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Advance Preparation for Volunteer Baking Crew


Khadija
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I’m looking for some make-ahead strategies for a four person volunteer baking team. We make and sell treats at a weekly market that is run out of a food-themed community centre. The bake-table is meant to create atmosphere, and the treats are sold at purely nominal prices.

The baking begins two hours before the market, and the market lasts two hours. We aim for about 60 pieces. Although we certainly have enough labor power, the time window before the market seems to restrict us to muffins and (often unfrosted) muffin-like cupcakes. Two hours doesn’t allow time for softening butter, chilling dough, or baking whole cakes. Also, we are at the low end of the totem pole when it comes to access to equipment and space. And muffins seem an obvious canvas for our themes of all things “fresh,” “healthy,” “seasonal,” and “local.” However, it would be good to diversify a bit, and to try to offer a genuine treat—some of the muffins have been a bit too “healthy.”

The centre has a namesake cookie, and we try to keep a batch of dough in the fridge for emergencies. These are always a big hit. I’m trying to generate more reliable crowd-pleasing recipes that can be prepared (even partially) ahead of time. (This work could be done while the market is operating, since there are more than enough people to man the table.) Other cookies would be good, as would bars. I’ve also thought about doing some frozen tart shells. Incorporating whole-grains and fruit or even vegetables would be good, but not at the cost of taste. I am hoping that you knowledgeable folks will have some more suggestions.

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Cheesecake doesn't take much time to prep, and can be frozen. The only issue I see with it is the cooking then cooldown. But, you could bake it one day, then freeze and pull out to sell at the next event. It can be made in mini sizes for single servings.

Most cookie doughs can be frozen.

Cake can go straight to the freezer, so you could be pulling out rounds and just making icing on the day.

You could make mini or full sized fruit tarts if you have pate sucre made in advance. The pastry cream doesn't take long to make. And, once you make pastry cream, you have the basis for a lot of desserts like Napoleons. You could prep a bunch of foil pie pans with sucre dough in advance and keep them frozen.

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Brownies can be made with melted butter; I like to add chopped dried tart cherries. Quick chill in the fridge, and glaze with chocolate butter cream, rather than ganache. If you have access to the kitchen on another day, butter cream stores nicely. Blondies with chocolate chips are also pretty quick to pull together and bake.

As for vegetables, have you considered pumpkin tarts, or a savory item like quiche or caramelized onion & cheese tarts.

Karen Dar Woon

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Can you make up cookie dough a week ahead of time and freeze it? Just about any kind of roll & cut cookie, especially a butter cookie or shortbread cookie, can be turned into a slice & bake cookie. Then, of course, there are refrigerator cookies, which are meant to solidify and mellow in the fridge for awhile.

Make up the dough ahead of time, shape into logs with plastic wrap or parchment paper, and freeze for later use. After removing the dough logs from the freezer, let the logs soften slightly, then slice and bake. You don't have to slice into rounds, either. If you slice at a diagonal you'll get an interesting elliptical shape. I slice the logs with the plastic wrap or parchment paper still on them. Then I remove the wrapping from the slices. I find that method easier, and the log holds its shape better during cutting.

Another possibility would be scones made with melted butter or cream. Would that be feasible? I'm guessing they would take as much time to mix as muffins. To save time, try experimenting beforehand with an ice cream scoop as a disher, instead of shaping and cutting the dough in wedges. Scoop the dough gently with an ice cream scoop (don't pack it), and drop on the baking pan. With your fingers, flatten the dough ball slightly (& gently!) to form rounds, then bake. I like to sprinkle sugar on these scones before baking.

I've made these scones & liked them.

Cream scones with chocolate chunks. These are very rich, almost like dessert.

http://pghtasted.blogspot.com/2008/09/cream-scones-with-chocolate-chunks.html

Whole wheat scones. These get the thumbs up from people, even though they are whole wheat. The baking temp is 400F.

http://www.hungryghostfoodandtravel.com/new/2011/8/29/rainy-day-scones.html

Buttermilk scones. I make these with raisins. One of my go-to recipes.

http://bookclubcookbook.com/RecipeMinJinLee.htm

Edited by djyee100 (log)
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In the same category as muffins or cupcakes, whoopie pies seem popular lately; just as easy to make as muffins (make the batter, scoop and bake, they'll cool quickly and you could use a cream cheese frosting as the filling).

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Along the cheesecake do-ahead lines, I did a sort of American Kitsch Entreme that was pretty successful at Thanksgiving. While it could and probably should be improved, the reason I'll post it is that it turned out to be very rich, which made the serving size a very narrow wedge - which meant a lot of servings in single springform pan.

First do a half batch of brownies in a springform pan (I think I used some parchment paper on the bottom for insurance). Bake that off, cool, and add a layer of chocolate ganache. Then a layer of whipped cream with confectioner's sugar, cocoa, and grated chocolate (which replaced the originally imagined Cocoa Krispies which proved to get soggy in a test). Then prepare some Swiss Miss hot chocolate and add gelatin (originally I was amused at the prospect of a Gelee of Yoo-Hoo but it turns out that Yoo-Hoo is pretty much flavorless). Let that cool and pour over the top to cover. Then in the fridge to get a nice glossy and perfectly flat top.

It sliced and held together very cleanly and the individual thin wedges were very attractive (even with the steak knife I was presented with on-site). The finishing touches could have been better (better gloss, some shaved chocolate flower garnishes, a better outer edge treatment) and some more complex flavors (espresso, almond paste, etc.) could have been introduced, but the general concept proved to be sound.

The less tested strawberry version turned out to be a structural disaster. Shortbread base, white chocolate ganache (who knew that it burns so easily? Upon checking the web, pretty much everyone but me), strawberry mousse (this was the culprit), and a gelee of strawberry Kool-Aid. I should've went with my gut and dumped it all into a glass bowl with a big spoon, but yielded to my wife's insistence that it was fine.

It oozed out onto our host's countertop at the first slice. It turned out that we took almost all of it home whereupon she quite happy to eat it out of a bowl for the next week, often commenting on how good it was. Perhaps it was an insidious plot. :raz:

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I love Hershey's black magic cake. I always mix up the dry ingredients and keep them in a ziplock bag. Then, you just dump it in a bowl and mix with all the wet ingredients. You do need a cup of hot coffee, but you could use instant. a 9x 13 bakes in 40 min. Cupcakes would bake up a lot quicker. When I had a big catering job one summer, I mixed up all the cookie dough dry ingredients in advance and put them together when I got there. I made Martha Stewarts kichen sink cookies. The recipe makes a ton and oh so popular.

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