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For Holiday Goodies, Sometimes Simpler Is Better - Even For The Pros

courtesy Erin Gardner/Wild Orchid Baking

This month on Foodstuffs we've been focusing on baking, and we wanted to make sure to talk with Erin Gardner of Wild Orchid Baking in Dover. After all, she's been featured on the Food Network, won awards from New Hampshire Magazine, and she's about to release a book, called Great Cake Decorating, next year. Her striking wedding cakes, known for their presentation as well as their taste, stand out and get noticed.

But the word Gardner uses to describe her home baking? "Rustic."

"When I'm baking professionally," she explains, "I am hyper-focused on what my client is looking for... what the finished product looks like. Flavor is definitely super-important, but when you're talking about a wedding cake, it also has to reflect the elegance of the event and the other decor elements of the room." That's why, when she bakes at home, she makes what she and her family like to eat - cookies, sweet breads, and scones are among their favorites.

As a home baker, my biggest problem is presentation. I can follow a recipe just fine; because of that, I can get the taste part of a cookie or a cake well enough. But as my food photos show, presentation is trickier. Gardner says that if you're looking to improve the look of your food, it's important not to overdo it.

"Sometimes people get elaborate, overdone ideas in their heads," she says, "when, maybe just a little holly sprig would be beautiful to finish off a cake, or a little dusting of confectioners' sugar. Just a little finishing touch, nothing too over the top."

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