People often ask me how I learned to bake. Did I have a gourmet mother who set a daily example of culinary excellence? Or a grandmother who taught me all her secret recipes and old-school techniques? No. And no. Mom was the "cake-from-a-box" and "dinner-in-a-casserole-dish" type. And both grandmas lived several hundred miles away. So I taught myself from books and I started early on experimenting with recipes.
When I was about 9 I received my first cookbook, Betty Crocker's Cookbook for Boys and Girls. I made only one recipe from the book, "Favorite Brownies". I made it over and over and over. This one page is yellowed with age, creased and smudged, with a dog-eared corner. The rest of the pages are still pristine and white, having rarely seen the light of day. After a while I started to make changes and additions to this basic brownie recipe, learning through trial and error how to be creative with baking. Eventually I settled on my signature recipe. I made it for friends and family, boyfriends and teachers. I even made it for my priest.
Over the years I have tried many brownie recipes but I always come back to my reliable variation on the basic Betty Crocker. At Sublime Bakery we make an amped-up version of the basic, adding espresso and cinnamon to my original signature recipe.
I still have my first cookbook, it has traveled far and wide with me and now lives on the bookshelf of my office at Sublime Bakery.