Julie Lindstrom is an independent cottage food operator in Minneapolis.
Minnesota’s new Cottage Food Law, passed in the summer of 2015, allows Minnesota residents to produce unrefrigerated baked goods at home for direct sale to customers. For Julie Lindstrom, it’s an opportunity to supplement her income and express her creative self through food. Her first commercial order was delivered on August 7 – a poppy seed cake and sugar cookies decorated with freehand renditions of Sasquatch and the Loch Ness monster.
“My first memory of baking has always been around Christmas and Christmas cookies. I remember baking with my mom, who passed away when I was a child, and then with my stepmom ever since,” Lindstrom said. “What I’m remembering as an adult is baking with my kids. My kids have always liked science. We would make baking a science experiment.”
As part of the Sussman’s Bakery cottage food consortium, Lindstrom expects most of her work to be custom orders. “I want to find what people miss from their childhood and bring that back. Rugelach has been a hit with Jews and non-Jews alike. A friend whose mom is almost 90 brought over a Norwegian cookbook with some of the things that her mom really misses. Pfeffernuesse was one of the recipes. When we made it, the first thing I said when I tried it was, ‘This tastes like Christmas.’ I had never had pfeffernuesse in my life! I gave it to my daughter, and she said, ‘It tastes like Christmas.'”
Lindstrom also has specialties. “Around the holidays it’s going to be the Christmas cookies and apple cake for Rosh Hashanah, and I think blueberry muffins and sugar cookies,” she said. She’s discovering that even standard items can be customized. “People’s idea about what makes a really good cinnamon roll is all over the board. Icing, no icing. Raisins, no raisins, orange zest. What’s nice about being a small home baker is if you say, ‘Make me some cinnamon rolls with no nuts but with raisins,’ or ‘make me sugar cookies with sugar sprinkles, or no sugar sprinkles,’ I can do that.
Lindstrom has a degree in social work and recently completed a radiography degree – another field that combines science and art. “Cottage food is going to be more of a creative outlet for me, a supplemental income,” she said. “It’s always been a dream of mine to work part-time in a career and not be so tied to a business and company all the time.”
How do you know what to charge?
We’ve got spreadsheets and software that we’ve been using. You can plug in ingredients, time in doing it.
Do you have to bake things that you don’t personally like?
We’re doing some gluten-free recipes, but it’s not something I particularly enjoy. We haven’t had any other requests for things that I don’t like.
What’s your biggest challenge?
Not eating everything. The business aspect of getting things started, that’s been a challenge. Getting organized, getting the ingredients. It’s been a lot of work, a lot of hours online.
What’s the best part of the job?
I like the recipe aspect of it. I love the precise measurements that are needed and what makes the dough feel amazing and bake up and rise. It combines my two favorite things – art and science. You do the science part to make it do what you want to do and then have the creativity to make it pretty.
Photo Credit: Tom Witta