One summer, I chose to bake 21 different desserts from around the world and then compile all the recipes into a bilingual cookbook. I was ready for the challenge and excited to see where it would take me. After searching online, browsing through cookbooks, and gathering recipes from family and friends, I finally chose my 21 desserts. I’m not going to take you through every single moment of the project, but I will share with you what I think are some useful tips you should know before baking. 

1. Don't be Afraid to Fail or Try Something New

dairy product, tapioca, cream, sweet, milk, pudding, rice
Josi Miller

Don't be too hard on yourself when you mess up. On several occasions I had to redo a step or even start all over. This is completely okay. With patience, practice, and dedication you'll be successful. The great thing about baking is that sometimes your recipes unexpectedly turn out pretty delicious.

What's cool about food is how different it is depending on where you are geographically. Every once in a while, experiment with new ingredients and see what you can make. That summer I made a Thai sticky rice topped with mango and from it I learned how to use rice in a dessert. People who try new food combinations and expose themselves to other cultures are the ones who start new food trends and have a deeper understanding of food. 

2. YouTube is Your Friend

cream, chocolate, caramel
Josi Miller

YouTube is a great resource for new bakers. You know it works because otherwise there wouldn't be a video about it, right? Before baking, make sure the video has positive feedback and watch it all the way through. 

For this project, I found a really great video on how to make éclairs. They turned out exactly like hers! YouTube helped me become a much better cook and I would highly suggest baking while having the video playing in the background. 

3. Always Have the Essential Ingredients

cream, espresso, tea, milk, coffee
Josi Miller

For the few first recipes, I was constantly in and out of the grocery store until I finally decided to just stock up on ingredients. Since all of the recipes are desserts, they're all sweet, so in general, you'll use the same ingredients. Here are the essentials: sugar, flour, vanilla, powdered sugar, chocolate, brown sugar, heavy cream, fruit (depending on the recipe), butter, coconut flakes, and milk. Save yourself a few trips and just stock up on these items at the start. 

4. Food Network is Key to Survival

pastry, candy, sweet, bread, cookie, cake
Josi Miller

I can't express how much I love the Food Network. The recipes always work and they taste delicious. Several of the desserts I tried came from the Food Network. For example, Ina Garten's lemon bars or Bobby Flay's chocolate mousse. Whatever dietary needs you have, The Food Network has got you covered. 

5. Taste Test Everything

dairy product, mint, chocolate, yogurt, berry, milk, ice, sweet, cream, strawberry
Josi Miller

Keep taste testing every step of the way. Knowing what your food tastes and feels like will make you a better baker. Generally I use recipes as guidelines because everyone's ovens and stoves are different so you can't always follow the recipe word for word. For instance, the whipped cream recipe I used in all of my desserts is based off of taste testing. 

Once I learned these hacks, I was able to quickly make my desserts and have them ready for family and friends in no time. The most important lesson I learned from this project is that baking brings people together, as it did with my family and friends when we bake together. I learned that food isn't just a biological necessity, but also a social one.