Michelle Abraham makes Super Simple Fudge
If you're looking for a job with benefits, you might want to apply where Michelle Abraham earns a paycheck.
Vacation days and medical coverage are nice, but the sweetest perks where Michelle works are the baked treats she brings to her co-workers.
"I love to make people happy with desserts," says the Schaumburg resident.
The easy-share aspect of cookies and cakes is one reason this bubbly 23-year-old warmed up to baking so readily.
"If I didn't have anyone to share anything with, food wouldn't be quite as fun or useful," she contends. "Cooking is fine, but you can't necessarily show up at someone's house with a bag of leftovers.
"You can always bring somebody cookies."
A journalism grad and part-time waitress at a Schaumburg tavern, Michelle recently was hired as an intern for an Evanston marketing/communications firm specializing in - what else? - food companies.
On the side, she is virtually a dessert caterer for family and friends, providing elaborately decorated cakes for special occasions.
This "dessert girl for the family" is the youngest of four children; she started baking at college when she got hooked on the Food Network for post-lecture relaxation.
"This was right when 'Ace of Cakes' premiered and I loved that one," she says. "I figured it would be fun to play around with cake baking."
Living at home now, she's probably one of the few early 20-somethings to have her own food processor, knife set, standing mixer, immersion blender and a cabinet devoted to baking ingredients.
Among her best decorating efforts have been a beer mug-shaped cake and one decorated to look like the Wrigley Field sign, both for her father; she treated her niece to a purple pony cake for her birthday.
Michelle often starts the process by sketching a design and mentally pairing cake flavor, fillings and frostings.
"I jump into the kitchen, get into the flow, and all of a sudden it's 1:30 in the morning and I've been doing it for five hours."
For background music Michelle matches the tunes to the task. "If I know it's going to be a long, frustrating process it's always oldies," she says. "For quick, afternoon cookies, it's KISS-FM."
For "advanced study" Michelle took a Wilton decorating class and she attended a pastry camp a couple of summers ago where she developed skills in making candy, ice cream, cakes and tarts.
"It was really fun, and it broadened my abilities," she says.
This week online Michelle demonstrates her family's triple-chocolate fudge recipe, but with her own southern accent of pecans and caramel.
"A lot of people are intimidated by fudge, they think it's going to be grainy," she says. "But this one has never turned out that way."
Easier yet, is her three-ingredient treat that starts with the always-popular peanut butter cups.
And from her college days, we get Michelle's Oatberry Yogurt Cookies, created one afternoon when she had an undeniable craving for cookies but no eggs or chocolate chips. That one really makes the grade.
For more adventures in baking with Michelle, check out her blog at nillarose.wordpress.com.
- Laura Bianchi