Get to know the people who make some of your favorite desserts. This month, we talked with pastry chef Dawn Hodapp of Top Tier Delights.
What are your favorite hobbies? I have a three year old, so I like walking and biking. He learned to ride a bike this year so we’ve been doing that all the time. Just hanging out with him and doing kind of artsy stuff. Painting and reading; I love to read.
What is your favorite cookbook? Probably my favorite actual cookbook is one that one of my chefs in school published. That’s probably my favorite go-to pastry bready book. It’s just more so notes and stuff through life. I have folders upon folders of recipes.
What is your favorite baking technique? It’s the flowers. I do gum paste flowers. Those I love, those I could do all day long. You roll it all out by hand, you form it all by hand. None of them ever look the same. It’s like that one thing in baking that’s always unique, kind of like piping.
Why did you become a baker? I’ve cooked and baked my whole life, I’ve always liked it, I’ve always been in the kitchen with my parents. One of my older brothers said “You should go to culinary school, you play around in it, you’d be good at it.” And I did and I ended up with a bachelor’s degree in pastry and worked in Idaho and kind of fell in love with it.
What is your first food memory? I remember my brother closest in age to me, every time we would make a cake we would fight over who got to lick either the spoon and bowl or the paddle. And the paddle always had less on it, so there was this battle of who got to have what. I’m a scrappy little thing; he’s five years older than me but I won many times, possibly with some tears involved.
Finish this sentence: If I weren’t a baker… It’s not one of those sentences you finish, because if you’re not a baker, what do you do next? You just get so far into this at some point.
Who or what has influenced your baking the most? Probably just the people you meet. I have a four year degree and in getting that you end up in a dozen different labs with a dozen different chefs telling you to make crème anglaise a dozen different ways. So you take a little bit from each one and you go, okay this works great. I don’t think there’s one person.
Are there any baking techniques you’d encourage people to try? Learn the basics, because once you get the basics down then you can start to play. Pastry is all about knowing your basics and knowing, learning and understanding how the products work and then you get to play with it.
What is your favorite recipe to make? It’s one of those hard ones because in bread, I love focaccia, I love challah, I love making ciabatta dough because it’s wet and trying to get it to stay when you throw dough on a table and all of a sudden it’s trying to hit the floor. It’s that moment when you put it all together. It’s hard to pick, it’s like picking between kids, you can’t pick just one favorite. If I had to eat one, it would be a cookie every time, chocolate chip all the way.
If you could make a cake for anyone, who would it be for? This is going to sound really corny but I think it would probably be for my parents. They’re honestly one of my biggest influences of where we have ended up. It would be something for them, like an anniversary cake.