While the holidays have come and gone, the frigid temperatures of another Canadian winter have left us craving warmth and sweets this January. Enter expert bakers and stars of the recent Food Network Canada show The Baker Sisters, Jean Parker and Rachel Smith, a dynamic sibling duo who have brought their expertise creating desserts to the small screen. The two ladies are not only Canadian bakers; they are also mothers and the proud daughters of a bakeshop owner. Craving some sugar this season, Real Style spoke to Parker and Smith about their passion for everything sweet, tips for perfecting your own baked goods and healthy baking ideas.
Although The Baker Sisters has just wrapped, fans with a sweet tooth are able to catch episodes and even view recipes online at foodnetwork.ca.
Real Style: Tell us more about The Baker Sisters.
Jean: Literally, it is a sisters’ voyage across North America. We seek out the best bakeries and we try their desserts. We get to go back into the kitchen with the baker and make them.
Rachel: At that time, Jean and I are learning great baking tips, along with the viewers. We are self-taught bakers. Our mother was a baker, we worked in her bakery, but we are learning things as well. Also, we might be able to give the bakers themselves a tip here and there. It’s pretty cool that we get the opportunity to share what they are doing. It’s funny, most bakers bake in the wee hours of the morning. They are by themselves and maybe have music going. Then they are sleep by the time their bakeshop opens in the morning! This is a great way to be able to share all of our passion and hard work. You have to be passionate to commit to baking.
Real Style: What was it like growing up with a mom who was a baker? That must have been amazing!
Rachel: When her butter tart shop was up and running, we were tweens and teens, and not interested at all. But she did hire us, and we couldn’t wait to get out of there! We were so uninterested in baked goods at that time. Now, baking is in our blood. Jean and I said to each other, about two years ago, “why don’t we start making tarts?” Twenty years ago, we said, I hate tarts! I don’t like going to school smelling like a tart.
Real Style: What are your personal favourite desserts, being professional bakers?
Jean: I love savoury desserts. I love carrot cake and pumpkin pie. In Atlanta, Georgia, I got to try the sweet potato cake. I still think about it.
Rachel: I love the buttery things. We were in Halifax and we were at a bakery called Sweet Hereafter. They made cheesecake. They were an all-cheesecake bakery, a cheesecakery! Their cheesecake was New York style; it was pretty much all cream cheese.
Real Style: Any tips for making a perfect cake at home?
Rachel: The combination of oil and butter will give you such a tender crumb that the butter will have that luxurious flavour.
Jean: If you’re making a dark cake, great tip! Instead of dusting your pan with flour, use cocoa powder. That is going to lend a more chocolatey flavour, and then your cake will come out too, and it won’t stick.
Real Style: With January here, many of us are looking for ways to eat healthy! Do you have any tips for reducing fat in your recipes?
Rachel: I would say that using a little bit of maple syrup instead of white sugar is a really good choice. A lot of the time, I will bake something, and if it does call for white sugar, I will sub it out.
Jean: Using zucchini is a great addition to baking, because it does have some moisture. It’s also healthy.
Photo: The Baker Sisters