Bobbie Lloyd just might be the coolest baker in the world. She's the chief baking officer of New York City's famed Magnolia Bakery, and if that's not enough to keep her busy, she's a judge on TLC's fourth season of Next Great Baker, premiering June 24. We chatted with Bobbie on the phone about her busy schedule, the recipes she's currently developing, and what it's like to judge with Jacques Torres and Buddy Valastro.
POPSUGAR: What do you do as Magnolia Bakery's chief baking officer?
Bobbie Lloyd: I have a lot of fun in my job. I get to do all of the creative fun things when it comes to developing new products. My title used to be president, and president didn't imply that I actually bake. One day I was traveling to London, and you know when you go through passport control they always ask you, "Why are you here? What do you do?" A woman in her adorable British accent said, "Who could be the president of a bakery?" I was like, OK, time to change my title. So that's where chief baking officer came from.
PS: What products are you currently developing?
BL: We just launched with our strawberry desserts this month, so I have created strawberry cake, strawberry cupcakes, strawberry pie, and strawberry icebox cake. For the month of July, I'm working on some new blueberry things. We are trying to utilize a lot more of the fresh seasonal berries that pop in and out in no time at all. August is peaches, new pie recipes, and some sort of open-face rustic pies. We try to get ourselves at least three months ahead, sometimes six months because we have international franchises. Unfortunately for them, they don't have access to the same fruit we have access to, or if they do, it's outrageously expensive. So if we can't get them the same product, we come up with some other ideas that can work within their local market.
PS: What's a cool recipe you've developed for the Middle Eastern market?
BL: We actually did a spectacular date and saffron cupcake. It was an orange date cupcake, kind of like a carrot cake in that sense, and then a saffron meringue buttercream. It went over really well for that market. They do love the same things that we make here, it's just a question of availability. Dubai is probably easier to get things just because there is such a huge market there, but we also have stores in Lebanon, Kuwait, Doha; we're opening in Japan in a week.
PS: Is it part of your position to help each location launch?
BL: I opened up every single store in the company until now. Japan is the first store I'm not traveling to. There's too much going on here. I'm sort of melancholy about it because the stores are like my children. The opportunity to travel everywhere and to meet the people — not just the customers — but the staff that works for us and teach them the culture of Magnolia, who we are and why we bake the way we do . . .
PS: What has been your favorite store outside of the US to open?
BL: Probably Lebanon. It is a really magical place. The people are generous and kind and open. The food is amazing. It's funny because every other Middle Eastern country that you travel to, the focus on the food is Lebanese food. But Lebanese food in Lebanon is even better.
PS: On TLC's Next Great Baker, what criteria do you use to judge pastries?
BL: It's really dependent on the product that they were making. Sometimes it was show us you best dessert, so we're looking for creativity, execution, and how it identifies [the contestant] as a baker. Sometimes we gave them a very specific thing to bake, so you're looking at execution.
PS: What are some of the worst offenders that you saw this season?
BL: There's not too much that I can divulge. I can say things like mistakes in execution, either underbaking or not really understanding a technique, and trying to make something beyond your skill level. In the baking world, it is science. If you follow the directions, prepare, and plan ahead, your product should come out. A big part of it is about following directions.
PS: What's it like working with Jacques Torres and Buddy Valastro?
BL: They're a blast. Buddy is just a wealth of information, and Jacques Torres makes you laugh nonstop. I found myself every day going, "Oh Jacques, I had this little problem at home, what did I do wrong?" And he would know the answer immediately. In the world of pastries, we're always learning, because people have different styles and different techniques. So what Buddy does is very different from the world I come from. The same thing for Jacques. What I do is very different from what he does. I'm a very big homestyle American cook; that's not his style of baking. So we shared secrets.
PS: What sort of secrets has Jacques taught you?
BL: I was developing a coconut cream pie for May, and I wanted to make the coconut flavor in just three elements. I wanted it in the crust, custard, and I wanted the milk to be infused. I was talking to Jacques about it, and he said "Why don't you do a combination of milk and coconut milk and infuse it with shredded coconut." It was a lesson. I had to do it two or three times before I actually got it right. Then to teach every single one of our bakers how to do it was also a challenge. But we got it, and it was an amazing coconut cream pie.
PS: Which pastry do you reach for the most often?
BL: Key lime cheesecake. Sometimes I skip lunch and I have a key lime cheesecake, because I figure it's got protein in it, and therefore it's good for me.
PS: Working with sugar all day, what do you crave when you go home?
BL: A glass of wine.