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School fundraisers gone mad

We're about to hit that time of year again...Spring/summer festivals at school, with the kids whacked out on sugary treats, sunburned parents, and obligatory bake sales.

The question I'd like to pose is, what would people actually like to buy at these sales? I assume we're all sick of butter tarts and cookies. If I'm to go to the trouble, I want to make grown-up food. Mini foccacias or pissadieres currently top my list, but I'd love a few other suggestions.

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  1. i'll bet there would be *many* appreciative parents and kids if you made something (anything!) that was gluten-free.

    4 Replies
    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

      a gluten free item is a great idea. everyone will feel included.. you can try peanut free too

      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

        But if you're making something gluten-free with your usual baking tools (assuming you also bake with gluten), won't you be risking cross-contamination? I would imagine that celiacs won't take a chance on a gluten-free bake sale item unless the item came from a gluten-free kitchen or a 100%-trusted cook/baker. I'd be scared to advertise something as such and then have someone get sick.

        1. re: sfumato

          i commented about this a little further down-thread. it would be wise to make up a label or sign to go with the item, stating that although the ingredients are GF, it was made in a kitchen that isn't. but you're right, anyone who's really sensitive wouldn't take their chances & trust that the product was safe/uncontaminated...including me.

          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            Whenever I bake for a bake sale or friend, I mark the package. "this item doesn't contain nuts, but my kitchen does." Some people may not be intolerant or allergic, just looking to avoid certain things..

      2. I have a hard time resisting carrot, cranberry, zucchini, or other like breads. Offer some nice butter and sell it by the slice, 'cupcake', or by the loaf.

        1. Mini foccacias would be amazing. YUM.

          I'm very unlikely to spend my hard-earned cash on box-mix brownies (eew) or something. So why not either something creative, rich, and interesting (lavender-polenta cake? meyer lemon or blood orange tartlets? cashew fleur de sel caramels?) OR something useful, like nice fresh bread or even frozen bread dough?

          Good luck!

          1. "We" do dipped pretzels, I know they are not THAT hard.... but I'd still buy them....I also love "blondies".

            1. what about a variety of biscottis? is that too middle of the road - you could do some really neat flavours

              I know it's a "bake" sale - but what about making seasonal jams, chutneys, relishes? Too much work?

              1. Honestly, I would go for good homemade cookies and butter tarts(homemade pastry) because they are so much better than anything else if you don't have time to make your own. Bakeries don't do a very good job on either of these. I am able to buy decent foccacia though.

                Pissadieres would be interesting provided that you think the crowd would appreciate them.

                I would go for good carrot cake. Bakery versions tend to be terrible.

                Cornish pasties might be interesting or jamaican beef patties.

                1. Buy a bone-shaped cutter and make dog biscuits. People snap them up - no guilt about calorie-counting, sugar highs, or cavities. If you include carob, peanut butter, bacon, meat/poultry drippings - any or all of them - mention this on the label or sign and they'll go even faster. There are plenty of recipes online.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: greygarious

                    Reading your post while looking at your picture made me smile! And such a good idea too - they could be chewy and healthy while being appealing.

                    1. re: alwayscooking

                      Thank you - he's much better-looking than I, and was a dedicated quality control expert!

                    2. re: greygarious


                      My daughter and I make these every December along with the usual holiday cookies. They're easy to do and taste good to both dogs and humans. Our neighbors with dogs are very appreciative. I make some with a dog bone cookie cutter and some with a cat-shaped cutter. Next time I think I'll pull out the squirrel-shaped cutter.

                    3. Here is a recipe that I used to make for fund-raising when my children were in elementary school. It was always a "hit" with teachers and parents, alike. No gooey frosting to deal with. There are lots of people who do not want frosting or icing, and it is a bit healthier for the children. The recipe is from an old '50's cookbook.

                      Jelly Roll 8 servings
                      from Meta Given's "Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking" - Vol. I - p.319

                      xxxx sugar (confecioners' sugar)
                      ¾ cup cake flour
                      ¾ teaspoon *D.A. (*double acting) baking powder or
                      1 teaspoon tartrate or phosphate type
                      ¼ teaspoon salt
                      2 tablespoons water
                      4 eggs, separated
                      ¾ cup sugar
                      ½ teaspoon vanilla
                      2 tablespoons xxxx sugar, pkd.
                      1 cup tart red jelly (I used red currant jelly - can also use a lemon filling)

                      Line bottom of 15½ x 10½ x 5/8-inch jelly roll pan with waxed paper - grease paper and sides of pan lightly. Prepare a towel by sprinkling evenly but lightly with xxxx sugar. Start oven 10 minutes before baking, set to moderately hot (400°F.)

                      Sift flour, measure, resift 3 times with next 2 ingredients. Put water and egg yolks into a 3-quart mixing bowl and place over hot water, then beat with a rotary beater until very thick and light-colored. Add ½ of the sugar gradually and continue to beat until thick. Remove bowl from hot water. Beat in vanilla. Remove beater. Now sift flour in 4 or 5 portions over yolk mixture, folding in with wire whip until smooth after each. Beat egg whites with clean rotary beater until soft shiny peaks form, then gradually beat in remaining sugar until shiny pointed peaks curve at tips. Fold yellow batter into whites lightly but thoroughly with wire whip. Quickly flow batter gently down center of pan from one end to the other, then spread lightly to edges. Bake on center rack of oven 8 to 9 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Remove to cake rack and quickly loosen edges with a thin bladed knife. Turn out onto prepared towel and immediately strip off paper carefully. Then roll up from the narrow side into an even roll, then roll up in towel. Cool on cake rack. Unroll gently and spread evenly with jelly that is slightly broken up with a fork. Reroll and wrap in waxed paper (use plastic wrap).

                      I sprinkled the cake with some confectioners' sugar, and wrapped in clear plastic wrap. It made an attractive and appealing package. Was always just about the first item on the sale table to be gone.

                      1. I'll repeat a post I wrote recently in another bake sale thread :

                        Here is a totally easy recipe that is both a crowd pleaser and a total surprise: inarizushi

                        Those are the little sushi made of sweet rice stuffed into little fried tofu wrappers. Turns out to be very simple to make, with room to get creative if you like. (And I think they're gluten free!) Check out a recipe + story here: http://jadedragon.com/cooking/inarizu...

                        My kids former ES has strict rules against unhealthy foods at bake sales, and they have a Japanese bicultural curriculum -- so these little buggers were a fixture at all the bake sales and always sold out. Kids and adults both love them.

                        8 Replies
                        1. re: BernalKC

                          Inari is a good idea, but it's not gluten-free, b/c of the soy sauce, which has wheat in it.

                          Along similar lines, it's time-consuming, but one of my coworkers sells tamales for $1-$1.50 per piece, and they are always a hit!

                          At Japanese school bake sales, they have the Japanese equivalent of junk food--e.g. mochi, daifuku, etc.

                          This might require cold storage, so perhaps not feasible, but I would totally buy pre-made no-dishes-needed type meals:
                          e.g. pupusas, (tamales as mentioned above), calzones or anything pocket-y that I can eat w/ just my hand and a napkin, and various chinese things-- the chive pockets, any of the baos, etc.

                          Other things I'd like that stray from the traditional cookies/brownies:
                          -a bag of seasoned nuts (sweet, or savory)
                          -polenta fries
                          -someone once made homemade flavored popcorn, which I loved

                          And this one is a cookie, but I think it's fantastic. It's a sophisticated butter cookie for grown ups:
                          Very different from your traditional fare.

                          Oh, and it's the wrong time of year, I know, but if I saw something like rum balls in mid-June. . . on second thought, this is a kid's bake sale, so never mind. . .

                          1. re: anzu

                            I'm not up on my gluten-free awareness, but isn't tamari soy wheat-free? Or is it close, but not totally gluten-free?

                            1. re: BernalKC

                              pure, unadulterated tamari *should* be wheat-free, but you never know for sure unless you check the label.

                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                So someone who requires a gluten-free diet is not likely to trust an item like this at a bake sale -- where it might be gluten free if the cook was conscientious, or else... obviously would not be worth the risk. Oh well.

                                1. re: BernalKC

                                  aren't the items at bake sales usually labeled? just display a little sign or tag that lists the ingredients and states that all ingredients are 100% GF. (though if made in a conventional home kitchen it should also include that as a warning...)

                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                    I can't remember any bake sale I've been to that has been labeled. It's a big issue with allergies. People can barely be bothered to buy things at a store and the few who do bake just drop them off.

                                    1. re: chowser

                                      Just last weekend, I was at one where they'd put an orange dot on anything that contained nuts. When I contribute to a bake sale I include an index card listing the ingredients. If, or how prominently, the organizers display it is out of my control. That said, I rather think it's this thread that has "gone mad" - people with serious food sensitivities should have the sense not to eat things in which the ingredients are unknown or questionable. A benefit event like this should not have to be altered for fear of any individual's specific needs, or to worry about legal liability for adverse reactions.

                              2. re: BernalKC

                                Yeah, theoretically, tamari soy is supposed to be made with no wheat, but some brands make it w/ very little wheat. Also, I've noticed (since I read Japanese) that the labeling, when they relabel things in English is often ridiculous and wrong. So they forget to include things like wheat. Or they say "Product of Japan", just because the label is in Japanese, even though if you look at the label, it says "made in China" in Japanese. I know we're diverging off-topic, but as someone below said, I guess the point is translated labels are never 100%. I usually label if I bring stuff to bake sales, but most of my friends that have food sensitivities (allergies, gluten intolerance) will simply not eat if they are the slightest bit unsure-- so I still say make the inari, and there will be other people who will happily eat!

                          2. Is your target audience the kids or the parents? My daughter usually wants me to make basic chocolate chip cookies for school bake sales because the kids will snap them up. But if you are aiming for the parents you can be more creative. A couple of bake sales ago one mom made individual bread puddings with little containers of sauce alongside. Those went fast.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: NYCkaren

                              Our bake sales were mostly for the adult parents and teachers. A table was set up at the end of school PTA meetings, or other school functions. The adults would buy cakes and pastries for serving at home.

                            2. I suppose if it is a bake sale, most of the stuff will be sugary. And a lot depends on the target population. But I welcome good breads and anything savory. How about some empanadas and pastys? Or if the powers that be will stretch the limits of the sale a bit, home-made dried pasta. I know people who would kill to get decent egg noodles to take home and cook. Pasta with fillings would be problematic and probably unsafe to sell in a school sale. And soup mixes, especially layered bean soups mixes in a jar, are great fun. And, going even further, home-made preserves of all descriptions should be welcome, but it wouldn't be just a bake sale any more.
                              But more than anything, I would welcome tamales--a sure fire food fund-raiser in so many parts of the country. Tamale festival, anyone? It would be as popular as a chili cook off.

                              1. One of my students gave me a gift bag of traditional, homemade Italian cookies that his mom made. It was amazing. I would totally buy another bag with a few varieties of their cookies.

                                The other thing I would buy in a minute would be traditional baked goods and sweets from other cultures. I keep waiting for my students from all around to invite me home so their parents can teach me to cook Korean, Somalian, Nigerian, Mongolian, etc. foods... alas, the invitations aren't pouring in (probably because I haven't mentioned my secret wish!). Even better with recipes enclosed.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Jetgirly

                                  I think we really need a street foot festival. On Malta I enjoyed pea-filled mini-pastys, but already longed for what I later discovered was a Samosa--filled with curried lentils or potatoes. And why not serve a dish of noodles in a hot seaweed broth? Doughnuts can be so varied, but why not Native American fry bread? Or any of the savory flat breads of Central Asia?
                                  But if such a festival is not practical in a school context, perhaps putting together recipes for these food would be. Better still, a DVD with video clips of their preparation--the kind of thing you see on YouTube.

                                  1. re: Father Kitchen

                                    Great idea. I remember in grade school, each class studied a different culture. We had a "world day" where all the classes would bring in homemade foods from whatever they were studying. It was so much fun going around to each table and learning how everyone explained the foods they prepared..

                                2. whoa-- of course you want to refrain from anything containing meat-- your school bake sale's liability exemption for non-hazardous baked goods won't cover tamales, savory empanadas, jamaican meat pies etc, so don't get too fancy w the filled dumplings, unless you want to get your school's fundraising sale shut down, or much worse, get sued yourself. vegetarian versions would probably fly in most health depts :) sorry to be the bearer of bad news on that front, but let's be safe, legal, and real, folks!

                                  pies. real live pies. because nobody makes them anymore. you can auction pies for hundreds of dollars.
                                  folks think that kids are the ones who buy cookies, but it's smart to sell traditional old fashioned/ethnic cookies by the piece. the average customer for a single cookie is *not* a teenager-- she's a middle aged lady who won't make a batch of cookies just for herself, and the single bake sale cookie is a great and cherished one-time-a-year treat for her, so don't totally dismiss cookies-- 6 dozen cookies at $1/each is a dang good fundraiser. . .
                                  a very easy and popular, semi-healthy idea would be spiced roasted almonds, mixed nuts, etc. different flavor combos. for some reason people really seem to like peanut brittle, etc too.
                                  mini flatbreads with evoo/fancy cheese/herb toppings, in plastic bag & oven ready, are popular & very easy

                                  whatever you make, it should be something you are really good at making, that way, your contribution will be in demand for next year, at a higher price (all for a good cause of course) :-)

                                  1. My experience in suburbia is that no one appreciates "grown-up food", at least not in these parts. OR they like pseudo grown up food like crescent roll cheese puffs - ick. I woud suggest something utilizing all natural ingredients. Very easy and oh so delicious are palmier cookies. I love these. You could top them with slivered almonds or slather your puff pastry w/ nutella before you fold it and cut it.

                                    I don't know about your school system, but our prohibits anything homemade. If it's a birthday, etc. we can only bring in store bought baked goods. A crime, I know.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: lynnlato

                                      the OP said it's for a sale/fundraiser, so i'm guessing they don't prohibit homemade.

                                    2. I made granola, it went over well, but I'm not sure folks appreciated the effort and cost of it... Still I recommend it for the sake of having something that's NOT brownies from a box. This is the recipe I made, its really good.

                                      I think samosas would go over well too. Maybe I'll try that next time. Any thoughts?

                                      1. How about a Dacquoise...

                                        1. I teach at an international school and our bake sales are so much fun because of all the different foods. Hands down the biggest seller is kimbob, which is Korean sushi more or less, only everything in it is cooked. Other big sellers are samosas and spring rolls.

                                          It depends on your school I guess. What do kids seem to buy?

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: lulubelle

                                            Now that's my kind of bake sale. :)

                                          2. The biggest question is do you want the most bang for your buck? You can spend hours making something nice and it might sell but what I've seen is the simple food, like rice krispie treats, go really quickly. If you make yours stand out, eg. cupcakes in an ice cream cone, kids are drawn to it. Rice krispies cut into shapes, sprinkles, etc. Sandra Lee up something simple, nothing unusual. Do you want to appeal to the masses, or to that one person who might really enjoy something special? Honestly, I bypass bake sales because I know they're not geared towards people looking for good food. But, if you love the time cooking, something like home made pretzels will appeal to both kids and parents.

                                            1. I've always been successful with round mini-loaves of bread baked in oven-safe corningware soup bowls. I slice half of the loaves, leave the other half intact, rap them in cellophane, stick a ribbon around the top. I've made onion-dill, jalapeno-cheddar, cinnamon-raisin, rye, bannock -- and they've always sold well.

                                              1. baked saltenas / empanadas
                                                mini Irish soda breads (made in a muffin tin)
                                                mini spicy (chile) corn breads (muffin tin again)

                                                1. Chocolate dipped strawberries always sold well at our bake sales. Pretty and half way healthy. Dipped pretzels too.