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BasementBaker

Andy Corson, Sandy Hook, CT, US

contributor

BasementBaker

In late 2008, I took the plunge into business ownership (and I still work a full time job) by founding American Artisan Food and Bakery, LLC in Sandy Hook, CT. Right now the focus of the business is the bakery part but I hope to get into the food part soon. I provide my custom line of bakery products to coffeeshops, cafes and stores in the area.

Blogging as the Basement Baker, I will share my experiences and lessons learned about the business of baking, tips on sourcing ingredients, baking time savers and perhaps even a few odds and ends. I also hope you will share your thoughts and experiences with me, whether you have started your own business or not! Drop me a line: basementbaker@bakelocal.com

--Andy

Life aint easy getting through, everybodys gonna make things tough on you, but I can tell you right now if you dig what you do, they will never get you down --Todd Snider, Ballad of the Devils Backbone Tavern

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Posts

Ultimate Pizza Dough

Ultimate Pizza Dough

The Fine Cooking Special Issue - Real Italian - features and awesome pizza dough recipe

Bobs Red Mill

Bob's Red Mill

If only all businesses were run this way...

Perfect Quick Bread

Perfect Quick Bread

There's no one key to perfect quick bread. Follow the tips in this post for a perfect loaf.

More Cookie Exchange Questions Answered

More Cookie Exchange Questions Answered

Here are a few great questions from our first live streaming event that went unanswered...until now.

So Much for the Big Pumpkin Shortage

So Much for the Big Pumpkin Shortage

Yes, when I heard there was going to be a pumpkin shortage this holiday I went out and bought six 29 ounce cans (my pumpkin muffins are a big seller). If you have any pumpkin left over, here is a recipe for some heart-healthy pumpkin pistachio muffins.

Heart-Healthy Pumpkin Pistachio Muffins

Heart-Healthy Pumpkin Pistachio Muffins

Try these healthy treats and wean yourself off of decadent holiday food.

Sweet Shortcuts for Your Holiday Baking

Sweet Shortcuts for Your Holiday Baking

Baking for the holidays doesn't just mean Christmas cookies, it's scones, muffins, breads and more. All of this baking can be time consuming, so here are some time-saving tips.

Moving on up...from the basement

Moving on up...from the basement

After 1 year of operation, American Artisan Bakery will be leaving the basement and moving on to a bigger and better kitchen at ground level!

Hold the Bakin

Hold the Bakin'

A Locally Made Hamburger for Breakfast

The Alfajor - recipe coming soon to a newsstand near you!

The Alfajor - recipe coming soon to a newsstand near you!

Last year I posted an entry in the Fine Cooking Holiday Cookie Contest - it was a picture of the alfajor cookie, popular in Argentina and across Latin America in various forms. The recipe is coming soon to a newsstand near you!

In Need of Holiday Recipes

In Need of Holiday Recipes

The sudden chill in the air on the East Coast has gotten me thinking about the holidays...

Recipe, er...formula for success!

Recipe, er...formula for success!

Baking with "formulas" instead of "recipes" is the best way to go...it can also save you if you screw something up.

Killer Bread

Killer Bread

Baking bread has to be the most written about topic in baking - it is at the same time the simplest baked food yet the most complex to master.

Summer Cupcakes

Summer Cupcakes

Cupcakes are the perfect dessert for the summer, especially topped with summer's greatest gift...fresh berries!

No Politics Like Local Politics

No Politics Like Local Politics

One of two farmer's markets that we participate in was forced to more from a new, prime location back to the old one. Did the market violate zoning laws? Did nearby businesses complain? There's no clear explanation from the market organizers or the town...I just love local politics!

Baked in its own bag

Baked in its own bag

Home bakers are always trying to recreate professional ovens in their kitchens, so why not attempt yet another technique?

Farmers Market Economy

Farmers Market Economy

Farmers Markets are extremely important to small food businesses because selling direct to the consumer is how you build a relationship with the public...and how you make the most money.

Establishing a solid foundation for your food business

Establishing a solid foundation for your food business

Are you itchin' to start your own food related business? A solid foundation is key...

A New Customer, a Tasty Cookie and a New Friend

A New Customer, a Tasty Cookie and a New Friend

I got a call one day after work from a guy in Florida who wanted to come all the way to Connecticut to try my specialty cookie...

Which leads me to my next point...Slow Down

Which leads me to my next point...Slow Down

My last post about scaling recipes created an unexpected segway to a topic that is very important for anyone starting a business: slow down!

Multiplication Frustration

Multiplication Frustration

Scaling recipes can be difficult. After having tackled muffins, scones and carrot cake with no problems (or actual adjustments in leavening ingredients) I tackled chocolate cupcakes...and invented a whole new menu item in the process.

Who does this guy think he is???

Who does this guy think he is???

Have you ever wanted to start your own food business? Do you run a catering company or bakery want to know what others in your field are doing? Welcome to the Basement Baker...

Recent Comments

Re: The Caipirinha: Fun to Make, Easy to Drink, Hard to Pronounce

I've had them in Brazil made with honey. Either way this is one of my favorite cocktails! It is just hard for me to pay over $20 for a bottle of cachaca that cost $1 in Brazil...

Re: Weighing Ingredients

I agree with Sarah, I weigh because it is a lot less messy. Also, with sifted flour, you can weigh and then sift, which is much easier. Scaling recipes is also a lot easier when you weigh ingredients, but this can get complicated with ingredients like eggs.

As for pielove's comment about a scales batteries failing, there are compact mechanical scales available. But nowadays we have to depend on so many things working correctly like recipe sites not crashing, searches for recipes turning up the correct results (when you swear that you used the exact search terms the last time and had no problem).

This was a great discussion - thanks Brian.

Re: The Season of the Pop-Tart

I love recreating childhood favorites - I've made gourmet twinkies before with butter sponge cake and pastry cream. Had to buy a twinkie pan, though.

The nutella tarts look amazing! Evan - I have tons of peaches that I just picked, sliced and froze. Made some peach pockets last weekend and they were great. Let me know what you decide to make!

Re: Cupcakes for the Anti-Cupcake Camp

congratulations, by the way, on your new post at fine cooking!

Re: Cupcakes for the Anti-Cupcake Camp

Amen sister. I stopped baking cupcakes because there were so many people doing it. And to think that there are entire stores devoted to one baked good drives me crazy.

Re: Perfect Quick Bread

My first thought is baking time. Make sure you aren't baking the cake too long. The food geek has a few posts about baking you should check out. Just scroll through his blog for the posts. http://www.finecooking.com/blog/food-geek

Andy

Re: Perfect Quick Bread

They are certainly not the same thing. I think we forget this even more when we are doing something routine.

Re: The Great Brownie Debate

Any brownie is alright with me. Alice Medrich has a recipe on finecooking.com that I love. It uses american process cocoa powder - so much easier than chopping chocolate and still super rich. Oh, the Rich, Fudgy Brownies recipe above also uses cocoa powder.

Re: Not All It's Cracked up to Be

One swift crack on the edge is all it takes.

Re: Bread baking, the flip side

Judging from the flatness of the top, I would say it is probably a combination. These are the things we do that force us to be more patient. I remember once I was making Spiced Pumpkin Bread (http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/pumpkin-spice-bread.aspx) and, in my haste, I forgot to add the baking soda (I did add the baking powder, though). This was just enough to cause the bread to deflate as it was cooling. Patience is the key to successful baking!

Re: The Second Rise

To piratek - The process of kneading, as foodgeek talks about above, is not to encourage rising. It is crucial for gluten formation, which gives structure to the bread. Your bread will definitely rise without kneading, it will just not have the same chew, which, as you already know, is just a matter of personal preference. Cold fermentation - proofing in the refrigerator - just slows down the yeast activity and provides for a slow fermentation which contributes to flavor. This process also takes the place of kneading by encouraging gluten formation.

This is one of those great posts that really encourages discussion. Thanks foodgeek!

Andy

Re: The Second Rise

Downerscook - I can speak from experience on the cinnamon rolls. Here's my advice. Make your dough on Christmas eve morning. Let it rise for 30 minutes at room temperature, then wrap the bowl in plastic and let the dough retard in the refrigerator until the evening. Then roll the chilled dough out, fill your rolls, roll up and slice. Prepare the rolls in their baking pan as you normally would, wrap in plastic and chill overnight. This way the yeast will not be quite as active and you can avoid over-proofing. Remove the dough the next morning and place the pan in a warm oven to proof until the rolls have crested the top of the pan. Bake and serve. Let me know how this works out for you - basementbaker@bakelocal.com.

Andy

Re: Live from the Test Kitchen: Fine Cooking's Virtual Cookie Exchange

Sorry, I meant to say, "Butter cookies and wafer cookies (including all of the cookies we demonstrated yesterday) are great either way."

Re: Live from the Test Kitchen: Fine Cooking's Virtual Cookie Exchange

In response to ElaineSelo - With butter cookies and wafer cookies (including all of the cookies we demonstrated yesterday) do great either way. I prefer to freeze the cookies raw and bake them later. Make sure to use them within 2-3 weeks for the best results. As for cookies like drop cookies it is definitely better to freeze the dough and bake just before eating. You can freeze them after you bake, but they are just not as good. Hope that answers your question!

Andy - aka the Basement Baker

Re: The Second Rise

Rye flour definitely has less of the gluten forming proteins than wheat flour, so that could have something to do with it. Whole meal flours tend to absorb less water than sifted flours, so if you are using whole rye flour you will want to use a little less water than you would for white bread. You also need to knead these doughs longer. Without seeing your recipes I can't know exactly what's going on. You can email me your recipes and I can see if I can help - I'm no food geek, but maybe I can be of some use! basementbaker@bakelocal.com.

Andy

Re: Heart-Healthy Pumpkin Pistachio Muffins

Hi Sally - I am going to say that you are going to have to experiment with this one. I think you could probably leave out the salt and use salted nuts, but without knowing how much salt is in the nuts I can't tell for sure. You could figure out how many milligrams of salt are in the nuts used for the recipe and convert into ounces and go from there. I'll suggest an easier alternative - Trader Joe's unsalted and roasted pistachios (well, this is for those of us whose in-laws don't grow their own!).

Re: Cooking on the Cheap

Not that this is a good way to use up lots of carrots but you can make candied carrots to garnish that carrot cake. I just make a heavy sugar syrup and bring to a boil, add shredded carrots and cook for a few minutes. Spread on parchment to dry and toss in some granulated sugar to make it sparkle. This is a great way to replace artificial sprinkles with something natural!

Re: Baking Soda and Baking Powder

Speaking as a person who has forgotten to put baking soda into cookie dough, if you don't include a leavening agent, the cookies turn out rock hard. The agent helps the cookies to spread and creates air pockets in the gluten network of the cookie to make the texture lighter. The cookies don't necessarily stay risen, but the agent is necessary for texture.

Re: The Cake Bump

Hey Brian - Bake-even strips work fairly well, although when I used them they actually caused the center to fall a bit more than the outer edge. Some people don't like them, but I think they work pretty well. Another tool that I like is the cake leveler from Wilton. It takes a little getting used to, but it works - well, it works best on cakes with higher amounts of fat - not so great with sponge cakes.

Andy

Re: What's Your Guilty-Pleasure Food?

Hey, I don't see Don on this list, or how about Scott. Let's get a guy's perspective! Greasy burgers and a brown paper bag full of fries from Five Guys! Every time I go buy supplies for my bakery I stop there. And my wife always wonders why I go to the Restaurant Depot around lunch time...

Re: Killer Bread

It makes about 3 10oz. loaves. The total recipe makes 2 lbs. of dough, so just divide 32 oz. by the weight of each loaf to get the total loaves.

Re: Cheesecake or Cheesepie?

Cheesecakes should have their own competition. I feel like a food becomes its own category once you can make hundreds of variations. Think pizza - pizza making has hundreds (if not thousands) of variations and more than one pizza making competition. People don't think of it as a topped flat bread. I would consider cheesecake a category of dessert all its own.

Re: Baking in the Heat of Summer

I could not agree more! Open your windows, turn on a fan and tie a bandana around your forehead! I took the temperature in my kitchen last Friday while baking bread for the market and it was around 93.

Re: Killer Bread

Just mix with the dough hook until the ingredients are all incorporated.

Re: Killer Bread

You can just put the pre-dough (no yeast) in the refrigerator. With the pre-ferment, try it again but mix the yeast with water first, then mix in the flour and let it sit on the counter for an hour before refrigerating. I am not sure what is wrong with the yeast, but it may be no good anymore - do you have a jar of yeast or the packets? The yeast could be dead even if you haven't reached the expire date. This has happened to me before.

Re: Killer Bread

What kind of yeast are you using? you can take it out of the refrigerator and let it get to room temp - leave it out for about 5 hours and see if it starts to rise. If it doesn't, you can try again but mix the yeast first with warm water, then mix the dough and put it in the refrigerator. I forgot to mention that the best yeast to use for this recipe is instant or Red Star brand. Did you use Fleischman's?

Andy

Re: Killer Bread

The part about the clay pot or casserole is true, but it has to be pre-heated (preferably around 500 F). Cold ovens don't work - The dough will stick to the vessel and become baked-on. A hot surface is the only way to achieve crispy crust and keep the bread from sticking. That is why professionals use a hot oven and slide the bread onto the deck with a peel. Who told you that you could use a cold vessel? That is crazy talk.

Re: Killer Bread

Volpina - yes, it would work to use an iron skillet on the top shelf. --Andy

Re: Killer Bread

You should be able to make 2-3 depending on the size.

Re: Killer Bread

Slam - if you have a paper supply store near you, you can buy quart size bags - these are kraft paper bags made for quart-sized liquor bottles, but the work great for baguettes.

Re: The light at the end of the (cake) tunnel - update

I have also run into this same problem and found that too much sugar can also cause the middle to cave in. That is what happened to the cupcakes in my blog post Multiplication Frustration. I also have had problems with pound cake and baking temps and found that lowering to 325 helped. You might also have to bake it a little longer.

Re: Killer Bread

Slamdunk - Put one oven rack as low as it can go and put one near the top. Place a sheet pan or stone on the lowest rack and another pan on the top rack for your steam pan (if your oven is gas, you can place the steam pan on the oven floor and the two racks more in the middle). Heat the oven to 500 for 30 minutes while the bread proofs. Prepare some hot water in a spray bottle. When you slide the dough onto the sheet pan or stone, quickly pour a few ounces of water into the hot steam pan and shut the door. After about 5 minutes spray walls of the oven with the spray bottle. Repeat every 30 seconds or so for the next 5 minutes. The most important thing it to have your baking surface hot when you slide the dough onto it.

Re: Breaking Baker's Block

Hi Lisa - I love the title of your post. The brioche look great, too. What wash did you use to get such a shine?

Andy

Re: Drinking my way through Tales of the Cocktail

In Brazil they make caipirihnas with honey or with sugar.

Re: Baked in its own bag

The Cook's recipe is blocked by a pay wall.

Re: Baked in its own bag

I'd be interested in the CI recipes, too. I actually am not using a 'no-knead' recipe, but rather a little knead recipes from Peter Rheinhart. I am just trying to mimick the dutch oven effect.

Re: Farmers Market Economy

OZbaker, does the market you sell at open 5 days a week in the same location? Where we are in Connecticut the markets are 1 day/week, but each city usually has a market on a different day. Vendors have to go from market to market, and they all start at different times each day. In our case we have to figure out which products sell best at different times of the day. It can be a challenge.

Re: Lessons Learned from the Appliance Guy

For further reading on dishwashers:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/21/garden/21fix.html?scp=1&sq=dishwasher&st=cse

Your post reminded me of an article I read about diswaher detergent smugglers in Washington state. Here is a bit about that:

http://www.greendaily.com/2009/03/31/prohibition-creates-smugglers-even-when-its-dishwasher-deterge/

Andy

Re: Farmers Market Economy

Farmers Markets are totally worth the trip, even if they are an hour away. Places like Kent are great because the market is in the morning, so a lot of people come hungry. Also, markets create a sense of urgency because you are only there once per week, so people buy more. Eventually, like you said, I would like to sell the cafes along the way, but first I need a bigger vehicle. So far each market has been worth the effort, but there is a little risk involved because you never know how much you are going to sell.

As for the CSA, do you talk to your customers about how they are investing in the farm by purchasing shares? Getting the right customer is very important, and if they understand that they are sharing some risk in order to get a return on their investment, they would appreciate what they get more. To address this issue in another way, start printing a newsletter that features recipes specific to what customers are getting each week. Some recipes could be for cooking certain veggies, but others could tackle preserving. This way if you have too many cucumbers, you can prepare a great salad as well as pickle some. Fine Cooking has a lot of great recipes and I think they had an article recently about freezing.

Re: Bologna: lunch meat or economic indicator?

I heard a similar story on NPR about Spam. Did you get a spam-o-meter, too?

Re: Gas or Charcoal: How do you Grill?

There is something about the smokeyness of charcol that makes it superior in my book. Sometimes I like to build a wood fire and spend all day tending it, and then shovel the coals into the grill and cook with it. It is a relaxing way to spend the day.

Re: Cracking the Boiled Egg Mystery

The video is great. Who would've known...

Re: Establishing a solid foundation for your food business

Thanks Sally. Send me a link to your blog onces it is up. I am glad to see interest in the business side of the food business from you and others. I'll be writing more about that in future posts. In the meantime, I just need to get more pictures of cupcakes on the blog to attract more readers...

Re: Unbleached cake flour, at last

That is exciting! I usually use unbleached pastry flour for my cakes, but now I can use cake flour. Yeah...

Re: Multiplication Frustration

Well, after much experimenting, I determined that it was lack of water and too much sugar that made these fall.

Re: Ellie Krieger on the Today Show

Al Roker is nuts.

Re: A New Customer, a Tasty Cookie and a New Friend

Actually, we arrived at 6 on a Monday and they were already waiting with a table!

Re: The other other white meat

Wow, they really over do it trying to sell us on the "most highly anticipated new cuts of the millennium" with the pocket roast. I prefer to buy pork shoulder than pork breast. Putting "breast" in there sounds rediculous. Apparently they will stop at nothing to make pork seem more like chicken. Other white meat my foot!

Re: How do you like your burger?

There are too many possibilities! I have the same dilemma with pizza.

Re: Multiplication Frustration

I will definitely be able to recreate these...but it is a little embarrassing what ACTUALLY happened. I left out the water! The first time I made these cupcakes I decided to leave out the espresso, but Sarah, a friend who works with me, suggested to inlcude the water. Now it all makes complete sense because the water is what causes gluten to form and gives the cake structure (apparently the eggs weren't enough). To recreate this I just need to leave out the water - and I will try LEAVING OUT the leavening so that they bake more like brownies without wasting the entire cupcake top. I think I am going to try the food geek's suggestion of subing powder for soda when I attempt to make cupcakes again.

Sharon - how about a golf club??? I'll have to drag my set out of my parents' basement!

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