I’ve been asked a few times why I do the food blog. It’s a complex question with a multitude of answers. And a post over Joy The Baker prompted me to write a little bit about it.
Vanity? Only in very small part. Commercial gain? Hardly. The small change gained from promotion here would never pay the bills. Well, maybe if I worked at linking and promotion 24 hours a day. But with job duties in the photo industry, I don’t have the luxury of that time.
The blog idea started to gain a little bit of traction a few years back. I was cleaning out my cupboard and found a half dozen cans of Spam tucked in the back of the cupboard. Each day for the next week, I opened up a can and made a different variation of Spam – Spam and Eggs, Spam Hash on Toast, Spam and Egg Terrine, Spam Pate on Brioche, you name it. I photographed them all, wrote up a little blurb touting Spam as the new Haute Cuisine, and emailed them to a list of friends. One of the crew said “Hey you should take pics and write about this stuff.” While that was encouraging, it still wasn’t enough. I do make whacky dishes sometimes and a few may even find their way to this blog. But I needed to have some more purpose. And since I had gotten back into the baking around that time too, the ATVY blog was born.
I had tried to combine the baking stuff with a local food blog. I trashed that idea after about two months. And here’s why. Bakers, chefs, cooks et all are on a mission of sorts. They want the Good Stuff and not the Fluff. One who is after a Danish Braid technique is not going to give a crap that I ate at the restaurant around the corner yesterday. So I try and get to the meat of the matter here. Whether it’s good or not is entirely in the hands of the readers.
The other and perhaps most important reason behind the baking blog is that while I’m a good cook, I have always been The Frustrated Baker. So I like to take what I’ve learned to help others realize that they’re not abject failures. It’s one of the reasons I post my failures in My Own Kitchen Disasters. I’ve learned a lot from failures and baking disasters over time. I’ve learned that I must cut steam vents for certain things. I’ve learned about leavening. I’ve learned about how different oven temperatures affect things in different ways. Successful baking does not evolve from a list of stuff written down on a piece of paper. It does not come from memorizing a bunch of steps. It comes from willingness to Learn, to Create, to Experiment. Otherwise you’ve got nothing much to say except “Hey look – I took this list of stuff and made the exact same thing like on that other blog!” Wow. How exciting. Heavy sigh… What else ya got?
Learning is probably one of the hardest things to try and explain to any new baker. “Recipes, recipes, recipes, I want the Recipes!” is the usual chant. What many beginning bakers fail to accomplish is Mastery. Taking one basic recipe, such as in the sponge cake here, and making the best sponge cake possible. Learn how to perfectly slice it on the horizontal. It is the base of your creation. You can’t afford to screw it up. Lots of sugar glop on a Bad Cake does not make it a Good Cake.
Once you become willing and are able to properly submit to learning and have mastered a specific technique, change it up. Create! Here taken a one layer sponge cake sliced down the middle and have done it up with fresh whipped cream, some drained crushed pineapple, coconut, and some toasted walnuts. It’s nothing I learned out of a book. It’s nothing I saw on a blog. I just did it. I wanted to get in some practice with the pastry bag, and this is what I wound up with. As I’ve said before, this stuff ain’t Rocket Science. And what did I learn here? That I really need a whipped cream stabilizer especially since this cake was done when it was about 90 degrees out in the middle of June.
After you’ve mastered a technique such the little one layer sponge cake, Experiment. The original cake recipe I started with is here in the post for The Little Apple Cake. Since then, I’ve changed up the mix and have changed it to 4 eggs and one cup of Cake Flour. For a basic plain vanilla sponge, I use a teaspoon or so of good vanilla and leave out the cinnamon. I’ve even cut back on the sugar a bit. When I want to do a cream cake with gobs of goo or sweetened whipped cream, this simple basic cake works everytime. It takes a syrup well, it stands up well to fillings, and there’s not so much junk in it that it takes away from my extra adornments.
Learn and Master your Basics. From there, you can take your creations in any direction.
Joy The Baker also made note of cameras in the post I linked. I’ll just leave you with one very important thing for right now. Photography is All About The Light, and not much else. So a $5000 camera isn’t going to do you any better than a hundred dollar point shoot if you don’t know how to use it. Yes you can get a lucky shot with the expensive DSLRs. But with a few food bloggers I’ve talked to over time, they’ve experienced nothing but frustration. Start with Good Light – that’s primary, even if you own a lowly point & shoot.