We’ve partnered with a host of talented bloggers from around the web to let you in on some of the stories behind the wide range of talent at this year’s festival. From profiles and interviews to recipes and previews, follow along for the inside track on all things AFWF.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Let’s see – I was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. I went to the CIA in Hyde Park, NY when I was 19 yrs. old! (15 years ago!) I’ve loved anything and everything sweet from a very young age! I was a picky eater but always adored dessert – I wanted to be a pastry chef before I knew what that was.
I’ve worked in super fancy restaurants and hotels in New York City, London and Portland, Oregon but my favorite dessert is still a brownie sundae! I think dessert brings out the kid in everyone. I feel extremely lucky to bake cookies for a living!
What (or who) inspired you to become a pastry chef?
My Grandmother. She was a fabulous cook and baker. She taught me everything she knew! I was lucky to find my passion at a very young age.
Who inspires you now?
I’m inspired by so many people and things. I especially love old cookbooks – the spiral bound kind from small Texas towns’ church groups or junior leagues. 🙂 The recipes are amazing! So creative and fascinating – I love to take old desserts and make them new! I still use many of my Grandmothers recipes today!
How do you come up with new ideas? Can you tell me a little bit about your creative process?
I usually think of flavors first. For instance, if it’s spring, I make a list of flavors I think of or crave this time of year. (Herbs, honey, lemon, strawberries, vanilla, coconut etc). From there my imagination goes wild and I’m able to put flavors together and then decide in what way – a tart, a cake or ice cream or sauce etc etc.
Besides butter and sugar, what are 3 of your favorite ingredients?
1. Vinegar. There are so many different kinds and they give a real depth to different desserts.
Do you have a favorite dessert that you’ve made?
No – it’s like choosing a favorite child! I like change so I never have desserts on the menu for long. Sometimes I forget what desserts I’ve made and people will ask when I’m bringing a certain dessert back and I can’t even recall what it is or what was served with it!
When you’re not working, what do you like to bake/make at home?
Chocolate chip cookies, cakes, pancakes, biscuits – I have a 6 year old daughter and she loves to help in the kitchen! I usually keep it pretty simple!
If you had 15 minutes and a sudden sugar craving, what would you make?
I would grab Peanut M&Ms or a piece of chocolate! I rarely eat what I make 😉
Can you give us any hints about what you’ll be making at the Festival?
I’m making a buttermilk pie in a jar and layering it with roasted rhubarb, lemon cream and basil caramel! I’m also baking little lime and coconut coffee cakes for everyone to take home and enjoy for breakfast! I’m doing the Feast under the Stars so it’s going to be Intimate, beautiful and tons of fun!
Can you tell us about your soon-to-open bakery, Bribery?
Yes, of course! I’m so excited about it! It’s going to be a bakery by day and a dessert bar by night! It’s an extension of the Bake Sales I’ve been doing so there will be sweet and savory pastries and even some lunch items. Then at night a full cocktail bar and plated desserts – everything from soufflés to doughnuts to pies and so much more!
Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
1 cup pecans (4 ounces)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1 pound carrots, peeled and coarsely shredded
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 325°. Butter two 9-inch cake pans; line the bottoms with parchment. Butter the paper and flour the pans.
2. Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and toast for 8 minutes, until fragrant. Cool and finely chop the pecans.
3. In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In a small bowl, whisk the oil, buttermilk and vanilla. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar at high speed until pale, 5 minutes. Beat in the liquid ingredients. Beat in the dry ingredients just until moistened. Stir in the carrots and pecans. Divide the batter between the pans and bake the cakes for 55 minutes to 1 hour, until springy and golden. Let the cakes cool on a rack for 30 minutes, then unmold the cakes and let cool completely.
4. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese at high speed until light, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla, then the confectioners’ sugar; beat at low speed until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
5. Peel off the parchment paper and invert one cake layer onto a plate. Spread with a slightly rounded cup of the frosting. Top with the second cake layer, right side up. Spread the top and sides with the remaining frosting and refrigerate the cake until chilled, about 1 hour. Slice and serve.