Friday, March 26, 2010

My Introduction to the World of Blogging

For some time prior to starting my blog, I had several friends who were encouraging me to start one. Since I tend to be a bit of a luddite (I use my cell phone for calls only...and, exactly what is the purpose of twitter?!), I was pretty unaware of food blogs. Then Katrina, a lovely woman who regularly attends my classes in Lawrence, emailed me to tell me that she had mentioned me and my classes on her food blog. So I checked out her blog—a charming site called Baking and Boys.

I mentioned to Katrina that I had been told I should think about keeping a blog.  She was open and generous with her advice and encouragement (I imagine that many of you reading this post found my site because she plugged my new blog on hers).   She also suggested some sites that I might look at to find out what food blogging is all about.  So, I began to look around.  I have been so impressed with the community that I have found--a community of people who seem to be really cooking, experimenting and exchanging ideas about their experiences in the kitchen. More than that, they are sharing the experiences of their daily lives. Our grandmothers did all of this over the back fence or on the front porch. It is such a pleasure to discover that these activities have not disappeared—they have just morphed into something new. And I love anything that gets people back into their kitchens—actually cooking and feeding themselves, their families and their friends. There is much to like in this world.

I have obviously decided that I would take the plunge!  The food blogger world is an amazing place and I am pleased to now be a part of it. I thought I would devote this post to mentioning a few of the sites I have discovered as I have looked around along with some of the recipes I have tried.

Early on I discovered Cannelle et Vanille, a blog written by a Frenchwoman living in the U.S. Not only is she a French pastry chef, she is also photographer and food stylist. Her photographs are truly beautiful. Like me, she seems to like cake. There are so many recipes on her site that I would like to try, but I've only had time to try one so far—Raspberry, Pistachio and Buttermilk Cakes. I made these when my friend Christy was going to be coming over for coffee. They seemed like something that she would enjoy (she likes cake too). Since I hadn't learned how to use my digital camera yet (that technology thing again), and I wasn't really sure I would be blogging at that point, I don't have pictures of what I made. I should also be honest and say that I didn't end up making Raspberry & Pistachio cakes. I made Blueberry & Pecan Cakes. I still had some precious blueberries in my freezer that I picked during a trip with friends to Lake Michigan last September. Also, I had fortuitously discovered shortly before making the cakes that my friend didn't like pistachios. Anyone who bakes knows that slight alterations like these will not change the character of the cake part of a recipe—and these turned out to be really special little cakes. I made them in several different sized molds and they acted well in all of them. The cakes were tender, moist and flavorful—a real keeper. Christy (and her little boy) loved them!

Another blog I discovered (via Cannelle et Vanille) is Tartelette. It is also written by a Frenchwoman living in the U.S. She too is a pastry chef, photographer and food stylist. Her work is lovely. While perusing her blog one day I came across a sour cream coffeecake recipe: Chai Coffee Cake. I particularly like sour cream coffeecakes and the spices in this one appealed to me—also the quantity of streusel...lots of streusel. Doesn't everybody always want more streusel? The coffeecake turned out just as good as Helene said it would. The one I made is in my freezer, packaged in individual portions. I am still enjoying it for breakfast. It's almost gone.... I will definitely make more.

This past winter a friend sent me a link to Wild Yeast. As I have looked over this site, I am so impressed with the generosity of the author. She is sharing not only recipes, but technical information about the whole bread making process. Her information is clear and detailed, making bread baking much more accessible to anyone who comes across her blog and spends a little time there.

I am not a novice to bread baking—I even keep a starter (albeit, usually dormant)—but the intricacies of making breads that are wholly leavened with a starter have always struck me as something best left to people who specialize in bread. On her site I found a recipe dubbed "My New Favorite Sourdough". It looked fairly straight forward. I followed her recommendations for feeding my starter and I ultimately produced a nice loaf. It did not look as fabulous as hers (it was my first attempt, after all), but it was entirely edible—actually more than edible. It was very good. I was pleased enough with it that I took it with me to dinner at a friend's house. I will spend a lot of time on this site—there is a wealth of good information there.

Finally, one of the first blogs I came across was Eggbeater, by Shuna Fish Lydon. Shuna is an accomplished pastry chef (has worked for Thomas Keller) and cooking teacher. She is also a good writer. As someone who has worked in professional kitchens, I find that what she writes about professional kitchens rings true—I really enjoy reading her blog. Additionally, she, like the writer of Wild Yeast, devotes a lot of posts to explaining technical aspects of baking. This makes Blog Eggbeater a great resource.

It was not until this morning that I got around to making one of her recipes. I made a cake. (Have I mentioned that I like cake?) Cakes that incorporate fresh fruit are very close to my heart and Shuna's description of her Cornmeal & Fresh Fruit Cake--"... a cake...that's versatile, sturdy enough for raw fruit, and isn't too sweet"--tipped the scale in its favor. Also, I had seen the season's first rhubarb in the store last week and making this cake gave me a place to use it. I have been working all week for a catering friend and I took the cake in to work to share with everyone for breakfast. It was very well received.

Since I have figured out my camera well enough to point and shoot, I have a picture:

The thing I love the most about the community I have found in the virtual world of food blogging is the very real generosity I have found there. Whether food professionals, passionate amateurs or cooks just having fun in the kitchen, the writers are generous not only with their recipes but with their knowledge and experience. Food should be about generosity. As I look over this post, I notice that almost everything I made, I shared. Sharing food is one of the reasons that I cook.  I have found that blogging will give me another way of sharing food.


Megan said...

Welcome to blogging. Be careful, it's addicting! ;)

Katrina said...

Great post, Paige. Thanks for mentioning me. It's like seeing my name in lights. ;)
I've heard of all the blogs you mentioned, but the only one I currently read is Tartlette, she was a speaker at a food blogger's conference I went to in San Fran last Sept. She's great.
The others are, too, so I'm now adding them to my Google Reader. Lots of yummy cake! I think you should do a class of Paige's Favorite Cakes. Or would that be too hard to narrow down? ;)

Deb said...

I'm glad you are blogging. I moved away from Lawrence last July and really miss your classes and the Merc.

Paula said...

Got here via Katrina. Interesting reading. I concur with Megan. Blogging is addicting..also time-sucking. Look forward to seeing where you go with it.

Unknown said...

Welcome to the wonderful world of food blogging. It's a great place to be!

Heard about you a lot, from Katrina. I'm a happy follower now!