By ANN CIPPERLY
When Pastry Chef Melissa Dorman Baysinger and Executive Sous Chef Derek Land are not working at their full-time jobs with the Marriott at Grand National, they are busy with their cottage business, Jewel Green Baking Company. While Baysinger handles the baking, Land manages the business side. The baking company offers a variety of baked goods, including its popular seasonal cookie trays and cookie decorating kits.
Both chefs grew up in Lee County and worked at various local restaurants before joining the staff at Auburn Marriott Opelika Resort and Spa at Grand National which has received numerous awards. Land has been at the resort for four years. He works on menu development as they strive to be No. 1 out of 373 hotels around the globe. They are currently No. 5 and ranked third overall.
Baysinger has worked there for almost three years and is the morning supervisor. She also prepares the desserts. After her shift, one of the other chefs takes over. She assists others who have questions on how to design, flavor or serve a dessert or pastry.
Baysinger grew up in Opelika, where her parents, Deborah and Brad Dorman, still live. With her mother’s sister living in Louisiana, the family has been involved in celebrating and preparing dishes for Mardi Gras.
When her aunt and uncle, Celeste and Barry Dorman, attended Mardi Gras with Baysinger’s entire family in Louisiana several years ago, her uncle became smitten with the celebration.
“After he was involved in it for the first time, he loved it so much that he brought it back to Auburn and started a group that became Krewe De Tigris,” Baysinger said.
Over the years, Krewe De Tigris expanded and recently held its annual gala. Its sixth annual parade will be held in downtown Auburn on Saturday, Feb. 18, at 3 p.m.
Baysinger has had an interest in cooking from an early age. When she was 6 years old, she was “helping” her mom make dinner. Her mom sat her on the kitchen island with Sister Shubert’s yeast rolls and a large container of margarine in her lap and asked her to butter the rolls. Baysinger remembers saying, “Look at me. I am being a master chef.” Then she looked at her mom and announced, “When I grow up, I want to be a master chef.”
After that, Baysinger began preparing a variety of dishes. When she was 12 years old, her interest shifted to baking rather than general cooking. From that point, her maternal grandparents became interested in her cooking and gave her a chef’s coat. The baking company is named after her grandfather, Jewel Green Belcher Jr.
Business partner Land was born and raised in Salem. Cooking has been big in his family. His grandmother would always have the family over for the holidays and prepare a big meal around the table. While she passed away when he was young, Land was influenced in cooking by his mother, Tricia Land, and an aunt, watching them cook growing up. His mother and her sister were close in age and enjoyed getting together to cook with the children running around the house.
When he was 8 or 9 years old, Land decided he wanted to be a chef. His aunt, Jo Ann Perrella, opened Happy Belly Deli in Beauregard. He helped her at the deli, which served fresh products. He watched them prep the food and helped in other areas. It inspired him to go into hospitality and become a chef. He attended restaurant management at Auburn University.
He first worked at Jim Bob’s Chicken Fingers while he was in high school and then worked at other local places, including Newk’s Eatery in Opelika — where Baysinger was also working — and they became friends.
Land and his wife Kelley have two children, a 4-year-old daughter and an 18-month-old son. Baysinger and her husband Brian don’t have children of their own, but he is a father to five children from a previous marriage. Both Kelley and Brian are supportive of the bakery business.
Although Baysinger and Land tossed around the idea of opening a business together for about 10 years, they began the cottage business bakery last November.
“Everything is homemade,” Baysinger said. “I think it is a better quality than what is mass-produced. Everything that comes out of the kitchen is painstakingly done.”
Cinnamon rolls are among their most popular items, as well as seasonal cookie trays with assorted varieties. They offer decorating kits with cookies and three different colors of royal icings that come packaged for a fun family activity. They also have cookies and decorating kits for Mardi Gras and Easter.
Baysinger also bakes other Mardi Gras favorites, such as king cakes and king cake cupcakes. She gets inspiration from her family in Louisiana. Sometimes, she uses family recipes that have been passed down through generations. She tweaks them as her own.
She offers a classic king cake that generally takes four to five hours to make.
“The ones from [a] grocery store are more like croissant than actual bread,” she said. “Traditionally, a king cake is a cross between a cinnamon bread and a brioche loaf with that nice, crisp outer shell, which is what I make. Almost everything we offer can be tweaked to customize it. I am also making a cinnamon and cream cheese king cake.”
Baysinger and Land also use the inspiration from what they have learned from their careers so far. They will brainstorm ideas for every holiday.
Along with seasonal cookies at Easter, they will have favorite spring cakes. Baysinger is planning a special lemon cake.
For the bakery, Land manages the business side with marketing, the website and Facebook page. With him handling those things, it has been easier for Baysinger to be in the kitchen baking.
In recent months, food prices have increased. “With rising cost in supplies, we want to keep everything as reasonably priced as possible,” Land said. “We look at the food prices, but we are going to go a little less to get the loyal customers.”
At some point, they hope to have their own shop. Then, they can make wedding cakes and offer local coffee. Until then, they will continue to sell online and plan to be at local farmers markets when in season.
“When we started, I didn’t realize how difficult and labor-intensive it was going to be,” Baysinger said. “I don’t regret that, as this is what I have wanted to do my entire life. It set in quickly how important it is to support local and small businesses in the community. Buying local can change people’s lives in ways others can’t imagine.”
Their menu is available on the website, jewel-green-baking-company-llc.square.site, as well as on Facebook at @Jewelgreenbakingco and Instagram. They require at least 48 hours for orders.
New Orleans Beignets
1/4 oz. active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
1 cup evaporated milk
½ cup canola oil
¼ cup sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
4½ cups self-rising flour
Oil for deep-frying
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add milk, oil, sugar, egg and 2 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough (dough will be sticky). Do not knead. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Punch down dough. Turn onto a floured surface; roll into a 16×12-inch rectangle. Cut into 2-inch squares.
In a deep cast-iron or electric skillet, heat 1 inch oil to 375 degrees. Fry squares, in batches, until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Roll warm beignets in confectioners’ sugar.
King Cake Cinnamon Rolls
¾ cup lukewarm whole milk
2 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup sugar
2¼ tsp. instant yeast
¾ tsp. salt
3¼ cups all-purpose flour, with more for flouring surfaces
½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
¾ cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
Pinch of salt
2 cups powdered sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ cup milk, plus more as needed
To prepare dough:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir to combine milk, eggs, egg yolk and vanilla extract. Add sugar, yeast and salt, and stir to combine. On low speed with paddle attachment, add flour, ½ cup at a time, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Increase to medium speed and begin adding softened butter 1 tablespoon at a time. Scrape sides of bowl and then continue beating for an additional 4 minutes. Dough will be soft and slightly sticky.
Lightly grease a large bowl and place dough inside, covering tightly with plastic wrap. Allow dough to rest in a warm spot until it has approximately doubled in size, about 1-1/2 to 2 hours.
Once dough has nearly doubled in size, prepare filling. To prepare filling, stir to combine butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt; set aside.
To prepare rolls:
After first rise, roll dough out into a 11×2-inch rectangle. Use an offset spatula to spread filling onto rectangle. Starting with one of long ends, roll dough into a tight log and pinch edges together to seal. Use a sharp knife to cut 2-inch pieces out of the log. Lightly grease a muffin tin and place a roll, face-up, into each compartment of the muffin tin, which will be 12 rolls. Lightly over tops of the dishes with plastic wrap for about a half hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. When rolls have risen, remove and bake until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before stirring together icing ingredients and drizzling over top. For thinner icing glaze, add an additional tablespoon milk until desired consistency is reached. Rewarm and enjoy.
Pecan Praline Cookies
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1½ cups light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. kosher salt
1 cup pecans, roughly chopped
1 cup light brown sugar
½ cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup powdered sugar
In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and brown sugar with an electric hand mixer until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add in egg and vanilla extract and mix until well incorporated.
Combine all-purpose flour, baking powder and kosher salt in a separate mixing bowl; add to creamed butter and mix well with a baking spatula by hand until the dry ingredients are just before they are fully mixed in. Add in pecans and gently mix them in until all the ingredients are mixed in well. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill for about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Form dough into balls using a cookie scoop then place 2 inches apart on silicone baking mat lined (or parchment paper-lined) baking sheets. Bake praline cookies for 10 minutes.
Let cool on pans for 5 minutes then remove to cool on wire racks.
Stir together brown sugar and cream in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until sugar is dissolved and the mixture comes to a boil, stirring constantly.
Remove from the heat and whisk in confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Drizzle over cookies or dip the cookies into icing.
King Cake Cupcakes
1 cup granulated sugar
1 2/3 cups all-purpose Flour
1¼ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. butter, softened
2/3 cup milk, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla plus 1/8 tsp. lemon oil, optional
2 large eggs at room temperature
3 Tbsp. butter, at room temperature
4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. lemon oil, optional
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 to 2 Tbsp. milk, enough to make a spreadable icing
Colored sugars, preferably purple, yellow and green
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour a muffin tin. You can also line muffin tins with papers and spray the insides of the papers.
To make cupcakes: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder, nutmeg and salt.
Add butter and beat with an electric mixer at low speed, until mixture looks sandy.
Combine milk and vanilla and add, all at once. Mix at low speed for 30 seconds, then increase speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds. Scrape bottom and sides of mixing bowl.
With mixer running at low speed, add 1 egg. Increase speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds. Add second egg, again beating for 30 seconds.
Scrape bottom and sides of the bowl and beat briefly, just until smooth.
Scoop batter by heaping 1/4-cupfuls into prepared muffin tin.
Bake cupcakes for 23 to 25 minutes, until they are lightly golden brown around edges, spring back when pressed gently on top, and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.
Remove cupcakes from oven and place on a rack to cool completely before icing.
To make icing: Combine butter, cream cheese, vanilla and lemon oil in a medium-sized bowl and beat them together until light and fluffy.
Adds sugar gradually, beating well.
Beat in milk a little at a time, until frosting is a spreadable consistency.
Spread each cake with icing, and immediately dip in gold, purple and green sparkling sugars, covering about 1/3 of cupcake with each color sugar.
Store at room temperature for several days. Can freeze.
Louisiana Banana Pudding
¾ cup sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups 2% milk
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
36 vanilla wafers
3 medium ripe bananas, cut into ¼ inch slices
2 large egg whites, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
3 Tbsp. sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large saucepan, combine sugar and flour. Stir in milk until smooth.
Cook and stir over medium-high heat until thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat; cook and stir 2 minutes longer.
Remove from heat. Stir a small amount of hot milk mixture into egg yolks; return all to pan, stirring constantly. Bring to a gentle boil; cook and stir 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat; gently stir in butter and vanilla.
In an ungreased 8-inch square baking dish, layer a third of the vanilla wafers, bananas and filling. Repeat layers twice.
For meringue, beat egg whites, vanilla and cream of tartar on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, on high until stiff peaks form. Spread evenly over hot filling, sealing edges to sides of dish. Bake until meringue is golden, 12-15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack 1 hour. Refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving. Refrigerate leftovers.
Southern Buttermilk Drop Biscuits
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
½ cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 cup whole buttermilk
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
In a food processor, pulse to combine flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Once those ingredients are combined, add cold butter cubes and pulse mixture about 10 times to break down butter into small pea-sized pieces.
Add buttermilk, then pulse about 10 times until dough clumps together in one side of the food processor.
Use a large 3-tablespoon cookie scoop to drop scoops of biscuit mixture onto a baking sheet. You should have 12 scoops. Bake for 15 minutes in the lower third of the oven until golden brown.
Homemade Pie Crust
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
6 Tbsp. very cold water
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. With a pastry cutter or your fingers, gradually work the butter into the flour until dime-sized pieces form. In a small bowl, combine cold water and apple cider vinegar. Add mixture 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing gently in between each addition. Stir together until ingredients are incorporated and mixture holds together when pinched together with your fingers. Turn mixture out onto a clean countertop and knead 4-5 times until combined. Divide into 2 evenly sized balls and flatten each to a disk shape (with minimal cracks). Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or up to 2 days before rolling out.