Prepared pastries that can be finished at home have become the new normal…for now.
When pastry chefs originally began experimenting with take-and-bake options, they never realized just how essential those items would become to their everyday repertoire. But since the COVID-19 pandemic mandated the temporary shutdown of club dining rooms across the country, pastry chefs have been forced to put their soufflés on the back burner and concentrate on delicacies that can be pre-assembled and easily transported for at-home baking.
At Glens Falls (N.Y.) Country Club (GFCC), the take-and-bake business model has been on the rise since its inception—all thanks to a complete menu overhaul and a newly appointed chef.
Following the closing of the clubhouse amid the pandemic, GFCC’s Director of Hospitality Heidi Hoyt spent a week developing a plan on how best to serve club members.
Hoyt then began rolling out a program that included a to-go menu of a la carte and family-style meals, a wine sale, a grocery menu for pickup and finally, a take-and-bake program. “As with all of the programs I’ve begun, I tweak as I go,” she says. “After a week or two, everything is close to perfect.”
On top of Hoyt’s take-and-bake list are fruit pies from scratch, with a selection that rotates according to season.
“I recently offered strawberry rhubarb pies, and they sold like wildfire,” she says. Other favorites include scones, biscuits, blueberry yogurt muffins, cookie doughs, pancake mix and brownie mix.
While Hoyt promotes her products to membership via social media and e-mail, word of mouth has also helped sales. And once club life returns to normal, she expects to maintain her take-and-bake program for the long haul. “If anything, I see these new amenities becoming more robust,” she says.
Thinking ahead to the holidays, Hoyt believes that members will continue to devour her pies as they did previously. “Thanksgiving 2019 was huge for pie sales,” she notes. “I estimate we will increase our sales by one-third by offering frozen, raw pies to be baked at home.”
The Great American Bake-Off
Inspiring members to put down their golf clubs and tie on their aprons, the take-and-bake program at Wycliffe Golf & Country Club in Wellington, Fla., is keeping families busy (and fed) while they shelter in place.
“Our members are very active,” says Pastry Chef Callie Meyer. “We knew immediately that asking them to stay at home under quarantine was going to be very difficult. This was a way to continue to connect with them and make them feel a sense of comfort.”
Meyer put together the club’s take-and-bake program as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. She and her team measure and prepare all ingredients, place them in individual containers, and package them in a specially made take-and-bake box, which members pick up curbside.
Inside are baking instructions and a link to a video of Meyer detailing the recipe, step by step. “It’s just one more thing we can do to provide our members with the best experience possible. No one should go without dessert,” she says.
The current take-and-bake menu is made up of three different options: chocolate chip cookies, blueberry scones and apple pie. The cookies, a member favorite, are geared for all ages and abilities, while the scones require a more experienced skill set.
The latest addition, apple pie, includes a contest component and, as with all of the take-and-bake recipes, bakers are encouraged to submit photos of their finished products.
“Without being able to compete on the golf course and out on the courts, we knew they were yearning for a little friendly competition,” says Meyer.
The top baker will receive a “pie champion” medal—fashioned at the club—and a bottle of wine.
To drum up excitement for the pie-baking contest and the take-and-bake program as a whole, the club has created a weekly interactive document known as “Flippin’ Fridays.” The magazine-style digital flipbook contains menus, virtual activities, at-home workout videos and golf/tennis tips, along with a flyer on the take-and-bake program. Member-submitted photos of cookies and scones are also featured, and the apple pie contest winner will be included in a future issue.
Given the positive feedback for Wycliffe’s take-and-bake program, Meyer is confident it will continue.
“Prior to closing, we were doing in-person cooking demonstrations, and we hope to continue with those when the time is right,” she says.
The club is also considering maintaining at-home baking options during the holiday season, “when members have their families visiting and [are] looking for something to do together,” she explains.
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