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Entries in interviews (14)

Friday
Jun012012

Batter Chatter: Interview with The Cravory, San Diego

Cravory Cookies 1

About the author: Erin Jackson is obsessed with finding the best cheap and tasty eats in San Diego. Keep up with her other food finds on her San Diego Food blog, EJeats.com
The Cravory is one of San Diego's best cookie bakeries. Not only are the cookies exceptionally good from a technical standpoint (soft, chewy, and moist), they are also some of the most inventive. Like red velvet cake? They've got a cookie version. How about blueberry muffins or oreo milkshakes? They've got that too. There are also savory options like rosemary balsamic and pancakes and bacon -- and those are just some of the signature flavors. 
Every month, The Cravory also dreams up 6 "featured cookies of the month", which are typically even more unusual. This month, they've got mint chip ice cream, blackberry bliss, and chocolate birthday cake (among others). The bakery doesn't have a storefront, so you've got two options to get your paws on them. if you live in San Diego, you can pick them up from select retail locations and farmers' markets (read on to find out where) or you can order cookies online and have them shipped anywhere in the continental USA.
Cookies are available by the dozen, or if you're a serious cookie monster, sign up for the Cookie of the Month Club or go for the Ultimate Box Special, a 50-count assortment of all the signature flavors and some of the newest creations. Another option is to design your own cookies by choosing your dough and mix-ins. 
If you've got willpower issues and the thought of dozens of cookies just lying around presents an issue, you can always freeze them. When you're ready for more, pop the cookies in the microwave for about 15 seconds, or let them defrost on the counter. Cookies can remain frozen in their packing for 3 months, but who are we kidding? They won't last that long.
 
I spoke with Adam Koven, CEO of The Cravory to find out more about his history with baking, his favorite flavors, and what's in store for summer.

Your bio says you've always been a big fan of cookies. Did you bake when you were growing up, and if so, who taught you? A little bit, I cook more than I bake, but growing up, we always did cookies during the holidays. It's definitely in my genes, my great-grandmother was an amazing baker and she did the old European style baking, so I've definitely been involved with baking my whole life.

How old were you the first time you baked something by yourself, and what did you make?
I was probably 11 or 12. We always did the decorated sugar cookies growing up, which is ironic, because we don't do those at all now. 
Besides ordering them online, where can people find your cookies? On Sunday, we're at the La Jolla and Hillcrest farmers' markets, along with Wednesday evenings in Ocean Beach. As far as local businesses in San Diego, we're the featured dessert at Neighborhood, Craft and Commerce, and Leroy's Kitchen and you can get our cookies at The Deli Llama, and Shell gas station in Hillcrest.
How often do you come up with new flavors? Each month, we come out with 6 brand-new flavors each month, our cookies of the month. We carry 18 flavors online, 12 of those are signature flavors, including everything from sweet to savory. Those are our best-sellers from over the past year, and they don't change too often. We've only changed them once or twice because one of the new cookies really blew everyone's socks off, so we made it a signature flavor. But, every month we come up with 6 new flavors for the website, which get featured at the farmers' markets. The farmers markets are also where we test out new flavors. If they do well, they'll become a cookie of the month later on.
Do you work at the farmers' markets yourself? We try to go to the farmers' markets as often as possible. It's either my partner Nate or myself at the Hillcrest market and we have someone that does the Ocean Beach market and La Jolla for us.
Do you see the same people coming to get the same cookies frequently? We definitely have a very strong following at the farmers markets. It's pretty interesting, everyone that works the market has a different fan base, so to speak, but a lot of regulars come by. The really cool thing we do at the market is change our menu every week, so we have the people who come to see what's new and the people who come for their favorites. One of our favorite customers is only in town every third week or so and she absolutely loves the rosemary balsamic, which is one of the flavors we carry every week, but every time she comes, she buys us out. 

 

What are some of your favorite flavors that you've dreamed up recently?
My personal favorites right now are the chocolate truffle, even though I'm not a dark chocolate guy at all. That one is just unbelievably addictive and decadent and delicious. Our newest cookie, which was a cookie of the month and is now a signature, is the salted caramel cream cookie -- that one is amazing. And one of my all-time favorites is our original s'mores, which is original dough with milk chocolate, marshmallow and graham crackers.
Have you ever tried to make a flavor that didn't quite work? My business partner Derrick is our chef, and he's the one who comes up with all of the recipes and actually goes back to the kitchen and makes the cookies, and I'm actually the cook of the group, I make a BBQ sauce from scratch. Two years ago for Memorial Day Weekend, he stole a bottle of my sauce and decided to make a BBQ cookie with the sauce as a base, along with smoked almonds and BBQ chips. He said "Here's what you have for the market, see if you can sell 'em".  I took a bunch of them to the market and needless to say it wasn't a huge hit, even with the BBQ theme of summer, but it was definitely an interesting attempt to think outside the box.
Can you give us a hint of some of the new flavors you're working on for summer?
We have some amazing summer flavors coming out over the next few months, like cotton candy, apple pie, corn bread with candied bacon, and pink lemonade...the next few months are going to be a lot of fun in terms of flavors.

 

Thursday
Apr192012

Batter Chatter: Interview with Joanie of Blossomedge

Totally not kidding. There is a blog out there dedicated to teaching you how to make cookies that look like real flowers. It's called Blossomedge, and it is freaking amazing. These delectable treats are sweet to eat, because while they may look like flowers, they're made with flour. And the website features tutorials on how you can make them, too.

If you don't want to hear more, I'm not sure if I understand you. If you do, well, you're in luck, because I interviewed Joanie, the blogger behind the magical creations. 

How did you get started making faux flowers out of cookies? My love for sugar arts started when I was a young child. I was extremely fascinated by frosting roses. So when I was 9 yrs old, my mom gave me a Wilton cake decorating set along with an instructional booklet. I was thrilled when I made my first rose but what really stuck with me was a photo on the back cover of the book! It was an advertisement for a course on making gumpaste flowers. Being a small childI thought gumpaste flowers were made out of chewing gum and imagined how wonderful they must taste! Years later, I tried to eat one and of course, it tasted terrible. I will never forget the feeling of utter disappointment when I discovered that gumpaste flowers weren’t meant to be eaten but were for decoration only! And that really bothered me…lol  From there on, I was determined to figure out a way to make 3 dimensional flowers edible. Fast forward a few decades now…I figured out a way to make realistic-looking flowers using cookies as the support for the 3 dimensional aspect but I wanted the cookie flowers to taste good as well. As soon as I put regular fondant on the cookies, they tasted bad. So I set out to discover a new way to make fondant that actually tasted good. I tried many different concoctions but nothing ever worked and I was even destroying my saucepans trying to come up with something very unique. I thought maybe there was no other way to make fondant and abandoned my quest for a new fondant… Then one day,  I was making whoopie pies and needed a filling. I was in a rush and didn’t feel like making frosting so I decided to open a can of ready made frosting and  added melted white chocolate to it to see what would happen. It seized and was a disaster – or so I thought.  I was looking at my hard lumpy mess in the bowl while absent-mindedly playing with a chunk of the frosting in my hand  -  and then I realized, it was becoming soft and clay-like. After working with the proportions, I developed Blossom Fondant, an easy to make, creamy-tasting yummy fondant that tastes nothing like any regular fondant out there.  ( Just a side note – it doesn’t work for covering cakes but is perfect for all your cookie decorating needs)   

What is the hardest flower to re-create? I think the most difficult flower to try and recreate in cookie form was the rose. I will be sharing that tutorial later on…   

As someone who combines my loves of illustration, cake, and writing in one blog, I appreciate your combining YOUR loves. Now, tell me: how did you get into them, respectively, the flowers and flour and photography - and how do they come together, for you? I love to photograph flowers. It is probably my favorite hobby besides making my floral cookies. My floral photography and cookies seemed to go hand in hand so I started my blog Blossomedge as a way to share both loves with the public. I also compose piano music. When I made my instructional cookie DVD, I was able to combine my photography, cookie bouquets and music all into one production. It felt wonderful!  I once read that creative people can not be happy unless they are creating something. I totally believe that! It was a very fulfilling experience for me…

How do you incorporate art into your children's lives?  After I make a cookie bouquet, I let my two small children play with the dough and fondant. It’s fun to watch what they come up with. But one day, when my daughter was 3 yrs old, she made a “worm family” out of the fondant. There was daddy worm, mommy worm and baby worm. She played with this little worm family for hours. I went into my office down the hall to work, while listening to her little adventures in the kitchen with her worm family. Later on, it got quiet out there. I was going to go check on her when she came into my office with tears streaming down her cheeks. I asked her what was the matter and she replied through heavy sobs, “Mommy…. I….…I ate my worm family and now they are all gone!” 

What is your favorite floral destination--hawaii for the exotic blooms? England for the lovely gardens? I love the flower gardens of Europe. When I was over there years ago, I was very inspired by the  gardens of  Germany and Austria. 

Tell me something that has surprised you about having your blog.  I guess the thing that has surprised me the most about having a blog is the lack of comments, good or bad. Sometimes I feel as if I am putting out information into a great “void” with no feedback whatsoever… I often wonder  if anyone is reading or enjoying the things I post. 

What's next? Actually, I have just started the “tour” of my floral cookie garden! It is a vastone… I hope to surprise many by the flowers a person can create out of the most simple of popular confections. 

 For more sweet deliciousness, visit the Blossomedge blog.

Sunday
Apr012012

Batter Chatter: Interview with Susan of Doughmesstic

Nutella and sea salt caramel fudge

Doughmesstic! I don't think I've ever heard word that so succinctly sums up the joy and creative abandon of baking. And the website certainly lives up to one's expections. It's full of delicious recipes, engaging stories, and informative but not fussy tutorials, all designed and dreamed up by Susan Whetzel, a seriously awesome and talented lady. Susan has also branched out to baking for clients and writing books! (CS Note: Buy her book: The Everything Ice Cream, Gelato, and Frozen Desserts Cookbook).

Want to learn more about the blogger behind the baked goods? Here's an interview, punctuated with sweet treats from the site--click on the pictures to find the recipes!

Apple Pie Popovers!Who are you and what do you do? I am Susan Whetzel. Wife, Mom, Blogger, Baker, Getter-Byer. I live in the mountains in Virginia, where I've always lived. I've had my food blog since 2008, after I got bored being a stay-at-home-mom and never actually cooking. It took me about 30 seconds to come up with the name Doughmesstic.

Double Fudge Snickers Brownies

Who taught you how to bake? I would have to say joining Tuesdays With Dorie, the online baking group taught me to bake. I followed along with that group for a LONG time - until I was comfortable mixing things up in the kitchen. I also met a lot of great friends there - some I have been lucky enough to meet in person. I miss those days.

Caramel Topped ShortbreadTell me two of three of your personal favorite blog posts ever? Oh my. That's a toughie. I think one that got a lot of fun attention was the one about going to Martha Stewart's first Pie Competition. I was invited, I went - it was a fiasco! (Here's a link) Another favorite of mine is actually a sad one - writing about my family at Christmas. It was honest, and felt like real writing versus my normal happy-go-lucky recipe posts. (Here's a link)

Who are some of the bakers or bloggers who you love best? I absolutely LOVE my friend Paula of Bell'Alimento, even though she calls me everyday, despite her knowing I hate talking on the phone. I am also thrilled to have made a friend in Brandi of BranAppetit - who actually lives nearby. If not for blogging, I'd have never met her! I could name people all day, but that wouldn't be fair.

 

If you have a low-inspiration day, how do you keep yourself motivated to bake and blog? That's so hard. But if I am totally unmotivated to bake, all it takes is cleaning the kitchen. Once I see that sucker clean, I get the itch to get in there and do something...which involves two or three days of dirty dishes.

Salted caramel brownies!You've traveled quite a bit. What is one of the places that you thought the sweets were especially awesome? In all of my travels, quite honestly, I think America has the only true SWEETS. In Europe, things just aren't up to the sweet that we are used to. In the Caribbean & South America, it's too hot to think about eating. I did have a divine piece of Chocolate Mousse Cake while sitting on an island in Greece one year for my birthday, and the Riverside Marriott in Bangkok did a MEAN crepe filled with dark chocolate and fresh strawberries.

Neapolitan ice cream: Which do you go for first, strawberry, vanilla, or chocolate? Coming from someone who JUST published a book with over 300 ice cream recipes, you are hurting me a bit with that question...SO much recipe testing! I like Butter Pecan or Mint Chip. :)

What made you decide to take the jump from home baker to baking for clients? It wasn't really a decision - it just happened. I was making cakes for my son, my husband, my family and friends, and posted some pictures on Facebook. I immediately got orders coming in. I am particular about the orders I take these days though - they MUST inspire me. With the blog, I stay super busy, so cakes are my creative outlet. I don't want it to feel like work, so, if the cake has imagination, I am in. If not, I wish them luck...no hard feelings.

Cinnamon Roll Gingerbread Loaf!Do you have any advice for bloggers or bakers who are interested to start selling their cakes or baked goods? It's work!! Don't undersell yourself. If people want a cheap cake, send them to WalMart. Remember, you don't NEED to make cake. If you are doing it at a little more than cost, you are going to end up regretting it, and it won't be fun for you at all.

Red Velvet cake: boiled icing, buttercream, or cream cheese frosting? Cream Cheese, no question.

Brown sugar cookie crust Cheesecake!What's next? Currently shopping out a new cookbook, getting ready to overhaul the kitchen (pray for me), gearing up for a year of travel and food blogging conferences, and hopefully making a little more money and a lot more friends. Oh, and finally finding a pair of jeans that stay on my butt. That's a big goal.

For more, visit Doughmesstic.com.

Thursday
Feb232012

Batter Chatter: Interview with Carrie of Fields of Cake

Images: Fields of CakeIt's time to catch up with Fields of Cake. 

Carrie Fields, owner of Fields of Cake, a boutique cake and fudge custom order bakery, is an ace baker and an equally awesome person (I know this because I hung out with her in Maine and then again at the Wilton Headquarters). And recently she relocated from Maine to Montana, so it seemed like a good time to catch up on her sweet adventures and how her business is evolving in its new location. Read on:

Did you drive to Missoula from Maine? If so, did you have any sweet bakery discoveries along the way? We drove from Virginia to Montana after living on Crete for 3 months. We were trying to beat storms so we drove until we couldn't drive anymore then slept and drove some more. I would LOVE to make that trip again just for soul purpose of stuffing my face full of sweet delights from all over the country. Some day. Sigh.

How is Missoula different from Maine, in terms of the sweets scene? Missoula seems SO much more open to the awesomeness of baked goodness in the form of sugar, flour, eggs...There is such a sense of pride in local and scratch made. There are GREAT local chocolatiers here and SEVERAL bakeries I can't WAIT to check out.

Please tell me you've visited Bernice's Bakery, one of my favorites! Don't hate me....I have yet to visit Bernice's though my brother-in-law is planning on taking me on a bakery crawl after my crazy Valentines Day push. He is supposed to be the local expert on ALL the great bakeries. I can't WAIT!

Is Fields of Cake going to change scope at all in its new hometown? The biggest change for me is going to be renting a commercial kitchen. Other than that, it will be same as before, focusing on going beyond what the customer requests and making each order a WOW order. My ultimate goal is to have a store front. But I am patient and know that it will happen when it needs to. I am so excited about the possibilities here. People are so open to new and fun things and ready for what I have to offer. Missoula really is the best.

You are still fulfilling orders even though you are currently in a temporary home before moving on to a more full time place. How on earth are you making that happen? Haa haa. I AM fulfilling orders. I actually am booked through next month. Any person in their "right" mind would not have put out the call for orders but I have not been in my right mind for YEARS and that is what makes my stuff awesome and my life even more awesome. I'm a lucky gal.

What was the most popular treat on your valentine's day menu? Hmmmm, The most ordered this year aside from the combo pack was the Chocolate Dipped Espresso Fudge. Oh Jessie, YOU WILL LOVE IT! Second to that was the Blueberry Pancake Fudge.

What sweet from your menu did YOU enjoy most on Valentine's Day? My Raspberry Truffles are always on my personal menu. Actually ALL of my items. I can't help myself. Maybe I'll make a cake decorated with the left overs!! Ooooo! Yeah, that's it! Wanna come join me?

What's next? That's the great part about life. You never can be certain what is next. I am hoping to be rolling in sugar for a very long time to come. I have job hunting to do to sustain until I get the business going strong. I can't wait to show Missoula what I have to offer.

For more, including recipes for some of the items pictured in this interview, visit fieldsofcake.com!

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