Sweet tips to success

WORDSWORTH - Mons Romulo - The Philippine Star
Sweet tips to success
Lisa Lorenzo with daughter Marianna.

Lisa Lorenzo grew up watching her mother, Bon Cuna Lorenzo, in the kitchen constantly cooking and baking. As our parents were very good friends, it was always a treat for my family and I to receive their special Date Bars for Christmas, which had generous amounts of walnuts in every bite. It became such a favorite and popular request of friends that Lisa’s mom started selling the Date Bars (which was later renamed Food for the Gods) during the Christmas season and then eventually, all year round.

When Tita Bon passed away in 1994, Lisa, with no formal training in baking, was the logical “heir” to her mom’s little business, as both of her sisters were based in the US. It was welcome news to their loyal clients to know that Lorenzo’s Food for Gods would continue to be available. “It was by watching my mom in the kitchen as a young child that I learned my basics. I did dabble in the baking but nowhere as much as she did,” shares Lisa.

The pandemic gave Lisa the chance to go through her mom’s handwritten recipe notebook, more time to research and experiment with new recipes. “I would tweak a recipe several times until I was satisfied. There were times I just ditched the recipe altogether when I couldn’t seem to get it right. For example, the basic recipe for Brazo de Lorenzo was from my mom’s notes. It was in the form of a roll, typical of Brazo de Mercedes. I transformed it into a layered, cake-like shape so the filling is better distributed and in my opinion, better-looking than the roll. When I got it right, I came up with a lemon and coffee variant.”

It was also during the pandemic that she tested and launched Lorenzo’s Key Lime Pie, which has become a bestseller together with her mom’s Food for the Gods. Now they also have Brazo de Lorenzo, Crack Pie, and others.

At the moment Lisa is content and happy baking at home. Her time is spent baking, sourcing ingredients, and processing orders herself. With only one helper, she does the product shoots. She also produces and posts content on social media and books deliveries.

For Lisa, coming up with a new product is the most fulfilling and fun part of her business. For her, first and foremost it has to taste good. She is also particular about how the product looks: “Nothing overly fancy but definitely pretty enough to serve when one has guests,” adds Lisa.

We asked her for some practical advice for those who want to start this business: “Test your products — send them to friends who will be honest with you. Do your costing diligently. Check prices of similar products out there that cater to your market, so you can be competitive but at the same time, making enough for your effort. Have good customer relations. Many have suggested I come up with a Google form to take orders. As long as I can help it, I prefer to communicate with my clients directly. There is something magical about having a ‘personal’ relationship with them. Provide added value. For example, I personally write on gift tags or note cards when requested. And have a system. A baking business entails more than just baking. There is inventory management, costing, etc.”

Brazo de Lorenzo is another beloved family recipe, reinvented into a beautiful cake for even more of that yummy yema filling with each bite. The painting in the background is by Mari-anna Uy, Lisa’s daughter.

Here are some practical baking tips from Lisa Lorenzo:

1. Prepare all ingredients first. Measuring along the way may interfere with the procedure. Also, this ensures that you have all the ingredients needed in the recipe.

2. Don’t scrimp on ingredients. The output of your cake will only be as good as what is inputted.

3. No shortcuts. Follow the recipe faithfully because, unlike cooking, baking is an exact science. Measure as accurately as possible. Weigh your dry ingredients and use a liquid measuring cup for liquids. Also, mix at the right speed and time each step. This way, your result is as consistent as can be.

4. Don’t over-mix or under-mix. This can alter the texture of the baked good.

5. Use the correct flour to get the desired texture. If the recipe calls for cake flour, do not use all-purpose flour. Cake flour tends to produce a more tender and airier cake.

6. Mind your oven temperature. Allow the oven to fully preheat. Do not open your oven while baking so that the correct temperature is maintained.

7. Line your pans with parchment paper (not wax paper) and grease them when needed. I use a mixture of one part vegetable oil, one part cornstarch, and one part shortening.

8. Decorate/garnish the baked good so it is pretty enough to go on a party dessert table. But make sure it tastes as good or better than it looks.

9. Store your baked goods properly. Some can withstand room temperature for two to three days. But in our country, choose a cool place in the house. Refrigerating might be a better option after a day or two to keep it fresh. Using an airtight container is important so the baked goods do not dry up.

10. When storing in the freezer, again, put baked goods in an airtight container. Defrost properly until it reaches the desired temperature.

Lorenzo’s key Lime Pie, Lisa’s other bestseller, has a tart and sweet, creamy filling cradled in a Graham cracker crust and topped with whipped cream.

(Lorenzo’s cakes may be reached through 09175441105, IG food4thegods_by.lorenzo and FB, Lorenzo’s Food for the Gods-Philippines.)

(We welcome your suggestions and comments. Please e-mail me at [email protected]. Follow me on Instagram @monsromulo.)

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