Kansas native whips up tried-and-true comfort foods in her new cookbook

Alice Mannette
The Hutchinson News
Kristin (Smith) Hoffman, also known as Baker Bettie, releases cookbook.

Kansas native Kristin Smith Hoffman, aka Baker Bettie, did not learn to bake cookies — not even pre-mixed ones — while growing up in Hutchinson. That is, until she left for college and was on her own.

Growing up, Hoffman was always wowed by the cinnamon rolls and deep-dish pies at Yoder's Carriage Crossing and Pleasantview's Dutch Kitchen Restaurant. She never thought about baking these mouth-watering creations in her own oven — that is, until she moved out of her mother's home.

Now, a trained culinary chef and teacher, Hoffman, who lives in Chicago, wrote a newly-released cookbook, "Baker Bettie’s Better Baking Book," which features tried-and-true favorites, including "big as your head" cinnamon rolls and blueberry muffins.

"People really turn to food for comfort," Hoffman said. "I enjoy going back to the classics because people find them really comforting." 

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Kristin (Smith) Hoffman, also known as Baker Bettie, releases cookbook.

Learning to bake, then culinary school

Once Hoffman left home, she was whipping up name-brand chocolate chip cookies and brownies, grabbing whatever recipe she could find printed on the back of a carton or bag.  

After a little while, she grew more daring, adding a dash of this — or more dangerously — a cup of that.

By the time she left Hutchinson Community College and was entrenched with classes at the University of Kansas, her home-baked cookies were in high demand. So much so, she couldn't keep up with her small cottage industry and quickly learned production baking was not her passion.

That's when Hoffman decided to change her paradigm. She wanted to teach others to bake these dangerously delicious morsels — that were not too hard to make.

She pushed her music therapy degree aside and headed to culinary school in Philadelphia to perfect her methods. Upon graduation, Hoffman moved to Chicago and transformed her enterprise to Baker Bettie, offering in-person and website classes. 

"Baker Bettie’s Better Baking Book" lays the foundation for new bakers to understand, then master, basic baking skills. Hoffman includes information on baking breads and shatters the myth of them being difficult to bake. 

"Bread is my favorite," she said. "It's magical."

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Hoffman enjoys demonstrating how by using simple ingredients — flour, water, yeast and salt — she can make a delicious loaf of "something magical."

Baker Bettie's cookbook, like her classes, contains easy-to-follow mixing instructions, metric weight and volume measurements, plus customizable master recipes for cookies, pies and breads. Baker Bettie takes the guesswork and mystery out of baking. 

"This book is the one that I wished I had when I was first learning," Hoffman said. "I wrote it so that other bakers have a practical resource that connects all the dots and shows how baking science, mixing methods and master recipes all work together to create endless beautiful baked goods." 

Hoffman's approach to baking is to teach foundational recipes, baking techniques and approachable baking science. Her belief is that gaining an understanding of the processes and the "whys" in baking helps people foster confidence in the kitchen.

"People use food as part of their love language," Hoffman said. "My goal is to help people feel more comfortable with cooking."