Last night 7D food intern Frances Cannon and I went to see Gesine Bullock-Prado do a candy-making demonstration at, of all places, the New England Federal Credit Union. Why was she making candy in a credit union? Because NEFCU is a literary credit union, or at least encourages its members to be: It hosts a Vermont Distinguished Writers Series in a room called the Member Education Center. This is impressive; most banks give you a toaster or an iPod and call it a day.
But I digress. Gesine (pronounced gih-zee-nuh) was not there simply to make candy; she has a new book to tout, Sugar Baby: Confections, Candies, Cakes & Other Delicious Recipes for Cooking with Sugar. And while regular authors have to just read from their books, Gesine is a chef and has to demonstrate something. Or perhaps I should say "gets to," because she seemed to be having a grand time, making a bit of a mess with two of the stickiest candies on Earth: taffy and "cotton" candy.
The roomful of mostly ladies and a sprinkling of men seemed to enjoy themselves, too, though a couple of young kids whose moms dragged them there were probably bummed we didn't get to actually eat the sweet stuff. But Gesine was as entertaining as someone could be while commandeering a pot of molten sugar hot enough to burn her face off.
I couldn't help but wonder if anyone besides me came in part--just a teensy part--because Gesine is Sandra Bullock's sister. Gesine would probably hate to know that. But, I'm sorry, I love Sandra Bullock. Not just because she won an Oscar, or because that douchebag Jesse James broke her heart. I love Sandy because she's funny and righteous and seems like she'd be your bff, given the chance. One degree of separation would have to do.
But here's the thing: I now love Gesine for the same reasons. She, too, is funny, even though she pretended that the terms "soft balls," "firm balls" and "hard balls" were just stages of cooked sugar. Ditto "hard crack." She is warm and unpretentious, and was so adept at making fun of her gooey predicaments that I could imagine her doing a parody of herself on "Saturday Night Live."
I also liked Gesine for anthromorphizing her ingredients. "The second that sugar melts, it gets really bummed out because you can't see it," she told us, by way of explaining why the stuff tries to crystallize. She warned us about the dreaded "sugar rebellion."
Also, if you want to read more about her book, she cautioned, look up "sugar baby cookbook dot com." If you forget the "cookbook" part, you will see things you might not want to see, Gesine said. Naturally, I checked and, sure enough, typing "sugar baby" into Google led to all kinds of sites "where real sugar daddies connect with hot sugar babies."
Gesine's website, though, shows a picture of her book with impossibly precise and pretty confections on the cover. I will confess that, after the talk, I bought her book based solely on that cover, even though I have no intention of making sugar nests unless Gesine herself comes over to walk me through it. I don't believe she makes house calls, so I guess I'll just lick the pictures. Or go buy her other books. Or take one of her classes at King Arthur Flour. Even though she closed her former confectionary in Montpelier, Gesine still loves her Green Mountains.
Gesine is petite and wears large, black-rimmed glasses. For her demonstration, she had her black hair pulled back tightly in a ponytail and wore a black, uniform-y shirt with her name on it. She eschews glam, but I'd bet on her in a smackdown with any celebrity chef or even Martha Stewart, and if you saw the "nests" she made out of strands of pink sugar, you would, too.
Thanks to NEFCU's marketing specialist Sarah Ricker for these photos.