Susie Norris Debuts Her Third Cookbook at Melissa’s Produce
Melissa’s hosted pastry chef and educator, Susie Norris, in the kitchen on November 14 to promote her new cookbook, “A Baker’s Passport: Recipes for Breads, Savory Pies, Vegetarian Dishes, Tarts, Cakes, and Cookie Classics.” This creative collection of culinary travels takes home cooks on a pastry chef’s tour of the world’s culinary capitals through classic recipes sourced from Norris’ blog, Food Market Gypsy.
“I’m a lifelong, culinary road-tripper traveling through the world’s great food towns and traditions to explore what is baking where. This book visits beautiful countries with artisan baking traditions,” says Norris. “By exploring recipes in their regions, we help keep those traditions alive and relevant.”
Attendees of the kitchen event experienced a taste of the cookbook and a culinary tour of the world through several recipes prepared by Melissa’s chefs. In the book, you’ll find anecdotes preceding each recipe; some are filled with personal experiences by Norris, while others share mini historical takeaways through origin stories and cultural references.
After lunch, Norris performed a cooking demo of her Cranberry Pecan Loaf and Coconut Caramel Girl Scout Cookies. During the demo, the captive audience learned more about butter substitutions while baking, the origin of German Chocolate Cake (apparently, it’s Texas?!), and a couple of fun facts about chocolate and how to make the perfect caramel to your preferences.
To take a deeper dive into the cookbook and to learn more about Norris as a pastry chef, we sat down and asked her some questions. Read the interview below to discover insight on what it’s like to bake with products from Melissa’s.
Q&A With Susie Norris
Q: This book is a celebration of the classics, and I love how you say that each classic tells a story connected to culture, time, technique and taste. If you had to pick one word for each descriptor to represent yourself as a pastry chef, what would those words be?
Susie Norris: Classic America, contemporary with French patisserie techniques, and I’m sweet.
Q: As a Food Market Gypsy, you travel all over to dine on delicious delicacies and share them on your blog. With so many different experiences with food, how were you able to focus on the classics for your book?
SN: My taste runs toward the classics, so regional specialties interest me as they reflect deep history and culture, which is the focus of this book and the blog.
Q: As a baker, recipes require specific measurements. Some would argue that pastry recipes are less forgiving and more precise. For someone that is just getting into baking, can you talk a little about what happens when you add fruit or vegetables to bread recipes?
SN: Fruit and vegetables bring moisture, texture and color to baked goods. My favorite recipes that include them in this book are the Cranberry Pecan Loaf, Red Velvet Cake, Banana Bread and Bran Muffins.
Q: If I want a moist bread, what’s an excellent veggie to add to the recipe?
SN: Adding vegetables to a bread recipe will change its composition quite a lot, so it’s best to find a recipe that already includes the vegetable you have in mind. For instance, if you want to use Melissa’s Organic Zucchini in a bread recipe, start with a zucchini bread recipe rather than trying to just drop it in a bread recipe that is not written to include it.
Q: Have you experimented with gluten-free baking at all? What are your general thoughts on recipes that substitute ingredients to remove gluten or replace sugar with natural ingredients like monk fruit?
SN: Gluten-free recipes are in demand because making substitutions for wheat flour (like rice flour and potato starch) requires a lot of testing. My favorite gluten-free recipes from the book are the Flourless Chocolate Cake and Tarta de Santiago; both made with almond meal (also known as almond flour) and no wheat flour.
Q: Melissa’s Melogold Grapefruit is in season now; what are some of your favorite ways to bake with this citrus?
SN: How about making Lemon Curd with ½ lemon juice and ½ Melogold juice? Then you could serve it with croissants for a surprising twist on a classic combo.
Q: Your Cherry Pie recipe on pg. 126 looks stunning. I have to know; does one cherry work better than others when it comes to the execution of the perfect pie? Chilean, Bing, Rainier…
SN: For cherry pie, go with tart cherries like Morello or Montmorency. The varieties you mention will work well for the Black Forest Cake or Cherry Clafoutis.
Q: Thanksgiving is right around the corner; what baked goods would we find on your tablescape?
SN: I’m going with the Pumpkin Pecan Tart this year, plus I’ve had a request for a cheesecake — Gotta keep it balanced!
Q: I love your passion for farmer’s markets. We also love your passion and support for Melissa’s; What are some items that you rely on Melissa’s to provide to local grocery stores that you might not find at the farmer’s market?
SN: I appreciate Melissa’s dried fruit and nuts, and I am obsessed with their delicious onions!