Let's face it: One of the main reasons we look forward to the holiday season is the copious amount of baked goods we get to make and eat. So, with that in mind, I invited our pastry wizard, Stella Parks (a.k.a. BraveTart), to take calls on a special holiday baking episode of Call Special Sauce. And I strongly urge serious eaters everywhere to take a listen. Why? Mostly because Stella is so knowledgeable and unpretentious. But it's also because no matter what she's talking about—whether it's the difference between a French tart and a pie ("To me, it comes down to a ratio issue") or why she quit making brownies in Kentucky to move to Japan, without knowing a single word of Japanese ("That was when I had my quarter-life crisis")—listening to her wax down-home poetic on baking and life is as much fun as eating an entire baking sheet of perfect chocolate chip cookies.
Stella also answers so many fundamental questions about baking on this episode that it could pass for a primer. What do you make for a gluten-free friend? She suggests angel food cake, but she also stresses the importance of ascertaining the nature and degree of your friend's allergy and being aware of possible cross-contamination in the kitchen. Have you ever wondered how to make homemade frosting taste like the stuff out of a can? Stella calls for adding some vanilla butter nut flavoring (easily found in grocery stores) to German buttercream, which will leave you with what she calls a "Je ne sais Betty Crocker" deliciousness. There's no need to feel embarrassed about liking that stuff; as Stella herself admits, "A can of chocolate frosting and a bag of pretzels. Whew, that is a good time."
And the proverbial icing on the cake of this episode of Call Special Sauce is Stella's sage bit of wisdom about one of your favorite childhood treats: "Oreos are spiritual, man." Now if that doesn't get you to listen, I don't know what will.
You Could Be on Special Sauce
Want to chat with me and our fabulously talented recipe developers? We're accepting questions for Special Sauce call-in episodes now. Do you have a recurring argument with your spouse around holiday menu planning? Have you been working on your chocolate chip cookie recipe for the past five years, but can't quite get it right? Does your brother-in-law make the worst lasagna, and you want to figure out how to give him tips? We want to get to know you and solve all your food-related problems. Send us the whole story at [email protected].