Cookbook author Nancie McDermott is on a mission to feed some fun into baking and filter out the fear.
McDermott, who will do a virtual presentation via the Wood County District Public Library on Feb. 8, said there should be no shame in buying a graham-cracker crust for a pie.
“We need to lighten up and see on what level can cooking work for me?” McDermott said in a phone interview last week from her Chapel Hill, North Carolina, home. “I especially love to bring people into baking who think they can’t do it without being perfect. You’re right, you can’t.“
Years ago, baking was a chore, like laundry and mowing the lawn, McDermott said.
“It was not a pleasure, or have the performance aspect, like it is now.”
McDermott, who has written 14 cookbooks, prides herself on searching out painless ways for people to cook and bake.
“I am a food detective. Is there an easier way to do this?” she said. “I find a challenge and then I research.”
She said her goal is to make recipes straight forward. That doesn’t mean easy, but they’re possible, McDermott said.
“If you go back into history, things start getting simple because recipes come out of necessity. And a lot of times there’s some things that become standard and there’s a tendency to make it more complicated — because that’s the way we show off.”
Baking is not brain surgery, McDermott said. Sure, go ahead and appreciate the French pastry or fancy frosting piping. Then get in the kitchen and make some muffins or cookies or simple cakes, she said.
“I started cooking because I just love it. I don’t expect people to be like me,” she said. “But we all — many, many of us — have to cook.”
Don’t make it a chore.
“Baking is completely doable and manageable,” McDermott said. “It’s such a pleasure and you can do it any level.”
She’s sharing her recipe for Jelly Roll with Strawberry Whipped Cream — a treat that would be ideal for Valentine’s Day but is also a little tricky. Don’t let the process be intimidating, McDermott said.
“It’s really quite simple, except for that scary part of turning it out and rolling it out,” she said. “It is not as hard as you think it’s going to be.”
The filling is flexible.
“This roll is great with frozen strawberries or jam on the shelf.”
Be prepared before starting to bake the roll, she said.
“Have everything ready so it can be mixed up and immediately go into the oven,” she said.
Also have the towels ready for the rolling-up process.
Another tip for baking is the nose knows, McDermott said.
“Whenever you smell it, you should go over and gently open (the oven) and check on it. Because something has happened — it’s talking to you.”
The pandemic initially threw her for a loop, but McDermott said she has tried to embrace the opportunities it has presented.
“What’s so wonderful is it has a lot of advantages. You can be online with people around the world … and reach more people,” she said.
As she was still learning how to use Zoom and Facebook Live, McDermott did her first pandemic post on St. Patrick’s Day, just a couple days after many nationwide shutdowns due to the coronavirus went into effect.
“I kept thinking, what can I do to help?” she said. “I really love video and the connections we can have online.”
McDermott likes it so much, she doesn’t know if a 15th cookbook is in her future.
“With writing, there’s a whole lot of sitting in a room by yourself,” she said. “I’m finding the ways that we can connect online to be very exciting.”
Technology has also helped improve the cooking process, McDermott said. If a baker has a question about mixing ingredients, pop onto YouTube to see a video. Anyone who wants an unusual ingredient can probably find it online.
Her husband, Will Lee, is her executive producer, helping out as he works his “regular” job from home.
They have two daughters who live in Brazil and Madrid.