Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Map

Herein lies the guide to starting a wee business in a small town in a part of Canada few people remember exists...

The Federal and provincial level: once you find that needle in the proverbial haystack it goes pretty quickly.
  1. Call your nearest Canada Business office (in New Brunswick the number is 1.888.576.4444)
  2. explain what you're trying to do
  3. receive an email with links to .pdf files 
  4. click on the link applicable to the type of business you are trying to be (for me it is sole proprietorship)
  5. Get a name search done, but ask your Canada Business office representative if you need a federal name search done or a provincial one. It should say in the .pdf form they give you, but in case it doesn't, I would ask. (I ended up getting the wrong one - of course)
  6. fill in form #5 (for sole proprietors) and take it to nearest Service New Brunswick office, with your NUANS name search report
  7. dole out $112 to register the name and it's good for 5 years...and it seems by registering my name I will also be given a business number.
  8. unless your business is going to bring in more than $30,000 you do not need a GST/HST #.

Just visit your nearest Canada Business office and you can do it all in one go.

The Municipal level: a wink and a smile.
  1. do not register your business with the town unless you are opening a store-front operation or a street vendor with a permanent cover or kiosk (a $500 fee).
  2. a thriving local farmer's market benefits the community and there is no charge to benefit the community so bake on.
  3. The rules for selling by special order from my home is murky at a good way. The regulations are there, but their enforcement is weighted by necessity...i.e. murky for a reason. Perhaps one of the many advantages of starting a small business in a small, economically challenged town is there is grace for the little business that would be overcome by municipal regulations. I'm too small to burden with the fees and taxes that would otherwise be charged to a business bringing in the big bucks.
For now, I am a baking enthusiast with an official name, selling my wares at the local market and through special order and that is ok with my town. It's when I get too big for my little home bakery britches that I'll need to revisit the town regulations and then dot all my i's and cross all my t's...or is it their i's and t's? Either way, it would mean getting closer to that bakery dream.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Here we go 'round the mulberry bush...

Have you ever started out on a road trip without a map? Some people love that sort of spontaneity. I like spontaneity but I love having my bearings. Even if there is no specific destination planned I like knowing where I can go at any moment so I don't end up driving in circles and not really getting anywhere.

Since setting out on this path to having my own business I feel like I've had to be my own cartographer. There is no specific map for exactly what I'm trying to do. There are directions for bits of what I'm doing and they come from all levels of government and business associations. I've been on the phone, online, in person and I still do not have a complete map that takes me to my destination. Not even to phase one. But I have a ton of information to places I don't want to go. It's like asking for directions to a store across town and handed a world atlas.

I'd like for Garmin to come up with a GPS system specifically for business start-up. A tool where I can plot my course and a friendly voice (maybe Colin Firth) can lead me step by step until I've reached the first leg of my trip.

Since that likely won't happen in the next week or so, I am left to survey and document this seemingly uncharted path. This is doable. I have some tools. I have, after all, my atlas, which in the very least will keep me from ending up in China before I've found St. Stephen. If I could just find my bearings...

Monday, July 25, 2011

Not Without My Biscotti!

Chocolate walnut biscotti
half baked: take it out to cool a bit before slicing
reduce heat and bake until middles are firm
best dipped in whatever espresso concoction your heart desires

This was the title of the first screenplay I ever wrote. It was for a screenwriting class in film school that I had begged to take. It was a very popular class and those in the writing track had first dibs. I was in the production management track... an outsider...writers and producers weren't meant to mix it seemed. I don't know how I managed to get a spot, but I did and loved every minute of it.

Not Without My Biscotti was a cheeky take on the cafe culture that had sprung up on every street corner. Starbucks, though not new, had only begun it's world conquest and people everywhere were trading in their percolated grocery store grinds  for double-grande-non-fat-two-pump-vanilla-light-whip-white-mocha-lattes.  And with such diversity in drink offerings came unusual European pastries. How cultured and traveled I felt eating my biscotti with my frothy beverage. A cafe: it was the perfect setting for a budding love story, and biscotti: the perfect nemesis.

It was no Oscar contender, but it was good enough to catch the eye of a student in the directing class and it was chosen (as were many others) as a class project. I couldn't believe it! My first script - filmed! Well, videoed, really, but that didn't deter my excitement. I was thrilled that someone else got it...they got the absurdity but also the lure and delight of such a momentous turn in culture. Coffee was becoming an event the world over. But to my chagrin, it had not yet infiltrated my university town rooted in the almost south, where sweet tea was the order of the day.

The student producer found me and flashed me a big sparkly producer smile (remember I was in the producing track, I know that smile) and sat me down and said "Great story! We have a great cast... we're almost ready to shoot, we're just getting props sorted out. Can you tell me, what exactly is biscotti?"

My mouth opened but nothing came out except a weird breathy squeak. How could one choose a story to tell without knowing the very thing on which the story hinges. I did a very poor job describing what biscotti was because the crew ended up using an English muffin. Very different results.

So, nearly 13 years and billions of Starubucks later, it's likely that producer knows what a biscotti is now, but in the event there are still people out there who have yet to experience the biscotti I leave you with this: it is nothing like an English muffin.

Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti
(I substituted walnuts for the pistachios and olive oil for the butter in the above, but the rest is based on this recipe)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Planet Vegan

Apricot and Ginger Vegan Fruit and Nut Bars

packaged for the Bistro

I love butter, eggs and heavy cream...and bacon. It's quite likely I will never be vegan. But that doesn't mean I can't enjoy vegan treats. I'm wondering though, do vegans get mad when non-vegans eat up vegan goodies? Is that like wearing Doc Martins without knowing who Joe Strummer is? Does it make me a poser?

Well even I like to take brief departures from my cakes, scones and pastries if the goody at hand is worth it. And these are pretty darn good. Sorry vegans. This poser is feeling a bit peckish.

I first found these vegan fruit and nut bars in Martha Stewart's HOLIDAY magazine (2010). I've altered it a little so I think it might be ok to publish my version of the recipe here. If it disappears in a day or two, you'll know why!

1 cup dates
1 cup water
1.5 cup whole oats (for gluten free use oats that are certified gluten free to avoid cross contamination)
3/4 cup almond meal
1/2 cup sliced almond or chopped toasted almonds
3/4 cup chopped apricots (you can use any dried fruit up to 1 cup)
1/4 cup candied ginger
4 tbs ground flax seed
3 tbs wheat germ (for gluten free use quinoa flakes)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbs brown rice syrup

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Bring dates and water to a simmer then cool. Puree with hand blender or small food processor. Add brown rice syrup and combine.
  3. Combine in a seperate bowl the rest of the indredients.
  4. Add date and syrup puree to rest of the ingredients and mix with a spoon until it's well mixed.
  5. Scoop into 9x9 (brownie) pan, lined with parchment and spread and pack in using the back of the spoon.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes. It should be golden brown around the edges and firm-ish in the middle.
  7. Let cool on a rack before cutting and serving.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Butter Tart ::SUGAR:: style

Fresh fig and brown butter tart: a modern take on the historic (and Canadian!) butter tart.

I lived in Virginia Beach for six years while attending graduate school and not one person I met had heard of a butter tart...unless they were Canadian. I didn't realize we Canadians had an official food. Something to call our own.

Where did the butter tart originate? According to Wikipedia versions of the tart can be traced back to Quebec in the early 1600s. It is one of my all time favorite pastries. Possibly because it consists mostly of sugar.  And now I can feel delightfully patriotic when I imbibe.

I found this version of the butter tart in a cookbook I've long had but rarely use. I like the book more for it's photography than its recipes. The filling remained quite runny, but the shortbread crust was divine! It still tasted delicious despite the runniness. Next time I try this, though, I think I will substitute the filling base with the Best Butter Tarts recipe on the Canadian Living website to see if I can get the filling a little less runny.

Do you like the butter tart? What other treats are native to Canada?

Monday, July 18, 2011

oooozing vs. chunky cookies...

oozing flat cookies

chunky cookies

oozing vs. chunky

Tonight I made breakfast cookies for the Bistro and my first batch spread and oozed like my post-baby belly in pre-baby jeans. Why does this happen? Perhaps the insane heat and humidity are taking a toll. It is, after all 80 degrees in my kitchen with the air conditioner on. I made them again and I melted the butter a wee bit first, added a little more flour and oats and all turned out well. The mysteries of baking.

Do you prefer the oozing flat cookies or the chunky ones?

Cranberry Almond Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Ingredients:
Whole oats
Whole wheat flour
Unbleached flour
Wheat germ
Baking soda
Brown sugar
Belgian dark chocolate
Sliced almonds

Name search - check!

You'll note the new name of my blog...I've had this name for my business floating around unofficially for a few years. I made a logo and made up cards while I was baking for local markets. Well, I did a name search and I win! No one in New Brunswick has a bakery business by that name, though there are many in Ontario and West with sugar in the title but none just titled Sugar.

I thought of a few alternatives, but Sugar is simple, it designs well and it's memorable. I was thinking of expanding it to Sugar n' Spice but there are over 50 sugar n' spice businesses in Canada...and some of them involve strippers. SO Sugar it is! 

hot diggety old dog and new tricks

I'm stretched half way between blogspot and wordpress...I can't seem to design my blog in either platform without being fluent in alien languages. You have to be Neo post Matrix epiphany (where he sees everything in 0s and 1s) to get exactly what you want out of blog design.

Since the dawning of the internet, well, at least since it's been accessible, I've been able to fudge sites...mold them to my will. But now, I am a walking cliche. Can this old-ish dog learn new tricks? While fielding the bazillion questions that spew from a 4 year-old every minute and placating a toddler with animal noises?

Starting a business is no piece of cake.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Scone Factor

Blood Orange Scones

I love interesting and unusual flavor combinations. I like to experiment with newly discovered (or newly on trend) flavors and try to work them in to whatever I am baking. Not every attempt is a resounding success. Like the ever fresh and on trend strawberry and basil combo didn't really work well in my scones...they tasted more like strawberry shortcake meets pizza. Though I'm sure if I keep at it I will find a way to protect the integrity of the flavors.

I have had some success with other versions of my scones which I bake for a local Bistro. Oddly enough I had never baked a scone in my life before they ordered them. My husband had to show me how to make them! But after a year of faithfully baking them at least once a week I've come up with some winners:
  1. lemon raspberry (or blueberry)
  2. white chocolate raspberry with lime zest
  3. lemon lavender
  4. lavender earl grey
  5. chai tea
  6. coconut dream
  7. maple bacon
  8. brown butter thyme and Gruyere (or Parmesan)
  9. strawberries n' cream
  10. orange and dark chocolate
  11. cinnamon baked apple
  12. cherry and vanilla bean
  13. white chocolate pear & hazelnut
  14. blood orange (pictured above)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Let them eat cake!

Strawberry Basil Shortcake

When I moved (returned) to my little town I knew I'd be giving up all the delights a big city offered in the way of bakeries, cafes... entire shops devoted solely to cupcakes. *sigh* But if these things were readily available, I don't think my passion for baking, which lay dormant amid the plethora of choice, would have risen (even to my surprise) to the challenge before me. I needed an oasis in this desert town. If I wanted cake I had to figure out how to make it. If I wanted a pretty little cupcake, I had to figure out how to make a cupcake pretty...and delicious.

Plenty of dried out, crumbly mistakes later I think I'm finding my stride. Though I'm still in search of the ultimate moist but not greasy carrot far it eludes me! But here are a few that, if I could, I'd attack with a fork and a cup of tea:

  1. White chocolate cake, white chocolate buttercream with raspberries and lime zest filling and white chocolate buttercream frosting
  2. Chocolate hazelnut cake and chocolate hazelnut buttercream filling and frosting
  3. Maple cake with maple buttercream filling and frosting, garnished with loads of toasted walnuts
  4. Sweet potato cake with cream cheese buttercream filling and vanilla buttercream frosting
  5. Dark chocolate and espresso cake with dark chocolate ganache filling and frosting
  6. Lemon chiffon cake with lemon curd filling and lemon buttercream frosting
  7. Chocolate caramel cake with salted caramel filling and whipped chocolate caramel ganache frosting
  8. Strawberry basil shortcake

Congratulations Heidi Turner!

...for being my first follower. You, my dear, are entitled to any one of the following:
  1. batch of scones (of your choice)
  2. dozen cookies
  3. half a dozen cinnamon twists
  4. batch of vegan fruit and nut bars
Now, who wants to be the first to comment??

where to begin...

I may have approached this whole starting a baking-business-for-real out of order. I have a logo before I've registered the name. Before I even know if the name is available. Before I have even thought about a business plan. Probably not the best way to roll, but certainly indicative of my personality. Visuals are almost everything to me. I'm a sucker for packaging. If it meets my "pretty" criteria - sold! I forget that not everyone operates that way.

  1. Research the name.
  2. Research the need and level of registration and what that means in terms of tax (income, GST, HST, PST - doesn't Revenue Canada every get exhausted with the number of ways they can tax us?)
  3. Sort out the phases and/or stages of my business plan
  4. find out what funding is available for start-up small businesses
What else? If you have any tips, I'd love to hear them!

Stalking Martha

A glorious girls trip to Bar Harbour turned into a little extended adventure to Seal Harbor where baking (cooking, organizing, crafting) maven Martha Stewart spends her summers. Of course we didn't see her...and I think I'd probably hide if I did...I'm sure she'd take one look at me and her all-knowingness would sense how disorganized my house is. But for every breathtaking view of the ocean between the lush forest canopies, it's no wonder she'd be inspired to be creative.

It has given me pause to think about what inspires me to be creative. Bring on the Pinterest! I love this online inspiration board site...some call it another waste of time - but I truly do garner inspiration from my boards. Living in as small a town as I do, there is little to feast the eyes on to fill up my creativity stores. Pinterest has come to my rescue when I am creatively parched.

You can peek at (or follow) my boards here:

What inspires you to be creative?

Friday, July 15, 2011

That's what this little girl is made of...

For most of my life I think my body was composed of 49% water and 51% sugar. Cupcakes, layer cakes, cookies, scones (with clotted cream, of course), puff pasty and if I could successfully make a pie crust I'm sure pies would have fared well in my hands...most any baked good would do...and fill in the gaps with candy.

Alas, almost 4 decades and two babies later, my body has had enough of the least, it is forcing me to very conscientious about the amount of sugary goodness I consume.

Bummer? Yes, at first. But don't we appreciate even more the things we can't always have? Don't we savor every morsel when we only get a taste? The less sugar I'm allowed to consume the more I want to bake. I am at a strange crossroads...Candyland on one side vegetable patch on the other. I think I've found a way to forge my own path right down the middle.

I love baking. It's is a thrill, a rush to create something that will bring delight to someone else. One way to express creativity through flavor combination and presentation. If I can't partake in the delight part very often, why not sell my baked goods so others can? I mean for real. Not just a few scones and vegan bars once a week...what if I really went for it? What could this look like? What could this turn in to? Am I brave enough? Would it kill my love of baking?

I guess the only way to know the answers to these questions is trying.
Path forging commences.