‘Tis the baking season and time to give gifts to your loved ones who bake pie, cake, bread, cookies and so much more. I’ve had lots of questions about my favorite baking equipment and what to get the bakers in your life. You can always find the list of what I am using in my kitchen in my “Shop” tab at the top of my website. I only post the products that I actually use and love. You’ll find a link my beloved torch below.
I’m also including some gift ideas from small businesses I love. Enjoy!
Gift Ideas from Small Businesses
The Wreath of Joy – You can DM your orders to Como Harriet Design on Instagram to get one-of-a-kind bespoke silk flower wreaths made by my good friend, Joy Summers.
Silk Oak Designs – My Mom’s leather and stone handmade necklaces can be worn as chokers (as I prefer in the kitchen) or as looser single and double strands. Visit her site to get more ideas and see the selections of designs. They’ve become the only jewelry I wear and each piece tells a story.
If you’ve ever seen my kitchen, you’ll know I am not a minimalist. The abundance just sort of happened. I’ve lived a full life and gathered stuff along the way. Too much stuff, perhaps. I just got Melissa Coleman’s (thefauxmartha) beautiful new book and I am determined to declutter, downsize and minimize my kitchen (and eventually my whole house). I vow to go through each cabinet and keep only what is essential. The rest I will donate or pass along to the next owner.
The other thing that is wonderful about her book and philosophy is the way she approaches a recipe. Use as few utensils and equipment as possible. When I made this recipe I tried to stick to the two bowls she recommends and even chose one with a spout, so I could just pour the batter out, instead of using a spoon to scoop. It’s amazing to be so conscious of what is crucial and what is just extra. I normally live in the “extra” zone, but now I will be more mindful.
I adore carrot cake. It’s one of my favorite desserts. This carrot cupcakes recipe is delicate and less hippie than my go to carrot cake, so it was fun to try Melissa’s sophisticated take on the classic. The mascarpone frosting is so good I had to keep my whole family from eating all of it before I could pipe it onto the carrot cupcakes. Melissa has kindly given me permission to share her lovely recipe with you here.
Melissa says the sprinkles on top of these carrot cupcakes are optional, but I think they are brilliant and you should go for it.
In 2013 my husband and I bought a house. It’s a gob-smacking piece of 1902 architecture with ornate woodwork, the likes of which I’d never seen before. It was built by T.P. Healy, who made a name for himself in Minneapolis building homes for the flour barons and other folks making it big in the milling town.
Our house was once a grand gesture of a time of wheat prosperity, but it fell on hard times, as did the country, when the depression hit and it eventually became a boarding house and then apartments. Luckily for us and for the preservation of history, the house was kept in pretty good condition, considering the number of people who ended up owning it and living there.
By the time we bought the house it was broken up into 4 apartments, which was honestly part of the appeal. Not that we intended to rent the apartments out, in fact, it is only zoned as a duplex, so two of them were illegal. The draw was the 4 kitchens that came with all those apartments. I had visions of having a “family” kitchen and then using one of the others as a studio to work in.
For the first several months that’s exactly what I did. At first it was awesome, I cooked meals on the first floor where I had a great gas range, ran up to the second floor, which had the best oven in the house to bake and then to the third floor kitchen to photograph, because the light is AWESOME up there. This was all good fun, then I realized that I was doing about 12 trips up and down the stairs per recipe. Quite a workout plan, but not exactly efficient for my work day.
None of the apartment kitchens really fit the bill, but as a combined effort they were proving less effective than I’d fantasized. This became abundantly clear while a team of 6 people tried to shoot the photos for The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. We all jogged up and down, which I’d come to think as normal, but they moaned as they baked on one floor and shot on another. The photo shoot also took days longer than expected as a result. The next week I had an architect, Gregg Hackett, drawing up plans for one kitchen that would satisfy all the needs. A few months later Blue construction moved in and built it.
We were really lucky to have the original blueprints (above) from 1902 to work from and we tried to put the kitchen back to where it had been originally. This meant taking out a bedroom and bathroom to make space. The pictures below are a before and after of that renovation.
Last year I bought a new house. It had 4 kitchens. I thought I would use one for cooking with my family, one for my “studio/work space” and the others were, well I wasn’t quite sure what to do with them. There is a decent explanation for all of these cooking spaces; the house was an apartment building when we bought it. My husband and I are just crazy enough to find this project an adventure. You’ll be happy to know that we are still happily married, we continue to love the house, but the reality of having all those kitchens wasn’t nearly as romantic as I had fantasized. They were all on different floors, so if I left my favorite balloon whisk on the top floor, but I need to whip eggs on the first floor, I had to run up and down again to get it. I ended up losing 5 pounds (not a bad fitness plan) and was getting frustrated in the middle of all my recipes. I could either duplicate every piece of equipment I owned or give up the whole notion and go with one kitchen. After months of using the house as a stairmaster, we decided a single kitchen made the most sense.
I needed to choose new appliances. The ones that came with the house were from the 1960s and no longer worked as they were intended. I originally went with a 48″ Wolf rangetop and hood that I found, virtually unused, on craigslist. It really worked fine, but I wasn’t blown away with the strenth of the burners and I didn’t care for the griddle, which I never used. I always wished I had the extra burners instead. So, when I was approached by BlueStar about being part of their BlueStar Chefs program, I jumped at the chance. I wanted the kind of fire power I had when I worked in restaurant kitchens, at home. I liked the fact that it can cook the pants off the Wolf (the open burners and extra BTUs are a little bit crazy, in a good way). With all that extra power I went with a Prizer hood, which is strong enough to vent the rangetop and it even sucks the smoke from my pizza baking across the room. Since this is my home office and I like to work in a fun space, the fact that I can pick knobs in any color, well that’s just cool too. (But, every time I pick a color from the 190 choices, my mood changes and I want a new one.) Until I can make up my mind, I’ll stick with the black, which goes with every apron I own. Now that I have this magnificent fire beast, I’ve vowed to stretch my dinner repertoire. Read More
This photograph of me was taken by Susan Powers, while we sat at Tilia and sampled ALL the desserts. Our day together began baking Linzer cookies, carrot cake cupcakes and a gluten-free pizza for lunch, at my house. Being a food blogger and writing cookbooks is, for the most part, a solitary profession. It was such a treat for me to share the kitchen with Susan and her partner in Shoot The Kitchen, Stephanie Meyer.