Baker’s Workshop makes last-minute adjustment for holiday pies

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Second year bakery and pastry culinary program students Taylor Romano, 21, of East Islip (left) and Dylan Forte, 21, of Lindehurst with some of the pecan and pumpkin pies they baked on Tuesday in the Baker's Workshop. They both will graduate in December.

A spate of customers stopped at the The Baker’s Workshop in Riverhead last week seeking sweets to serve at their Thanksgiving dinners. There were plenty of treats — cookies, pastries, cupcakes and more — but no pies.

The Baker’s Workshop is owned by Suffolk County Community College and run almost entirely by its culinary arts students. Offerings at the bakery depend on the culinary arts curriculum, and traditional Thanksgiving pies were not on the menu.

But when customers kept asking for the holiday dessert, culinary arts instructors made a last-minute adjustment and students pumped out 90 pies in three days.

“I’m not worried — we’ll be selling out of them before we go home today,” professor and manager Christina DeLustro said Tuesday afternoon.

The pies have quickly disappeared from shelves since Friday, the first day they were available, she said.

The Baker’s Workshop, a reincarnation of Baker’s Workshop Café and Bistro, is seeing an estimated 60 percent increase in customers since it first opened under its new format this year, Ms. DeLustro said.

Students contributed cooking to the former café, but they’re now involved in all aspects of food preparation and management at The Baker’s Workshop, which offers solely baked goods.

“We can now focus on one thing and hopefully do that one thing very well,” Ms. DeLustro said.

Unlike other area bakeries, revenue at the Baker’s Workshop isn’t a primary concern. The East Main Street bakery operates as a non-profit organization using student interns.

Instructors mainly aim to groom students into skilled pastry chefs and provide quality baked goods to area residents.

Three cases of baked treats are available on a regular basis. Muffins, scones and turnovers fill a breakfast case; lemon tarts, cheesecakes and 10 different kinds of cupcakes are for sale in a cold pastry case; and 10 different kinds of cookies are spread out in a dry pastry case. Seasonal items like pumpkin scones and apple cheesecakes are available during the fall months.

The bakery’s busiest hours are between 1 and 3 p.m., when a 50 percent discount is offered on every single item.

“One customer came in yesterday and bought $89 worth of pastries for $45,” Ms. DeLustro said.

All items are made fresh daily and are not sold the day after they’re baked.

“Most of the time, we want to get everything that’s made sold and out the door,” she said.

While Ms. DeLustro sees the shop’s increased customer traffic as an indicator of satisfaction among local residents, she said there’s room for improvement.

“This is new,” she said. “We have some things we’ll be changing for next semester.”

One change, she said, will be including sought-after fruit and nut pies into student curriculum during the holiday season.

“Everybody really wants them,” she said.

After the last-minute bakefest, students were quickly selling out all seven types of their initial 90 pies: blueberry, blueberry crumb, cherry, cherry crumb, pecan, pumpkin and apple.

“Next year we plan to do much more — we’ll probably wind up doing 150 to 200,” she said.

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