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Entries in batter chatter (100)

Thursday
Apr072011

Batter Chatter: Interview with Stacy Heller of OneSmartCookie

Fact: it's always fun to discover a new baking business. OneSmartCookie is a newcomer to the Seattle scene, a small home-based cookie business specializing in one of a kind sweet petite treats. Who is the baker, and what does the future hold for this business? Let's learn more with this interview with proprietress Stacy Heller:

So. OneSmartCookie. TellMeMore. I'm a stay-at-home mom of four who sort of fell into baking cookies for others. Peer pressure got me addicted to Diet Coke and baking. I started "playing" Julia Child as a kid, it was way more fun than house or school - all those small bowls lined up called to me! I like cookies best because each one is like a small canvas. The "realist" in me knows what a banana looks like, the "artist" in me likes to interpret what a decorated banana cookie looks like. Far sweeter!

Cake or Pie? Cake - they're pretty and tasty and festive and don't wear a "mask" of healthy (fruit pies - ha!).

Pants or Skirts? Pants - in my fantasies, "smart slacks" in reality, jeans.

Yes or No? First no, then yes. (doubt is a bad habit).

Vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry? Vanilla. Surprising depth to be found  in the more humble "package".

Cookies: drop, molded, rolled, cutout, or refrigerator? Rolled/cutout to make your eyes and stomach happy. Drop to make your mood and stomach happy. Any to make others just all-around happy! 

What is the last delicious thing you ate? Movie popcorn - I'm a savory girl! Sweets-wise - a New York style coffee cake my daughter made that is reminiscent of an Entenmann's (I find them only back east, where I'm from).

Where can we buy your cookies? Special order only through me at the moment. Contact details are on my blog.

What is next for you and your business? To bake or not to bake, that is always the question. I love baking, but doing it is truly a LABOR of love. I need to decide if I really want to turn it into a J O B versus a hobby....if it's a calling, can you choose though?

Find out more on Stacy's blog.

Thursday
Mar172011

Batter Chatter: Interview with Cupcake Artist Joyce Wan

I love reconnecting with friends from my past, especially when our new connection involves cupcakes. I had the pleasure of working with artist Joyce Wan when I was an art director at iPop years ago; these days, we maintain contact because of our shared love of cuteness and cupcakes (she just came out with an adorable new book, You Are My Cupcake !) Here's a sneak peek at what else this talented (and supercute) artist is up to these days:

CakeSpy: I have had the pleasure with working with you as an art director, but at that time your sweet art was mainly focused on cute animals. How did you make the jump to sweet anthropomorphic food?

Joyce Wan: Food has always been a major part of my life. My father owned a restaurant when I was growing up, my mother can cook a Chinese home-cooked meal like nobody’s business and my brother recently graduated from the French Culinary institute and is now working as a professional chef in New York City. As an artist, I am frequently inspired by memories from childhood and things that make me happy so naturally food has found it’s way into my art.

CS: How does food as a subject matter compare to other cute characters? Do you enjoy illustrating one more than the other?

JW: I love all my children equally. However, the only problem with drawing food is that it can make me very hungry in the process which is not quite helping me get bikini ready. An occupational hazard, I suppose!

CS: Can you tell us a little bit about your illustration medium/process?

JW: Most of my art is digital. I sketch the drawings on paper. Then I scan it into illustrator, trace and color.

CS: Your new book, You Are My Cupcake , focuses on sweet terms of endearment. Do you and your husband have any pet names for one another? Be honest.

JW: I’m “sweetie” and he’s “hun” - although sometimes I think he really wants to call me “devil’s food cake”.

CS: What is the last excellent sweet thing you ate (baked good, frozen treat, dessert, etc)?

JW: The strawberry cheesecake from Junior’s in New York City – simply sublime!

CS: Your other book, we belong together, brings up the question: what dessert flavor combo do you think belongs together?

JW: Warm, crumbly apple desserts with vanilla ice cream – one of my favorite combos!

CS: You live in the NYC area. What are some of your favorite bakeries?

JW: Levain Bakery, Two Little Red Hens, Sugar Sweet Sunshine, Billy’s Bakery. (CakeSpy Note: Oddly, I think I visited most of these in the course of 24 hours once!)

CS: Tell me more about how your product line has developed--what are you selling, and where can we buy it?

JW: My style merges contemporary yet whimsical designs with Asian cultural influences and traditions. I started my business with greeting cards and now have expanded into other goodies such as infant apparel, tote bags, prints and pendants. One of my most popular products is my zodiac infant bodysuit packaged in a clear takeout box. I had my first children’s book published in 2009 called Greetings from Kiwi and Pear ;. My two new books You Are My Cupcake and We Belong Together; will be out later this summer. I’ve also just recently ventured into the digital world with the release of “Kiwi and Pear World Adventure” which is an iPod, iPhone, and iPad application for kids which is based off my first picture book. You can find my cards and gift products on my website at wanart.com and at various stores and boutiques across the country. In the Seattle area, Uwajimaya and the Seattle Art Museum gift shop carry a nice selection of my products. You can find my books on amazon.com. The app is available in the iTunes App store.

CS: As an artist, how do you stay inspired? (doesn't have to be dessert related)

JW: I try to keep things interesting by experimenting with new styles, mediums, and characters/subject matter. I always keep my eyes and my mind open and look at nature, people, and everything in between as possible sources of inspiration. I read or see what the trends are in other industries such as fashion, entertainment and technology. I visit galleries, festivals, and museums to see what others are creating and are inspired by. I also have an inspiration board that I keep on my wall in my studio where I pin up photographs, quotes, scraps of paper, fabric – anything I find that resonates with me. Also, I just love making people smile when they see my art – that in itself motivates me everyday.

CS: What is the next big thing you're excited about?

JW: Besides the new books (which can’t come out soon enough!) I’m excited about expanding my business this year through more strategic licensing partnerships and digital ventures. And, of course, I’m always excited about my next food adventure.

To see more of Joyce's work, visit wanart.com. To buy her books, visit Amazon.

Thursday
Feb102011

Batter Chatter: Interview with Susan Biebuyck, Donut Painter from PA

Believe it or not, I know three notable donut (or is it doughnut?) painters from Pennsylvania. I'm not exaggerating. The first one I became acquainted with was Nancy Bea Miller; the second, Mike Geno (and I actually own one of his originals--so take that!), and now, Susan Biebuyck.

Want to learn more about Susan and her work? Well, you could check out her website (and you should)...but why not also get to know her a little better in interview form, too? Here's the 411:

First off: donut or doughnut? In a sentence doughnut; as a title donut.

Second: cake or yeast? Yeast, top fermenting, thanks.

What is your favorite place to get donuts, and what is your favorite flavor? Dunkin, I'm torn between sugar twist and peanut butter icing on glazed.

Do you prefer to paint donuts with or without holes? Both, it depends on what medium I'm working with.

Do you ever eat the donuts after you paint them? No, but my family constantly asks they can have one. Often my still life sets slowly erode as the painting develops.

What is your artistic background? I've been an artist my whole life. When I was 14 I started working at Hershey Park as a painter. It was a sweet job for a teenager. In the mid-1980s - late 90s doing graphic design and illustration. When I became a mother, I decided to return to fine arts. I attended Kutztown University near my home in Berks County PA.

What medium do you work in, and why? I am an art supply junky. I love to play with materials. At some point in my career I decided to focus on one subject for a period and play with all the different possibilities within that subject. So I have in the past been known as "the pear lady" before I became "the donut artist." Often I exhibit oil paintings, watercolor, pastel and acrylic all in the same show. I also love to make soft sculptures.

Aside from donuts, what are some of your other favored subject matter(s)? Actually, I am a foodie. I love to paint food. I love to cook and have an extensive cook book library. I grew up watching a show called The Galloping Gourmet when I was very small. I used to draw while watching his show. His food and humor were sometimes the subject.

What's the next big thing you're working on and excited about? I've been working on a series of paintings of my daughter and I recently did a self couple of self portraits with donuts. My donuts are currently exhibiting at The GoggleWorks Center for the arts (where I have a studio), at the Banana Factory in Bethlehem, PA, and at the Main Line Art Center in Haverford, PA.

Want more? Visit Susan's site here.

Sunday
Jan092011

Batter Chatter: Interview with Esa Yonn-Brown of Butter Love Bake Shop

Sometimes you discover great bakers in the most unexpected places. For instance: recently I got to talking to Liz, violinist in Mr. CakeSpy's band Exohxo, and she casually mentions that her childhood pen pal Esa Yonn-Brown not only makes the most amazing baked goods, but she owns a Butter Love Bakeshop (best name ever!), a pie-making business in San Francisco, featuring such alluring pies as the Pear Crisp Pie, "One Bite Wonder" mini pies, Irish Coffee Cream Pie, and a signature "Butter Pie". Well, I demanded an introduction on the spot, and thanks to the magic of Facebook, it happened soon after. Want to know more of Esa's story? Here you go:

CakeSpy: Tell me your first pie memory.

Esa Yonn-Brown: I don't recall the day that the photo was taken that appears on the front of my website (picture left) but as you can see I grew up around pie from the time I could wield a butter knife, so pie it's self is embedded in many of my memories. The most comforting memory I have that surrounds pie is that of my mom in the kitchen in the very early morning singing while I still lay in my bed before school. She would sing while she rolled out the butter studded dough and filled rounds with potatoes, meat and vegetables. I remember her telling me as I got on the school bus to hold my lunch bag opened on my lap until my empanadas cooled or they would steam up and get soggy. I also remember all the kids on the bus asking me what I had because that buttery smell filled the cabin of the stale smelling bus.

CS: What do you think are some contributing factors to the current "pie renaissance"?

EYB: I think people are looking for comfort these days and pie, to many people, is the essence of comfort. Pie evokes memories of moms in the kitchen, something homemade and simple, and is warm and full of love. It is not pretentious but can be elegant in it's core which is appealing in a time that is so full of unknowns.

CS: Please, tell me more about your signature "Butter Pie". What is it, where did it come from, why should we love it?

EYB: The Butter Pie is a take on the traditional Canadian Butter Tart. I was trying to think of a signature pie when I was getting started that was both unique, butter related, and addictivly good. This pie ended up fitting the bill. Plus I wanted the signature pie to be something I could make year round so it would not rely on seasonality.

CS: A lot of people are VERY scared of pie crust. Any tips or suggested tools to make it slightly less scary?

EYB: Practice and cold butter. There are all sort of tricks out there but really if you want to make a truly good all butter crust it is difficult and requires practice. Once you get it it is not hard to do at all, but it is a delicate balance between cold ingredients, not over working the dough, and making sure not to add too much water which will all result in a tough crust. People should not be scared to try to make an all butter crust, the flavor will be there no matter what and after a few tries they will figure out the balance involved.

CS: Also RE: pie crust--butter, shortening, lard, or a mixture?

EYB: Butter all the way! Shortening has no flavor at all, but is much easier to work with. I have not tried lard and would be interested to experiment but I love the flavor that butter provides. Butter also offers a tenderness that is not achievable with shortening, and if you master it can have the crisp flaky texture that shortening provides.

CS: What is your favorite type of holiday pie?

EYB: It may be boring to some but I really think a traditional apple pie still slightly warm with some vanilla ice cream or generous helping of just whipped above weeping cream, with a touch of vanilla and lightly sweetened couldn't be better for the holidays.

CS: New Year's Eve is over, but next time I'm celebrating, what kind of pie do you think would go well with champagne?

EYB: I personally love champagne and think pear pie would be lovely as well as a rich chocolate tart.

Discover Butter Love Bakeshop via Facebook, follow them on Twitter, or learn more at butterlovebakeshop.com.

Thursday
Dec232010

Batter Chatter: Interview with Adie Sprague of Treat Cupcake Bar, Needham, MA

Question: you're in Needham, MA and have a hankering for a delicious vegan and gluten-free cupcake. Where do you go?

The answer is clear: Treat Cupcake Bar. This sweet shop has an established following for their cupcakes, which can be ordered in a great variety of sweet flavors or built on command by choosing your own cake, frosting, and toppings--and now, they've added a sweet selection of vegan and gluten-free flavors to their regular offerings, including Chocolate cake with vanilla frosting, Orange chocolate cake with orange chocolate frosting, Mint chocolate cake with mint chocolate frosting, and Vanilla coconut cake with vanilla frosting and coconut topping.

Curious to learn more about the process of veganizing and de-glutening the product to the point of perfection? Here's an interview with baker Adie Sprague:

CakeSpy: Are all the new flavors both gluten-free AND vegan?

Adie Sprague: Yes, all the flavors are both gluten-free and vegan. We do this because we have separate equipment used for these products. It becomes easier to keep these products safe from contaminants if each of the recipes is free of all those allergens.

CS: I'm sure that developing recipes which don't employ common cake ingredients is tricky! Can you tell us some of the biggest challenges when it came to developing vegan and/or gluten-free recipes?

AS: It has gotten much easier to make gluten-free and vegan items, as there are increasingly more products to work with. At times, it’s difficult to develop new flavors because we’re doing products that are free of gluten, dairy AND eggs (that's a lot of cake ingredients)! Usually people substitute just one element of a recipe, for example they may substitute another ingredient in place of flour to make a gluten-free dessert, similar to a flourless chocolate torte which is delicious, but primarily made of eggs. At Treat Cupcake Bar, we must substitute them all. There are, however, many gluten-free flours and starches (i.e. rice, bean, potato), a plethora of different milks (rice, coconut, soy), and multiple ways you can substitute for eggs. The more of these products that become available (and with increased quality), the easier our job gets. We just play with all possible substitutions until we find something we like!

CS: How do you avoid cross contamination for gluten-free products? I understand this is very difficult for kitchens!

AS: It certainly can be hard in a small kitchen, but do our absolute best in keeping our gluten-free and vegan products separate from our other products, including dedicating a special section of the kitchen to this kind of cupcake creation, decoration, and storage. We use a separate table, mixer, and utensils for gluten-free/vegan cupcakes only, and we label them by color so that employees know, when washing & sanitizing, to keep these separate and send them directly back to the allergen-free table. When the cupcakes are done, they are placed on a dedicated gluten-free/vegan sheet pan on parchment and kept separate from our other creations. We make training employees on this importance a priority so that they are able to handle all products coming out of the kitchen. We acknowledge that you can never be 100% sure, but we’re confident in the system we follow and have many happy, regular customers who come in especially for our gluten-free and vegan treats!

CS: How do these treats differ, taste-wise, from your existing (dairy, gluten-containing) recipe for cake?

AS: People do ask if they taste the same, and they don't. We didn't take our chocolate cake recipe and then turn it into a gluten-free/vegan product. We started from scratch and made a great GF/V cake. Our regular chocolate is denser and buttery, similar to a brownie, whereas our gluten-free/vegan chocolate is a little fluffier with a rich, dark flavor.

CS: What's your personal favorite of the new flavors?

AS: The Chocolate Orange! It’s rich and chocolaty with a hint of orange flavor, and a layer of dark chocolate between the cake and frosting to give it another texture when you bite into it. The mint is made similarly, but there's just something about the orange! :)

Want more? Duh. If you're in Needham, MA, you can visit them in person at 1450 Highland Ave., Needham; even if you're not in the area, you can still visit Treat Cupcake Bar online here.

Monday
Dec062010

Batter Chatter: Interview with Krystina Castella, Author of Many Awesome Cookbooks

Robot Cookies by Krystina CastellaIn case you hadn't gathered it by all of the recent features on this site centered around Krystina Castella and her books, I'll tell you straight up: Krystina Castella is kind of my cake hero. Well, not just cake: my cookie, cupcake, and popsicle hero too. The thing is, her books aren't merely recipe books--they're thoughtfully and cleverly orchestrated works of art, each one a veritable compendium of creative confectionery ideas in addition to being full of delicious recipes. She's very prolific, too: in the past year alone she's released Booze Cakes: Confections Spiked With Spirits, Wine, and BeerA World of Cake, and Crazy About Cookies: 300 Scrumptious Recipes for Every Occasion & Craving (the latter two within weeks of one another! But this busy lady wasn't too busy to catch up with a sweet spy, and I'm delighted to say that she's just as delightful to talk to as her work is to read:

CakeSpy: First off: what is the last baked good you ate?

Krystina Castella: I had a cinnamon roll this morning! I got it at a great Cuban bakery called Porto's Bakery. They're pretty big, there's a line around the corner all the time.

CS: I just want to tell you, I love the sidebars in your book A World of Cake .

KC: Thank you! Actually the book started with the sidebars--I started writing the recipes around them.

CS: In one beloved sidebar, you mention that there are two types of cake artists--the ones who are cake makers, and also the ones who are inspired by cake. But you seem to  be...well, both! So, which are you?

KC: I think that I am both, but if I had to pick one, I am the one that uses the cake as a medium. When I'm developing recipes I am thinking about designing the cake--the texture and flavor and shape and construction and colors. 

CS: As a designer, is it hard to spend so much time designing something that will be consumed fairly quickly?

KC: Actually, that's something that I love about cake and baking--the product is consumed. I am not much of a consumerist, I don't have a lot of stuff. I think it's a difference between a producer versus a consumer mentality. I get my gratification from creating--once I've made it, I'm already moving on to the next thing. With food, it's nice that you can consume it and then move on!

One of my favorite parts about designing a cake is having the end experience in mind. How do the form and flavor come together to make it what you want it to be? Take wedding cake, for instance. There is a big event about the first slice, but then you don't see the cake afterward--it's put together with dowels and things, and it disappears to the kitchen and comes back sliced. Cupcakes on the other hand stay up the whole time, and you actually see what you get! I think that this may be a contributor to the popularity of cupcakes at weddings.

CS: Speaking of which...what kind of wedding cake did you have?

KC: I had a different flavor for each layer--there was a hazelnut layer, a sponge layer, and there was a fruitcake layer--because traditionally this is the layer from which you take a slice to keep all year. Not many people do this anymore, though.

CS: Speaking of love, you tell a great story about how you froze the popsicle you were eating when your now-husband first called you for a date, and as a sort of good-luck charm kept it for several years in the freezer. What kind of popsicle was it?

KC: It was a pink lemonade popsicle.

CS: It strikes me that your recent release, A World of Cake is not merely a recipe book--it is proof that cake is not merely cake, it is society, culture, life and death...so what does cake mean to you?

KC: To me, the most interesting thing is that it is so common across cultures. It's the one food that you can tie to just about every celebration, everywhere in the world. To me, cakes get me excited every time there's a party. The act of making and sharing a cake is very exciting--and knowing the stories and experiences from various cultural heritages makes it even more interesting.

CS: That is something I love about cake too: it always comes with a story.

KC: And really, that is what inspired the whole book--there was a bake sale where I work, and there were all these cakes: rice cakes, moon cakes, fried cakes, milk cakes...and I was just like "tell me more!" and they always had a story behind them, and they are really connected to these cakes, which is really fun.

CS: You say in A World of Cake that Devil's Food Cake is your favorite to eat...but in your research, what is a cake that really intrigued you?

KC: I think the cakes shaped like hamburger and fries in Japan are pretty funny, the fact that they disguise cakes so that they don't look too feminine so guys can eat them in public without being embarrassed is a riot to me. The other one is the cake made to resemble the spine of the deer / rack of venison cake, which was served when meat was scarce--they made cakes to look like meat to bring liveliness to the celebration, I found these offbeat stories really interesting. It was important to me to include the classic, expected cakes, but also to include these cakes that are kind of "underground" that people don't know about.

CS: Can you tell me a bit more about the process of finding recipes for your book?

KC: I spoke to food historians, food folklorists, and librarians to find cakes, but I also learned a lot from talking to readers from my cupcake book--readers from around the world would become involved in the process. In my process, I feel as if it weren't for these relationships via internet and being able to talk to people all around the world, this book wouldn't have been possible. I learned about the stories that might not have been deemed "important" enough in the past. I was also able to use my students--I teach students from around the world, and there was an outpouring of ideas from them.

CS: Do your students get to benefit from your recipe testing?

KC: Yes, they do! I bring a lot of them into school, or leave them by the coffee cart. 

CS: I'll bet that makes you popular.

KC: Exactly.

CS: You had two books come out in the same month--Crazy About Cookies and A World of Cake. But obviously, the process of creating them takes much longer. So...how long did it take for these books to come about?

KC: A World of Cake took the longest--I got the idea about 7 or 8 years ago, and was thinking about it for a long time, working on the cupcake book, and once that book came out and became popular, I knew that A World of Cake would take a long time, so I did the Pops book, all the while still collecting cake recipes and testing them, and working on a deal with sterling to do a series -- Crazy About Cookies is the second in a series. There are more in the works, one coming out next year--I can't talk about it yet, but from the time I started really editing and researching and working on it, it was three years from beginning to end. I was very involved with very aspect--the design, all the photos, et cetera. I oversee everything.

CS: At the risk of asking an annoying question...how do you it all? Are there more hours in your day than there are in mine?

KC: People are always asking if I have a super-human gene. I don't know--what I do I have always done, I have been developing products since I was ten, making t-shirts and selling them to stores, and then was also on the swim team...was always very active. My full time professorship is 12 hours a week, which allows me a lot of extra time outside of my job to have projects going. But also, I managed a home manufacturing company for 10 years, so I had to become very good at organizing and managing. I'm also pretty good at decision-making and knowing when to move on. I don't have super powers, but I do work a lot. I try to help others through my work with the Design Entrepreneur Network.

CS: In Crazy About Cookies, you mention Girl Scout cookies as one of your gateways into the world of cookies. Do you still eat them?

KC: I do! Although it's sad to me that every year they make fewer and fewer in the box. Now, you have to get like 3 boxes to have the same amount of cookies! One thing that disappoints me is that I'm often buying them from the parents versus from the girls themselves...it's a whole different world. I do find it sad that you don't find kids out there finding the entrepreneurial spirit of selling them, but I still buy them. 

CS: What cookies are you baking for Christmas?

KC: I'm going to make a midcentury gingerbread house, and I just got the idea to make a gingerbread trailer park. Maybe some mobile trailers. For us, the cookies I'll be making are the seven-layer cookies featured in my book. Those are my favorite.

For more of Krystina's work, check out her site here; you can also learn more about her most recent books on their individual sites--here and here.

Wednesday
Dec012010

Batter Chatter: Interview with Alice Medrich, Author of Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy

I'll tell you the truth: I don't get starstruck easily. Oh, Brad Pitt's walking by? "He's shorter than I thought" will probably be my reaction (no offense, Angie).

However, it's a different story entirely when I encounter an expert baker and all-around kitchen hero like Alice Medrich. I kind of swoon. Like, OMG! Owner of Cocolat, a dessert shop in San Francisco! She worked at Chez Panisse! She's written 7 cookbooks! And it gets even more exciting with the prospect of actually hanging out with her tomorrow, at a fancy Cookies and Cocktails cookie swap at Cupcake Royale, hosted by Kim Ricketts book events!  Luckily, I kept my cool for long enough to pick her brain about her newest book, Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies (officially a big deal as one of my top picks of 2010)--here's what I learned:

CakeSpy: I am making the black bottom pecan praline bars for your upcoming event with Kim Ricketts book events in Seattle. Not that it's a competition, but I really want mine to disappear first--any tips?

Alice Medrich, photographed by Dave LauridsenAlice Medrich: Yes, I think you might do well with Scharffen Berger chocolate. 

CS: Hey! I was reading through your book acknowledgments and noticed one of your recipe testers was Jenny Richards. Is that my beloved Jenny, from Seattle?

AM: Yes! I gave her some things I especially wanted to be reviewed.

CS: Soooo....for you, is it chewy, gooey crispy or crunchy?

AM: I love, love, love crispy. But I am also a chocolate lover, so I love the gooey brownies too. And I love crunchy.

CS: What is the difference between crispy and crunchy?

AM: There is a fine line between crispy and crunchy--it was a little tricky to draw it for for the book, but I tried. For me, crispy is thin and makes a certain type of high pitched cracking sound when you bite into it. And crunchy is thick, and it's noisy, but the sound is a lower tone. I consider biscotti to be crunchy, and little thin tuiles, for example, to be crispy.

CS: What do cookies mean to you?

AM: Little flavorful sweet bites that because they're small you're tempted to eat more than one, two, three...

CS: Why do this type of cookbook, and why now?

AM: The reason for doing this book was to create a collection for our current times, which means a collection of cookies that have all the classics we gravitate to--the brownies, the chocolate chip cookies, the snickerdoodles--but that also has some new and modern flavors as well as variations of those cookies, with an emphasis on flavor.

I've also felt for a long time that cookies have been left behind. We're doing all of these exciting things with food--salt is being used in new ways, and herbs and spices, not so much in a fusion way but with a sense of adventure. And so I did want to bring a sense of adventure to cookies--you'll see cookies with exotic herbs and spices, or with salt and pepper, or with options to experiment. An example is the meneina, which I discovered via a Facebook friend. I found it so fragrant and yummy, and it was a lot of fun to develop; also the carrot masala macaroons, which I invented, which were very fun. It takes very little effort to make a cookie into an adventure.

CS: You've had a flour re-awakening, in a few ways. You've switched from bleached to unbleached flour, as well as started to experiment with gluten-free baking. Tell me more. 

AM: I did switch over to unbleached flour, because I believe it's a better ingredient, a purer ingredient and flavor and aroma from the oven. I loved working on the gluten free part too, which was great fun because it's fun to experiment with new ingredients. I didn't want to work with preconceived notions, so I went into the kitchen and tried to come to my own conclusions with what worked.

CS: Your book has a lot of cookies what include grains, or are low-fat, or gluten-free. How do you get your tasters to get over the "healthy cookie" stigma?

AM: I love that question. When I do something that is supposedly "healthy"--whether it's low fat or gluten-free or or whether it's got whole grains, my first concern is "does it taste delicious?". I'm not looking for "pretty good for gluten-free, or low-fat, etc." And it should be delicious enough for you to serve without qualification. In other words, If I make gluten-free cookies and serve them, I will say nothing--unless of course it is of dietary importance to a guest. I may tell them afterward. 

CS: What quality you detest in a cookie?

AM: In a gluten-free cookie, the taste of raw starch; overdone sweetness and fat in others. It has to go together to make it worth my eating. I don't want to eat sugar and fat calories that don't taste good. For me, a cookie shouldn't be primarily sweet--of course it will be sweet, but it should have a flavor that comes forward.

CS: Tell me about some of the recipes that were particularly interesting to develop in the book.

AM: One of the areas I had a lot of fun with in the book is I found a new way of adding flavor to macaroons; I tried peanut butter, and freeze-dried bananas, and they were incredible. It is interesting--you have to have a light hand with the folding, and it does affect hte texture of the meringue, but it makes it more melt-in-your-mouth, and it's just a whole different way with meringues. And they're also naturally gluten-free, so it's great for people who aren't eating wheat.

CS: If you could give the bakers of America one piece of advice, what would it be?

AM: Get comfortable with measuring by weights--not digging the baking cup in the flour canister to measure. People's measurements are far more varied than you'd think. Get a kitchen scale. They require fewer utensils, less cleanup. I think we would get more consistent results from anything that is baked that has flour--they take away the guesswork about measuring flour correctly--and ultimately we would end up with far better quality.

CS: Tell me about an amazing cookie experience--one of pure pleasure.

AM: . It happened a while back, and I wrote about it in my last book--the spice-dusted brownies. It was a day when I had brownies in the oven, and while they were baking I was working on another recipe where I was grating nutmeg on a microplane zester. Then the brownies were done, and I took them out and across the room, I started smelling the brownies, and I went to taste a tiny corner with nutmeg all over my fingers, and I got a sort of nose of fragrant nutmeg, and then this pure hit of bitterswet chocolate, and it made me realize  that what I wanted to do was serve those brownies with that grated nutmeg just beforeso that they could have that same experience. That layered spicy aroma and the pure chocolate, and you still have the nutmeg in your nose a little biut, but you have that lasting tasting of chocolate in your mouth. And it's different than adding the nutmeg in the brownie--it deconstructs the experience. I do the same with cinnamon. It makes it a full sensory experience.

Oh, baby. With that sensuous story of delicious brownies, I'm signing out and getting into the kitchen to bake! You can buy her book here , and if you're in Seattle, you might still be able to snag a ticket to the event if you're lucky: find out more here.

Thursday
Oct212010

Batter Chatter: Interview with Heather Rousseau of SugarHigh Bakery

It's time to go to Michigan. Well, virtually, at least--unless you're lucky enough to live near Frankenmuth, MI, which is where SugarHigh Bakery is located. The gorgeous cakes are enough to inspire a road trip alone, but let's get to know the owner and business a bit more, shall we? Here's the CakeSpy interview with owner Heather Rousseau:
CakeSpy: Since I can't be in Michigan right now, can you give me a quick rundown of what I'd see if I were to walk into your bakery?

Heather Rousseau: Our colors are pink, black, and white and everything is decorated accordingly. I try to include everything and anything I think is "cool." The wall to the right of our entrance is decorated with a mini gallery of Artist Trading Cards (ATCs), which you may be familiar with. They are mini works of art with the main requirement being that they are the size of a playing card. I collect cupcake-themed ATCs, so this is where I display my collection.

When you walk into the bakery you will run into our 12-flavor gelato case. We make our gelato in-house, using all fresh fruits and no artificial flavorings. You'll then see one display case holding 30 flavors of cupcakes--jumbo size, because bigger is better.

Next to that case is our case where we have generally about 5 different flavors of cookies and also have chocolates, BIG buckeyes, chocolate covered bacon and other miscellaneous goodies.

CS: What is your first baked good memory?

HR: The first thing that comes to my mind was at my best friends 8th birthday party when I saw my first gourmet cake. Her mom brought in a cake that was ROUND...(not a sheet cake!?) and had ribbon wrapped around the sides. On the top was fresh flowers. I was completely in awe. Even more so when she served the cake and it had a layer of cream cheese and a layer of strawberry filling. I didnt even know it was possible! From then on, I was hooked.

CS: What made you decide to open your own bakery?

HR: I've always wanted to open a bakery. It was always in the back of my mind. Every time I worked somewhere else the entire time I always thought, "I can do it better, I can do it faster, I can do it more efficient, I can sell more, etc. etc. etc." The final push was last year when I was working at a bakery in my home town after I moved back from Chicago and she did not want to decorate the cupcakes - she said, "We will sell them anyway so don't waste your time" That was when I really realized nobody was EVER going to do it the way I wanted to, and doing it myself was the only option.

CS: If you could go back a year, what advice about opening a bakery would you give yourself?

HR: I guess most importantly I would tell myself to delegate tasks. I still struggle with this. I try to do everything myself, and sometimes that causes areas to lack since it doesnt get my undivided attention.

CS: You recently got married. What kind of wedding cake did you have? 

HR: Yeah I did! We actually got married in Riviera Maya, Mexico last August 6th. I actually had two wedding cakes - First cake was at our actual wedding in mexico and our wedding package came with a cake...and it was so guady. It was amusing to us to think that I decorate cakes and we had an ugly cake :) It was two single-layer "tiers" so it was very flat. Maybe 4" tall total. It had no borders, but very large and over sized marzipan "roses" stuck sporadically throughout the entire cake.

Our second cake I made for our reception we had in Michigan. At the time we were living in Chicago (I went to The French Pastry School) and I arrived in town the night before. I got to baking. I made the entire cake tres leches. I had all these plans of design, but my husband and I could not agree on a single design. He wanted very traditional and simple. I wanted something a little loudee - after all, finally I had a blank canvas in front of me that I could do WHATEVER I wanted, try out new techniques, etc. and my husband was being boring.

SO, I settled on the idea of just doing a simple upside down cake. Because we were so rushed, I brought the un-iced cakes to the reception and then started looking around the hall for things I could use to decorate it with...lol There was no plan, but here is what we came up with. Im sure we were a site to see, husband and wife, dressed up, assembling our cake :)

CS: For those interested in pursuing baking as a career, how important do you think it is to attend culinary school?

HR: I think that formal schooling is important depending on what specifically you want to do with baking. Doing what I do - mostly cake decorating, etc. I think art classes would be more beneficial. If you want to work in a fine dining restaurant or in a fancy hotel, then schooling, degrees, training is more important in landing a job. In any baking specialty area, I think on the job training is key and most important above all. I recommend working at as many places as possible, learning as much as possible - even if it means working for free.

CS: In your opinion, what makes a perfect sugar cookie?

HR: I'm definitely not a "cookie-eating" person, so the perfect sugar cookie to me has to taste decent, but most importantly hold its shape when baking, so that when I decorate them, they have nice clean edges and you can tell what the shape is even before icing is added.

CS: Cake gossip alert! At a previous catering job, you created cakes for many a celebrity. Which was the most exciting job and why?

HR: Definitely the most exciting job for me was catering for Semi-Pro that was filmed in Flint, Michigan. That one was the most exciting for me for a number of reasons: one, this was the first movie production that I catered for, so it was all "new" to me; two, this was my first pastry job, and I was getting to make desserts for real live celebrities; three, it was one of the longest jobs we worked on, and four--we were able to interact alot with the cast and crew and I got to meet Will Ferrell & Woody Harrelson among others. 

CS: Are there any types of baked goods or sweets that you would consider regional specialties in your area? 

HR: There are always cherry products and apple products around, so I try my best to incorporate local ingredients as much as possible. Right now I have pumpkin cupcakes from a local farmer, caramel apples and caramel apple cupcakes for sale.

CS: What's next? 

HR: As I sit here typing there is pounding and saws being heard next door to me - we are in the middle of expansion and will be doubling our store. We are going to extend our store front, enlarge our kitchen and begin offering lessons and birthday parties, among other ideas.

In Michigan? Get your sweet self over to SugarHigh Bakery for a visit, they're located at 925 S. Main Street, Suite G1, Frankenmuth, MI!

For more, check out their website and Facebook page! Oh, and you know, follow them on Twitter!

Thursday
Sep162010

Batter Chatter: Interview with Food Photographer Angela Boykins

The thing about food on the internet is this: it's gotta look good. Cos you know what? You can describe a decadent brownie or a creamy gelato all day and all night as poetically as you can, but when it comes down to it, what will draw people in is the sexy picture. 

And one person who knows how to engage viewers is Seattle-based Angela Boykins, a budding food photographer whose stunning shots make you wish you were having was she's having, and right now. Curious about some of her secrets to food photography success? Read on:

CakeSpy: First things first. What is the last dessert or baked good that "wowed" you? 

Angela Boykins: My boyfriend and I recently ate at Dahlia Lounge, and finished with a Creme Caramel that I am still thinking about. Seriously, so smooth & flavorful. A perfect ending to an amazing meal. Tom Douglas, you brilliant genius. 

CS: Do friends find it annoying to go out to eat with you because you must compulsively photograph everything before eating? Cos you know, mine do. 

AY: Totally! But also they're really interested in how I get a good shot with problems like dim lighting, and less than perfect styling. I often cook at home for friends and it's always like I am torturing them, because I lay the food down, then take 10 min to shoot. "Can we eat now? Now?"

CS: Can you share a favorite food photograph of yours and tell us why it's your favorite? 

AY: I gotta be honest...I love taking photos of baked goods. They often last longer in a shoot and have more possibilites. One of my faves is a pear cookie I did for a self published cookbook. As I was making the delish cookies, I had the top of the pear sitting in front of me. It was this brain explosion moment. I stacked three cookies and placed the pear top on and it was magical. I feel like that was my first idea that I had to keep photographing food. (aforementioned photo pictured at the top of the post)

CS: I find that brown-hued items (chocolate cake, brownies, or savories such as meats, etc) are very hard to photograph in a way that they don't look like, well, dog poop. Any tips for making them a bit more attractive? 

AY: A light colored linens or textile have a great opposites attract. Also, be simple with the styling. Place your protein with some color (leafy greens or veg sautee) on a white colored plate. Focus not only on the meat, but something that gives a little extra depth. With cakes and brownies, think about adding powdered sugar or a light dusting of what's already included in the recipe. Plus, a good cake stand will be genius. 

CS: Are there any foods that you don't like to eat but you love to photograph? 

AY: I am not a huge mushroom fan. It's a texture thing, I can't lie. However, there is such a huge variety of neat looking mushrooms, it's exciting. 

CS: When it comes to food photography, do you have any secrets to success? For instance mine is always shoot in natural light.

AY: I primarily shoot in natural light. Which, totally makes for tricky business in Seattle. I tend to shoot in the brightest parts of the day, near a window and use a tripod.  

CS: I hear this rumor that a lot of the foods you photograph you've also cooked or baked. So, basically, what I am saying is that I know you've got a sweet recipe to share. Yes? 

AY: Do I! I found a recipe for vegan cupcakes 3 yrs ago from a now defunct blog and I can't stop making it. I usually adapt it to a cake and layer it with my Mom's killer peanut butter frosting. It needs to be said, I am not vegan. But dang, vegan baking is super fun! So far I have had good luck with vegan baked good recipes tasting light and moist, all without the major gutsmack of butter and eggs. Thanks Vegans! Here it is, enjoy! My Mom says hi!

Chocolate Vegan Cupcakes

 Ingredients

  • 1 C. soy milk
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 C. sugar
  • 1/3 C. veg oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 C. flour
  • 1/3 C. cocoa powder
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt

 Procedure

Whisk together soy milk and vinegar, add sugar, oil, and vanilla. Beat on med high until foamy. Sift together dry ingred and add to soy mixture; mixing in batches. Pour into cupcake papers and bake at 350 degrees for about 10-15 min. Ovens vary.

Mom's Peanut Butter Frosting

 Ingredients

  • 1/3-1/2 C of peanut butter
  • 2 C powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk (CS Note: Obvi, non dairy to keep it all vegan)

 Procedure

Beat together until smooth and creamy. Use Immediately.

What's next for Angela? She's working on building a website (in the meantime, check out her photos via Facebook) with a very talented up and coming graphic designer, sarasmileygraphics.com, and is also focusing on devolping a studio space, hitting up restaurants to update their websites and cooking up a storm. And of course, "taking pictures of what the guy next to me ordered."

Tuesday
Aug032010

Batter Chatter: Interview with Craig McDougall of Frosting Cupcakery, Langley BC

What's sweeter than a cupcake? While I let you ponder that question (really, it gets more complicated the more you think about it), why not read this sweet interview with Craig McDougall, co-owner of Frosting Cupcakery in Langley, BC? 

CakeSpy: What made you decide to start a cupcake shop?

Craig McDougall: My wife Melanie was an at home mom taking care of our 2 little boys Dylan and Cade while I worked for a software company. During the past 8-10 years she has been baking cakes, cupcakes, cookies, and a variety of treats for just about every friend or event we've been asked to attend. Time and time again she would receive words of praise from everyone like "Oh, those are the best..." or "You should sell these...." to our favorite one we kept hearing was "Those are so much better than the ones you can buy at ...". We knew eventually we wanted to open our own business, and the more this kept happening the business idea slowly changed from a cake supply store, to a cake store, to finally a Cupcake Store that we also do custom cakes at.

CS: When people walk into your shop, what is the ideal experience you'd hope for them to have?

CM: When we designed our store, it was important for us to make sure that when people walk into our store they find it fun, cute, exciting, and a little bit trendy. We elected to go with Pink Stripes, Mint Green, and Chocolate Brown for our colors, and when you first walk into our store it reminds people of one of those fun candy stores you walk into down at Disneyland. Just about every response we receive when people walk in is "Oh my goodness, smell those cupcakes. You have such a wonderful shop we love coming here" The ideal experience we hope for is customers to feel welcomed, comfortable, and part of our family. Our motto is a friendly place where you will always find a smile and we truly make sure that every customers requests are met to the best of our ability.

CS: Be honest--has owning a cupcake shop made you tired of eating them?

CM: Yes and no. When you make cupcakes every day it's like anything you are around all the time you don't necessarily crave them daily. That being said, when we first opened we had about 20 flavors and now we are up to over 50 different flavors. So daily we experiment with new flavors and designs so we are always having fun tasting new things and with flavors like Neapolitan, Love Potion, Island Coconut, Berry Explosion, Chocolate Explosion, to name a few the flavors are more than just a vanilla or chocolate cupcake and it would take you forever to try all of them.

CS: Melanie comes from Nanaimo--so please, give me a good reason why I don't see a Nanaimo Bar Cupcake on your menu?

CM: LOL - we here this all the time. We had so many ideas to run with when we first opened the store but we were unsure if it would be a small little mom and pop store, or go big. We went so big when we launched that we now have 6 additional employees that work for us, we've been named the #1 cupcake in Vancouver, we've had celebrities like Greg Neufeld play at our store, and it's been a whirl wind so the only good reason we have at this time is things took off faster than we thought and a lot of our ideas are waiting to be brought to fruition.

CS: What is your most popular flavor?

CM: Our current most popular flavor is Neapolitan as this is the cupcake that we won the awards for. It has been posted and talked about on just about every food magazine and internet site up in Vancouver since we won the cupcake challenge so that's what most people ask for. That being said we have a lot of seasonal cupcake the generate popularity during that time. For example we do a spiders web and boo-nilla around Halloween, raspberry vanilla and berry explosion in the summer when fresh berries are out, and the list goes on and on.

CS: Do you find that men and women prefer different cupcake flavors?

CM: I don't know that I've seen that men or women like different cupcakes per say, but what I do find in our store anyways is couples will come in all the time and buy an assortment of different cupcakes "Look at this one, I'm getting one of those. Oh yeah, grab one of those too..." and then they sit down and do taste testing and share all the flavors together. It's a lot of fun and since we also have mini versions of our cupcakes in our store daily too, it creates even more fun.

CS: What is your response to those who say that cupcakes are a passing fad?

CM: So is the internet, the walkman, and wedding cakes. I personally like to answer that question because a passing fad is ones vision of an item that is stagnant. The walkman has evolved to a diskman, then to an mp3 player, and now the iPod. Anything in life, if you let it go stagnant, becomes a passing fad but if you keep it exciting and fun and continue to evolve as it does, then it can last a life time. There will always be cupcakes, and we work very hard at keeping it fun and fresh. As an example we just launched our ice cream flavor line up of cupcakes Neapolitan, Tiger Tail, Cookies and Cream. The important thing to remember is to always have something new for customers to crave...

CS: What is next for Frosting Cupcakery?

CM: Conquer the world! No, just kidding, but we do plan to open up multiple locations though. We have been asked by several parties if we were interested in franchising but we found some of the local companies around our area are doing that and their product quality has suffered immensely so we do have plans to have multiple locations but they would be an extension of our existing company. We also have a few other tricks up our sleeve that I would rather not let out of the bag quite yet to keep things fun and exciting.

Want more sweetness? Check them out at frostingcupcakery.com.

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