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Your hobby gives you the space you need that is all your own. It becomes part of your life and love of life. It is your place to go when the stresses of everyday life begins to weigh you down. It keeps you centered and you are good at it. People around you are drawn to the excitement and pride you project. Or maybe its your family heritage that you want to pass down as I did. Whatever drives you to pursue this, friends and family recognize the enjoyment you get out of it. It is a passion that everyone around you shares and suddenly people are saying, “ You know you should start a business”. What could be better then making money at something you love to do.
The ideas begins to keep you awake at night and you can hardly do anything else but think about how you can make your hobby a paying business where you can work on your own time, stay at home, do what you love and even make money.
Starting a business must start with a detailed business plan and a clear description of what your goals are. For me making Italian biscotti was not the goal, but the means to keep family traditions and recipes alive. We talked and joked about it for many years, Each time someone told us that we should sell our biscotti because no one makes them like we do anymore, the desire became more of a passion. Then one day, out of the blue my sister got laid off from her job and in this devastating moment, we said why not, lets do it.
We started down the path of making our dream become reality. Creating a business plan, baking every cookie that was in our family’s hand written cookbooks and pricing out the ingredients, timing each step along the way. When we made them for family events we didn’t consider the cost at all. The first decision we had to make when we realized how expensive they were was what compromises were we willing to make. Do we go for trying to make them less expensive or do we say this is what they cost and we are not going to compromise quality. We put everything down in an excel workbook, set our prices and took a shot.
First were the permits, licenses, packaging and administration as we started our business at home our overhead was less costly but not zero. The costs began to mount and we began to look again at ways to make our product price friendly. We wanted to keep our product authentic, the way our family made and packaged biscotti. We found a packaging manufacturer (Italian packaging), who was willing to sell directly to us eliminating the middleman and sell at lower volumes. Many of these companies sell huge volumns that most small business can’t afford or keep in inventory. Searching out wholesale prices, sales and discounts became an obsession. We buy items we need after the holidays when they go on sale for example. We now kept awake at night worrying about costs; quality was first and foremost so we had to diligently work at cost control, the key to any business success. Since my sister and I have had careers in business, we were already aware of the pitfalls and the things we had to consider from a business perspective. Our family has been in the food and restaurant business ever since our grandparents immergrated from Italy in 1912. We grew up in the business and know how difficult it is.
One other important finding was that all those people that pushed us to turn our hobby into a business were there for us in the beginning. We quickly found out however, that you can’t depend on your friends and family to be your main support and customers. People love the biscotti and buy them, but you can’t sustain a business with friends and family alone. You have to move this business into the market place. This means advertising, sales, insurance, administration, bookkeeping etc. Cost control becomes harder and harder as you enter the world of business and your pride and joy hobby begins to take on more pressure. Your dream hobby job is another reality.
It became clear that we needed something to help us keep costs in check. The excel workbook worked fine for a while but became cumbersome as we began to increase product varieties and production. We needed something easier and faster to make quick quotes, print labels, keep track of our customers, send invoices out and make bookkeeping easier. Reality kept creeping in.
My husband who has a software business offered to write a program for us based on the very detailed excel sheets we had developed over a two year period and the experience we had gained. He had prepared the basis of our excel program that led us in the right direction considering all aspects and factors that had to be considered, always allowing us to know every cost factor and what our profit margin was with every order.
As I began to communicate with others and read articles of people wanting to turn their hobby into a business, I realized that we had some experience that would help others and maybe prevent them from making costly mistakes. The program he developed is the cornerstone of our business and we decided to offer it to home and small to medium size businesses – an inexpensive program that was easy to use and affordable. The Bakers Pricing Software is the result of this effort and we hope it will help others like us reach their dream of bringing their hobby to the market place successfully.
We are currently developing an accounting program that will be integrated with the Bakers Pricing Software.
THE BAKERS PRICING SYSTEM
The Baker’s Pricing Software is a system that stores all essential data to price a product in a database. The most basic data is raw material information. It stores the name, description, vendor and price information and raw material properties such as whether it is perishable, the density if available in order to accommodate volume and weight input for recipes. The system allows quick updates to take care of changes be it price or vendor. Other key information needed for price calculation is stored in the Preferences: Labor cost, energy cost, overhead percentages, material loss percentage and last but not least the profit targets for retail and wholesale. These cost items and the raw material are the foundation for all subsequent calculations and it is extremely important that this data is not only entered carefully but also maintained on a continuous basis as most of the prices fluctuate!
The next step in the process after establishing the basic cost factors is entering the recipes for your products. You select from the list of raw materials available, add quantity and dimension for each ingredient, the amount of labor and the energy used. The cost for individual item wrapping is also added. You will also be asked whether the product can be used on a tray (the basic building blocks of an order) or not. For example a recipe for frosting would not be available for trays but could be entered as raw material and be available for other recipes. The last information to be entered about recipes are the yields, i.e. the number of items you get per recipe and per pound.
Trays of one or multiple recipe items are the building blocks to fill orders. Trays may be actual trays, but also boxes or more generic, sets of items that can be used for different orders. You can assemble trays by units or by weight (if you sell a pound of a recipe item for example). You can add packaging and transportation cost to the trays. The system will then calculate the retail and wholesale price you should charge to meet your profit objectives. You then fill orders using trays. An order is a customer-oriented record. You not only enter a unique identification and the client’s name but also the delivery date, the actual sales price and any additional delivery costs. The system then provides you with a sales and a reimbursement summary for the different expenses incurred. Last but not the least are the cumbersome health permit labeling requirements. The Bakers Pricing Software automatically creates labels for individual products or summary labels for trays.
Page examples and downloads can be found at http://www.pturo.com/
There are many articles written about the health benefits of almonds. Low in saturated fat and containing calcium and magnesium, vitamin E and compounds called phytochemicals, which may help protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer. Jordan almonds are considered the best and are sweet almonds coming from Malaga. Bitter almonds are grown in the south of France, Sicily and North Africa. See the web sites at the end of this article for more information on the benefits of almonds and their origins.
Almond oil is extracted from both bitter and sweet almonds but the seed of the bitter almonds are used to make almond oil and almond flavoring are used in confections. Pure almond extract can be purchased at any market, but the intense flavor of almond oil makes a very big difference in baked goods. When using oil vs. extracts, you use just a few drops. Most Italian markets sell these oils and a little goes a long way.
In Italy desserts are often flavored with honey, chestnuts, pine nuts, hazelnuts and almonds. The biscotti originated in the Tuscany and it is thought that they were flavored with almonds from Prato. The cookies are known as “cantucci” and they can be found in every pasticceria in the Tuscany. Cantucci are mostly eaten with a glass of “Vin Santo” a sweet wine. Many restaurants serve small almond biscotti with coffee and some will have a bowl of them on the table at all times. It is probably the most well-known and popular biscotti. Almonds are used in many different varieties of biscotti and also mixed with fruits and chocolate.
Other desserts made with almonds in Italy are a rich bread or flat cake known as “panforte”. A cookie called “Cartellate” is made in Apuglia. It is fried dough in the shape of a cartwheel (cartellate means cartwheel in Italian) and filled with toasted almonds, honey, chocolate and spices. Amaretto is a liqueur with an almond flavor. The base of the liqueur is primarily made from apricot pits. Apricot and peach pits have similar oils and taste like almonds. The original version of Amaretto was made in Saronno, Italy and is also used to flavor many Italian desserts and coffee. Marzipan, which is a mixture of sugar and almonds is used in confections. One of my favorites is a candy called “Brocante con mandorle”, (Italian almond brittle). It is very hard and you must to be careful of your teeth when you eat it. Unlike most brittle, this is thick and hard made with toasted almonds, sugar, honey, corn syrup and almond oil or almond flavoring. Colorful sugar candied almonds known as “confetti” are arranged in exquisite decorations for wedding cakes and mixed with trays of biscotti.
Cantucci are use in all of our biscotti trays, they are one of our most asked for biscotti. Cantucci are hard so they make a good base for our “Torta Festiva” or “Torta di Biscotto di Nozze”.
Make a full recipe and stored in a metal container, they will last a few weeks. They can be frozen up to two months – they defrost very quickly. You will always have biscotti to serve with coffee when friends drop by.
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes @ 350ºF
Yield: 2 1/2 Dozen
3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 cups roasted almonds, cut in half
1/4 cup warm water
1/3 cup oil
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons water
ROASTING THE NUTS
Place the almonds on a cookie sheet and place in a 400ºF oven for 15 minutes. Shake the pan several times to turn the nuts so they cook evenly. Let the almonds cool. Cut the almonds in half.
In large mixing bowl, place the dry ingredients and toasted almonds. Make a well in the center and combine the remaining wet ingredients (water, oil and eggs). Oil your hands to mix the dough. Place the dough onto a floured board and work until completely combined. The dough will be sticky to work with. Refrigerate for one hour.
Make loaves about 14” long and 2” wide, and place them on a lightly greased or parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Brush the loaves with the egg wash and place them in a 350ºF oven for 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool and slice on a diagonal 1” apart.
To freeze, do not slice but wrap the whole logs tightly in plastic wrap. Slice the logs when you are ready to serve them. They can be frozen for up to 2 months.
Note: Cantucci can be double backed a few minutes on each side for a drier harder result.