Call Special Sauce: BraveTart on Bake Sales, Pie Anxiety, and Danger Brownies

By | June 5, 2016

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[Photographs: Vicky Wasik]

Our first Call Special Sauce with Stella Parks was so nice, we decided to do it twice. Leah from DC wanted to come up with ideas for baked goods that “would just really light people on fire” at her daughter’s school’s bake sale table—in a metaphorical sense, that is. Stella suggested adding some visual panache by, for instance, using attractive tulip papers for muffins. (Sandwich bags are a bake sale no-no in her eyes.) Carol from Connecticut had many holiday pie questions, which Stella deftly handled, advising a 1:1 ratio of fat to flour in the crust to keep moisture at bay and highlighting salt’s role in effective browning.

Beyond soothing the nerves of our callers, Stella surprised me when I asked whether people expect her to bring over amazing desserts for holiday meals: “I never get invited anywhere!” she said with a laugh. “People do not invite me over for dinner, at all…. Maybe it’s performance anxiety.” It’s an issue Kenji and I have discussed in the past. Most people don’t realize that when our staffers get invited over for dinner, we’re not on duty. We just want to hang out and have a good time, like everyone else. We also talked about the notion that there are “pie people” and “cake people” in this world, though Stella doesn’t buy it: “I think it’s a false dichotomy that’s meant to pit us against ourselves. There is cake, and there is pie, and there is room for both in our hearts.” I love the way Stella humanizes almost everything in the baking universe.

Want to learn more, including how Stella’s “Danger Brownies” got their name? You’re just going to have to listen. Happy holiday baking, Serious Eaters.

Special Sauce is available on iTunes. You can also find the archive of all our episodes here on Serious Eats and on this RSS feed.

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