A communications consultant, Alix Raine lives in Great Neck with her longtime partner, Bill Blacker, and has two sons and two grandchildren.
You're known for your baking. How did you start? Baking is a long-established family tradition. I was introduced with stories of my great-grandmother, who braided beautiful breads despite being blind. I watched my grandmother (a Russian immigrant) make chocolate chip cookies and give them to friends and neighbors. Best of all, I learned outstanding culinary skills at my mother's side -- she was "Martha Stewart" before there was a Martha Stewart. When I became a mother, I continued the tradition of making and giving away cookies.
What's the one item in your baking repertoire that people can't get enough of? Pumpkin bread, which can serve as either a bread or a tea cake. I used to make them as presents for my kids' teachers; now I'm making them for my grandkids' teachers. They're relatively easy to make. And -- one of my most important prerequisites -- they freeze well, so if you want to pull one out and give it as a gift or serve someone, it's good to go.
What is your most valuable kitchen tool? It's a tie between the Cuisinart and the Kitchen Aid mixer.
What do you have up your sleeve in case an unexpected guest pops by? If I'm going to make something, I typically make two and freeze one. I have a full freezer in the basement, so I would go down and see what I had. Probably some chicken Francaise. Or some brisket. Definitely an assortment of hors d'oeuvres. And lots of desserts. Also, carrot cake, which I serve as a vegetable.
Carrot cake as a vegetable? It's very heavy with carrots.
Where do you like to go out to eat? In Great Neck, there's Cafe Kriza. And for amazing eggplant Sorrentino, Napoli on Northern Boulevard. I also like Grasso's in Cold Spring Harbor and Pearl East in Manhasset.
3 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable or canola oil
5/8 cup water
2 cups pumpkin (or one 15-ounce can)
1 cup pecans or walnuts, broken into large pieces (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour 2 large or 3 medium loaf pans.
2. By hand, in the bowl of an electric mixer, stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar; then make a well in the mixture.
3. Into the well, add eggs, oil, water, pumpkin and nuts, if using. With the mixer, beat well and pour batter into prepared loaf pans.
4. Bake one hour. Cool.
5. To serve, cut in thick slices for bread or thinner slices for dessert or tea sandwiches.