll send you the recipe!

  3. Thank you so much for the biscuit recipe! I'm going to make them for dinner tomorrow. Sounds easy enough...I'll let you know how they turn out. Thanks again!

  4. Ha! Took me a while to realise that by “biscuits”, you mean what we would call “scones” over here in the UK. When jamming season comes, will you sell plain scones with a little pot of homemade jam? Homemade jam is always soooo much better in every way than factory jam.

  5. Do you have savory scones? Homemade jam is a great idea, but I think it takes too much time to make to be worth selling!

  6. Savoury scones - certainly! I often make cheese and herb scones to have with soup. You're right that it takes time to make jam, but then you can make it in such large quantities (say, ten pounds at a time, that'd be 20 small jars) that it could be worth it. Homemade jam is a mainstay of church fetes over here. - Karin

  7. Karin - I didn't know there were savory scones - sounds delicious! That's true - I could make a large amount of jam at once - hmmm, you've got me thinking. Marmalade, anyone?

  8. All that baking sounds so good:) Can that be my bliss, ha ha?

    My bliss is to create and share handmade cards and scrapbook layouts. Finally got to courage to begin selling them at my first event this past weekend--I learned A LOT too!!

    p.s. Is there a farmer's market near you? Could you sell your baked goods there (zucchini bread, banana, etc) ?

    Or since recognizing good recipes is your strength, maybe you could fill mason jars with pre-measured dry ingredients/recipe attached and sell those w/o a license?

  9. Rachel - how exciting to get your start selling what you love to make! Thanks for the mason jar idea - that may be the answer!


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