Sharon Thompson: Just desserts from bakers' mothers

swthompson@herald-leader.comMay 6, 2014 

We can drool over a three-layer cake pictured on Pinterest or in an extravagant cookbook, but when it comes to baking a from-scratch dessert, we most often turn to mom's favorites.

Desserts and baked goods that taste best are the ones our mothers made for us when we were growing up. We asked several bakers and pastry chefs if they would share one of their favorite "Mom" recipes that they now bake themselves.

Becca Schmutte, pastry chef at National Boulangerie on Walton Avenue, cherishes the Texas sheet cake that her mother, Amanda Schmutte, made for birthdays.

"Birthdays have always been a big deal in my family," she says. "Of course, a birthday was never complete without one of Mom's delicious homemade Texas sheet cakes. The smell of a Texas sheet cake in the oven is unmistakable and always brings back the best of memories.

"My mother has always been a woman of many talents: a successful business woman, an outstanding mother and wife, an amazing cook, a best friend and without a doubt one of my biggest supporters. Without her years of cooking lessons, advice and the hours I spent next to her in the kitchen, I would have never found my passion and love for cooking. I look up to her and cherish that Texas sheet cake recipe and the delicious memories it has always brought me. "

Recipes

Amanda's Texas sheet cake

22⁄3 cups all purpose flour

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

11/2 teaspoons baking soda

8 tablespoons butter

1 cup water

2 eggs

2⁄3 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients. In a small saucepan, bring butter and water to boil. Add slowly to dry ingredients until combined. In a small bowl, mix together the eggs, buttermilk, vegetable oil and vanilla extract and add to the mixture until smooth. Pour into a greased sheet pan or two 9-inch round cake pans and bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes. Ice with a cream cheese frosting.

Carrie Warmbier, general manager and pastry chef at The Midway School Bakery, said her favorite recipe is for cowboy cookies.

"This is actually my Grandma Reiss's (my mom's mom) recipe, but I always remember my mom making this recipe," she says of her mother, Sharon Warmbier. "These cookies were always brought out during Christmas time. My mom would make a big batch of these cookies along with a large batch of chewy German honey cookies. Some of them would stay out for the holidays and others would be frozen, so whenever you felt like it you could grab a cookie from the freezer.

"Food has always been a part of my life and it always revolved around family, whether it be for a holiday or a big family gathering with aunts, uncles, and cousins. Mom always made special things for these occasions and I try to do that still today," Warmbier said.

Sharon's cowboy cookies

2 cups butter, softened

2 cups light brown sugar

2 cups white sugar

4 whole eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

4 cups all purpose flour

4 cups oatmeal

3 cups chocolate chips

2 cups nuts (walnuts, peanuts, cashews)

2 cups raisins

In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars together. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until fully incorporated. Mix together the soda, salt, baking powder and flour and slowly add to the butter/sugar mixture. Add oatmeal, chocolate chips, nuts, and raisins.

Scoop mixture onto a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.

Cameron Tinker, owner of Tinker's Cake Shop on West Maxwell Street, said, "It's hard to pick just one of my many favorite cakes, cookies or desserts my mother made when I was growing up. However, because she is the best pie maker I know, her sugar cream pie was always at the top of my list. It's a simple but decadent pie with a creamy filling and a flaky crust. It brings back memories now of her letting me help in the kitchen when I was young, and where my love of baking began," Tinker said.

Deborah's sugar cream pie

Crust:

11/4 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup cold unsalted butter

3 tablespoons ice water

Filling:

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup flour

Dash salt

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

To make crust: Blend flour, salt and cold butter until butter is pea size. Add ice water and mix until everything just pulls together. Roll out and place in a 9-inch pie pan.

To make filling: Blend the sugars, flour, and salt. Combine cream, milk and vanilla. Slowly add liquid mixture to sugar mixture while stirring to avoid lumps.

Fill unbaked pie crust with filling mixture. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes then an additional 30 minutes at 350 degrees or until set.

pastry chef Stella Parks was named one of Food & Wine's best new pastry chefs in America in 2012. "When it comes to Mother's Day, everyone always makes some sort of light spring dessert, but if we're totally honest I think moms love chocolate desserts more so than fruit. Or maybe that's just my mom," Parks said.

"At any rate, I always make something decadent for Mother's Day. When I was little, my mom didn't do too much baking (that was my job, even back then) but we often made cookies with candy instead of chocolate chips, with Reese's Pieces being one of our favorites. This recipe is inspired by those memories," Parks said.

Stella's chocolate cookies

1 cup all purpose flour

2⁄3 cup Dutch process cocoa

1 stick unsalted butter

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

1⁄3 cup white sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 large egg

1 bag (10 ounces) Reese's Pieces, divided

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two baking sheets.

Sift the flour and cocoa powder together on a large sheet of wax paper. With a hand or stand mixer, cream the butter, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda and vanilla for just a minute. Add egg and mix until incorporated, pausing to scrape down the bowl as needed. Sprinkle in cocoa-flour and mix until combined, but don't pitch the wax paper just yet. Mix in all but 1/2 cup Reese's Pieces. With a large cookie scoop (about 21/2 tablespoons), drop roughly 16 scoops of dough onto the wax paper, and roll each into a smooth ball. If you'd rather not bake the cookies all at once, refrigerate the scooped dough in a zip-top bag until needed, up to a week (warm to room temperature before baking).

Arrange on a baking sheet and gently flatten the cookies with the bottom of a drinking glass, then decorate with remaining Reese's Pieces. Bake until puffed and slightly firm around the edges, about 8 minutes. Cool directly on the baking sheet for a few minutes, then loosen with a metal spatula. Store the cookies up to 3 days in an airtight container.

Rob Ramsey, owner of Ramsey's Diners and Missy's Pies, said of all the pies sold at Missy's on Woodland Avenue, his mother's favorite would be the chocolate cream. "Her actual favorite was Bavarian crème, but no one ever bought that, and we only made it for my father," he said.

Missy's chocolate cream pie

2 cups milk

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

3/4 cup sugar

1⁄3 cup flour

3 egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat milk until there's a skin on top. Add chocolate chips to milk, stir until chocolate melts. In a medium bowl, mix together sugar and flour. Stir into chocolate milk mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick. Remove from heat and stir in egg yolks. Add vanilla and stir. Pour into a 9-inch ready-made pie shell. Top with meringue or whipped cream.

Elena Maydanovich, owner/pastry chef at European Delights Gourmet Bakery in Brannon Crossing, said her mother's favorite recipe was hazelnut cake. "I love my mom's cakes. She made this one for our family, and the recipe is from Ukraine where my mom was born. This is very easy to make and not too sweet," Maydanovich said.

Elena's hazelnut cake

10 ounces butter

3 cups all purpose flour

4 eggs, separated

3 tablespoons sour cream

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup sugar

Chopped hazelnuts, about six handfuls

In bowl of a stand mixer, using paddle attachment, combine butter, flour, egg yolks, sour cream and baking soda. Mix at low speed about 2 minutes. Roll dough into 6 8-inch circles. Place cake circles on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, mix 4 egg whites with 1 cup sugar until stiff.

Place a small amount of meringue on top of each cake circle and spread evenly. Sprinkle with one handful chopped hazelnuts on each. Bake at 325 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden. Cool about 2 hours. Ice each cake lightly with whipped cream and stack. Refrigerate overnight.

Sharon Thompson: (859) 231-3321. Twitter: @FlavorsofKY. Blog: Flavorsofkentucky.bloginky.com.

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