Meet Baker Sandy Hunter, Competing in Spring Baking Championship

Get to know Sandy Hunter, one of the eight bakers competing in Spring Baking Championship on Food Network.

Photo by: Emile Wamsteker ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Emile Wamsteker, 2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Eight bakers have entered the Spring Baking Championship for a chance to win the title and earn $50,000 in prize money. Each one brings a unique talent to the competition. Some are professional pastry chefs, while others are culinary arts instructors, competitive bakers or self-trained bakers. This new series gives them the opportunity to show their skills on national television.

Before tuning in for the premiere on Sunday, April 26 at 9|8c, get to know the bakers. Every day leading up to the first episode we'll be revealing a Q&A with one of the eight.

After going to school for theater, Sandy Hunter (Chicago) found her real passion was baking. After earning a degree in baking and pastry from Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago, she went on to work at The Art Institute of Chicago. In a few years she became the catering pastry chef there, later leaving to run a kosher bakery. For the past four years she has been at Sweet Sensations Pastry.

What's your first memory involving baking?

When I was in kindergarten, I thought I could cook by mixing a bunch of different flavors of yogurt together and adding cinnamon. I thought I was a genius. As for real baking, when I was in Girl Scouts I made a pineapple upside-down cake from scratch.

What's the first thing you learned to bake really well? Do you still make it today?

In junior high home-economics class we learned how to make biscuits. They weren't good, but I loved doing it so much I would make them all the time at home in star shapes.

What would you say is your signature baked item, one that everyone knows you for?

Bread puddings.

If you could bake only one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Scones or bread.

What's your favorite ingredient or item to use in your baking?

Fresh herbs/seasonal produce.

What's your favorite holiday to bake for? What do you typically make?

Christmas. Quiche, cinnamon rolls, scones, bread pudding.

Who is (or was) your baking mentor? What's the No. 1 thing that person taught you?

The owner of the bakery I currently work for, Sharin Nathan.

When it comes to baking, how would you describe your style, your mentality?

Rustic home style.

If you could bake a cake for anyone (alive or dead), who would it be and what would you make?

My grandmother and nana from my dad's side. They both cooked/ baked all their lives, and to be able to show them what I can do would be the best thing in the world. I would make a lemon meringue cake.

What's the biggest baking fail you've ever had that you're willing to admit to? Were you able to rescue it, or did you have to start from scratch?

I worked for a kosher bakery that used the most horrid frosting. I was the kitchen manager and tried to get the owner to change it, but she refused. I had a new girl do a large wedding cake, one I should've done, and it was square. She put the frosting on so thick, and I didn't even notice it while she was working. When the delivery driver took it to the hotel, the entire side of a four-tiered square cake collapsed. I had to drive there and sit in a walk-in cooler for an hour and a half patching it up.

In your opinion, what's the No. 1 mistake that most home bakers make?

[Not knowing the] simple science of ingredients.

What are five or so tips or words of advice you'd give to beginner bakers to improve on their baking?

1. Know the science behind leaveners.

2. Know the acids in ingredients.

3. Know the difference in flours.

4. Know why French butter is different from American.

5. Know when to chill/not to chill batter/dough before baking.

6. Let baked items set.

Baking Quickfire (name your favorite for each)

Cake/cupcake: Anything lemon and strawberry or caramel

Pie/tart: Key lime, banana cream
Cookie: Lavender shortbread
Quick bread: Coffee cake
Yeast bread: French baguette or sourdough
Pastry: Scone
Muffin: Apple crumb
Savory baked item: Anything with spinach

Keep coming back to FN Dish for more on the bakers, and visit the Spring Baking Championship page for more on the new series, including behind-the-scenes galleries, episode recaps, video highlights and baking tips.

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