Breaking Breads by Uri Scheft

Uri Scheft is the bread whisperer. His Breads Bakery in New York and Lehamim Bakery in Tel Aviv are all the rage and rightfully so. Breaking Breads, his debut title, is one of the most beautifully done bread books I've come across. I must be honest, I'm not one to crave bread - bagels - yes - a hollowed out, well toasted New York everything bagel with a little cream cheese is my death row request. Uri's book has me wanting all the breads, rolls, croissants, and bagels too! 

The pictures is this book are stunning - yes stunning. How can a Pain de Mie rise to stunning accolades? Trust me - every single recipe in this book is a thing of carby beauty - and I haven't even hit upon the Sweets & Cookies portion yet. Does the thought of making bread from scratch seem overwhelming? Do not fear, there are many step-by-step process photos that will guide you along the way. I have a few friends that have already made several and are happy with the results. Now that the rush of the Fall cookbook season has calmed, I am going to be a baking up a storm from this book.

The recipes don't stop at bread - Ricotta Streusel Babka, Savory Potato Hamantaschen, Date Mamoul (the falafel of cookies in Jewish and Muslim kitchens), and variations of Krembos (a variation of the English Whippet or Mallomar) are all awaiting us in this stunning collection of this baker's work. There are many books that are keepers but there are few that cause me to audibly gasp with the anticipation of greatness - Uri Scheft has created such a book. 

If there is a baker in your life or someone who wishes to become a baker, this is the perfect gift this holiday season. Make someone happy, buy them this book. 

Artisan and the author are allowing us to share two recipes for our members to try now. This Chocolate Babka will be made soon - as I have a breakfast meeting next week - it will be perfect to take along. I will report back on my results. Please head over to our giveaway post for a chance to win a copy of Breaking Breads.

Jerusalem Bagel  Makes 6 Bagels

To be clear, the Jerusalem bagel has nothing to do with the American bagel. The only connection between the American bagel and the Jerusalem bagel is the hole they have in the middle. A Jerusalem bagel is a very airy, light, large oval-shaped ring; it's also sometimes called ka'ak (in Turkey, it's known as simit). There is also a Polish version that has a larger hole and a twisted ring. The dough is quite sweet, which is nice against the warm and toasty flavor of the sesame seeds and salt that coat the outside of the ring.

In Jerusalem, these bagels are sold with a little bit of za'atar and wrapped in a small square of newspaper. If you can wait until you get home, you rip off a piece of the bagel and dip it into a small dish of olive oil and then dunk it into the za'atar-wow, it is so good! I don't think there is one vendor in all of East Jerusalem who sells the bread ring without za'atar. This is a bread that must be eaten fresh-it dries out quickly and once it does, it isn't nearly as delicious. Many of the best vendors sell the fresh-from-the-oven rings throughout the day. The good news is that Jerusalem bagels freeze beautifully and defrost quickly- a brief warm-up in a hot oven brings them right back to life.

For the dough:

  • 280 grams (1 cup plus 3 tablespoons) cool room-temperature water
  • 25 grams (3 tablespoons) fresh yeast (or 8 grams [2¼ teasoons] active dry yeast)
  • 500 grams (4 cups), plus extra for kneading and shaping, all-purpose flour (sifted, 11.7% protein)
  • 60 grams (2½ teaspoons) dry milk powder
  • 50 grams (¼ cup) granulated sugar
  • 15 grams (1 tablespoon) fine salt
  • 20 grams (1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon) extra-virgin olive oil

For the egg wash and topping: 

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • A pinch fine salt
  • 60 grams (6 tablespoons) sesame seeds
  • A sprinkle of course salt

Make the dough: Pour the water into the bowl of a stand mixer, add the yeast, and whisk briefly to combine. Add the flour, milk powder, sugar, and salt. Attach the dough hook and mix on low speed until the flour is about halfway incorporated, about 30 seconds. With the mixer running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil, and once the dough comes together, increase the speed to medium and knead the dough until it looks smooth, 3 minutes.

Stretch and fold the dough, then let it rise: Use a plastic dough scraper to transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Take one corner of the dough and stretch the dough until it tears, then fold it on top of the center. Give the dough a quarter turn and repeat until it has been stretched and folded about 12 times and is shaped into a nice round ball. Lightly flour a large bowl, set the dough in the bowl, and lightly flour the top. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set it aside in a draft-free spot at room temperature until the dough has nearly doubled in volume, about 30 minutes.

Divide and round the dough, then let it proof: Remove the dough from the bowl and set it on a lightly floured surface. Divide it into 6 equal pieces. Fold the corners of one piece up onto the center, then flip the piece over and using a cupped hand, push and pull the dough in a circular motion on the work surface to create a round ball. Repeat with each piece. Cover with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap, and leave at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Shape the dough: Pick up a piece of dough and stick a finger into the center to create a hole (like a doughnut). Gently use 2 fingers to make the hole larger until the dough is the size of a large doughnut. Set the shaped dough on a parchment paper-lined sheet pan and repeat with the other pieces. Cover the shaped pieces of dough with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let them rest at room temperature for a few minutes. Then repeat, stretching the hole to be a little bit bigger (being careful not to deflate the dough), cover, and set the dough aside to rest for another 10 minutes.

Adjust one oven rack to the upper-middle position and one to the lower-middle position. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper.

Bake the dough: Stretch each shaped piece of dough to make a 12-inch-long oval ring. Set 3 rings on each prepared sheet pan. Make the egg wash by whisking the egg, water, and salt together in a small bowl. Brush the top of each ring with egg wash (see Note), and then sprinkle heavily with sesame seeds and coarse salt. Place a sheet pan on each of the oven racks and bake for 8 minutes; then rotate the bottom sheet to the top and the top to the bottom, turning the sheets as well. Continue baking until the bagels are golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes longer. Remove from the oven and cool on the sheet pans. Jerusalem bagels are best eaten within a few hours of baking.

Note: Always brush egg wash over dough from two different directions so you don't get any drips. I like to brush all of the loaf or rolls in one direction, then turn the sheet pan around to brush from the opposite direction.

The Famous Chocolate Babka  Makes 2 Babkas

When I create a new pastry, it is very important for me to make a psychological connection to the pleasures of childhood, and in Israel, just about every schoolchild eats a lunchtime sandwich made with a chocolate spread. To tap into that taste memory, I use Nutella to give this babka its intensely chocolate taste. The croissant-like babka dough is loaded with Nutella and chocolate chips and then twisted into a loaf shape.

I first called this chocolate krantz cake, but in all honesty, that name didn't effectively communicate the deep, ephemeral pleasure of biting into the wonderfully rich and deeply chocolaty pastry. We decided to call it chocolate babka instead, and within 3 months, our babka was selected by New York Magazine as the best in New York City. We went from selling a few dozen a day to a few hundred a day. It remains the most popular item at Breads Bakery, and we are very proud that our babka sparked a babka trend across the country.

For the dough:

  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 120 grams (½ cup) whole milk (at room temperature)
  • 20 grams (2½ tablespoons) fresh yeast or 6 grams (2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 280 grams (2¼ cups) all-purpose flour (sifted, 11.7%), plus extra for dusting, kneading, and shaping
  • 220 grams (2 cups plus 2 tablespoons) pastry or cake flour (sifted, 8.5 to 9%)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 75 grams (⅓ cup) granulated sugar
  • Large pinch fine salt
  • 80 grams (5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon) unsalted butter (at room temperature)

For the chocolate filling:

  • 420 grams (1½ cups) Nutella
  • 150 grams (1 cup) bittersweet chocolate chips

For the simple syrup:

  • 160 grams (3/4 cup) granulated white sugar
  • 120 grams (1/2 cup) water

Make the dough: Whisk the vanilla into the milk in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Use a fork or your fingers to lightly mix the yeast into the milk. Then, in this order, add the flours, eggs, sugar, salt, and finally the butter in small pinches.

Mix on the lowest speed, stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed, and to pull the dough off the hook as it accumulates there and break it apart so it mixes evenly, until the dough is well combined, about 2 minutes (it will not be smooth). If the dough is very dry, add more milk, 1 tablespoon at a time; if the dough looks wet, add more all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together. Increase the mixer speed to medium, and mix until the dough is smooth and has good elasticity, 4 minutes.

Stretch and fold the dough: Lightly dust your work surface with flour and turn the dough out on top; lightly dust the top of the dough and the interior of a large bowl with flour. Grab the top portion of the dough and stretch it away from you, tearing the dough. Then fold it on top of the middle of the dough. Give the dough a quarter turn and repeat the stretch, tear, and fold. Continue to do this until you can stretch a small piece of dough very thin without it tearing, about 5 minutes. Then use your hands to push and pull the dough against the work surface and in a circular motion to create a nice round of dough. Set the ball in the floured bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and set it aside at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Chill the dough: Set the dough on a piece of plastic wrap and press it into a 1-inch-thick rectangle. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours before proceeding with the recipe.

Roll the chilled dough: Lightly coat 2 standard loaf pans with room-temperature unsalted butter. Unwrap the cold babka dough and set it on a lightly floured work surface. Roll the babka dough into a 9-by-24-inch rectangle.

Fill and roll the dough: Spread the Nutella in an even layer over the dough, all the way to the edges. Then sprinkle the chocolate chips in an even layer over the Nutella, across the entire surface of the dough. Then roll the dough from the top down, forming a tight cylinder. Pick up the cylinder, holding one end in each hand, and gently stretch it. Using a bread knife, slice the cylinder crosswise into quarters so you have a total of 4 filled segments.

Twist the strips to make the babkas: Take 2 pieces of dough, overlap one over the other to form an X, and twist the ends together like the threads on a screw so you have at least 2 twists on each side of the X. Repeat with the remaining pieces.

Let the babkas proof: Place each twisted babka in a prepared loaf pan. Cover the pans with a dry kitchen towel and set them aside in a warm, draft-free spot until the dough rises 1 to 2 inches above the rim of the pan and is very soft and jiggly to the touch, 1½ to 2 hours, depending on how warm your room is.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Bake the babkas: Place the babkas in the oven and bake until they are dark brown and baked through, about 40 minutes; check them after 25 minutes, and if they are getting too dark, tent them loosely with a piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil.

Meanwhile, make the simple syrup: Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Turn off the heat and set aside the syrup to cool.

Remove the pans from the oven and, while the babkas are still hot, brush the tops with the simple syrup. Once the babkas are completely cooled, turn them out of the loaf pans, slice, and serve.

Excerpted from Breaking Breads by Uri Scheft.

Photograph Credit: Con Poulos.





Gifts for cookbook lovers

gift baskets

These gifts would be a delight for any food or cookbook lover to unwrap. If you know of any sites that we've missed, let us know in the comments and we'll add them to the post. 


Yotam Ottolenghi - Gift hampers and kits (more items on the main page)
Nigella Lawson - Stationery and gift wrap
Fuchsia Dunlop - Authentic Chinese Cooking Set with a copy of Every Grain of Rice
Claire Ptak - The Violet Bakery Christmas Menu 2016
River Cottage - Knives, shirt, towels, and of course cookbooks
Three Sisters Bake - Brownie boxes, vouchers, and a cookbook!
ScandiKitchen - All types of Scandinavian treats (hurry, many are starting to sell out)
Spice Kitchen - gift hampers built around cookbooks and spice collections
Sous Chef - additional gift hampers built around cookbooks including several cocktail sets


Maggie Beer - Christmas hampers built around cookbooks
Donna Hay - These hampers include tools and tableware along with cookbooks
Cornersmith - Hampers featuring pickled products + cookbooks
Sarah Wilson - Books and Ebooks, meal plans, and totebags
Pamper Hampers - gift hampers built around cookbooks


Annabel Langbein - Kitchen tools, seed packs, cookbooks, and more 


Eataly (Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich) - food gift baskets, many for specific Italian regions
Thomas Keller - Tools, clothing, food products, and books
Food52 - An enormous collection of products from A (apples) to Z (Zwilling knives)
Rick Bayless - Frontera Kitchen food sets
Matt & Ted Lee - Essential Southern foods, signed cookbooks, and more
Maureen Abood - Lebanese ingredients and tools to love
Maggie Battista - Aprons, signed copies of Food Gift Love
Ming Tsai - Tools, cookbooks, food & spices 
Alton Brown - Alton's favorite foodie gifts, including his latest cookbook

Featured Cookbooks & Recipes

Do you find other people's comments on recipes helpful? Have you written your own recipe Notes? It's a great way to remind yourself how a dish turned out and share your experience with the EYB community. On each Recipe Details page you'll find a Notes tab.

Adding online recipes to your EYB Bookshelf is a really great way to expand your personal recipe collection. You can now do this even if you have a free membership!

We're featuring online recipes from these books, magazines and blogs - check them out.

Happy cooking and baking everyone!


From websites:

Chocolate & Rose Tart by Miriam Nice from BBC Good Food, indexed by an EYB member with the Bookmarklet



From AUS/NZ books:


6 recipes from Neighbourhood: Salads, Sweets and Stories from Home and Abroadby Hetty McKinnon, indexed by an EYB member



From European books:

7 recipes from Taste Lithuania by Beata Nicholson, indexed by an EYB member



From UK books:

6 recipes from Eat. Live. Go: Fresh Food Fast by Donal Skehan



From US books:

33 recipes from Food52: A New Way to Dinner: A Playbook of Recipes and Strategies for the Week Ahead by Amanda Hesser & Merrill Stubbs

Enter our Food52 giveaway! (US only)

3 recipes from Mad Hungry Family: 120 Essential Recipes to Feed the Whole Crewby Lucinda Scala Quinn

Enter our Mad Hungry Family giveaway! (US only)


5 recipes from The Gourmet Kitchen: Recipes from the Creator of Savory Simple by Jennifer Farley

Calendar of upcoming events

Enter our The Gourmet Kitchen giveaway! (US only)


3 recipes from Marbled, Swirled, and Layered: 150 Recipes and Variations for Artful Bars, Cookies, Pies, Cakes, and More by Irvin Lin

Calendar of upcoming events

Enter our Marbled, Swirled, and Layered giveaway (US only)


9 recipes from The Adventures of Fat Rice: Recipes from the Chicago Restaurant Inspired by Macau by Abraham Conlon, Adrienne Lo, & Hugh Amano



Doing some holiday shopping? Click any of EYB's 'Buy Book' links first when purchasing anything on Amazon and we earn an affiliate fee to help index more books! 

Cooking and baking are good for your mental health

mango coconut cake

At the end of a stressful week, I look forward to the weekend so that I can relax in the kitchen with a baking project. To paraphrase a popular saying, a bad day in the kitchen is better than a good day at work. Baking and cooking are forms of therapy for me, and I'm sure most EYB Members would agree. Now science is backing us up: a new study shows that performing creative activities each day, like cooking or baking, can help create happiness in our daily lives.

The study, published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, involved having researchers follow people around in their daily activities for two weeks. They discovered that when the research subjects performed seemingly ordinary tasks like cooking and baking, the subjects felt "more enthusiastic about their pursuits the next day."

This is not the first study to explore the link between cooking and mental health. Psychologists often use cooking or baking as a form of behavioral therapy. GBBO winner John Whaite uses baking as a tool to help him cope with manic depression (he was diagnosed with the condition in 2005). Experts posit that tasks like measuring ingredients, which require a good deal of focus, can help calm someone in a manner similar to meditation.

Photo of Mango & coconut mousse cake from John Whaite Bakes at Home by John Whaite 

A cookbook 'starter library'


Cookbook lovers not only read, collect, and cook from cookbooks, they also love to share their passion with others by giving cookbook gifts. Whether the gift is for a holiday, wedding, graduation, or other important life event, a cookbook is not only useful and thoughtful, it can become a cherished reminder of someone's love. Over at indexed blog The Kitchn, Tami Weiser writes about starting a cookbook library for her children to take with him as they become more independent.

Weiser provides a list of ten cookbooks that she gave each of her children. She found it difficult to whittle down a list of favorites to a mere ten volumes, so she applied criteria such as only professional-style or encyclopedic books (Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything), books with clear directions - important for beginning cooks (Dorie Greenspan's Baking with Julia), and books that were well-edited.

If I were to come up with a "cookbook starter library," it would look vastly different than Ms. Weiser's list, although I would include The Food Lab. I would add a bread book (The Bread Baker's Apprentice), and would also choose one unique volume that might be more aspirational than practical. For that, I'd consider a Thomas Keller book. I'd also think about adding Michael Ruhlman's The Elements of Cooking, because if one didn't have a kitchen mentor to learn from, that book would be helpful in understanding basic cooking concepts, and it isn't quite as lengthy as other technique/principle works. (Cal Peternell's Twelve Recipes might fit the bill here too.)

What would your "starter library" look like?

Ingredient - Ali Bouzari

In Ali Bouzari's debut book, Ingredient: Unveiling the Essential Elements of Food, each of the fundamental building blocks of food are fully explored to allow cooks a way to visualize and respond to what's really happening in the pan. An ingredient is a tomato, a tortilla, or some tarragon. An Ingredient (with a capital "I") is a recurring theme (or fundamental building block) that works behind the scenes in everything we cook. 

Ali Bouzari is a culinary scientist, educator, and co-founder of Pilot R+D, a culinary research and development company based in Northern California. After a stint working in restaurant kitchens while still studying biochemistry as an undergraduate, he started teaching at the Culinary Institute of America while obtaining his Ph.D. in Food Biochemistry from the University of California, Davis. 

While at the CIA, he helped develop the eleven-course curriculum for their Culinary Science bachelor's program, the first of its kind in the U.S. For his dissertation, Ali stayed true to his roots as a cook and collaborated with the French Laundry to focus his research on everyday cooking challenges. This interaction jumpstarted his career as a consultant to the culinary industry, allowing him to work closely with some of the most innovative restaurants in the U.S. Before reading his bio, I was totally impressed with myself for checking five things off my to-do list.

Bouzari's book Ingredient, is not a cookbook - there are no recipes - it can be defined as a manual on how food works. Chapters are organized as follows: Water, Sugars, Carbohydrates, Lipids, Proteins, Minerals, Gases and Heat. Each chapter is then broken down further. For example: Water is subdivided into 1) Solid, Liquid or Gas; 2) Dissolving; 3) Flow; 4) Acids + Bases; and 5) Growth.  Every aspect of each component is studied and explained. It truly is a valuable tool in any cook's arsenal - just as learning everything we can about spices and herbs and their uses, understanding how each building block brings a meal together is essential to furthering our culinary education. 

The book contains many illustrations and flow charts that make learning the science behind food playful and fun. I think of Ali as the new Alton Brown - the food world can definitely use another culinary genius with the initials AB. 

Ali states, "Ingredient works well as a reference book, but it's meant to be treated like a mini curriculum, a crash course in how food works. Read it beginning to end and you will gain a Sherlock Holmes-like superpower to help you visualize the patterns, connections, and solutions to questions you come across in the kitchen for the rest of your life."

We are thrilled that Ali's pubisher, Ecco, is offering a giveaway to our members in the U.S., Canada and U.K. Head to our contest page to enter. Ecco provided the photographs and excerpt illustrations from Ingredient for our use.

Cookbook Giveaway - Ingredient by Ali Bouzari

Ingredient: Unveiling the Essential Elements of Food by Ali Bouzari is a "how cooking works manual" that any serious cook should devour. You can read more about this title in our review post.

We are pleased to offer three copies of this title to our EYB Members in the U.S., Canada and the U.K.  

One of the entry options is to answer the following question in the comments section of this blog post:

What is your favorite ingredient that you turn to time and again?

Please note that you must be logged into the Rafflecopter contest before posting or your entry won't be counted. If you are not already a Member, you can join at no cost. The contest ends January 2nd, 2017. Be sure to check your email folders for notifications or check back on this post on the 2nd.

All about black cocoa powder

 Double chocolate loaf cake

Don't you love it when you learn something about an ingredient that you have been thinking about trying? That happened to me today, when I followed a link posted by David Lebovitz on Facebook. The link was to an article on the website (the blog by the authors of Baked) about black cocoa powder.

As an avid baker, I have seen many recipes that require black cocoa, including the Double chocolate loaf cake from indexed blog Two Peas and Their Pod (pictured above). I've yet to see the product in stores, however, and haven't yet thrown it into any online shopping carts. After reading this article, however, I will take advantage of the next free holiday shipping deal so I can begin to use this ingredient.

One of the concerns I had about black cocoa powder was how it would taste. It would obviously impart a very dark color to cookies and cakes, but how would it affect the flavor and texture? The team at Baking Society conducted a "blind" taste test using black cocoa, natural cocoa (Hershey's), and regular Dutched cocoa (Valrhona). The results indicated that black cocoa has no discernable effect on rise or texture, but did provide more bitter flavor notes. Previously, Baking Society published another ode to black cocoa that explains why you generally don't need to make any adjustments when using the product.  

The takeaway from the article is that when choosing a cocoa powder, you should ask yourself two questions: 1) What color are you looking for and 2) What flavor profile do you have in mind? If you like the somewhat bitter flavor that Dutched cocoa provides (black cocoa powder is described in the article as being "ultra Dutched"), and want your baked goods to be as dark as possible, then black cocoa powder is an excellent choice. 

Cookbook Giveaway - Marbled, Swirled, and Layered

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!)

Bakers of all levels will rejoice in the recipes that travel the spectrum from simple bars and brownies to show-stopping cakes and tarts. The author offers variations to suit any taste (more than 150 recipes total) plus baking and decorating tips on topics like making your own all‑natural food coloring, rolling up jelly roll-style cakes, and discovering the magic of browned butter. You can read more about this title in our author interview post which also shares a link to two recipes from this title to try now!

We are pleased to offer three copies of this title to our EYB Members in the U.S.  One of the entry options is to answer the following question in the comments section of this blog post:

What is your favorite special occasion dessert?

Please note that you must be logged into the Rafflecopter contest before posting or your entry won't be counted. If you are not already a Member, you can join at no cost. The contest ends December 31st, 2016. 





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.


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