The Almanac – Abigail Neal, a 15-year-old Bethel Park High School freshman, is confident in her ability to bake delicious cupcakes.
Recently, she tried biscotti.
“It’s delicious,” said South Park resident Brooke Muraco, who is Neal’s coach on the Bethel Park girls volleyball team, about her player’s latest creation.
Muraco’s husband, Tony, although not a fan of the treat, enjoyed it as well.
“He tried it and loved it,” she said.
Neal’s Italian almond biscuits, which are primarily intended to be paired with coffee, are doing more than just receiving rave reviews.
Recently, Neal baked several batches, sold them online and then donated the $1,100 in proceeds to South Hills Interfaith Movement and Finleyville Food Pantry.
Neal said she had to act to assist those struggling because of the coronavirus pandemic. She said she was aware food banks were running low on supplies as well as donations.
“I just knew I had to help those in need,” she said. “I had to find a way.
Neal used her culinary skills and a recipe passed down from her grandmother, Saundra Wolf, who passed away three summers ago. She has routinely baked the biscotti with her grandfather, Don, for Christmas.
The treats served as presents for family members, Neal said.
“Obviously since we are all sitting around and being stuck in the house because of the quarantine, I was thinking of something to do. I always baked the biscotti with my grandfather,” she said. “That’s how I got the idea.”
So Neal set to baking.
Over multiple days, Neal whipped up batches that require 10 minutes of prep time and as many as two hours to bake. One recipe produces between 15-20 biscuits. After 12 batches, she sold 70 dozen biscotti through posts on her mother’s Facebook page.
In sixth grade, Neal entered cupcakes she baked in competition and soon after started her own company.
Neal’s business, called Abibakes, sells desserts for social functions like weddings, catered events and graduation parties. The proceeds from Abibakes are saved in her college scholarship fund.
“The funny thing was I knew they would sell,” Neal said of her biscotti. “Usually people want to help out and buy things to support a charity.
“But when I do the cupcakes, it seems to require so much more time and effort,” she added. “It’s a struggle. Oh my gosh, though, with the biscotti, while it’s so much time but quicker, it was so much easier. I was surprised, but not surprised that people want to help.”
Neal said her parents, Tyann and Brian Neal, have a feeling about her future career aspirations.
“My mom says I am going to be an entrepreneur,” she said. “I haven’t really thought about a career, but it will be something in business.
“Probably not opening a bakery,” she added. “Baking is a hobby.”
Currently, Neal is continuing to hunker down at home with her parents and three siblings – Sarah, 12, Nathaniel, 18, and Noah, 20.
Neal said her family is enjoying sit-down dinners together during the coronavirus pandemic quarantine.
“Obviously this is a crazy time, but we are all safe, staying home, distancing, listening to what the authorities are saying,” she said. “Having my family all together is one of the positives to come out of this pandemic.”
Then, of course, there is baking.
Neal said she watches many shows on television to improve her techniques and learn new recipes.
In addition to cupcakes and biscotti, Neal said she enjoys baking cakes.
“I will not even lie, sometimes they fall. Sometimes they are slanted,” she said with a laugh.
Neal is doing her best to continue filling future orders for biscotti. Depending upon the time she has to do it, she may expand the flavors. She also said she intends to continue donating a portion of the profits to charity while keeping some funds for expenditures.
“I anticipate keeping this going because I want to help people,” she said.
Neal’s penchant for coming to the aid of those in need does not surprise Muraco.
“Abi is very kind-hearted,” she said. “She has a positive outlook on things. A happy and contagious spirit.”