Decadent bites / gluten-free

Dory the blue fish with yellow fins "I can't eat another bite....Oh look! Pie!"

What's your favorite Thanksgiving pie flavor?

Well I wish I could say my "baking hiatus" has been pure relaxation!  However, nothing could be further from reality and those who know me well know it's nearly impossible for me to sit entirely still.  There's plenty of backend work that requires zero time in the kitchen.  Although, I still average a minimum of 3-5 Zoom calls a week.  It's all just part of being an entrepreneur; constantly thinking, getting in front of the right people, and articulating why they shouldn't go another day without doing business with me.  Okay, maybe that was a tad dramatic, but you get the idea.  

After being in business over 4 years in North Carolina alone, I've learned a thing or two:

#1 - Stop wasting time creating an innovative Thanksgiving menu!  PIE is the only thing that matters at Thanksgiving.  Period.  I could count on one hand and have a lot of fingers left over of the other items that sell during Pie-mageddon. 

#2 - Everyone absolutely must place their order via the website.  Exceptions always lead to mayhem in the final count.

Now is the time to let you voice be heard for the flavor pies you would like to see on our Thanksgiving menu!  (The Thanksgiving menu will go live when the online store re-opens on October 1.) 

Please post a comment to this blog post with your favorite flavor!  It could end on this year’s Thanksgiving menu.  

Maria Kemp
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A look behind the curtain

A look behind the curtain

For some odd reason the movie "The Wizard of Oz" came to mind and I was recalling the scene where Dorothy peeked behind the curtain and saw the wizard ....

So here's your peek behind the curtain for what it takes to execute an on-site class.  (Obviously, the mixer I also took isn't in the sink.)  

On-site classes are open to all customers, not only corporate clients.  However, they do take a significant amount of planning in order to execute the event flawlessly and there are minimums that apply:  

  • Pre-baked final shortcake
  • Assemble student gift bags
  • Prep and pack all tools, ingredients, and supplies
  • 2 trips to load car at kitchen
  • 2 trips to unload car on-site
  • On-site setup
  • TEACH CLASS
  • On-site cleanup
  • 2 trips to reload car on-site 
  • 2 trips to unload car at kitchen
  • Restock ingredients
  • Wash/sanitize all tools and supplies
  • TOTAL APPROX.  10 hours (not including the actual class)

I've taught private on-site baking experiences and baking classes at a community college in Illinois, so I've perfected my system of handing the massive Rubbermaid containers of items that I bring back after the experience is over.  I put all the refrigerated items back in the fridge, replace any dry ingredients, put up supplies, and toss ALL the tools that left my kitchen in the sink.  I sanitize the Rubbermaid containers and return my collapsible wagon to it's designated space.  (Currently, the sink is still brimming with the tools shown in the picture from Fridays class as the dishwasher will be loaded this evening.) 

The upside is I had every tool I needed for the class with me.  I did forget to pack an optional offset spatula, but it wasn't the end of the world.   

The on-site classes are considerably more expensive as they require approximately 10 hours of additional time to execute a 1.25 hour demo.  If you are looking for a cost conscious way to enjoy a private baking experience, I would suggest the virtual option via Zoom.  Over my hiatus, I will be building a series of baking experiences ideal for the upcoming holiday season. 

Final August orders go out this week!  I'll be working behind the scenes just not baking until October 1. 

 

 

Maria Kemp
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It's FALL 🎃🍁🍂!

It's FALL 🎃🍁🍂!

The calendar officially says it's AUGUST, so now it's time for the humidity drenched days to end...right?!  Ah, who am I kidding?!  This is North Carolina!  We likely won't get a noticeable break until late September or October!  Well, either way I'm sure it's time for Starbuck's to start pushing everything pumpkin or caramel, so I'll jump on the bandwagon!  

The Pumpkin Mousse Cheesecake is the first autumnal flavor to welcome the season!  Perhaps your like me and not a lover of cheesecake.  Well then this is “the dessert” for you!  The magic of whipped cream elevates this from a cream cheese tasting dessert to a light airy mousse creation.  There is too much whipped cream gently folded into the batter for the texture to resonate as a traditional cheesecake. The addition of pumpkin’s favorite spicy friends will warm your palette in the most delightful way — fresh cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and a hint of clove.  And wait, there’s more!  All that lusciousness is hidden under a billowy blanket of even more whipped cream topping the mousse cheesecake!  There’s a total of nearly 2 cups of heavy cream (before it’s whipped and nearly doubles) between the mousse and the topping.  Take it to ANOTHER level by choosing optional Heath toffee or toasted coconut to grace the whipping cream topping.  No graham cracker crust in sight!  It’s gingersnap crust all the way for the perfect finish.

I had some of my friends very excited when they read one of my FB post and thought I was opening a retail storefront.  After reading a few comments, I realized the word "digital" was down at the very bottom of the post.  🤦🏾‍♀️  If you know any my story, you already know I've been down that path right of pastry school and have ZERO, zilch, zippo, nada desire to do so again.  

I feel like I have enough activities going on in a given week for enough material for a sitcom, so I'll share 2 key "festivities" with you. 

After an automatic iPhone update my (ancient) 6S Plus would no longer connect to WiFi and then needed to stay plugged in constantly or the battery drained at an accelerated rate.  I was leaving on my birthday weekend getaway to my friend's lakehouse in Tennessee, but when I fired up the phone's GPS it immediately flashed a "temperature too high" or "phone too hot" warning.  It promptly shut itself down never to come on again.  Thankfully, I had already received my replacement phone -- I'm up to an iPhone 7 Plus now!  So only 5 minutes away from home, I was forced to turn around and setup the new one in order to have a working phone for my trip.  The new one connected to WIFI like a champ and within an hour all my apps had downloaded.  I made note of my passwords for a few key apps then hopped in the car to start my mini vacation.  I didn't realize until I arrived in TN, I wasn't logged into 99% of my applications after the upgrade, didn't have any of those passwords with me, so I was cut off from email the entire trip.  Not the worst thing ever since it was supposed to be a mini vacation.  

As for my frost-free freezer fail...

I discovered ”the store” will close your service ticket if they don't have an ETA on the required part AND offer you a buy out BUT for the price you ORIGINALLY paid.  Don't take the buy-out until you check the NEW selling price for the appliance.  When you get the buy-out email you only have 1 BUSINESS DAY before they start issuing the payment and cancel the remainder of your protection plan, so you have to move quickly.  Thankfully I got on the phone first thing the next morning and found the service company had just received notification from their distributor that TWO of the parts I need just came in!  Thankfully again, I wrote done the reps name, the time, and exactly what she said.  This turned out to save me as this whole event unfolded as a 2nd rep (45 minutes later) at the service company was giving me the "we don't have that part" response.  I was on the phone for 1 hour getting everything straightened out, but it was worth it!  The part for my freezer is scheduled to be installed this week.  Thank you Jesus!  Now I don't have to spend many hundreds of dollars more on a new unit AND pay for the old one to be hauled away.  

I'll save the rest of my adventures for a subsequent post!

Be sure to check out my new article in LKNConnect!  It's scheduled to post on 8/3! Until then, order the Pumpkin Mousse Cheesecake -- it's truly love at first bite!

 

 

Maria Kemp
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Maybe just a little Grand Marnier or Kahula....

Maybe just a little Grand Marnier or Kahula....

Happy HOT Sunday evening everyone!  I love the quietness of Sunday afternoons as it slowly slips into Sunday evening. 

Last week I had a 11.5 or 12, Zoom calls which felt like an all-time record.  By the time I finished my last one Friday evening at 6:30pm, my brain was fried, my eyes were red, and my mental capacity had left the building.  

In between all the Zooms, I managed to get orders prepped for Saturday.  As I was in the middle of preparing Margarita Cheesecakes, the tequila well ran dry!  I should have  had plenty to get through the final orders if only there wouldn't have been a "bobble" which sent a pre-measured cup of the liquid silver running all over the counter and eventually soaking my left sneaker!  So in the middle of making the cheesecakes, I had to run to the ABC Store to restock.  While I was there I wandered around and looked at all the liqueur flavors and pondered what would go with the excess of lemons in my fridge.  That was when my eyes fell upon Bacardi Lemon!  It's rum kissed with lemon!  I thought perfect!  So I bought a little airplane size bottle and tested it!  It gave the creamy lemon cheesecake a little extra "something" without being overpowering.  I shared some with my neighbors and asked for their feedback.  The yellow post-it is what one of them returned with the empty container - it made me smile from ear to ear!  

I also picked up some small bottles of Kahula and Grand Marnier.  They both would pair really well with a chocolate cheesecake. 

In case you are wondering, "Does everything you make have alcohol in it?!"  No, definitely not!  I do have about 10 different liquors in my inventory, but not everything is the right fit for most recipes.  These just happened to be the perfect fit for Father's Day, July 4th and summer. 

This week Mini Strawberry Shortcake Kits and the Bacardi Lemon Cheesecake are joining the line-up!   

Dates and things to keep in mind:

  1. Ordering cut-off for free local pickup at Pita Pit will close on Thursday, July 1 at 9:00am.  Order pickup with take place on Saturday, July 3 anytime after 12pm until they close. 
  2. We only ship via UPS Monday - Wednesday. 
  3. "Mastering the Details" videos on our YouTube channel.
  4. Daily Pro-Tips on any of our social media channels. 
  5. Our Private Virtual Baking Experiences are now open for enrollment!  

We look forward to serving you soon!

 

 

 

Maria Kemp
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Get on board the baking tips train!

Get on board the baking tips train!

Many of you may not know in my former professional life teaching a plethora of software classes was at times part of my full-time responsibilities or something I did on a part-time basis.  Then as the years went by and my love for baking re-emerged, the curriculum shifted from applications to sweets.  

Really I think about it, I think I've truly just come full circle from the days of learning to bake with my Mom in our small kitchen in Upstate NY.   So where is all this headed in 2021?  Well, that answer is actually very easy!  As I said before I'm one of those anomalies who actually gets a thrill out of public speaking and being in front of the camera.  Now that doesn't mean everything goes smoothly every time or I don't get nervous, but big deal!  It makes me real, human, relatable and gives me something to improve on next time.  

I love baking so much I want everyone to feel more comfortable and confident in the kitchen.  Even in all the years I've been baking as a hobby or professionally, I learn something new every single day.  So I'm not afraid to share some of my coolest tips and tricks with you all, because I think I really have like a bazillion!

Currently, I have Pro-Tips scheduled to publish on all my main social media channels each morning.  And on YouTube, I have my "Mastering the Details" videos scheduled to publish every Sunday evening.  They are all FREE, FREE, FREE, so please share them with your friends and groups.  

Before this month is over, I will be releasing a completely redesigned private virtual baking experiences aka "classes".  Now these WON’T be FREE, FREE, FREE.  The baking experiences will be ideal for individuals, friends, groups or corporate clients looking for a unique team-building activity.  I have an entire notebook of class topics I'm narrowing down. 

Here's another opportunity for your voice to be heard!

  1. Would you prefer a 1.5 hour - 2 hour class finishing in 1 session OR
  2. Would you like to learn something more in-depth over 2 different sessions?
  3. Would you like a class during the day, evening or weekend?

The Margarita Cheesecake will remain on the menu through the end of June!  Some loved the saltiness in the cheesecake, but some didn't so please be sure to let me know your preference when you order. 

Can't wait to read you feedback on the upcoming classes!  Happy Father's Day to all the papas!

 

Maria Kemp
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You know Father's Day is 1 week away, right?!

You know Father's Day is 1 week away, right?!

Welcome Sunday night!!!   I've actively been working on mending my workaholic ways, so I clap loudly for myself with every step I make to actually take time off.  Saturday I went to Camp North End for the first time with my friend.  It was a nice little get a way and experience.  We sat outside eating snacks enjoying a breeze that FINALLY wasn't humid.  Getting rained on wasn't even that bad.  I managed to relax in the breeze although my iPhone still buzzed with notifications that were all work-related.    

I've already recorded an entire series of videos for the "Mastering the Details" YouTube series.  As I get more efficient with managing my time, I realized what else is there to do when the kitchen is clean and I'm waiting for things to cool?!  Why not record videos!  I will release them slowly so viewers can watch them without ever feeling like they need to binge watch to get caught up.  Like I said, in my FB post last week the videos are unscripted, unedited, and in real-time.  This way you will know EXACTLY how long it takes to do whatever I'm demonstrating.  

Now, back to Father's Day!  I don't have pictures of the actual desserts I will be spotlighting for Father's Day, so I'll use a stock photo with a note to that effect so I can get the website updated this evening.  THANK YOU to all who responded to my poll request!  I did get quite a few votes on what should be on the Father's Day menu:  Cheesecake and Summer Pie (Fruit/Berries) were tied!  My brain is spinning with flavor combinations infused with Tequila, Maple/Bacon, and Bourbon.

Make sure you subscribe to the Beyond Decadence social media updates or our mailing list.  I will definitely post later this evening and send out an email blast tomorrow morning with the final menu.  Shipping will still take place Monday - Wednesday, but the free pickup days at Pita Pit will shift a little (Thursday AND Saturday) to accommodate picking up as close to Sunday as possible.

YouTube requires videos safe for kids to have the comments disabled, so feel free to post any comments here.

Happy Sunday evening! 

Maria Kemp
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Mastering the Details - Learn "how to" video baking series

Mastering the Details - Learn "how to" video baking series

I believe I originally started doing Facebook Live instructional videos at the beginning of the pandemic.  They were an awesome way to give back, stay connected with my fans, and entertain those in need of a friendly face NOT currently sheltering in place with them.  Then the Facebook Lives grew into a Sunday afternoon "Bake Along with Chef Maria" event/series.  All the while, I developed private baking classes teaching a variety of topics to individuals of various skill levels and ages.  It was a lot of morphing (aka "pivoting"), but it kept Beyond Decadence buzzing along.

After I started doing the neighborhood pop-up events, shipping nationwide, the lives and classes dwindled.  Since eliminating pop-up events and focusing purely on online sales, I still felt like something was missing.  I'm that weirdo that LOVES public speaking and teaching regardless of what media it comes in.  I've done Toastmasters and know the value of planning your speech, but I get a thrill out of trusting God to give me the exact words to vocalize from the dictionary swirling around in my head while the video is recording.  And yes, I'm a former IT geek, but I don't have time to master editing video, so what you see is exactly how it came out.

Here's the crux of my video strategy -- if you aren't content with the 10,000 feet view/explanation behind the science of baking then my videos are for you!  I'll SHOW you the reason behind the techniques without making you yawn AND in 3 to 6 minutes. 

Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and pickup some new tips and tricks to make your baking more successful regardless of what's on the menu.

Here's the first video in the series "How to measure flour https://youtu.be/jWqnJGbvx4M

Please leave a comment! I'd love to hear from you!

Maria Kemp
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Your feedback REALLY matters to us!

Your feedback REALLY matters to us!

It's a quiet Memorial Day afternoon and I've managed to power through my to-do list at a pace that oddly enough feels relaxing.  Although, last night I did spend time relaxing with friends and over-indulgencing in a devine barbecued pork tenderloin and chicken breast.  My friends were excited over the brownies and cake I brought, while I was laser-focused and drooling over the BBQ!

Every month I meet with an amazing team of business mentors through a program called Innovate Charlotte who challenge me, hold me accountable for my goals, or help me fine-tune areas when I feel like the proverbial gerbil on the wheel.  This last month one of our pre-dawn meeting topics centered around customer feedback and finding out what desserts customers would like to see on the menu.  It's way too easy for me to tighten my creative apron and set the kitchen ablaze with unbridled creativity.  However, it's a colossal waste of time, energy, and ingredients if it's not what my customers want to purchase.  I really try to keep surveys to a bare minimum, because let's face it we get one with almost everything we purchase.   But the reality is -- if I don't ask, I'll never know for certain. 

On another note, I just completed editing all the product descriptions on the website so all the ordering details are MUCH clearer.  That should  clear up A LOT of confusion as I continue to add new desserts to the line-up. 

So the big $100,000 question is -- what desserts would you like to see on our summer menu?  Your response is as simple was posting a comment to this blog or email me at beyonddecadence@gmail.com .

Thank you in advance for sharing your feedback with me!

Maria Kemp
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Do you make Paleo, Keto, Whole 30, sugar-free, gluten-free, vegan, etc.

Do you make Paleo, Keto, Whole 30, sugar-free, gluten-free, vegan, etc.

Has anyone else also lost track of how many new dietary preferences there are?  I get calls everyday from people inquiring whether I can accommodate their specific dietary need (or make decorated sugar cookies.  Decorated sugar cookies are not a dietary preference, but they are definitely not in my wheelhouse.)

One of the words we all got comfortable with at the beginning of the pandemic was "pivot".  However, I got soooooooo incredibly tired of hearing that word I replaced it with "morphed".  Just like every other small business owner, I found ways to morph to stay afloat.  But even when you morph, you still have to have boundaries so you aren't flopping around like a fish out of water.   

One of my boundaries ~ instead of constantly morphing with each new dietary preferences; I stay in my lane.  That means I focus on what I'm known for/good at and look for ways to grow without venturing into unfamiliar territory.  So what does that really mean?!  That means I won't be offering decorated sugar cookies, sculpted cakes that look like a duck, wedding cakes, donuts, or cake pops anytime soon, but instead look for ways to grow my current offering. 

But then again, maybe I should just nix everything else on the menu and simply become the Lemon Bar queen!  But I know I'd be bored to tears after the first week!  I discovered by accident how much I really enjoyed making the summer pies!  Now I have ZERO, zilch, nada, interest in being elbow deep in a bounty of fresh berry filling for a traditional fruit or berry pie with 2 crusts!  However, after I made some key lime pies I thought, "why couldn't I swap out the key lime for lemon?"  And ta-da, the Lemon Strawberry Pie was born and I LOVED selecting and arranging the fruit.  So I said all that to say, I'm excited to bring new seasonal show-stopping (regular & gluten-free) desserts to you in the upcoming weeks. 

I'll get the website/menu update before 9pm tonight.  But please be sure to read the order cut-off date and revised Memorial Day free pickup date at Pita Pit listed in each dessert description. 

Happy Sunday evening!  

 

Maria Kemp
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Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are life...and GLUTEN-FREE!!!

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are life...and GLUTEN-FREE!!!

So it was a typical Saturday and I was meandering around the grocery store filling up my cart with an admirable balance of junk food and bags of salad mix.  Then all of a sudden my phone rings.  One of my best friends was on the other end and asked "What are you doing?"  I said, "I'm wondering around the grocery store."  She said, "Well, I'll let you go."  I responded, "Ahh, this is the most relaxing thing I've done all week, I can talk!"

She went on to exclaim....

"Did you know that Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are GLUTEN-FREE?!"  I exclaimed back, "NOOOOO!  I know their peanut butter chips I use in the PB Explosions Bars are, but I'm heading to the candy aisle right now to check the package!"  Low and behold, there is was as plain as day on the back of the package...GLUTEN-FREE!  Reese's were already my FAVORITE candy on the planet, but NOW I can offer some new delicious options for my GF clients!  

My body was so tired after I left my commercial kitchen this weekend, I forgot to swing by the store and pickup a package of GF Oreos and see if they also had GF graham crackers.  I'm thinking a Milk Chocolate Reese's Peanut Butter Cheesecake with a GF-Oreo crust!

So my gluten-free fans - I'm open to ideas or suggestions!  What dessert would you like to see Reese's Peanut Butter Cups incorporated into.

Chime in...I'd love to hear from you!

Maria Kemp
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