It’s the weekend and I’m scouring my cookbook cabinet and envelope of magazine recipe clippings, my sweet tooth indecisive, my sugar-crazed mind unsure what it craves, my belly ravenous. Moments later, I am seated before the dessert of my dreams: a Boston cream pie with silky smooth pastry cream in between sheets of moist sponge cake, covered in a glistening chocolate glaze. If only I could snatch that decadent cake from my laptop’s screen with my claw-like hands!
Thanks to the technologic age, any recipe can be attained at your fingertips. Like the star chefs on Food Network, food bloggers have earned hordes of fans who devotedly follow their pages for cooking tips and gorgeous photos.
While web surfing their blogs on a daily basis—and admittedly salivating as I scroll through photos of marinated steaks and oozing chocolate lava cakes—I became acquainted with each blogger’s inner voice, their personal insights shared alongside recipes and pictures. I was able to correspond with some of my favorite bloggers and was amazed how their blog’s tone came through in their candid answers, their personalities as familiar as Julia Child on The French Cook.
One thing I regrettably forgot to ask is if any of them would volunteer to be my stand-in baker, since the Boston cream pie has yet to physically materialize in my kitchen. Any takers, please?
What Joy Eats
The year 2005 brought a whirlwind of change for graphic designer Joy Deangdeelert Cho. Almost seven years ago, Joy had left her job in New York, gotten engaged, moved to Philadelphia (she now resides in Los Angeles, California) and started her own design studio dubbed Oh Joy! It was a busy year, to say the least, but Joy rode through it and even launched ohjoy.blogs.com, a popular blog that features her work, recommendations and personal tastes.
“It really encompasses everything I love,” she says of her website. “Food, fashion and design have always been some of my biggest loves, so it’s what naturally comes out of me when coming up with content to post.”
“Eats,” a separate section dedicated solely to food, literally gives updates on what Joy eats, restaurants she recommends and reviews on food finds.
“Most blogs involve recipes or dining out reviews. While I have those, too, from time to time, the Eats part of my blog really is about what I’m eating. While I love to cook, I like eating more and want to share that perspective with my readers.”
Entries tagged “lunch lady” contain brief interviews with fellow bloggers, photographers and people in the food industry. On “dining style” tags, readers will find Joy’s six food-related items of the moment, ranging from polka-dotted ceramic bowls to glass jars of sundae toppings. Other posts feature what Joy is currently snacking on, such as these darling animal cracker ice cream sandwiches that she snapped a photo of.
Animal Cracker Ice Cream Sandwiches. Photos by Joy Deangdeelert Cho, ohjoy.blogs.com
Joy credits her food appreciation to growing up in a restaurant family.
“Since I was 5 years old I spent time at my parents’ Thai restaurant, watching them make food and seeing customers enjoy it.”
A similar exchange is made on her blog.
“Readers are so supportive and kind with fun announcements and milestones,” Joy says. “I have met some of my closest friends through my blog, which is the best outcome of all.”
Joy’s Blogger Do’s & Don’ts
Do: Post things that you love, your own photos, experiences, what feels right to you.
Don’t: Try and recreate what others are doing on their blogs. What works for them might not work for you, and it will feel more genuine in your own voice and style.
Floridian Photographing Foodies
Ask Peter and Christey Krause, the Melbourne-based couple behind fotocuisine.com, what each cooks that the other enjoys eating and you’ll get a string of answers from the two of them. Christey lists Peter’s béarnaise and matchstick fries and Korean lettuce wraps as her favorites, while Peter cites Christey’s shepherd’s pie, chili and Alfredo as his own.
“She makes a fantastic Alfredo,” Peter says, “except she makes it from my recipe, and every time I see her make it, I want to jump in and do everything in a different way. She gets annoyed by that.”
Recipe domination aside, the Krauses work harmoniously when it comes to shooting step-by-step cooking photos for their blog. Peter’s deft hands are captured squeezing lemons or grating cheese for a cream sauce. Christey plates the food, arranging it for its close up. She confesses her “models” are sometimes difficult to work with.
“Lighting, lighting, lighting” is a technical issue Christey usually deals with during photo shoots. “Food is glossy, and it’s hard to control that.”
Foto Cuisine holds an honorary badge as “Best of the Web” by Saveur Magazine. Photos of the finished dishes make them look like meals from a five-star restaurant, but what truly makes the blog stand out is the tab for the novice cook labeled “Techniques.”
“We try to show that techniques mean more than a list of ingredients,” Peter says. “When I was learning to cook, I really wanted to know exactly what things looked like. Cooking amazing food isn’t actually all that hard, but it is difficult to find someone who can show you the basics right when you need to know.”
Cooking and blogging are passions for Peter and Christey, but they come second to last on their list of priorities. Besides raising four kids, Peter is a software engineer, while Christey runs her studio photography business.
Lamb and Tzatziki Sliders. Photo by Christey Krause, fotocuisine.com
Lamb & Tzatziki Sliders
Makes 5-6 patties
1 pound ground lamb
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme (leaves stripped from stems)
1 tsp salt
Cracked black pepper
¼ cup Greek yogurt
¼ cup sour cream
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic
2 tsp minced fresh dill
Juice from 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper
Mini-pitas (or mini hamburger buns)
Crumbled feta cheese
1. Remove seeds from peeled cucumber with a spoon; grate into shreds. Mince garlic.
2. In a food processor or blender, add garlic, shredded cucumber, dill, yogurt, sour cream, olive oil and lemon juice. Blend just to mix, not enough to make smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.
1. Mix lamb with thyme leaves, salt and pepper. Shape into small patties—one pound will make about five or six patties.
2. Grill outdoors or sear in a skillet. Lamb patties don’t have to be rare, but they’re better if they’re not completely well done.
Lunches with Jillian
This website started out as a photo share for family and friends. Soon, Canadian Jillian Dubien’s blog, meetthedubiens.blogspot.com, began to expand. Besides adorable portraits of her daughter Kirsten and son Camden, photos of at-home crafts began to crop up, as well as delectable dishes of chicken a l’orange and meatloaf cupcakes (an April Fool’s meal). Then, at the end of July 2010, Jill added a new section to her blog titled “Fun Food Friday.” Star-shaped cucumbers and fruit, a Ritz cracker caterpillar surrounded by celery and cherry tomato toadstool mushrooms, Jill’s snacks coax picky eaters to eat their vegetables and challenge those who scold “Don’t play with your food!”
“You may not believe this, but I’m not really the kitchen pro that my blog may lead you to believe,” Jill says.
She certainly fooled me.
“I never enjoyed cooking until I had kids and realized that I better learn or they would be eating cereal and toast for the rest of their lives.”
Jill didn’t want her kids to grow up on fast food. Her fervor for cooking provides her children with healthy and delicious meals. By sharing her exploits in the kitchen online, she’s “met” amazing women in the blogging community.
“We all inspire each other,” Jill says.
The Dubiens’ kitchen is always stocked with fruit leather and tools for Fun Food Fridays. Jill admits a slight addiction to collecting tools.
“I’m always on the lookout for cute cookie cutters, sprinkles and sandwich punches,” she says. “I love using large cookie cutters to cut out sandwich shapes. Small cookie cutters are great for cutting shapes out of fruit and veggies, lunch meats and cheeses, fruit leather and more. You don’t need a lot of supplies to make cute lunches for your kids, and trust me, they’ll absolutely love it!”
With all the crafts, cooking and cute cracker caterpillars, I had to ask what Jill’s ideal meal would be if she were to take a break and whom she’d desire to prepare it.
“Oh, probably a delicious seafood meal including lobster, crab legs and scallops. I’d love to have either Curtis Stone or Jamie Oliver make my ideal meal for me. That way I could enjoy my delicious meal prepared by one of these amazing chefs and have something nice to look at in the kitchen while I was waiting! I guess my husband could join us, too. Just kidding, of course he could!”
Jill’s Fun Food Friday Tool Kit
Find these around the house:
Many of Jill’s specialty tools are found on amazon.com:
Plastic cutters with handles by Kuhn Rikon
Sandwich punches by Evriholder
Egg molds by Kotobuki
Silicon cups by Baking Supply
Stock up on:
The Collegiate Baker
Here’s a disclaimer about Elissa Bernstein, blogger of 17andbaking.com: She wasn’t 17 when she started her blog, and as of next year, she’ll no longer be a teenager. And for the record, she happened to start baking when she was 15.
“No one in my family is truly a baker. I picked up my first cake cookbook when I was 15, made a cake that looked just like the photo, and I was hooked ever since,” she says.
The 19 year old has won the Weblog Award for “Best Weblog Written by a Teen” in 2010 and has been featured in AOL Food, The Seattle Times and boston.com. Besides earning accolades from national publications, Elissa also steps up to the dining plate as a member of The Daring Bakers.
The Daring Bakers’ Challenge (DB) is a monthly event where a member picks a recipe and everyone in the group follows it.
“Everyone gets to put their unique spin on the dessert,” she says. “The group encourages you to bake things you’d otherwise never tackle.”
Past challenges include baked Alaska, French macarons and tiramisu.
A sophomore at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts, Elissa is honing her skills in writing by studying creative non-fiction.
“Truthfully, I simply love to write. I want to write articles about indigenous tribes in the Amazon, the metro system in London, the woman who tempers chocolate in a little French patisserie—anything and everything. I want to travel and be exposed to new cultures, writing all the way.”
Of course, baking is another one of her true loves. Elissa relishes the process from start to finish.
“I love everything about baking. The weight of flour in a measuring cup, the smell of ground ginger and cinnamon on the counter, the feel of sugar damp with lemon zest. “
If Elissa could eat only one thing for the rest of her life, what would it be?
“The one thing I never tire of is eating ice cream.”
Although Elissa’s Boston cream pie isn’t marked DB, the recipe is challenging and tedious in and of itself. The next best thing that requires only a few steps? Elissa’s pistachio gelato, tweaked from Bon Appetit.
Makes about 3 cups
3/4 cup unsalted, shelled pistachios
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups whole milk
1/2 tsp almond extract
4 large egg yolks
1. In a food processor, grind the pistachios and 1/4 cup sugar into fine powder. Combine with milk and almond extract in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
2. Whisk the yolks and remaining sugar in a bowl. Ladle a spoonful of hot milk mixture bit by bit into the yolks, stirring constantly, to heat the yolks without cooking them.
3. Add the egg mixture to the saucepan and stir over medium-low heat until the custard thickens slightly. The custard should leave a clear trail on the back of a spoon when you run a finger through it.
4. Remove from heat and strain into a medium bowl. Refrigerate until cold.
5. Churn through an ice cream maker.