Fort Wayne – Kristina Parks, 21, began baking as a young girl with her Easy Bake oven, which she still has.
I’d always make things in there. Little cakes, says the Avilla resident.
Since January, Parks, who will be getting married to Daniel Desper on Saturday, has been the deli manager and baking teacher for second-year students at the Four County Area Vocational Co-Op in Kendallville. She is a graduate of Ivy Tech Community College – Northeast.
I help (the students) organize the deli and set-up. I don’t cook a lot. I’m on the more of the baking side. I plan what they’re going to bake and I help them. When they have an event, I come up with a dessert for that. But the kids make the dessert, she explains.
Parks says her grandmother, the late Monna Parks, was the one who gave her the baking bug.
She’s the one that got me in that direction. She passed away when I was 13. I use a lot of her recipes. The earliest I can remember (baking) is elementary school age. I’d always watch cooking shows, she says.
Through trial and error, Parks learned how important yeast was in the making of bread.
I tried to make bread and didn’t realize I needed yeast. I made bread and it turned out like a rock. My brothers would get a rock, show it to me and say, here’s your bread,’ she says.
As for instructing her students in the baking class, Parks quickly noticed that they needed goals and guidelines.
I didn’t have goals right away, then I saw the baking. I wanted them to be able to make cookies, cinnamon rolls, any bread item. But they want them to be faster. (Cinnamon rolls are) a two-day process because (students are) here about two hours. It’s different at home. I can get it done in half a day at home, she says.
Q. What’s your favorite cookbook?
A. Betty Crocker is my favorite. That’s where I get a lot of my recipes. Time and time again, they turn out real good. The other one, Better Homes and Gardens.
Q. If you were stuck on an island and you could only have one food, what would it be?
A. That’s hard. I like fruits a lot, but I like pretty much anything sweet. That’s my weakness, anything sweet.
Q. What vegetable do you eat most often?
A. Corn. I like corn a lot.
Q. What’s been your biggest challenge with the students?
A. Patience. I always tell them that they need patience in real life settings. They need to slow down.
Q. What advice would you give beginner cooks?
A. For baking, follow your recipe. That’s a big one. That’s one thing the kids will try. They’ll try to skip a step. One time we were making pie dough and they thought they could put in the amounts they wanted. The first time a student forgot the water and it was dry. The second time, they put in all the water and it was a blob. So I got the student to look at the recipe, read it and then follow the recipe. I had them measure out the ingredients. I watched them as they did it. The student had the right idea, just the wrong measurements. The student finally got it and made a good pie crust.
Q. What one word describes your cooking style?
A. Old-fashioned. I’m not a fancy person, and I don’t do fancy things. I like to stick with ones I’ve been using.
Old-Fashioned Cinnamon Rolls
4 3/4 to 5 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons dry active yeast
1 cup milk
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons melted butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Creamy glaze, recipe to follow
In a bowl, combine 2 1/4 cups flour and the yeast. In a saucepan, heat and stir the milk, butter, 1/3 cup sugar and salt, just until warm (about 125 degrees). Add to flour mixture; add eggs. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, scraping bowl. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes. Stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can. On a lightly floured surface, knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough that is smooth and elastic, 4 to 5 minutes. Shape into a ball in a greased bowl, turning once. Cover, let rise in a warm place until double in size, about 1 hour. Punch down dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, divide in half. Cover; let rest for 10 minutes. Lightly grease two 9-inch round baking pans. Roll each half of the dough into 12-by-8-inch rectangle. Brush with the melted butter. Combine the 2/3 cup sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over rectangles. Starting from the long side, roll up each rectangle into a spiral. Seal seams. Cut each spiral into 12 slices. Place slices cut side down, into prepared pans. Cover dough loosely with plastic wrap, leaving room for rolls to rise. Chill for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours. Uncover, let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Break surface bubbles with greased toothpick. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. If necessary to prevent over-browning, cover rolls loosely with foil for the last 5 to 7 minutes of baking. Remove from oven, cool for 1 minute and transfer to a cooling rack. Drizzle with creamy glaze. Serve warm. Makes 20 to 24 rolls.
1 1/4 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon light colored corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 to 2 tablespoons cream
Mix powdered sugar, corn syrup and vanilla. Stir in enough cream to make drizzling consistency. Use to ice cinnamon rolls.
Chocolate Chubbie Brownies
1 cup granulated sugar
9 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup water
14 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
3 eggs, chilled
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups walnuts, coarsely chopped
9 ounces dark chocolate, 1/4 -inch chunks
5 ounces white chocolate, 1/4 -inch chunks
Coat a 9-by-13-inch pan with cooking oil spray. Cook sugar, butter, corn syrup and water over medium to boil. Remove pan from heat; pour chopped semi-sweet chocolate into pan and whisk until smooth. Whisk in eggs one at a time; add vanilla and whisk. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Stir into chocolate mixture. Add nuts, dark and white chocolate chunks. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake at 300 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes. Let cool at least 6 hours. Makes 12 to 15 servings.
Red Velvet Cake
1 (18 1/2 -ounce) box of German Chocolate cake mix
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup oil
1 ounce bottle red food color, liquid
Combine all ingredients at low speed until moistened; beat 2 minutes at high speed. Pour batter into two 9-inch round or heart-shaped pans that are greased and floured. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 35 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched in the center. Cool 15 minutes; remove from pans. Ice when completely cooled. Makes 8 servings.
2 cups water
1/2 cup dry milk, optional
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 ounce yeast
3 1/2 cups bread flour
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons shortening
Gather the equipment and ingredients. Measure out ingredients. Soften the yeast in part of the water (temperature of 78 to 82 degrees). Combine all the ingredients in the mixing bowl. Mix until gluten development occurs. To test, cut a small piece of the dough. Stretch the piece of dough to a thinness that allows light to clearly shine through. If the dough can be stretched a few times without tearing, it is ready for fermentation. Lightly coat the dough with oil before putting in a warm draft-free area to rise. Allow dough to ferment for 2 hours. Punch the dough down when it is almost double in size. To test if the dough is ready for punching, insert two fingers into the dough. If the indentation remains, the dough is ready for punching. Divide the dough. Allow the dough to rest for a short time. Shape into 16 to 18 rolls. Place the rolls on parchment lined pans. Put the panned rolls into the draft-free area. The rolls are properly proofed when almost double in size. Bake rolls at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until evenly browned. Makes 16 to 18 rolls.