I love ice cream (don't we all?). But I also love making it to my own taste and texture. As many of you know, I am working on an ice cream book which is about two years from publication. In the process of researching ideas I have just discovered a recently published book that has really impressed me. Hello, My Name Is Ice Cream, is written by Dana Cree, a pastry chef at Publican in Chicago. Dana gracefully rides the cusp of hardcore scientist and fun filled best friend. And dear to my precision loving heart each ingredient is listed with its percentage of the entire base and under it is first the weight in grams and then the volume. How could I not feel right at home with this book! Dana has addressed the great nemesis of homemade ice cream: iciness. Each recipe offers a choice of 4 different "texture agents" from commercial to cornstarch. They are numbered at the bottom of the page and the number and technique corresponds to where it appears in the recipe. This is design brilliance at its best and reflects the approach of a brilliant and original author. In the front section of the book, Dana explains why the volume often does not correlate with the gram weight by saying: they are not direct conversions of each other; it didn't make sense to end up with wonky things like "1 cup minus a tablespoon plus a quarter teaspoon. I balanced each recipe within its own discipline....If you want the nuanced textures as I designed them, use a scale and measure your ingredients in grams. Otherwise stick with cups and spoons, which are a little more approximate. The ice cream will be no less delicious, just a touch less perfectly textured. In a phone conversation, Dana told me that all the recipes were tested both by weight and by volume. The first recipe I have tried from the book is the banana ice cream. The technique of infusing the very ripe (read blackened) banana in the dairy mixture intrigued me. On my first try, the flavor was blissfully pure banana but the texture was icy--my fault--I thought I could get away without a texturing agent. Dana recommended the cornstarch slurry "texture agent" to bind up some of the water, advising that if that didn't work fully to my satisfaction, I should simmer the dairy mixture for 2 to 5 minutes before adding the cornstarch slurry (to evaporate the water that turns to ice crystals). Since I only had one more black banana at the ready I did both, which produced a beautifully thickened base and sure enough--dense and creamy with not a trace of iciness. (My middle name is concentrating juices so why didn't I think of that?!) I thought I knew all about ice cream, having included many recipes in several of my books. In recent years I've added the technique of using glucose syrup for smoother texture, as does Dana. But reading this book is an exciting new frontier to explore and I'm so glad I was introduced to it before finishing my own book on the subject. I also am pleased to know of a colleague who is so delightfully talented, devoted to the success of the home baker as well as the professional, and feel like I've found a new and treasured kindred spirit and friend. Hello, My Name Is Ice Cream: The Art and Science of the Scoop
Research In late January, we met with our photographer, Matthew Septimus, at the ICC (International Culinary Center) library in New York City to do research for our style/beauty shots sessions in April. Librarian, Sara Quiroz, made us feel at home, helping us find various books and magazines to flip through for inspiration and ideas for composition. Matthew photographed them for reference and also sent them to my editor Stephanie Fletcher for our upcoming conference call. In 2013, we had the good fortune to have had my dear friend Caitlin Williams Freeman come from the West coast to style The Baking Bible, but that was not a possibility for this upcoming book because now she has two children under the age of two. Erin McDowel had been assistant to Caitlin, for The Baking Bible, which gave me the opportunity to see from her baking know-how and her artistry in styling that she would be perfect for this book. Then a series of synchronous events unfolded. Erin has become a much in demand stylist for publications and companies including Food 52 and King Arthur Flour. She is currently finishing up on her first book: The Fearless Baker, with the same publishing house as mine: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The day on which she asked me if I would consider writing the foreword for her book was the very day on which I asked her if she would consider being the stylist for mine. It is hard to measure which one of us was more delighted! The Fearless Baker: Simple Secrets for Baking Like a Pro While our baking kitchen in Hope, New Jersey, served as the ideal place for the step-by-steps photos, it would not work ideally for the style/beauty shots sessions as it was mutually agreed upon that most of the shots should be done with natural light. Erin came up with the perfect location: The Prop Workshop in the Flatiron district of Manhattan, New York. The workshop's studio had plenty of sunlight filled floor space for Matthew and his assistant, Pedro Espinoza, to set up the photography stage, and for Erin to have access to hundreds of props and table space to do her styling craft. The kitchen area provided space for Woody and Erin's, assistant Katie Wayne, to prep and make our selected full-page "beauty shots" recipes. The Prop Workshop also has a huge showroom with thousands of props, surfaces, and equipment for rent, just a hallway away. Erin and I put together a schedule of our selected recipes for the intense 4 days of photography. First day was to start with made ahead recipes. The corn muffins was the first recipe to be styled and photographed. To aid Erin and Matthew in composition ideas, Matthew made prints from our step-by-step final step photos for all of us to reference. Following the corn muffins, was our latest addition to the book, the Japanese Milk Bread, which I had made the day before. We also had several recipe shots to include me in the shot as well as possible front and back covers tries. The scheduling worked smoothly. Woody and Katie managed to make styling perfect recipes on their first tries. My editor, Stephanie, came on the second day and was so pleased with the beauty shots, she felt free to leave us to our own devices for the rest of the shoot and loved the results! Several things differed from our last experience in relatively remote upstate New York, for The Baking Bible shoot. In addition to the team being able to take home baked goodies each night, any remaining ones went over to The Prop Workshop showroom for their staff and customers. And if we needed something which we hadn't thought to bring, it was easily acquired within a few block's reach. As chief stylist, Erin didn't have time to make her fabulous lunches, but she came through with great take out choices, plus we enjoyed dinners with friends at some of Manhattan's finest restaurants. Our final day included Matthew's daughter Nora, coming to the studio for her school's "invite your child to work day." Along with taking possible portrait shots of me, Nora was happy to be the photographer for our team RoseWood and company shot. During the rare 'down times' while Matthew and Pedro were waiting for the next competed recipe to photograph, Matthew and I were able to edit down the possible selects from which to choose the final photos to portray our recipes. Matthew gave us prints of the best, which now don several of my baking library's shelves.
June died yesterday with the same grace with which she lived. Her last words to her many friends, fans, and family were to comfort all of us: I am calm and at peace. Her last words sent to me were: I cherish our friendship. Music, food and just plain love. Thank you my friend. June died the day after her birthday and the day before her 8th wedding anniversary to Ed Alley. I'll always remember the day I was on a help line for my computer, waiting for a response from the slow typist on the other end, when I chanced to see an email from June saying: Big News! Then, with great joy, I saw the rest: I got married! This was June's first marriage and she had waited almost a lifetime to find the love of her life. I was so happy for her I 'screamed' onto the computer: June LeBell is married! The tech on the other end responded with: That's wonderful! To this day I'm not sure if he even knew who she was but very likely he did, based on his response and also on June's 'visibility.' June was the first female announcer on WQXR--a career which spanned almost 30 years. Her exquisite voice, knowledge of music, and sense of humor delighted millions of listeners. I'm surprised that there is no obit in The New York Times (WQXR was the radio station of The New York Times.) Maybe it will come. (It did--3-2-17!) Here is the introduction to her first and only book, The Kitchen Classics. June had asked me to write the intro to the dessert chapter, saying that Julia Child was writing the intro to the savory one. But when Julia heard I was writing the one for the dessert chapter she said: "Rose knows you so much better; let her do the whole thing." Thank you Julia! Until I wrote it I had no idea how very much I had to say--how deep was my music background, and my friendship with June.
Introduction to The Kitchen Classics by June LeBell I was born with music in my ears, in my heart, and in my soul. I am sure this is because my mother, who as a young girl studied with Nadia Reisenberg, played womb concerts (the ultimate chamber music) on the piano when she was pregnant with me. She was convinced that even though I had not yet been born, I would still hear something, if only vibrations, and would grow up familiar with and open to music--one of life's greatest joys. Her theory apparently worked, because as soon as I could walk I approached the piano and picked out tunes by ear. If I had been offered the choice of any talent in the world (if I couldn't have been Mozart) it would have been to have a glorious voice and be an opera singer. But since I did not have even a passable singing voice, my instrument became the violin. One summer, when I was at music camp near Tanglewood, studying with the second violinist of the Boston Symphony orchestra, my great uncle, who had engineered this arrangement, came to visit me and posed the dreaded question: "exactly what kind of talent do you possess; concert or drawing room?" The only possible answer was the disappointing truth: neither. As it turned out, despite the fact that I graduated from Carnegie Hall (the High School of Music and Art held all its graduations there) I was an extremely mediocre violin player who preferred listening to performing; but then, the music world does need some appreciative listeners. Our family had its share of them. Legend has it that my great aunt Beck was so moved by a concert at Lewisohn stadium she got up in the middle and started to dance, explaining afterwards that she couldn't help herself. My mother's theory was that since she had grown up in Russia she had the passionate Russian soul. We also had two bonafide performers: Aunt Beck's husband, appropriately named Fiddler and Uncle Tibor (Kozma), who conducted at the Met under Rudolph Bing and then went on to become head of the music department at the University of Indiana. It is thanks to him that my first "grownup" birthday party, when I was twelve, was at a Met production of the Fledermaus. The kids were all very bored (including me--the Fledermaus has never been one of my favorites), but their parents were quite impressed. And it was never really a surprise to run into one of the great aunts during intermission at the opera. This generation had my cousin Andrew Schenck (pronounced Skenk), also a gifted conductor, and perhaps the next generation will have my little nephew Alexander who, when he first started to sing had that surprised look, bordering on awe, which clearly said: can these bell like sounds be coming from me? Ravi Shankar once said that for him music is the bridge between the personal and the infinite. It is my feeling that all acts of creativity, approached with the same reverence of total devotion, offer that possibility. Somehow, though, music soars above all others. My soul has been transported by a bite of still warm from the oven Chocolate Domingo Cake, but no food has given me the total corporal and spiritual orgasm music is capable of inspiring. My mother, whose profession was dentistry, held dear a theory that senses located in the region of the head are the most exquisite and also the ones most intimately connected. As a "food person," I see more and more how true this is. Taste, smell, vision, and hearing have a profound effect on each other's perception. As a very young child, I would not let my mother play the song Ramona because it reminded me of chocolate pudding (which I detested). I suppose I must have experienced it as equally thick and sodden with sentimentality. The connection between food and music is found even in the words used to describe them. In the food industry, the most common word used to analyze flavor is note. Texture is another word food and music have in common. One of my favorite musical memories is of the time I met Isaac Stern at a party celebrating the birth of Jenifer Lang's book Tastings. I had provided the Chocolate Oblivion Cake that was featured in the book. When George Lang introduced me to Isaac Stern, he rose up, took my hand, and bowed deeply from the waist saying: "Your cake was like velvet." My response: "That is the very word I used to describe your playing the first time I heard you play the Tchaikovsky violin concerto when I was sixteen!" (If any breath had been left I would have added that it was at Tanglewood.) When June LeBell and I were classmates at Music and Art, what seems like only a few years ago, it seemed inevitable that her future would be in music. My fate was far less certain. When we met again, it was when I came to WQXR to advertise my cooking school on the radio. I brought with me my then favorite cake: Grand Marnier et Chocolat. I must admit, I felt that I was entering into a musical temple with something, though quite delicious, perhaps not quite worthy. But June did not seem at all surprised or condescending regarding my transition from violin to cake. In fact, to my relief, it seemed that as far as she was concerned, I was still in the "arts." Several years later, when she started "The Kitchen Classics," featuring recipes accompanied by "appropriate" music, I became a frequent guest on the show, which gave us a chance to renew our friendship--often on the air. In fact, we had so much fun catching up and reminiscing, we often forgot that we were on the air! The best part was that we share a similar sense of humor, which is most likely to happen between people whose frame of reference is so similar. Often we felt like we would make a great vaudeville team. I would read my favorite buttermilk cake recipe, to which June would play a recording of what she referred to (with a gleam in her eye) as "Madama Buttermilk"! We laughed almost the whole show through and got lots of delightful "feedback" from the audience. When June told me about her plans for this book, it seemed like the perfect joyful extension of her show. The book turned out to be so multi dimensional and entertaining, it's difficult to do full justice to its depth and breadth. On a personal note, it's great fun for me to find old childhood friends, now famous musicians, between these covers: the guy who teased me at Music camp (Paul Dunkel), the high-school friend who accompanied me home after ice-skating in Central Park, walking his bike alongside (Stephen Kates), the tall dark and brilliant harpsichordist who dated my cousin and whose father was my English teacher (Kenneth Cooper). The humor, intelligence, generosity, and charm June possesses make this book unique. She serves up each "personality" in the most personal of all possible ways: in his or her own voice. These delightful anecdotes, peppered throughout the book, have as their counterpoint favorite recipes contributed by each performer. We know their music but now we know another side of them, and they become friends. And as the proverbial icing on the cake, this book is graced with the incomparable caricatures of our beloved Hirschfeld. It is a great honor to participate in the 150th celebration of the Philharmonic by being a part of this special book. For me, it is a deeply sentimental and personal book and I think in its own way it will be for everyone who reads it and, most of all, for anyone who cooks from it.
Many years ago, I fell in love with shortbread cookies and decided to sell them. My stepdaughter Beth, who has great artistic talent, and is now an architect, made this sign which I put up in the basement of our apartment house. I only ever got one order. I brought a sample to Georgia DeLucca of Dean & Delucca and his verdict was: "Did you ever try Danish Lurpack butter? It needs salt." I strongly disagreed. Loving salt though I do, this one cookie, which has only butter, sugar, and flour, is the soul of purity and needs nothing more. (I did manage to suspend disbelief and tried the Lurpack butter, but even one grain of salt stood out in an unpleasant way. Thus ended my career as a cookie baking saleswoman and I went on to write The Cake Bible, and then Rose's Christmas Cookies, in which this recipe resides. I tried many different types of flours and sugars including part rice flour, which adds crispness, but bleached all-purpose flour is my favorite for this cookie. Scottish Shortbread CookiesMakes: 4 dozen 1-1/2 inch cookies Equipment: cookie sheets, no preparation needed
unsalted butter: 284 grams/10 ounces
powdered sugar: 28 grams/1/4 cup lightly spooned into cup and leveled off
granulated sugar: 50 grams: 1/4 cup
bleached all-purpose flour: 362 grams/3 cups, lightly spooned into cup and leveled off Cut the butter into 1/2 to 1 inch cubes. Wrap it, and refrigerate. In a food processor, process the sugars for about 1 minute until the sugar is very fine. Add the butter and pulse until the sugar disappears. Add the flour and pulse until there are a lot of moist, crumbly little pieces and no dry flour particles remain. Empty the mixture into a plastic bag and press it together. Remove the dough and knead it lightly until it holds together. Set 2 oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Preheat the oven to 275°F/135°C. Measure 2 level teaspoons or 1 scant tablespoon of the dough and knead each piece by flattening it between your palms and then rolling it into a 1 inch ball. Place each ball on the cookie sheets, flattening it with a cookie press, fork, or the bottom a tumbler, lightly moistened with water. Work with one ball at a time, right after rolling it, so that it does not crack around the edges. Leave about 1 inch between the flattened cookies. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until pale golden (do not brown). For even baking, rotate the cookie sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking period. Use a small angled metal spatula or pancake turner to transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely.
A wedding cake is a huge production, and if you don't have a bakery to work in, or at least your own home kitchen with reliable equipment, it is a true labor of love and demands meticulous orchestration. Come to think of it, it is always a labor of love. Hector has chronicled his year long process preparing and executing a wedding cake for his brother an ocean away. Here is how he pulled it off (brilliantly): (Written by Hector on Tuesday April 4th, 2017) Sometime ago, my brother Miguel asked me to make his wedding cake. 16 months later, and 10 hours flying from Honolulu to Pasco, Washington, I am arriving to his house to make his cake. I have made many big cakes, and traveled near and far, but this is the first time I will do so on location! All my cakes are always made at my home kitchen! The initial plan was to assemble a passion fruit tiramisu style dessert as the cake, with store bought ladyfingers. But since so much time was available, the project started to walk on its own. A new refrigerator, 2 stand mixers, a chocolate melter, an upgraded turn table, were ordered and arrived! The very best passion fruit syrup, and the ultimate best chocolate were purchased and sent! During the last 3 weeks, I shipped by USPS flat rate everything I need, literally everything. No piece of equipment has been was shorted. No ingredient quality has been shorted. The project is a 6 tier Génoise with ganache. The wedding is Saturday, and I am writing to you on Tuesday, from Seattle airport, during my connection to my final destination! (Written by Hector on Friday April 14th, 2017) Normally, I bake everything at my home kitchen, and travel with a partly finished product. I was on house lock down from 5 am until midnight on Wednesday, to bake all the 12 layers. And on Thursday, I was on a similar schedule to torte and frost all 6 tiers. On Friday, I took a baking break and did family things pre-wedding. I delivered the cake at noon on Saturday, the day of the wedding, and spent 2 hours arranging the gum paste rose petals. The petals were purchased at Etsy, and individually luster glitter dusted in bronze and yellow by the bride and bridesmaid.
The finished cake made me happy. The taste, the chocolate aroma, and the floral design surpassed my expectations. I did all the cake cutting myself, and the moment when I started to disassemble the cake, a line of hungry wedding guests mobbed me. The catering staff was awaiting with carts and serving trays to pass the cake, however they had to step away, and just let the mob throw themselves on me! Literally, people were panhandling for cake, and cake serving went very fast. 300 slices and all. I am home on my island now, and I have many memories to share about the cake, the wedding, and the family gatherings. The only word of wisdom I have for everyone, including myself, and my brother is: You only get married once (or twice), in reference to what I believe is true: no groom or bride will ever ask you to make their wedding cake at their house more than once. The experience is so intense, almost traumatic, yet when love is abundant, I will always say yes. Note from Rose: here's how we differ slightly: I always say "never again" and then, when the occasion presents, I say "yes"!
Having fallen in love with Linh Trang's Milk Bread and her beautifully crafted video, I decided to explore some of her other videos and was intrigued by her unique method of making sponge cake without a tube pan. Normally a cake of this type will dip in the center without a center tube to support it. Linh Trang explained how she created this cake to prevent dipping: In Vietnam, people think that is a terrible failure. So a large part of my time in the kitchen was used to find out how to have a soft, cottony sponge cake that has a dome in the end :-) A very helpful tip that I learnt recently is to drop the mold onto the counter from a level of about 7 inches) like what I did in this chiffon video, at 5.33). I am not sure 100% but I guess the shocks help to ventilate and release the steam better, and this trick works like magic to me. After dropping the mold 3 - 4 times, we can unmold the cake (if it's not baked in a tube pan) and let it cool on a rack. The resulting sponge cake is extraordinarily tender, moist, and velvety and not at all overly sweet. I brought half the cake to my dentist, Dr. Kellen Mori, and learned coincidentally that her 6 year old daughter Olivia had just expressed a yearning for strawberry shortcake for breakfast. All that was needed was some lightly sweetened whipped cream and strawberries and apparently it was a great success! Olivia even made a video expressing what she thought a "famous baker" should be. Essentially she said that one should not be concerned about fame or money but rather about having fun, and feeding and making people happy. She certainly made me happy! Linh Trang's video demonstrates exactly how to make this cake and she has given me permission to offer the recipe to you. Here is the recipe: One 8 x 2-1/2 to 3 inch pan, bottom lined with parchment (do not grease the sides) (Note the baked cake was 2 inches at the sides and 2-1/4 inches domed so a 2 inch pan might work)
4 to 5 egg yolks: 76 grams
superfine sugar: 20 grams
milk: 40 ml (3 Tablespoons)
fine to use orange juice or lemon juice instead
oil: 30 ml (2 Tablespoons)
vanilla: 1/2 teaspoon
all-purpose flour: 50 grams (I used bleached but she thinks her flour was unbleached)
cornstarch: 50 grams (for the best texture I recommend organic such as Rumford)
4 egg whites: 120 grams
cream of tartar: 1/4 teaspoon
(I used 1/2 t but Linh Trang said it is not good quality in
Vietnam so more will be too tangy)
superfine sugar, sifted: 70 grams
In a medium bowl, whisk together the yolks, sugar, milk, oil, and vanilla until very smooth. Add the flour/cornstarch through a strainer and whisk until evenly incorporated. Beat meringue on low speed until foamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue on high speed until soft peaks. Then lower speed to medium for about 2 minutes until stiff peaks to give it more stability. Whisk 1/3 of the meringue into the yolk mixture. Then use a spatula to fold in the meringue, adding it in two parts. Smooth the surface. Tap the pan 3 times on the counter to release any large air bubbles. Bake toward lower rack so not too close to top heat at 300°F 40 to 50 minutes (slow rise=less likelihood of falling) until it springs back. Drop the pan 3 times to release steam and unmold right away. Remove parchment and cool top-side-up on a raised rack.
My wonderful editor Cassie Morgan Jones, at Harper-Collins, gave me a list of questions to answer about how The Cake Bible came to be a classic and my thoughts about the influence that it has had on my and other people's baking lives: Congratulations to one of our favorite authors, Rose Levy Beranbaum, whose book The Cake Bible was recently inducted into the International Association of Culinary Professionals Culinary Classics Hall of Fame. This bestselling, definitive cookbook makes cake baking a joy and brings professional-quality baking within reach of home bakers everywhere. Here is the introduction to the Q & A written by Cassie: And here is the Q & A for you to enjoy.
CHEF HIROSHI YOSHIKAWA
Over the years, I have had many wonderful travel experiences, but if there had been just one to choose from, without hesitation it would be my visit to the Sakumas in Kyoto. Yoko Sakuma was my student when I ran the Cordon Rose Cooking School. She took several of the classes more than once, and when I asked her why, she explained in her now exquisite English: There were two reasons. First, you were so kind and patient to teach an actually novice like me at baking. So, I did not hesitate to avail myself of the opportunity to learn till I understood what you taught. Second, as I had just begun NY life and could not understand English well, your baking classes were also English classes for me. You were not only a teacher of baking but also an excellent English teacher though you might not recognize it. Accordingly, I could learn more English than in the actual English class at NYU. Never have I met a more dignified, truly sweet, and beautifully spiritual soul, who became my life-long friend. When finally Yoko and Ushio returned to Japan, Yoko wrote to me that they would be living for a very short time in Kyoto--exquisite city of artisans. She explained that the apartments were very small and that the only oven she would have room for was a toaster oven, which either burned the bottom of the cake or the top. She said that she could not live too many years in a place which had no oven, and urged me to come and visit them while they were still there. I promised that I would and that when I came, I would teach her how to bake a cake in a toaster oven. When I arrived, Yoko presented me with a carefully detailed itinerary of my stay, saying that it was not a rigid schedule and that if I wanted to change anything that would be fine. I did not! What followed was more than a week of amazing dinners and trips including to Nara, and to a visit to Horyuji--the oldest wooden temple in the world that exists at present, dating back to 607 AD. The dining experience that was most profoundly unforgettable was at a tiny sushi restaurant "Matsu (pine tree) Sushi." There were only 5 seats, all at the counter, and we three watched in fascination as the sushi was prepared. Yoko and Ushio explained to me that the fish, which was white on the outside and black on the inside, was called Sayori. Mr. Hiroshi Yoshikawa told them that there was a phrase of "Sayori beauty? in Kyoto. According to him, "Sayori beauty" means a woman who is very beautiful but malicious at heart. Sayori is very beautiful lean silver fish but its inside color is ugly black. Mr. Hiroshi Yoshikawa, the master, did not speak english so the Sakumas carefully translated everything. They explained that his father before him owned the restaurant and was so respected he had access to the best fish which was a rarity for this inland city. But Mr. Yoshikawa would not allow his son to take over because he felt he did not have the proper spirit. It was when he was deftly shaping one of the sushis, and his hands curved around it like a dancer's, that I started taking photos, hoping to catch that exact moment. I must have tried about 5 times as that was before digital cameras so I had no way of knowing if I had gotten the shot until he said something emphatic which was translated as "she got it!" He had intuited what I was hoping for and with the precision of a Zen archer who can shoot an arrow into his target with eyes closed, knew when it had arrived. Before leaving he asked the Sakumas if I would send him my book which, of course, I was honored to do on my return to the US. Mr. Yoshikawa is now over eighty years old. He has been saying that the climate change has had a serious effect on fish, shellfish, and other seafood. They are often too small or too big, and accordingly not tasty, but also are not caught by fishermen or bay men in the right season. So he has decided the time has come to close the restaurant. Now for the solution to that toaster oven which had two levels. If baking on the higher level the top of the cake burned; if baking on the lower level, the bottom of the cake burned. So I suggested that we try double panning to protect the bottom and to bake on the lower level to protect the top of the cake. It worked. The most special treasure I brought back was this antique traveling sake cup gifted to me by Ushio after we visited a sake manufacturer and museum. The metal stand enables it to swing back and forth so that the sake doesn't spill a single drop during a train ride! Elizabeth Andoh, a former New Yorker and much esteemed colleague who has been living in Tokyo most of her life, writing wonderful books on Japanese cooking, once told me a story which I cherish. She said that there was to be a contest of two renowned culinary sensei (master teachers) but only one showed up. The other sent his best student. If I were in that position I would send Yoko.
Baking Basics Production Phase 7: Revising the Manuscript to send to the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt We Finished the Manuscript! (71,176 words, 560 pages) Of course the many photos, with their captions, will add lots more pages! A benefit to our having remade most of the recipes for the step-by-step photo phase is that it gave us an ideal opportunity to tweak, revise, and produce a clean and consistent manuscript. Our goal was to submit the manuscript (along with style sheets for the copy editor) to our editor, Stephanie Fletcher, by March 1, and we did it. (It turns out it is exactly 4 years minus 12 days after we submitted the manuscript for the Baking Bible!) Now an entirely new phase begins with Stephanie and the HMH book production team going into action to begin the publishing process. And fingers crossed to see what the next critical Copy Editor's phase will send back to us. Plus our upcoming week-long beauty/style photos phase in New York City in April.
Scenes from the IACP 2017 ConferenceThis amazing lifetime honor is the International Association of Culinary Professionals Hall of Fame. The award ceremony, which celebrates culinary teachers, cookbook writers & journalists, digital media and photographers, is an event to which we look forward all year. The conference this year was held in Louisville, KY, which was the headquarters of IACP for many years. It was such a joy reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. George Geary, once a student at a class I taught in LA, is now a recognized writer of "bibles" in his own right. One of the highlights was a party previewing and honoring the completion of the upcoming book(s) Modernist Bread. There will be 6 large volumes. Nathan Myrvold, of Modernist Cuisine fame, put together a team of 27 notable bread experts, lead by baker/author Francisco Migoya, and including Peter Reinhart. As with Myrvold's previous books, the photos are drop dead stunning. It was great to see Franscisco and the ever delightful Carla Hall, who also emceed the awards ceremony. The ceremony was held in the 'jewel box' Paradise Theater. I thought that only the palaces of King Henry VIII had ceilings like this one! I was so delighted that the amazing photo of my wonderful friend Erin McDowell, taken by photographer Mark Weinberg, won one of the Food Photography & Styling Awards. It was also wonderful to see Sam Sifton, food editor for the New York Times, running up onto the stage 4 times in his tennis shoes to receive awards for his staff on their behalf, a strong statement for the value of the printed newspaper. I was delighted to see that my fellow author and restauranteur, Rick Bayliss was also inducted into the Culinary Classics for his book, Authentic Mexican. It was also a joy to see Vivian Howard winning the Best Cookbook of the Year as well as a couple of other awards for her tome Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South--her first book. You can also see all of this year's award winners, including previous winners on the IACP's website. Another dear friend, Anna Thomas, was a finalist for her Vegan Vegetarian Ominivore, but unable to attend the conference. I asked her to write an acceptance speech as she had given me the honor to accept a possible award in her behalf. This short speech contains such an important message I will follow up this very long posting with a photo of why Anna could not attend and what she would like to have imparted.
I have a long history with microwave cooking. In the 1970's, when I was a student at NYU, one of my assignments was to develop recipes for their one microwave oven which dated back to World War II. A few years later, Elizabeth Alston, who was the food editor of Redbook Magazine asked me if I would like to do a freelance story on microwave cooking. I declined, saying it doesn't do everything well to which she said: Good! Then do only what it does do well! (I have admired her ever since and had a great time working on the recipes with a nutritionist, Gail Becker, who did the nutritional analysis. The upshot was that we were so taken with microwave cooking, we decided to start a cooking school specializing in it. I put in a call to Mimi Sheraton, who at the time was writing about cooking schools for the New York Times. She asked me when the school was starting and my response was: "When will you be writing about it." She informed me that the New York Times would never stand behind microwave ovens as they were dangerous and, as the wife of a radiologist, how could I consider such a thing. (This was before Barbara Kafka had her weekly microwave column for the New York Times--lesson: never say never.) I explained to Mimi that because my husband was a radiologist I knew that there are two different types of rays, and the one that is used in microwaves is on the same wave length as that of radios. I'm not sure if she was convinced, but somehow the microwave school never happened. A short time later, NYU lost their microwave teacher who told me that she was tired of academia and was going into industry. They begged me to teach the class and I agreed as long as I didn't have to grade exams. It turned out to be a great opportunity to explore recipes conducive to microwave cooking, and I even took the class on a field trip to the Sharp corporation in NJ to try out their microwave/convection oven. Out of all the recipes that were created in that class, there is one that stands above the rest as the most enlightening, so I'm going to share it with you here and I hope you will be inspired to try it. I wish I had the name of the student who created it as she did a splendid job adapting the recipe and writing it up as is presented in her words here. It is for a classic french dessert, Poires Belle Helène and perfect for this time of year when pears are at their finest.
Pears au Chocolat 4 pears 1 cup red wine (1-1/2 cups for conventional method) 4 whole cloves 1 cinnamon stick 1/2 cup sugar lemon zest & juice from 1/2 lemon Sauce (this was wonderfully shiny) 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate bits 1/3 cup heavy cream (1/2 cup for conventional method) 1/4 cup sugar dash salt 2T butter 1/4 teaspoon vanilla Microwave Method The lemon was placed in the microwave oven for 20 seconds to help prevent the peeled pears from browning. The wine, cloves, cinnamon, sugar, and lemon zests were heated on high, covered, for 2 minutes. The pears were added with the stems turned inward, covered with saran wrap and vented. They were cooked on 70% power for 12 minutes. They were turned over half way through the cooking process. They were then cooled and chilled in the syrup overnight. *(The cooking liquid in the poaching of the pears and the chocolate sauce was reduced slightly to compensate for the food density.) The chocolate sauce was prepared by combining the chocolate bits and the cream in a glass dish. They were covered and vented and placed in the mw for 2 minutes at 100% power, and stirred once halfway through. The sugar and salt were added, recovered, and vented. They were microwaved at 100% power for 1-1/2 minutes (stirred halfway through the cooking process). The butter and vanilla were stirred into the sauce. The pears were removed from the syrup and dried gently with a paper towel. The bottoms were trimmed to allow the pears to sit upright. The cooled chocolate sauce was then spooned over the pears. The recipe for the chocolate sauce was repeated in a microwave oven with a variety of power settings. The chocolate and cream were combined in a glass dish, covered and vented, and cooked at 50% for 2-1/2 minutes (stirred once halfway through). The remainder of the recipe remained unchanged. Conventional Method The pears were peeled and dropped into cold water with the lemon juice. The wine, cinnamon, cloves, sugar, lemon zest were heated until the sugar dissolved. The pears were added and simmered--partially covered--until tender--55 minutes. They were then cooled and chilled overnight. The sauce was prepared by combining the chocolate and cream in a double boiler. They were stirred over low heat until the chocolate melted. The sugar and salt were added and cooked another five minutes. The butter and vanilla were then stirred into the mixture. The pears were removed from the syrup and dried gently with a paper towel. The bottoms were trimmed to allow the pears to sit upright. The cooled chocolate sauce was then spooned over the pears. Conclusions: The conventionally prepared pears were not quite as tender as they should have been; and possibly could have been poached longer. Therefore, after cooking the pears for 55 minutes, the taste was similar to an unripe pear. The chocolate sauce was thick and rich with an appropriately creamy consistency and glossy finish. The pears poached in the microwave were uniformly cooked, tender, and sweet after 12 minutes in the microwave. The first chocolate sauce prepared in the microwave did not fare quite as well. It was a thin and runny chocolate sauce with a grainy texture due to overcooking. However, when the same recipe was repeated at 50% power (2-1/2 minutes) the result was similar to the conventionally prepared chocolate sauce.
Phase 6: Rethinking Baking Powder Over the past 30 or so years of measuring and weighing baking powder, I had established an average weight of 4.5 grams per teaspoon. But a few months ago, after much deliberation and vacillation, I made the decision to remove all the weights for baking powder from the manuscript because they varied so widely from day to day, by as much as 2.2 grams per teaspoon. I thought this was because of humidity or possibly that the baking powder was settling, so I tried whisking it before measuring it and also writing down the humidity indicated by my hygrometer on the day I was weighing it. I even checked it against the weight of a teaspoon of salt which is almost always exactly 6 grams. None of these factors seemed to influence the consistency of the weight of baking powder so out went the weight. But a few weeks ago suddenly the following thought occurred to me: What if the inconsistency in weight was due to a variable way in which the baking powder was settling on storage. Maybe it was more prone to inconsistent settling even when whisked than other granules or powders. So over the period of 12 days, I first sifted the baking powder into the spoon until it mounded slightly over the top, leveled it off, wiped off any powder from the bottom of the spoon and weighed it on my Mettler scale which is accurate to a 100th of a gram. Eureka! The weight varied only by 0.2 gram. Back into the charts went the weights! Of course if you are not using a highly accurate scale designed to weigh such minute amounts, it is better to use spoon measures and best to whisk or stir the baking powder before measuring. Note: Do not sift it into the spoon as that method was used only to establish consistency of weight. The recipes were developed and tested using the average weight of the baking powder measured by the dip and sweep method, which is about 1 gram more than when sifted. Conclusion: it is most accurate to weigh the baking powder and convenient when using a large amount but the differential caused by measuring will not significantly affect the results. Note: I did not list weights for other powders such as cream of tartar or spices, because these ingredients only need to be weighed when used in large volume.
Phase 5: Selecting the Step-by-Step Photos It has been a long time dream to do a step-by-step baking book. Videos are great to see the action and the actual motion before embarking on a recipe but, while making the recipe, it is much more useful to have a page of photos in front of you for quick reference. Of course doing the steps presents a huge challenge of coordination both for the prep people (us), the person who does the steps having to stay motionless for hours at a time and yet have the final baked good come out perfectly (me), and for the photographer (Matthew) who humbly claimed he was only pushing the button, but this was far from the truth. Controlling the angle. the lighting, the depth of field, and many other aspects, requires a master. For my previous books, some of the recipes, which were photographed, could be made ahead and others, at the studio, but scheduling the photograph of the finished cake, pie, cookies, or bread was straightforward. During the step-by-step photography days, Matthew took thousands of photos. At the end of each day, he copied them onto a hard drive and later put folders of his best selections onto Dropbox as jpegs (smaller files). Each recipe had a select folder from which we were to choose what we felt reflected the process the best. When reviewing the photos I was thrilled that Matthew's work portrayed exactly what I wanted to express, proving the concept that a photo can be worth a thousand words. On the last day of our photo sessions, Matthew handed me the hard drive with all the folders. This way we could search for any steps that we felt needed to be added that were not in his final selections.
The original plan was to have about 500 step-by-step photos. Matthew's photos numbered around 15,000, as he made a point to click off shots continuously. He also took many individual shots with different camera settings or positions. One of eight pages of notes on the photo numbers and names of recipes we were selecting. We approached our task with the following plan: I set up my computer to view a given recipe's folder of photographs from which Woody and I would choose and then make lists of our selected finals. Many of these were already touched up or modified by Matthew. Woody then went through a copy of the manuscript and matched up photos with the steps that we had originally underlined on the manuscript. Photos that corresponded to additional steps in the manuscript, which we had not underlined, were then noted. If Matthew's selected photos for a recipe missed a step, Woody would then go into the cache of captures (all of the shots taken.) Any shots that applied to the step were then put up on his screen for us to choose. He then included the photo numbers on the manuscript as well as entering them in a massive spreadsheet for the entire book. At the same time, I created and organized three folders on Dropbox for Matthew and Stephanie to view our final choices, alternative choices, and rejects. I also made a word document listing all the names and numbers of the photos. Ten days over Christmas and New Years of choosing, sorting, writing, debating, and loving Matthew's work had our step photos count escalating to over 900. We sadly realized that in order to have the photos large enough and the book not overly large we would need pare them down. It took us two more days to manage to eliminate 200. Matthew kindly gave us permission to use any of the eliminated photos we think would be useful extras, as 'outbakes' on the blog, after the book is published. The photo selection process gave us a golden opportunity to revisit how the recipes were written and to ensure that the text and what will become captions for the photos will be complete and consistent. We are now eagerly looking forward to a phone meeting with our editor and photographer to discuss just how many step-by-step photos would be desirable and which recipes should be included for the beauty shots in April.
Fellow blogger Hsiaohui posted that he makes this bread with a special Japanese flour called Casarine. He wrote that in Asia it also was called the " tearful flours" as anyone who eats the bread made with this flour would be tearful for tasting such delicious bread. It has a 11.7% protein (Note from Rose: which is 0.3% lower than my combination of bread flour and cake flour) and is made by extracting the very heart of a wheat. I lost no time in ordering it from bakingwarehouse in Hong Kong and it arrived two weeks later. The very next day I whipped up (or should I say kneaded up) a batch of dough, shaping it into a single loaf because we have been so enjoying it for ham sandwiches and as toast rather than buns. The resulting bread was a more beautiful white color than the combination of bread and cake flour. The loaf was the exact same height and shape and the crumb equally soft and chewy. And the flavor was not noticeably different enough to justify shipping flour across the Pacific and the US. But if I were living in Hong Kong this is the flour I would use for this bread.
My dear friend, Marissa Rothkopf Bates, who is a gifted journalist, baker, and equipment reviewer, invited us to her house to test a new 'smart' countertop oven that she is reviewing. Together, we made one of my favorite 'butter' cakes, the "Whipped Cream Cake," which is in Rose's Heavenly Cakes. This exquisitely soft cake replaces the butter with whipped cream providing both the butterfat and the liquid. It actually contains more butterfat than is present in a basic butter cake. I have been yearning for an oven that is perfectly even top to bottom and front to back and have yet to find one, including the one we were using as an excuse to visit Marissa who lives an hour's drive away. The cake's texture was perfect but it did not brown entirely evenly nor was the top perfectly even. While the cake was cooling, Marissa took us for lunch to one of her favorite restaurants, Villalobos. Chef/owner, Adam Rose, gives an eclectic twist to his Latino tacos. They were served "open-face', using homemade soft tortillas. We enjoyed them topped with an enticing combination of carnitas made with Berkshire pork belly, roasted corn, chipotle morita, and another variety topped with chipotle braised chicken, pork chorizo, potato chips, and onion. Homemade taco chips accompanied chunky guacamole with the most unusual topping I have ever experienced-- fried little cubes of Nuske's slab bacon, jalapeno, and blackened crispy brussel sprouts. For dessert, Marissa insisted that we try the churros served with chocolate dipping sauce, especially when she heard that I had never tasted a churro. Of course I liked it as churros are made cream puff pastry that is with deep fried. We shall return! We next stopped at the Montclair Bread Company. Owner Rachel Crampsey, was a total delight. It turned out that one of the many places where she and apprenticed or worked was Amy's Bread and we both attended a book party there for Amy's book, though at the time we never met. Loving baking bread above all other baked goods, we became instant friends. And Rachel invited me to me to return and fry doughnuts with her. I adore brioche doughnuts and they are very rare to find. Rachel told us the story of how she and her friend were just experimenting with making brioche doughnuts in the early hours one morning and they turned out to be so addictive they ate the entire batch. She put them on the 'menu' and they were an wild success. She says that: The doughnuts encapsulate everything I love in one bite. Rachel has expanded her business to include opening a fish and chips shop next door to her bakery with a clever name, Oh My Cod. Back to Marissa's to enjoy slices of the Whipped Cream Cake with a dollop of non-ultra pasteurized high fat whipped cream (although her son, Oliver, who is the family's most verbal and enthusiastic appreciator of baked goods, seemed convinced that three dollops of whipped cream were the perfect accompaniment. Do I spy a future food writer in the making?).
I am usually inclined to write about food and wine, baking, roasting, grilling....but with all that is taking place in the world today, I am moved to share with you the Desiderata (things that are desired) which is hanging on my bedroom wall. I have forgotten to look at it but suddenly some of the words highlighted below came to me. I'll type all of it here as it's hard to see in the photo: Go placidly amid the noise & haste, & remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly & clearly, and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain & bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs for the world is full of trickery. But less this not blind you to what virtue there is: many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all axidity & disenchantment it is perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue & loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees & the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe if unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, & whatever your labors & aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery & broken dreams it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
Production Phase 4: Read-Thrus Finished For our previous book, The Baking Bible, we waited until our corps of Marie Wolf's Beta Bakers had tested several recipes and had given us their feedback. We then did read-thrus of each recipe. This meant that I would read the recipe out-loud to Woody, while he read the manuscript and stopped me if we needed to change the text. Amazingly, this was done on computer, over the phone, because he was still living in Minnesota. We then checked to make sure common techniques (our macros) were stated the same way in each recipe that used them for the sake of consistency. My belief, since working on The Cake Bible, is that when there is consistency is writing throughout the recipes, it becomes 'transparent' so that the reader has an easier time absorbing the information. Because this book is so entirely different in approach from the way in which the recipes were presented in the past, our read-thru phase was done in several sessions over the period of nearly a year. An improvement with the editing of this book happened early on when Woody moved here and his computer was within several feet of me and mine. The revision process continued throughout our step-by-step photo sessions, which inevitably led to improving several recipes. This turned out to be much more thorough and effective than trying to keep up with possible changes as a team of stylists made the recipes. So we integrated all this useful information into the manuscript. Further tweaks were still to come during our selection of the final photos. This unique refining process proved to be invaluable to the clear and informative writing of the recipes. We were so pleased with the way the book was turning out at this point that we began to panic that if anything should happen to both of us, the editor and publisher would not have the results. We copied all the chapters up to that point onto a hard drive and labeled it so that my husband would be able to find it and know what it was. Luckily we have survived because there was a lot more tweaking and now editing and book production still to come.
Have you ever heard me say YOU'RE NOT GOING TO BELIEVE THIS?! Well I do say this often to Woody as it seems to happen on a regular basis. Even when we've perfected a recipe, there is often a surprise thought or occurrence that turns out to be a silver lining of improvement. But this is the first time I've said this on a posting. Here's what happened to prompt it and here's a case for weighing ingredients: I was distracted because I was making two recipes at the same time, each using different amounts of lightly beaten egg. When adding the egg to the babka dough, by mistake I added 25 grams instead of 75 grams. After the dough was kneaded for 7 minutes it just about cleaned the sides of the bowl instead of what I had written which was that it wouldn't and that it would be very sticky. I said to Woody that I would have to make the change on the recipe and he responded with: "Maybe you mis-measured something." Since I always weigh the finished dough there was the answer: 50 grams short. How to add that egg into an already smoothly developed dough? First I tried continuing with the dough hook and the dough just sloshed around with the egg as if to say you are not welcome in here. I tried squishing it in with my fingers to no avail. So in an act of determined desperation, I dumped it all into a food processor and processed it for about 15 seconds, after which the egg had integrated perfectly into the dough and was even easier than usual to scrape into the rising container. The finished babka was perfect. We joked about how this could become a new technique. But the thinking behind the desperate act was that many bread doughs mix very well in a food processor, however, I've never had to try adding egg after the dough was already developed. I wanted to share this with all of you should this ever happen!
Production Phase 3: Step-by-Step Photos The cakes for my first hardcover book, The Cake Bible, were all baked and styled by me and photographed by Vincent Lee. I baked the cakes and decorated them and then brought them across Houston Street from my New York 7th floor apartment to his apartment/studio in SoHo. I brought my best props, borrowed from friends, and sometimes would run over to the lower east side to search out fabric for backgrounds or counter surfaces. I even found a realistic large plastic honey comb surface at Canal Plastics which Vincent used creatively for the Honey Bee Cake by shining light through it from the bottom. The photos for my next nine books all had a cast of professional food stylists, their assistants, a prop stylist, and photographer, all hired by the book publisher. They took place at a studio or off-site location. For my most recent book, The Baking Bible, my dear friend, artist and baker, Caitlin Williams Freeman, offered to come from San Francisco and be the head stylist. I loved her artistry at Miette Bakery and her styling in her book--Modern Art Desserts. Woody and I also participated by baking and styling many of the recipes. In my previous books, only a few recipes, mainly for techniques, had step-by-step photography. Since this upcoming book will be filled with step-by step photos, which is radically different from my prior books, I wanted to choose a photographer who could make the photos instructive, bring the recipes to life, be willing to make the long round trip drives from Brooklyn, and who would be as enthusiastic about the project as we are. Matthew Septimus, who did my portrait for the FIT newsletter magazine several years ago, said at the time that he hoped some day he would work with me. The day has arrived. To have complete control of this 'keystone' phase for our book, I also decided that the photography would be done in my home's baking kitchen. This way, Woody and I would have access to all of the ideal equipment, ingredients, and four reliable ovens. We also would be able to schedule the prep for all of the recipes ahead of time, even completing some of the steps to save on time. This also served to eliminate the need to reserve a studio for the 21 planned days of photography, which spanned a period of 6 months. I asked that we start earlier than initially scheduled, to be able to make several of the fruit based recipes with seasonally fresh local fruits. To get our feet wet and Matthew familiar with the location, we scheduled a 2-day shoot of 7 recipes, this past June. Our editor Stephanie Fletcher and Matthew's assistant Justin were both on-set for these days. Stephanie set the tone with many valuable suggestions including a request for overhead shots which work so well for the step photos. Woody and I had previously gone through about 100 of the recipes to yellow highlight steps we wanted photographed and then discussed them with Stephanie for her advice. The baking kitchen soon looked like a photography studio with lights on tripods, a roll-down white backdrop, camera tripods, a step ladder, a computer station for Matthew and Justin to assist them with taking the shots, and for all of us to make photo selections. Matthew surprised us by giving us a 4 foot long unpolished white marble slab for the countertop. Woody and I have been struggling at times with taking photographs on my highly reflective marble countertop. Digital photography has the potential to offer the highest level of quality and precision. His CaptureOne computer program, allowed him to shoot and adjust his camera remotely, a great benefit considering that most of the shots were taken directly overhead, so that for most of the shots Matthew, who is over 6'4", did not have to be perched up on the 6 foot ladder, needing to lean a few feet over the countertop. This also gave him the advantage to ensure that lighting and composition were similar from one step to another for each recipe, because many times we needed to shoot another recipe in between steps, or the recipe had to be shot over two days. To enable me to see what he was photographing up close, as I was making various steps, Matthew linked up his IPad, which he positioned on one corner of the countertop. In addition to our yellow highlighted proposed shots, Matthew was clicking off shots for virtually every step, sometimes, over a 100 shots per recipe from overhead, a three-quarter view, and even from shooting upwards. (He ended up with over 15000 shots!) Although our book will have many 'beauty' style-shot photographs, we also had each finished recipe 'plated' for a style-shot.
The first two days went as scheduled with the added benefit of all of us enjoying the baked recipes of our labor on the porch, when weather permitted, and baked goods being packaged to bring back with them. To get an idea for how to schedule future shoots, we had chosen recipes from all four categories: cakes, pies and pastries, cookies, and bread. Although we thought that the printed recipes were in their final form, what I found most enlightening in making them for the step-by-step photos was how we were able to tweak and improve several recipes and to write them in a way that would be easier for the reader to follow and more reflective of what we actually do. After the first few days of shooting, Stephanie could see that we had our routine in full swing, so she left it up to the three of us to decide what to shoot and how to do it. With Stephanie and Justin no longer there, Woody's role expanded to assisting Matthew, making shot suggestions, and styling. All three of us participated in the final style-shot. After a few sessions, we became more efficient so that we were able to eliminate two days of Matthew's having to drive back and forth from Brooklyn. This said, we often worked 10 hours a day and were exhausted by the end of it. One night, as Matthew was pulling out of the driveway, I ran over to ask him something and realized that he couldn't hear or see me. To avoid being run-over I lept into the hill of pachysandra. He was horrified by how close he had come to hitting me but I was hysterical laughing at the absurd ridiculousness of it, not to mention how pleased I was that my sense of self-preservation over-rode my fear of the snakes that make their home there. There were several other 'funny' unexpected moments that were not life threatening: One was when I streaked by the set to reach something, not realizing Matthew was in the process of shooting. He told me not to apologize because my black shirt had created the perfect contrasting backdrop that was needed! Another was when Woody was a bit too efficient in his eagerness to move on to the next recipe. We had just finished, in his opinion, after several different takes of our marble cake's final step style-shot, which Matthew had shown us on the computer monitor for our consensus. Mathew went back to his camera, turned towards me say something, then turned back to look through his viewfinder, about to take the shot. But all he saw was a barren marble tabletop. He looked up dumbfounded in a double take of disbelief at the now cake-void space asking in total puzzlement: "Where's the cake?" We all laughed uproariously as Woody was asked to bring back the cake. Every time we tried to get serious we started laughing again. I still get chuckles when I think about that scene. Because baking needs to be so precise, and we wanted the finished result to reflect the best possible appearance, there was always the concern that a baked item might not to come out of the oven as expected. Woody and I were thrilled, and Matthew was impressed, that we only had to reshoot a couple of recipes for one or two steps. One of my favorite moments was at the end of each day's shoot when Matthew, after tasting a dessert, would proclaim it to be the best one. Matthew's family's favorite moment was when he returned home with samples of the day's treats. I saved the pizza and the hearth bread recipes to shoot as a celebration for our final day. We are all looking forward to a week long photo shoot of the beauty shots in April.