Marbled, Swirled, and Layered - Irvin Lin - Author Article

Marbled, Swirled, and Layered: 150 Recipes and Variations for Artful Bars, Cookies, Pies, Cakes, and More by Irvin Lin is the debut offering from the blogger behind, Eat The Love (which is indexed for our members -add the blog's recipes to your bookshelf in one click!)

I've covered this book for Sunday Supper Movement as well as talked with Susie Chang on her podcast, The Level Teaspoon. I was honored to be her tester for Irvin's book on Episode 13.  Marbled, Swirled, and Layered is one of my favorite baking books of 2016. Irvin has done an amazing job offering up innovative baked treats that surpass the ordinary. Do not be intimidated by the lengthly pages of instructions on some recipes - those detailed instructions are there to ensure our success.

I have baked two recipes from this baking gem - the Chocolate and Brown Sugar Buttercream Rolled Cake with Crushed Pistachios and the Double-Chocolate Chunk Blondie Bars with Bourbon Ganache both of which can be downloaded from the podcast links above. The desserts were excellent and I have plans to make so many more now that the rush of Cookbooktober has calmed. 

Irvin was kind enough to share some insight into his blog and his book with us. After you read my Q & A, be sure to enter our giveaway for a chance to win a copy of Marbled, Swirled, and Layered

Irvin, you are the writer of the blog, Eat The Love. Can you tell us how Eat The Love received its name and what prompted you to start writing and sharing your recipes?

My secret origin story! So in 2010 I was working as a senior graphic designer at a firm where I was pretty unhappy. I had been there two or three years and it just wasn't a good fit for me. I was going home after long days at the office and just sitting on the couch and watching hours of television to try forget my unhappiness. I was slowly devolving into that burnt-out bitter person in the office and at one point I was complaining to a friend of mine. She suggested that instead of going home and marathon watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I should do MORE work at home. But work that fed my soul and that I loved; a passion project. So I decided to take her advice and start a blog. I have a degree in English literature and I love writing. But I've never had the discipline to write consistently. I had started a blog before and but it never took as it didn't have a focus, rather it was just random stories from my life. I figured focusing on sharing recipes and food (which I have always been passionate about) was the best way for me to get back to writing consistently. About 9 months after I started my blog it gave me the incentive and push to leave my job and go freelance. The best decision I ever made!

While I was trying to figure out a name for my blog, I remembered a story that my friend always told me back when I was a bookseller in St. Louis. My friend conformed to a very strict diet for his health. It was basically a vegan-paleo diet, though this was before the paleo movement. He refrained from eating wheat, refined sugar, meat, dairy and eggs as well as most grains in general. But whenever he went to visit his extended family in Arkansas he would ignore his diet. His grandmother would make the family fried chicken, collards with bacon and biscuits with White Lily flour. All the classic southern dishes you would expect a grandmother who lived in the south would make. And he would eat everything she made.

I remember asking him about this, why he didn't just ask his grandmother to make him food that he normally ate or just be more selective about the food offered. His response was "Because when I eat the food that she makes for me, I'm eating the love. I'm eating her love! This is her food!" And I just loved that concept. That food is love. So I took that story and decided to name that blog after it. I love making food, but more importantly, I love sharing my food with people. And so the name just made sense.

You feature savory and sweet recipes on the blog, do you prefer either cooking or baking and why?

I used to talk about how the food world is kind of split down the middle with people who love to bake and people who love to cook. Often they do not overlap. But I do love both cooking and baking. And they both function in different ways in my life.

I find myself more mentally engaged when I am baking. Baking is both a science and an art, where you are trying to figure out how to best problem solve a difficult real life experiment. If my cake is lopsided is it because I didn't cream the butter and sugar properly? Did I use too much or too little leavener or not blended it well enough? Or maybe my baking soda or baking powder is too old and doesn't give the right lift. Does my oven have crazy hot spots? Or are my baking pans warped and lopsided? There are so many variables when it comes to baking and I really love trying to figure them all out. I'm a natural problem solver and baking really engages my brain in that way.

But if I'm looking to be less engaged and want something more calming, I turn to cooking. The act of prepping ingredients, from chopping onions and mincing garlic, to stirring and tasting the food as it comes together on the stovetop is really meditative for me. I find cooking relaxing, while I find baking energizing. I love them both, but for very different reasons.

All that said, I really love making food for people, whether it involves cooking or baking. Initially my blog focused on baking because inherently baking involves sharing food with people. Most people don't bake a batch of cookies or brownies or a cake just for themselves. Baking involves sharing. And it's pure pleasure. You have to eat. You have to make food for your self. Cooking is something I did out of necessity. But you no one NEEDS desserts. It's pure pleasure. So baking for me is pure pleasure as well.

My blog has since evolved, as have I. I'm definitely a home baker first, but as I started spending more time in the kitchen I also started to cook more. First basic meals. Then more complicated dishes. And once I started working on my cookbook, I found that I was baking so much, testing recipes and developing them for the cookbook, that I didn't have the bandwidth to also bake for my blog. So I started sharing recipes of meals I made as well. My readers really seem to respond well to them so I've continued. I actually reference my blog a lot when I want to make a dish for dinner and I forget exactly how to make it. So it's a great way to both share the recipe for folks and also archive it for my own personal use.

I was one of the most excited to learn that you were writing a cookbook and a funny tidbit was that I informed you when your book was available for preorder before you even knew. Can you share a little about how this cookbook came to life and how the process went for you?

Ha! I totally remember you telling me my book was up for pre-order and I was all "WHAT?" which is hilarious. I've been working on this cookbook for about 3 years and I feel like every time I turn a corner I'm CONSTANTLY surprised as to what is next for it! From coming up with the concept (I went through three or four different concepts before I landed on this one) to writing the proposal to finding an agent and then selling it, it's been a long journey, one that has come in fits and starts.

Since it's my first cookbook, everything was new to me. Writing a cookbook for a major publisher is a lot different than writing for a blog. It's more than just a collection of recipes. It's been a huge learning curve. The biggest education for me was how much the book is not just my book but it's also a giant team of people's book as well. Everyone (including myself) thinks of a cookbook as something one person does. But there is a team involved, from the agent, to the editor (multiple editors actually) to food stylist and photographer to everyone that tests the recipes to the marketing and publicity team. So many people are involved!

My book was initially going to be 300 pages long, but I turned in a manuscript that probably could have been a 500+ pages long. They cut 150 pages and then increased the size of the book to 350 pages. I have about 100 extra recipes that didn't make the cut, as well as 50 pages of front matter including a whole section on whole grains and ancient grain flours that just didn't fit in with the rest of the book. It was sad but I'll use that material elsewhere.

What are a few of your favorite recipes from the book and why? Any family or sentimental recipes shared?

Picking favorite recipes is like picking children! I love them all. But some of my favorites include a Malted Chocolate Chip Reverse Chocolate Chip Cookie (which my partner AJ is obsessed with), a lemon blackberry chess pie that won me my first pie contest here in San Francisco, and a tomato and Parmesan garlic pretzel knot. I absolutely love that pretzel knot! It's one of the few savory baked goods in the book and though it's more of a weekend project (there are numerous bowls involved) it's totally worth it once you bite into that soft pretzel.

Nearly every single person who has tasted my Rosemary Caramel Dark Chocolate Potato Chip Tart raves about it. And I think the Chocolate Peanut Butter Butterscotch Cookie is just fantastic as well as easy to make (even though it looks more complicated). Finally the Neapolitan Layer Cake with Fresh Strawberries is so much fun to make and serve! It's a very communal thing because there's no way to elegantly serve the cake. You just have to dive right into it.

And actually there are two recipes that inspired by my mom's desserts growing up. My mom isn't really a baker. In fact, she mostly did Asian style stir-fry dishes for dinner when I was growing up. But when she did need to bake, she made a marble bundt cake that she would bring to potlucks, as well as a cheesecake with a blueberry pie topping. I have a fantastic marble chocolate and vanilla swirled bundt cake in the cookbook (it's the cake slices you see on the back of the book) as well as a no-bake ginger and cinnamon cheesecake with blueberry sauce.

Are there plans for a second cookbook in the works?  What would you like a second title to cover? Sweets or savory? How about a book devoted to savory bakes?

Yes! I'd love to do another book and I have a lot of ideas for a second one. I hope this book is successful enough for me to write many more future cookbooks. I learned so much doing this cookbook and I hope to use all that knowledge in the future.

That said, it's funny you mention a savory baking cookbook. A friend of mine actually suggested that I do a Marbled, Swirled and Layered: Savory Edition cookbook! I'm not sure if I'm up for that concept yet. But we'll see. I'm so focused on trying to make this first cookbook a success that I haven't had a chance to really start thinking seriously about the second one despite the many concepts I have.

There are so many great cookbooks coming out this fall, including yours, which titles are you most excited about?

There's SO many coming out and I want them all!

I'm excited about Kate McDermott's Art of Pie book. I hear it's already gone into the second printing! It's such an amazing book. And Kate is the absolutely best person. If you have any interest at all in pie, it's the book for you. It's part memoir as well and Kate has lived such a fascinating life. I feel like this is going to be one of those books that you want to curl up and read in your bedroom or living room as well as use in the kitchen. I also can't wait see Molly Yeh's Life on the Range. Molly is so multi-talented and I can't wait to see her book. Her life story is so charming and compelling. I mean she went to Julliard and now lives on a farm where she blogs and makes food. How could you NOT fall in love with her, or at least be a little envious of how amazing she is?

For restaurant cookbooks, I'm curious to check out Everything I Want to Eat: Sqirl and the New California Cooking by Jessica Koslow. People rave about the hipster restaurant Sqirl and I was finally able to check it out when I was in LA last spring for the annual IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) conference. It lived up to the hype. I'm definitely interested to see what their cookbook is like. I think it's supposed to be a combination of basic cooking techniques like how to poach eggs as well as recipes based on their menu of items that they serve. I'm tired of looking at restaurant cookbooks that are beautiful but utterly unapproachable or impossible to execute in the home kitchen. I think this one will actually be useful for folks of all skill sets. And in the same vein, I'm looking forward to Anthony Bourdain's Appetites. It's been awhile since he's written a cookbook but I actually have and use his previous one, Les Halles Cookbook. Bourdain is a great writer with a very specific voice that I love. I can't wait to check his new cookbook and what he has to offer.

Recently I was able to get a sneak peak look at Alanna Taylor-Tobin's Alternative Baker cookbook. It focuses on gluten free flours recipes but more for the flavor that each flour brings to the recipe. I've always loved the idea of baking with alternative flours to bring MORE flavor to the final product. I actually talk a little bit about that in my cookbook. Taylor-Tobin is a trained pastry chef, and she really explores how to use alternative flours to their maximum potential. And the book is gorgeous! On a similar note, I'm can't wait to check out Better Baking by Genevieve Ko. It focuses on using whole grain flours, nuts, seeds and natural sweeteners in baking. Not only are the baked goods better for you but they taste better as well. I'm all for anything that boosts flavor and if there is more nutrition, that's an added bonus.

Finally, I love Dorie Greenspan, and I know her Dorie's Cookies book is going to be spectacular. I can't wait to see. Same goes for Diana Henry's new Simple cookbook. I adore her. I know I'm going to adore her new one.

 

6 Comments

  • Kristjudy  on  11/30/2016 at 10:06 AM

    What a great review! Another book goes on, the I want list.

  • Smokeydoke  on  11/30/2016 at 1:06 PM

    Link for podcast does not work. Please fix! I'm so excited to try his recipes!

  • KLeverett  on  11/30/2016 at 4:38 PM

    Terrific Q&A! I'd welcome this book onto my bookshelf in a heartbeat.

  • Jenny  on  11/30/2016 at 4:40 PM

    Smokeydoke -- myself and five people tried the link - and it works for them (when you click either Level Teaspoon or Episode 13 it goes right to Susie's page - scroll down and you will see recipes and a play button to play podcast).

  • Scott_D  on  11/30/2016 at 8:55 PM

    So proud of Irvin. I tested a couple of recipes for this book and they were delicious.

  • eliza  on  12/1/2016 at 8:02 PM

    Just like smokeydoke I could get the podcast yesterday either. Today I can.

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