NOTE: This drawing is now closed. I had a chance to ask cookbook author, Bon Appetit contributing editor, and public television host Dede Wilson a few questions about how she got her start and what she does in her spare time when she’s not baking. And in honor of the publication of her gorgeous new book, Unforgettable Desserts, I’m doing a giveaway for one lucky person (U.S. and Canada residents, please). Just post a comment if you want to be entered. By the way, the desserts below are snap shots I took behind the scenes at the photoshoot for the book last year.
Q: Your first cookbook was about wedding cakes. Did you used to bake wedding cakes professionally?
A: I made wedding cakes for years, first through a catering company and then through my own retail bakery in Amherst, MA. Wedding cakes are really just pretty cakes, albeit usually on the larger side. It was an easy jump to write about birthday cakes and show-stopping desserts in general. Many of my desserts might be gorgeous, but I promise you, they taste as good as they look. I always said the one thing I didn’t want to hear people say about my wedding cakes was “Oh, it looks too pretty to eat!”. As far as I’m concerned I make every one of my dessert creations–wedding cake or simple cookie–with one goal in mind. It has to taste great and satisfy you in that way that only a home-baked dessert can.
Q: You’ve hosted two public television series and made countless TV appearances on The Early Show, Today Show, The View, etc. When you were first starting out as a baker, did you ever imagine being so much in the spotlight?
A: No, certainly not at first, seeing that I started baking at about age five! Like most home bakers, I baked because I loved the whole process, the creativity that goes into coming up with flavor combinations and the baking process itself–watching raw dough or batter transform in the oven into something yummy. I guess my favorite part is feeding people. I love watching or hearing about people enjoying my desserts. It is truly so satisfying. I guess you could say that is what I feed off of! Of course, once I was writing my books and for Bon Appetit, I did set a goal of frequent television appearances, and it has come to fruition. I now have a monthly segment on CBS’s The Early Show. It’s a dream come true.
Q: What do you do in your spare time besides baking?
A: I spend a lot of time showing my bull terriers on the dog show circuit both in the States and in Canada. You can see them on my dog blog. (Yes, they have their own blog!) I spend anywhere from 10 to 20 weekends a year on the road with my dogs. There is a commonality between the dogs and my food life. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a bit of a multi-tasker and tend to be a bit high energy. The only times in my life that I am completely focused on one thing is when I’m doing live television, and when I’m in the ring with my dogs. I hate to reference an overused term, but these are my Zen moments. I become completely engulfed in the moment, laser focus on the task at hand, and in that moment, the rest of the world just disappears. It is exhilarating and nothing else compares. And believe me, if you saw the movie Best in Show and thought is was hilarious and ridiculous, I have to tell you that the real dog show world is even crazier.
Q: Did you attend culinary school?
A: No, I am self-taught. And I actually love this question, because it allows me to point out to the bakers at home that they absolutely can do this as well as I can, if not better. It just takes a desire and a passion – and those are the people that I write for! I have owned a bakery, and this is my twelfth book, so I try to bring some of my professional expertise to the reader/baker in their own home. I bake with a regular oven, not a professional range, and use the kind of equipment that any avid baker uses. I write my recipes in such a way that I hope it appears that I am standing there in the kitchen with you, answering any questions that might come up. I want to be your Baking Buddy and in fact, I am about to launch a Baking Buddy column on my blog, to answer questions from readers.
Q: Any last thoughts for my blog readers?
A: Baking should be fun. Yes, it is a science as well as an art, and we do have to pay attention to details, like measuring properly and following directions. So my number one suggestion is to read every recipe thoroughly and make the recipe as directed, but then take notes. Maybe in your oven the cookies baked in 8 to 10 minutes and not the 10 to 12 as I suggested. Or perhaps you taste the finished product and decide you would like it with more cinnamon, or chopped nuts might be a nice addition. Save these notes and the next time you make the recipe, try out your ideas. This is how the recipes can become your own, and nothing is more fun or satisfying than that! And lastly, I love to hear from bakers. Feel free to email me to dede @ dedewilson.com or comment through my blog.