I’ve been stewing on this blog for what feels like ages, condensing my baking interests into tangible categories (they’re all over the place!) and trying to “find my voice.” I’m a baker, and honest-as-honest, communication isn’t my strongest suit.
As a business owner, I’ve been told time and again that I need to have a blog, usually nested in a long stream of must-haves for successful entrepreneurial endeavors. I liked the idea, but felt like I didn’t know where to go with it, so for awhile it just kind of simmered in the back of my mind. I’d revisit the idea on occasion and ambitiously concluded that I wanted to create something that challenged me creatively and held some common thread through each installment. Full disclosure- I’m still not exactly sure what that will be. But I can tell you a little bit about the things that you’re sure to find here, as I’ve drafted probably half a dozen potential posts over the past few months.
Here’s what I know so far: There’s gonna be a good bit of digging into baking science (because I flippin’ love that stuff!). Everything from ingredient substitution to the chemistry of eggs is fair game. If you’re pretty casual about your baking, that might all seem a bit dense. But if I haven’t dissuaded you entirely yet, I'm hoping you'll enjoy following along as I try to dig deeper into what makes desserts work (or fail, as the case may sometimes be.)
I’ll be writing about what I am learning myself, because it’s a never-ending process and I’m constantly evolving and discovering new things. This list feels endless, but certainly encompasses working with/growing edible flowers, specialty-diet baking, seasonal recipes, and natural food dyes. And, of course, cakes. Lots of cakes.
With all this in mind, it was difficult to know where to start. Thank goodness for the occasional edge from a fellow creative type: enter Caylie Mash, photographer extraordinaire. Caylie approached me about doing a personal highlight for HER blog, and after the initial flattery subsided I felt that amazing surge of inspiration that often happens when two creative individuals collaborate. An end-of-summer highlight on my business didn't feel complete without also including a trip out to one of the many farms I love to source from, where the desserts really begin.
The day started with a visit to one of my favorite local flower growers, Nancy Vekved (find her at Sweet Peas & Carrot Cake), where we walked through the gardens as Nancy pointed out her favorite new blooms and answered all of my million questions. I love the wealth of information you can glean from veteran gardeners, and Nancy is always happy to entertain my curiosities- ranging from plant identification, to the best time to harvest herbs for drying, to "hey, do you know what this flower tastes like?-- and can I eat one??"
Nancy has an incredible garden, meandering and wild to the untrained eye, though methodical and organized upon closer inspection. She specializes in unsprayed flowers, though that day I came for the fig tree, ripe and dripping with fruit. We also found a wealth of perfectly ripe thornless blackberries, and with that inspiration, a dessert plan was born.
These late summer treats always beg to become fruit pies and tarts: simple confections made to let the ripened-to-perfection flavors shine through. This time of year, I like to keep a healthy stock of pie dough in the freezer for such occasions.
With the abundance of pie dough recipes in the world, I've never found anything better than the classic 3-2-1 formula.
That's 3 parts flour : 2 parts fat : 1 part water, by weight.
I prefer an all-butter pie dough made with pastured-raised, grass-fed butter and locally milled pastry flour. Some claim it's best to use some (or all) shortening as the fat in pie dough, as it has a higher melting temperature than butter and so is easier to create a flaky crust with. I've always preferred the flavor that butter lends over the workabilty of shortening, though.
If you're using all butter, be sure to work quickly and keep the dough cool. Don't be afraid to pop it back in the cooler for a few minutes, especially in the summer heat. I also love having a marble slab to roll my pie dough on, as it helps keep the dough chilled. On especially hot days, I'll even chill the marble in the refrigerator before starting to roll my pie dough for some extra working time.
Figs and blackberries are a match made in heaven, and only needed a touch of nutty richness to round out the dish: a creamy brown butter filling to nest atop.
Brown butter filling is another thing you're likely to find stashed in my fridge for last minute dessert emergencies. If I'm being completely honest, these days I usually just eyeball the recipe at about equal parts eggs, sugar, and softened (but not melted) browned butter, and about half as much flour. Add a pinch of salt, the beans scraped out of a vanilla pod, beat until fluffy, and you've got one of the most luscious and versatile fillings I've ever met.
I hope you enjoyed this peek into what my sourcing and process looks like. Check back soon for a post on my favorite autumn recipes and don’t forget to sign up for my mailing list so that you never miss a post!
All photos in the post by Caylie Mash Photography, used with permission.
Between wedding cakes, baking production, and humble gardening ambitions, there's constant experimentation, growth, and a never-ending learning curve. Follow along to see what I'm up to.