Sarah Baird wants you to know that Kentucky cuisine is more than just mint juleps and burgoo. “I want to showcase our whole culinary history,” she says. “It’s rich and it’s underexplored.” For Kentucky Sweets, her dessert-focused new cookbook, she mined communities across the Bluegrass State for lesser-known favorites such as hickory brittle and sorghum taffy to include alongside the obligatory bourbon balls and apple stack cake.
As a culinary historian and part-time comedian, Baird has a knack for colorful Q&As and factoids. (Looking to cure a hangover? Some Kentuckians swear by a half-and-half blend of buttermilk and Coca-Cola.) And as a lifelong cook, she also has plenty of hard-earned lessons to impart in the lists of tips and tricks that accompany many of her recipes. If you’re afraid that your buttery Transparent Pie is rising too much in the oven, don’t worry—the crust will sink back down once it cools. If you can’t quite master marshmallow-based, Louisville-born Modjeskas, maybe the air outside is too humid.
And if you’re looking for a crowd-pleasing dessert, look no further than Baird’s recipe for Woodford Pudding. No, there isn’t any whiskey in this old-fashioned dish—like Woodford Reserve bourbon, it takes its name from Woodford County, Kentucky. But the rich pudding certainly does pair nicely with a cool glass or two of the brown stuff.