Cook of the Week: Baker, blogger, marshmallow maker
Shauna Sever calls herself the Next Door Baker, that person who always brings over a cake or can provide that needed recipe.
While she lives far from where she grew up in Rolling Meadows, Shauna now provides recipes through her blogs, TV segments and cookbook so hometown friends and home cooks everywhere feel like she lives right next door.
"I want recipes to be accessible, simple, friendly, especially for something that can be as intimidating as baking," she said. "You want to feel that someone next door is there to help you out."
Shauna, who now lives in San Francisco with her husband and daughter, recalls baking holiday cookies and birthday cakes with her grandma. She attempted her first baking business selling Day-Glo-colored treats, concocted from cake mix, canned frostings and lots of food coloring, to third grade classmates.
After high school she chose not to pursue a culinary career, graduating instead with a journalism degree from Bradley University in downstate Peoria. She worked as an investigative reporter, correspondent and TV host for shows such as "Extra" and TV Guide Network.
"The closer I started to reach goals I had set for myself, I realized they were not as fulfilling as I had hoped they would be," she says.
So she started a food blog called Piece of Cake to explore her creativity and her sweet tooth. The site was a chance to share recipes and get immediate feedback. She also got in front of the camera again, sharing the personal story behind recipes through videos on the YouTube channel Kin Community.
"The best part is hearing someone made a certain dish for a birthday or baby shower and everyone loved it. It is a person you never met before and they are taking the time to tell you they love something you created," Shauna says.
Shauna has no hesitation sharing her favorite baked treat, cakes -- "there is still something magical about a batter coming together" -- and has also explored candy making. Shauna enjoys making, of all things, marshmallows and was surprised how often friends questioned the process of making them from scratch. The idea for a cookbook started to bloom.
"I didn't start with this arsenal of marshmallow recipes. I had to develop them all as I worked through the book. There are so many different stages in the recipe that give you a chance to put in flavor, whether it be fruit juices, liqueurs or little novelty candy oils. It is almost like a kitchen craft," she said.
"Marshmallow Madness" features basic vanilla and chocolate marshmallows as well as such unique versions as salted caramel and maple bacon. There's a kids chapter with fun flavors like bubble gum and Kool-Aid and a dessert section that incorporates marshmallows into treats such as frostings and fillings. "Marshmallow Madness" can be purchased at bookstores or at Amazon.com.
Whether it be through TV, cookbooks or her blog, Shauna hopes to provide recipes that help people connect with the people they love.
"I want to show them ideas and tips and techniques that can make baking not so scary and help incorporate it into their everyday lives and make it part of their own story with their family and their friends."