Chocolate Ribbon Cake, Chocolate Nut Sponge cake, with a Light-Chocolate-Mousse enrobed in Chocolate
Chocolate Ribbon Cake, Chocolate Nut Sponge cake, with a Light-Chocolate-Mousse enrobed in Chocolate
Baked Meringue Treat Bags
Baked Meringue Treat Bags
Banana, Pecan and Pineapple Cinnamon Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Banana, Pecan and Pineapple Cinnamon Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

 

Guest Blogger: Meredith Takahashi

Meet Meredith Takahashi
Meredith Takahashi is a true jack-of-all-trades. She’s an attorney, founder of Mère Made Sweets and the President of the Board of Directors for The Fresh Chefs Society. Did we mention she also makes one heck of a cake? Read on to find out how this Austin lawyer followed her dream to become a professional Confectionista.

 

How did you first get started as a baker?

My family loves to eat, I learned at a young age how food is a language itself.  My dad is a really good cook, I learned from him that I too, like feeding people. My Nana and I often baked together when I was young.  She taught me how to make all of her favorite recipes, and with her guidance, I continued to bake through high school, college and beyond. When she passed away, I was working and living in Manhattan as an attorney for the Juvenile Rights Practice of the Legal Aid Society of NYC. At that time, I realized that I wanted to do more with my passion for baking.

 

 

How did you achieve your new baking dreams?

I pursued the Professional Baking and Pastry Arts Program at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) in New York.  For about ten months, with the support of my colleagues, I was able to promptly leave court by 5pm every night. Monday through Thursday, I would take the subway and arrive in Chelsea for class from 6pm-9pm.  While going to school, I shadowed many wonderful chefs at Amy’s Bread, Sweet Melissa’s, Grandaisy Bakery, Patisserie Florentine and Financier in NYC, through formal and informal externships. Finally, I received my diploma.

 

 

What do you love about baking?

I enjoy the rhythm of working through each process.  Baking is cathartic and a release.  Even though I’m focusing on the method, I can often clear my head while I’m baking which later allows me to think through other stressful work or issues on my mind.

 

 

What’s life like as a professional baker?

My customer base at present varies greatly.  I have catered everything from small events to weddings and supplied baked goods for local cafés.  Right now, much of the baking that I do is through a nonprofit, The Fresh Chefs Society, that creates culinary programs for teens aging out of foster care.  

 

What is your role at The Fresh Chefs Society?

I am currently serving as the President of the Board of Directors.  I work on various aspects of fundraising. I also serve as a Guest Chef in our program that creates culinary classes for foster youth living in group homes. We teach hands-on lessons in technique and recipe building.  Fresh Chefs is an organization dedicated to offering youth in foster care independent living skills, culinary experiences and mentoring opportunities.  When I worked at Legal Aid in New York, I represented children and teens in family court.  During the time I was in culinary school, I would often share recipes and desserts made during my classes with my clients.  Fresh Chefs allows me to continue those conversations.

 

 

What is your culinary specialty?

A croquembouche, which is a French wedding cake that is a cluster of profiteroles filled with a ganache or pastry cream, assembled together in a tower with a caramel glaze.

 

Where do you draw inspiration from for recipes?

Traveling!

I took a cooking class in Thailand and, more recently, one in Vietnam.  Both experiences taught me more about the use of local ingredients and different methods of cooking.  Learning the process of cooking and baking in other cultures teaches me new methods and approaches to preparing food in better, more interesting ways.  Understanding French pastry to Viennese cake methods to Italian biscotti can improve just about any dessert.

 

 

What is the best advice you can give someone new to baking?

There are many ways to approach different recipes, but learn the correct methods at the outset from chefs who appreciate great technique so you can maintain good practices, then build on that moving forward.

Growing up, when I used to bake with my Nana, we would make the same three or four recipes. Then as a teenager I focused on making simple cookies. I enjoy exploring and trying new recipes and versions of recipes, but baking with my Nana taught me the importance of having a few recipes that you know well, can come back to and execute no matter what.

 

 

Do you have any secret baking tips you could share?

Never over mix a cake. Also, beat eggs separately before adding them to any recipe. 

 

What is a baking tool you could not live without?

It’s too hard to choose just one. Large rubber heat resistant spatulas, large and small offset spatulas, a bench scraper, a cake turntable, a scale, and an 8-quart Kitchen Aid are all necessary.  If I had to choose one, I’d recommend least one medium offset spatula to perfect cake frosting.

 

Do you have a favorite recipe that you would like to share with our readers?

This Apple Crumb recipe is a personal favorite of mine. It’s a simple classic dessert that bakers of all experience levels can enjoy.

 

 

 

Apple Crumb
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Filling Ingredients

  • Prepared pastry for one-crust 9-inch pie
  • 1/2 cup Domino® Granulated Sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon rind, grated (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 6 cups apples, cored, peeled and sliced (4-6 med.)

 

 

Crumb Topping Ingredients

  • 1 cup oats, rolled
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed Domino® Dark Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, cut into 1-inch pcs.

Filling Instructions

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line 9-inch pie plate with pastry. Trim and crimp edges as desired; set aside.

In large mixing bowl, combine sugar, butter, lemon rind, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add apples; toss well. Arrange in pastry-lined plate.

 

Crumb Topping Instructions

In small bowl, mix oats, brown sugar, flour and butter with pastry blender or fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Spoon topping over apples. To prevent overbrowning, cover edge of pie with alminum foil. 

Bake 15 minutes; reduce oven temperature to 350°F and bake 40 minutes or until apples are tender. (When topping begins to brown, cover with foil.) Remove to cooling rack.

 

About Jessica

Hi! I’m Jess, a twenty-something account coordinator living in Ronkonkoma, New York. For those of you who don’t know, that’s a small town on Long Island. I’m lucky enough to have a mom who’s a great baker. She’s the family go-to for birthday cakes, and as a kid I loved watching her create something special for each one. I, on the other hand, am the family go-to for all things microwaveable. My favorite thing to bake is anything in a box that says “Just add water”. I’ll admit that I’m a total underachiever in the kitchen. Now that I’ve graduated from college, I use working full-time as my excuse to stay lazy. I just don’t see the payoff in baking from scratch. Can Domino® Sugar get me to abandon my microwave and become a Confectionista? Will I even be able to get through all the recipes? I don’t know how this will turn out but one thing’s for sure. Domino® Sugar has issued a challenge and New Yorkers never back down from a challenge.

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Comments (2)

  • T Babin 
    July 28, 2015 at 10:10 AM

    My favorite tool in the kitchen is my old corelle chopping block.  I can bleach it after every use to kill bacteria. Excellent quality which is not porous like wood.

  • Sharon Mousavi Dormani 
    July 29, 2015 at 12:53 PM

    So inspired and amazed by Ms.Takahashi.  She followed her heart and has created a renaissance lifestyle and is giving back at the same time! Looking forward to trying the apple crumb recipe.