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updated: 7/10/2012 8:51 AM

Cook of the Week: College student inspired by children's book

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  • Blair Peters of Batavia, 20, makes lemon cookies dipped in white chocolate.

    Blair Peters of Batavia, 20, makes lemon cookies dipped in white chocolate.

  • Video: Blair Peters makes cookies

By Abby Scalf

Children's books cannot only inspire a lifelong love of reading.

For Blair Peters, books inspired a lifelong love of baking.

Blair started to bake when she was 4 or 5 years old. She and her brother Reed, now 19, would help their mom, Jan, make breads, cupcakes and cookies. One of the recipes they often made together was bread that came from the pages of one of Blair's books.

"We baked bread a lot because there was a children's book called 'Possum Bread' or something like that. It had lots of illustrations of woodland creatures that baked bread. It had recipes in it for different types of bread and things we could put in it," she remembers. "It had honey in it or you could do a raisin bread. I always liked to make chocolate chip bread."

The Batavia resident at first had dreams of pursuing a career as a pastry chef. She instead chose to follow another passion, creative writing, and is pursuing a degree at Knox College in downstate Galesburg. But friends and family can still rely on Blair to whip up cupcakes, cookies or cake for special occasions.

"When I get to be good friends with someone, one of the ways I like to realize I've gotten to know them better is know what kind of cake they like," she said. "My roommate Katie turned 22 this year and I made her a key lime cheesecake."

When it comes to making dessert, Blair suggests new bakers start easy, even starting with a children's book.

"Try different things. I started with children's baking books. Nobody has to know it's a children's chocolate chip cookie recipe. It tastes good either way. Start with something simple. If that gets you interested in baking, it's more positive than if you tackle something that is really complicated and may be impressive to look at but may not taste as good or be as fun to make."

Blair certainly is not afraid, though, to tackle complex desserts and even to show off what she can do. When her mom's work, the Association for Individual Development, organized a cupcake contest Blair stepped up to the challenge and entered chocolate high-hats, chocolate cupcakes topped with a mound of marshmallow cream and covered in a chocolate shell.

Her cupcakes wowed the judges so much that Blair won the competition, the first she'd ever entered.

"I did not anticipate to win at all. I enjoyed having the experience, and the (entry fee) went to a good cause," she said adding her winnings included another cookbook to inspire her.

Blair still enjoys not only impressing judges but keeping friends and family happy too. Back on campus Blair invites girls on Sunday night for tea and baked treats be it chocolate cupcakes or lemon cookies dipped in white chocolate.

"When I started doing the Sunday night tea and coffee, they knew I was going to bake something," she said.

While cupcakes and cookies will continue to fill her kitchen, she also looks to push herself to attempt something different, baked Alaska.

"My friend Shelby and I tried it once a couple summers ago. It went terribly. It melted in the oven," she said. "I think sometime it would be fun to try it again and get it right."

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