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Julia Baker’s Best: Red Velvet Reinvented for the Holidays

Gear up for holiday baking with Cooking Channel. From mini Red Velvet Cookies to Chuck’s Maple Shortbread, we’ll keep you baking all season. Visit our All-Star Cookie Swap, then head over to FoodNetwork.com for great takes on holiday baking from Food Network chefs.

With a last name like Baker, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Julia Baker found her way into the culinary world. As founder, head chef and CEO of Julia Baker confections, Julia creates luxury chocolates and desserts  – made from scratch without any preservatives or artificial ingredients – for discerning palates. Nicknamed “Chocolatier to the Stars,” Julia has created extraordinary cakes and chocolates for stars including Alicia Keys, Bono and U2, Paris Hilton, Jennifer Aniston, and Britney Spears.

And when we asked Julia Baker to participate in our All-Star Cookie Swap, we were delighted with the results. Red velvet reinvented as a cookie? Yes, please!

We reached out to Julia to find out where her inspiration for these cookies came from and if she had any tips for holiday bakers (with a lowercase B).

Cooking Channel: How did you come up with the recipe for the Red Velvet Gems?

Julia Baker: Over the past 5 years, all of our brides have been requesting red velvet cakes. We’ve literally made 100s of them. I figured that if red velvet was so popular, then we should be making other wonderful treats with them, too. We started with the Red Velvet Cake Truffles which became a huge hit. The next logical test for me was to combine red velvet with my one of my passions from training in Paris – the macaron. This combination became the Red Velvet Gem, and if I may say so – it’s another success story for red velvet!

CC: What are some tips for the home baker trying to make holiday cookies efficiently (and with low stress!)?

JB: There are some great professional tips that home bakers can use to get ready for the holiday baking rush. Because of the high fat content of most cookie doughs, they freeze really well in their raw, prepared state. Go ahead and make double or triple batches of your doughs. Shape them however you need the cookie to be shaped, and if it’s a cutout cookie, just make flattened pancakes. Then freeze the dough in plastic. The night before you bake, place the frozen dough in the refrigerator to thaw. The next day you’ll be all set to roll out dough or just pop your already formed shapes into the oven.

And my tip for rolling out cutter cookies? Roll half frozen dough in between two pieces of parchment paper. Roll a little, lift the top sheet to adjust it, and then roll again. It’s the best way not to have to add too much flour while rolling which can make your cookies dry and heavy.

CC: Is there one holiday cookie that’s a must-have for you?

JB: For me, the one cookie I must have each holiday season is my great grandmother’s frosted sugar cookie. I’m sure many have similar amazing memories of rolling dough and cutting out holiday shapes like Christmas trees, Santas and snowflakes with metal cutters. My favorite thing to do was to bake about 30-50 Christmas trees and see how differently I could design each one with colored sugars and edible candies. A simple, classic buttercream of powdered sugar, butter, milk, and vanilla is still the best frosting for this! Try royal icing in different colors to add to the decorating competition.

And follow Julia on Twitter for a chance to win a chocolate-y present perfect for gifting this holiday season.

Many people claim they are passionate about chocolate and desserts, but culinary artist and confectioner, Julia Baker, channeled that passion into a career. Julia studied classical French cooking techniques at world-renowned Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, where she graduated first in her class. She was granted a prestigious internship under famed Alain Ducasse protégé Jean-Louis Nomicos, and refined her pastry skills with Sue MacMahon, famed sugar-paste flower artist and chef of the Queen Mum’s 100th birthday cake.

Julia moved to Scottsdale, Ariz., in 2004, and founded catering company Gateaux & Chocolats before starting Julia Baker Confections in 2006. Follow Julia on Twitter and on Facebook.

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