From scrach or out of the box

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A discussion has been taking place in another thread.  The moderator asked that we start another thread on the topic.  What types of convenience products do you use for pastries and baking?  Do you have a pastry chef?  What are pastry chefs paid in your area?  Convenience products are premade deserts, rolls, breads, fruit fillings canned or frozen, generally anything that you take out of a box instead of making it from scratch.  There is a place for all types of products and establishments so this should be a discussion not a debate or an argument.  
 
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      I find having frozen puff pastry dough and phyllo dough on hand to  be helpful for making various pastries. Boxed muffin mixes can be very handy and provide a consistent product. You can add fresh fruits and nuts to make them different. Quality varies though so it is important to test several brands and even within the same company. Some of the mixes can have an odd taste. Pancake mixes can also be useful to provide consistency. Again, some brands are awful but not all of them so it pays to sample. 

     I am not a fan of pre made fruit fillings. Too much cornstarch/thickener and not enough flavor. There are very good quality IQF fruit pieces that can be made quickly into fillings.

    There aren't too many pastry chefs around here that I know of. We do have several from scratch bakeries that produce an excellent product and are used by many of the restaurants and stores. 
 
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There was another thread that discussed the quality of fish.

Cleaned, portioned and flash frozen on the boat or "fresh" off the boat (but had been buried in crushed ice for up to a week then defrosted and sold as fresh).

My opinion runs to the former and holds true for pastry as well.

I would much rather have a good quality flash frozen pastry from a trusted source (the daily par defrosted in fridge every AM) than a three day old homemade whatever that has hung around in the reach in for 3 days.

I love the texture of a frozen and defrosted butter based cake, even better if it is served a bit cold.

So moist..... (I know some out there that take issue with the descriptor "moist" but it is the only word that fits lol ;-)

@chefbuba  brought https://www.sweetstreet.com/ into the discussion.

Their products show a lot of imagination and the prices are around the same as I would charge for the same size product using good ingredients.

Checked out the label info on a few things and it looks like their products are as homemade as possible with a minimum of additives (which is way different than what was available a few years back).

So yeah.

If I had a need for a few desserts on my menu but did not want to be locked into paying someone a salary plus benefits this would be worth looking into IMO.

mimi
 
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The quality of remade frozen desserts have come a long way over the years. The quality of coffee cake, pastries, cakes have saved me labor many times over the years. You can display these items to look as good as your house made pastries. The food shows give a wonderful array of new items that come out on the market yearly. I have used many of these items in my operation for years. We used hot out of the oven Hoagie rolls and cinnamon rolls kept warm in heated display cases. The puff pastry squares are also great for apple turnovers or prefacing to top a chicken pot pie.
 
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My friend is a red seal chef and he told me when i started my restaurant, some things he will make from scratch, others get out of the can or box and make it better by adding his recipe ingredients
 
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I couldn't abide not making everything in house. There are very few things that come from a can that I couldn't make better myself. I'm lucky to have a pastry chef at the place where I currently am, but even if we didn't I would still make desserts. Just about the only thing, other than vinegar / oil etc, that we don't make ourselves are puff dough, phyllo, and ketchup. Ketchup is really just for breakfast and staff meals. 

I think a head chef should be able to put out good desserts without too much fuss. I also don't like serving things like a slice of cake or a slice of cheesecake...seems very dated and 80's to me. Often they are heavy too, and too rich and sweet. 

I prefer to eat at scratch places too. If I know a place uses a lot of pre fab stuff I probably won't eat there. 
 
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Hard to find places these days that make desserts from scratch. Pretty much boxed, and or frozen in many places.

When I go out, I always ask if they have any desserts that are made in house.

Cheesecake has got to be the easiest to make and the public loves it. Yes it may be dated, but you see it on many menus still.
 
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I once worked with a head chef who couldn't make mashed potato without the boxed flake stuff.
No word of a lie.
 
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"I would much rather have a good quality flash frozen pastry from a trusted source (the daily par defrosted in fridge every AM) than a three day old homemade whatever that has hung around in the reach in for 3 days."

I can't say I disagree with the 3 day old stuff.  I like the places that run out of their house made daily.  Cakes can be house made and frozen.  I use frozen phyllo.  I remember great cafetieres from the fifties where everything was house made.  Banana pudding made from scratch is wonderful many places now use box gelatin products. 
 
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Dead on with the banana pudding!

If you are a BBQ joint in my area you better have it and it better be ice cold and made from scratch /img/vbsmilies/smilies/laser.gif  and no meringue mister.

Same with the peach cobblers...large fruit to crust ratio and served warm with a scoop of Blue Bell homemade vanilla.

In fact if my regular place had anything fancier than a deep dish caramel drizzled apple pie I would be suspicious lol.

mimi
 
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Well....

I operate my own bakery/chocolate shop.

I have a table top dough sheeter, so I make my own doughs, including puff.  I use the sheeter for cookies, scones, and for many of my bon-bon and choc. bar fillings.

I buy in frzn all-butter croissants because they are a pain in the a** to make in small quantities, and the packaged phyllo as well.

Other than that, I make everything in house, all cakes, pastries, fillings, jam, marmalade, even candied citrus peel and ginger.

That being said, I will make all this in batches and freeze, as it makes no sense to make, say a kilo of puff every day, rather I'll do 4 7 kg heads a month and freeze them.  Or scones, or cookies.

Why?

1) Since I own the place and I'm the only one in the kitchen, my labour is already factored in. The food cost on home made vs convienience is sometimes less than 1/3.

2) There is one mega bakery purveyor in this town, and they supply just about everybody in the province. I mean Everybody . Hotels, clubs, Mom n'Pops, ethnic restaurants, pizza joints, you name it.  They carry good lines, quality stuff, but everybody has the same sh*t. 

I need to be different, I can't afford to have the same stuff as everyone else and compete on price alone
 
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In total agreement with @foodpump.

Our neighborhood has been surrounded by retail malls and strip centers so naturally the QSR's came in like a fast moving cancer.

Some are decent enuf to make return visits an option and have given all at least one try.

The dessert menus?

It is like they all got together and had a massive printing and share them around...... brownie with nuts.....chocolate and/or carrot cake..... cheesecake with choice of canned fruit syrup (err I mean sauce, pureed using only the finest quality berries picked at the height of ripeness ;-)...and vanilla ice cream.

If I see another apple dumpling I think I will go mad!

/img/vbsmilies/smilies/lol.gif

mimi
 

kuan

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Staff member
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Florentine powder.

Puff pastry sheets.

Couverture chocolate.

Pound cake.

Ladyfingers.

Chocolate cups in all kinds of shapes and sizes.

Make a huge batch of buttercream twice a week,, chocolate ganache, and pastry cream and you're totally set.  

Get some fresh berries and assemble your dessert for the day.  :D :D 

Better yet, buy some nice glassware and layer it up.  
 
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pete

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One idea that hasn't been mentioned yet is working with a local bakery to produce many of your desserts.  One of the places I worked at had a deal with a local pastry chef and her bakery.  She would produce and deliver all of the pastry/cakes/tarts we served while we made our own ice cream and crème brulee.

Years ago, just about every fine dining place I worked at had, not only a pastry chef, but at least 1 or 2 cooks in the pastry department, but in this day of small profit margins, unfortunately, many places can't afford it.  Especially when you consider how few people order dessert.  The cost analysis just doesn't cut it.  I still believe that places should try to make as many desserts as they can, but I understand the need to supplement those with pre-bought items and products such as premade puff pastry, phyllo, etc.
 
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Most all medium end restaurant in our areas serve bought in products. Most high end restaurants will serve bought in products but will have one or two in house desserts.

I still keep a few restaurant accounts. I only supply them with one product. We develope something and I give them an exclusive so they can call it their own. 

Since I opened I've had the same private caterer come everyday at close. We box and he takes all my daily stales. He then uses them on his lunches the next day. Most of his

lunch menu's have Chef's Choice Desserts. His clientele is mostly high end in home lunches. He buys retail - 15%. I haven't had a stale in 19 yrs. Works well for both of us. My crew

produces pars everyday. No management involvement there ie. inventory and production lists.

  After 2008, most hotels in the area basically let all the Pastry Chefs go. It was tight, quite a few  Executive Pastry Chefs flipped over to the hot side.The only requirement to hire someone for the Bakery is a box cutter. Well, that's also a side effect of prisoner sysco contracts. Back then sysco was only permitting the Chef to go outside the contract for 8-12% of total food purchases. They'd use that for protein, or Asian products. I considered that almost criminal. It excluded all the small bakeries. At one point I had my retail location and a wholesale production kitchen. Sysco cut me out of the picture. Chef friends felt bad but I understood. It was all about kick back. One of my good Chef friends told me the graft covered all the management bonuses for the whole house for the year..
 
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Joined Oct 10, 2005
(Deleted) effin (deleted) Hell! 

Pannini,  You scared the living life out of me.  Syck-O Owns the whole state, huh?  Which means they won't deal with small indie vendors either, and the ones that they do deal with have got to suck butt  royally to let Syck-o carry their lines.  What a racket. 

And I'm guessing the Syck-o reps are all either presidents or treasurers of any and all Chef's/ Baker's associations in the State as well?
 
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Joined Apr 21, 2016
The only pre-made ingredient I tend to use in my kitchen is apricot jam or other preserves from fruits not locally available. I would also use premade puff pastry and phyllo if I had access, but as I don't live in a country where that's easily available, it's not an option.

Living in Baja (the dangly bit of Mexico below California) is a blessing and a curse when it comes to ingredients. On one hand, there's not much in the way of commercial availability for pre-made commercial kitchen ingredients and what there is is often lacking in quality or not suitable to what I need to do. On the other, we're surrounded by organic farms who supply to Whole Foods, Trader Joe's etc..

That means while I can't buy a decent jar of blackberry preserves, I can go out into the field and buy 10 kilos of perfectly ripe organic blackberries for five bucks and make the preserves in house. The end product is superior and the housemade, local and organic aspects all increase the prestige (and thus pricing) but it does require a certain amount of planning and labor and I'd be lying if I said I never wish I could just go to Restaurant Depot and pick up a vat of something or other.

Also, I don't use anything premade on my wedding cakes except sugar flowers. I charge premium pricing for my custom celebration cakes, and I just can't justify that using premade ingredients.
 
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Joined Apr 12, 2016
 
Most all medium end restaurant in our areas serve bought in products. Most high end restaurants will serve bought in products but will have one or two in house desserts.

I still keep a few restaurant accounts. I only supply them with one product. We develope something and I give them an exclusive so they can call it their own. 

Since I opened I've had the same private caterer come everyday at close. We box and he takes all my daily stales. He then uses them on his lunches the next day. Most of his

lunch menu's have Chef's Choice Desserts. His clientele is mostly high end in home lunches. He buys retail - 15%. I haven't had a stale in 19 yrs. Works well for both of us. My crew

produces pars everyday. No management involvement there ie. inventory and production lists.

  After 2008, most hotels in the area basically let all the Pastry Chefs go. It was tight, quite a few  Executive Pastry Chefs flipped over to the hot side.The only requirement to hire someone for the Bakery is a box cutter. Well, that's also a side effect of prisoner sysco contracts. Back then sysco was only permitting the Chef to go outside the contract for 8-12% of total food purchases. They'd use that for protein, or Asian products. I considered that almost criminal. It excluded all the small bakeries. At one point I had my retail location and a wholesale production kitchen. Sysco cut me out of the picture. Chef friends felt bad but I understood. It was all about kick back. One of my good Chef friends told me the graft covered all the management bonuses for the whole house for the year..
Funny story about Sysco; I was getting my restaurant up and running and searching for vendors, specifically stuff like Tahini, tzatziki, baklava, etc.  So GFS provides me with this 18kg of Tahini for like $100.00 and i contact Sysco to see what they can do.  Well, thats how i met my friend who is a Red Seal Chef, he worked for Sysco, so he shows me what he's got and the Tahini they sell is like 500g for 10$, my friends fat regional manager doesn't believe me about GFS selling me Tahini for 100/18kg so i tell them show up on such and such date when i get my GFS order.  They show up, the fat regional manager can't believe it, he's stunned, while i am laughing (inside) lol.
 
 
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kuan

Moderator
Staff member
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Joined Jun 11, 2001
I still believe bidsheets are better than contracts.
 
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Joined Oct 10, 2005
Bid sheets are waay too much work----for the rep, not the purchaser of course.

I remember when I had the catering business and Syck-o wouldn't leave me alone, "love bombing" I think they called it. Rep would pop in like he owned the place and was starting to get p*ssed after the 5th or 6th time when I wouldn't order anything

"Look, every other caterer uses our frozen cake sheets, lemon sunburst squares are our #1 Seller, let me give you a case to try"

"Does "X" caterer order them?"
"Yes they do!"
Does "Y" caterer use them?"
"Yes they do, and Z, and B, C, and R, you got to get in the game"
"Well If I sell them, and I'm paying the same price as X,Y, Z, and B, the client is going to pick the cheapest price right? So now I gotta play the strip tease with X,Y, B and R and see how low I can go on price. I'm not doing that."
"Uhhh....."
He was back a day later with some kind of an answer, but I an my crew were plating mixed hors d'ouevres for a 200-er cocktail, our driver screaming at us to hurry because of an accident on the bridge. Rep insisted that since it was past 2;00 he wasn't disturbing me, and he had an answer for me about his frozen crap.

"Look I can't deal with idiots. If you can't see I'm busy, you have no right to solicit my business. Get out now, and if you come again, I will get a restraining order"

Eejit smiled at me like he was going to eat me for dinner.

Next morning I called up the regional sales mngr and repeated my threat, he got it, at least.
 

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