Desserts and A Crash Landing

July 15, 2010

After I’ve written recipes for my cookbooks and before they are published I ask home bakers to make the desserts. This way I can make sure “normal” people will be successful when baking the recipes. An instruction that sounds clear to me may be confusing to someone who hasn’t spent a lot of time in the kitchen.

I like to be there when they test them so I can fix problems as they come up. Near my book deadline I have a bake-a-thon where we test the last of the recipes. We often do this at a family property in Lake County where there we have several work areas and plenty of room to spread out bags of flour, pounds of chocolate and piles of nuts.

For the testing on my last book there were about 6 of us and we were on day three. There were cookies, pies, and cakes all over the counter and dining room table. The refrigerator was crammed full of mousses, puddings and doughs waiting to be rolled out. We got up early for another day in the kitchen.

We heard a loud noise outside the kitchen and ran outside. About 100 feet above us was a hot air balloon filled with 15 people. They had been in the air for about 30 minutes when the wind shifted and pushed them toward us. (We often see hot air balloons in the distance but they don’t come near the house.) The people inside the balloon, including the navigator, were understandably nervous. We hollered up to them and pointed to a nearby field because every other place was over water or too wooded.

One person went back to the kitchen to tend to what we had already put in the oven, and the rest of us ran to the balloon landing site. It was a bumpy landing. Still in our aprons, we were all trying to hold up the balloon as it came floating down so it wouldn’t rip on the barbed wire fence. On the ground hot air balloons are a lot bigger than they look up in the sky.

The occupants climbed out of the balloon basket and said “Where are we?” It was like a scene out of the Wizard of Oz. They were shook up but luckily except for a few scrapes and bruises no one was hurt. We took them up to the house so they could rest and wait for the van to come get them.

As they were sitting on the patio we discovered one woman was celebrating her birthday. We put candles on a slice of cheesecake and everyone sang “Happy Birthday.” They loved the cake so much we brought out cookies, tarts, ice cream- everything we had made. Once they saw all the desserts they forgot about their ordeal and they couldn’t believe their good luck. If they were going to have a crash landing somewhere this wasn’t too bad a spot and we had so much food I was thrilled to get rid of some of it.

One member of the group was a chef from Mexico. In the “small world” category she had one of my cookbooks, so the conversation really flowed. She said in Mexico there is a saying “It is more important to show up on time than to be invited.” This group had perfect timing; and I collected more feedback on my desserts than I imagined I would.

They all were sorry to leave their dessert oasis and I was offered a free balloon ride for our hospitality. After watching that landing I’ll stay on the ground- with desserts- and wait for the next group to drop in.


  1. What fun! I agree, it must have felt like “Oz” to them, but better. What a way to escape from a hot air balloon than to fall upon a Baker busy in her kitchen. That is an experience they won’t forget.

  2. GREAT story! I’d love to be one who dropped in (or just showed up) for such a feast. I guess it’s true that sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good…

  3. I used the ‘stars recipes’ for the first time yesterday and was really deceived; it was a much easier version of a classic cheesecake and so far (I haven’t tried it yet) it seems that the recipe didn’t work out. I was really angry as for me, the first recipe of a new recipe book is crucial, and says a lot about me giving the book a second chance. Then I opened your blog, looked at your picture, read a couple of posts and thought, ‘that has to be a bad cooking day. that woman has a vast heart and dedication is her middle name.’

    Another desert may appear on the table today, along with the ginger cheesecake, but I’ll definitely give your book a second chance 😉

  4. currently, it’s my pear-cranberry pie with gengirsnap crumble topping! add homemade vanilla ice cream and it’s off the chart!

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