The owner of The Baking Coach - a business that teaches baking skills in libraries, schools and private at-home lessons - she and her husband, Tom, live in Smithtown with their two children, Jacob, 11, and Anastasia, 8.
How did you get interested in baking? I got into baking because of my grandmother and my Aunt Paula. My aunt and I loved to spend hours in the kitchen.
What, especially, do you remember making? When I was about 7, I made a cheesecake that my family really liked, and the sense of achievement was overwhelming. Baking was very comforting to me. When I wanted to celebrate something good, I baked. When I was upset about something, I baked
Do you have any special family memories connected with food? My family is Maltese, and we used to make a special Maltese treat, a pastitsi, a flaky pastry filled with ricotta cheese. It's not really sweet; it's more salty, and you eat it with coffee, or for breakfast. It's really more a snack than a meal. Also, I remember every holiday was celebrated with food and a special dessert. My grandmother used to make cookie dolls at Easter - they were the place holders. You didn't get to eat the doll till after dinner, but it was an incentive.
Is there an appliance or an ingredient you can't bake without? I could not bake without my KitchenAid mixer. It's like a third arm. It brings you to the right consistency, and that's important in baking.
Do you have a favorite restaurant? I like Teller's, a steakhouse in Islip.
Do you have a favorite cake to bake? My crumb cake - it makes the kitchen smell so nice.
Not So Crummy Crumb Cake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs at room temperature
½ cup sour cream at room temperature
1 ½ cups light brown sugar
2 cups flour
1 ½ sticks cold butter
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1. Combine flour, baking powder and baking soda and set aside.
2. In a bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes. Gradually add sugar and mix for additional 8 minutes at a medium speed, or until the mixture is light and fluffy.
3. Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beating for 1 minute after each addition.
4. Add the flour mixture in three batches alternating with the Sour Cream in two batches.
5. Pour cake mixture into a greased 13"x9"x2" pan and place in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.
6. Make the topping: While the cake is baking, mix together the brown sugar, the 2 cups of flour, the cold butter and cinnamon in a large bowl using your fingers. Keep mixing until topping forms large crumbs, about 4 to 5 minutes.
7. After the cake has baked for 20 minutes, remove from oven and sprinkle crumbs over the cake and then place it back in the oven and continue baking for 25 minutes or until golden brown.