Dec 10, 2008

Guest Blogger: Michelle - BrownEyedBaker

Our Guest Blogger today hails from
BrownEyedBaker, recently launching a new baking business, Buona Dulce, please give Michelle a warm welcome...

1. As bakers, we all have things we could live without, but would never want to. What five items in your kitchen are "grab in case of fire" items?
My Kitchen Aid stand mixer, my Cuisinart 11-cup food processor, my baking stones, all of my cake decorating supplies, and of course my 7.25-quart Le Creuset dutch oven (otherwise affectionately known as “Big Red”).

2. What ingredients are you excited about lately? What creations have you used those ingredients in lately?
Well, I’m definitely a chocoholic and love rich desserts so I’m loving that good quality chocolate is finding its way into more and more accessible locations. It used to be that you’d have to special order it or seek it out in gourmet groceries, but it is increasingly more available and that makes baking all the more fun! I like to use “the good stuff” in recipes where it really has a chance to stand out, such as in peppermint bark, chocolate cheesecake, or truffles.

3. What would we typically find in your fridge?
Amazingly, you’d probably never know that I’m a huge baker (aside from the large stash of unsalted butter and two 18-count cartons of eggs)! I typically try to eat pretty healthy so you’d find low-fat milk, carrots, celery, lettuce and/or spinach and fresh vegetables for salads, a batch of homemade hummus, a variety of cheeses, pepperoni (I AM Italian, can’t live without it!), jars of active and instant yeast, and all of those other miscellaneous condiments that collect over time.

4. Who are your favourite cookbook authors? Why do you like those particular people?Dorie Greenspan, first and foremost. I received “Baking: From My Home to Yours” as a Christmas gift last year and immediately started baking from it as Tuesdays With Dorie was born. I am amazed at Dorie’s ability to talk through a recipe like she’s standing right next to you and telling you exactly what to expect along the way. A lot of cookbooks are like getting direction from Mapquest – “drive 5 miles, turn left, drive 2 miles, turn right, etc.” Dorie’s books are like getting directions from a friend – “You’ll drive a little past the old post office, will probably see Fred standing outside, go a little while further past the park, etc.” Baking from her cookbooks makes it feel like you have a wise friend in the kitchen with you.
My other favorites come from America’s Test Kitchens. While they are not authored by an individual I cannot think of a single recipe that has not turned out perfect. They spend so much time perfecting classic recipes that it’s hard to go wrong.

5. What is your favourite food blog? Which blogs do you read daily and simply couldn't live without?
My favorite food blog is Smitten Kitchen. Deb strikes such a great balance between sweet and savory in the way of what her blog offers, and I absolutely consider her an expert in all things culinary. She does a wonderful job explaining her creations and I love her back stories – that, coupled with her outstanding photography, make me want to tackle every recipe she posts.

Other blogs that I read daily include:
Annie’s Eats
Joy the Baker
My Sweet and Saucy
The Hyper Homemaker

6. What is your guilty food pleasure? And who makes it?
Oh this is a tough one, especially since I love decadent desserts. But I’m going to shock everyone by going savory here – I absolutely love good burgers, and even better if they are bacon cheeseburgers. And you can’t have a burger without fries! So there it is – a juicy bacon cheeseburger with fries, definitely my guilty food pleasure.

7. You just opened up a new business, Buona Dulce. Where do you see Buona Dulce heading in the next year? What are your long-term objectives, three to five years?Within the next year I would like to see Buona Dolce establish a recurring client base that comes back when in need of anything baking-related, whether it be for birthdays or anniversaries, holidays, graduations, any special event.

As far as long-term objectives over the next three to five years, my goal is for Buona Dolce to be successful enough to be my sole source of income. Additionally, I would like the business to become a prominent player in the wedding market.

8. Since Opening Buona Dulce, what has been your greatest success and greatest failure?My greatest success was the zebra birthday cake that I did recently. It was my first paid order that didn’t come from family or close friends and the client absolutely loved it.

My greatest failure was probably part of my first cookie order that I recently blogged about. Since I needed to deliver it the day after I was holding my open house I had about four straight days of non-stop baking. I had a string of very late nights and very early mornings and wish I would have planned out my time in a much more structured manner. As a result of being a little harried and low on sleep, I ended up icing the top of the Black & White cookies instead of the flat bottom, and I couldn’t figure out why they didn’t look smooth. The client raved about them, though, so I’m not sure I would label it a true failure – more a lesson on how to plan ahead better when I have large orders to fill!

9. You recently ran a post that discussed your participation in an online group called Daring Bakers. What made you decide to join this group?I have been a member of Daring Bakers for a little over a year now and am so thrilled that I decided to join. The catalyst for me was seeing a number of challenges pop up in blogs that I had been reading frequently. The completed challenges looked so incredibly difficult, but I was in awe that these people were trying difficult things and succeeding at them! I really embraced the idea of pushing my baking comfort zone into areas that I would likely not venture on my own and without the nudge of an outside force. Thanks to the Daring Bakers I have conquered many things (most notably pastry cream!) that I would have previously dubbed outside my realm of expertise.

10. When you wake up in the morning what are 5 strategies that you use to get inspired to bake/decorate/write, and to help stir the creative juices, if you are not in the mood to bake or blog?Good question! These are things that usually help me get moving in terms of both baking and blogging:

1. My friend Annie and I bake and blog together on a somewhat regular basis. This really helps because it’s almost like the equivalent of having a workout buddy to go to the gym with. Even though sometimes you might not feel like doing it, someone is waiting on you so there is a sense of accountability and it keeps us trying new things.

2. I started something on my blog over the summer that has been a great source of inspiration and keeping the creative juices flowing – the “My 100” list. For a long while I had been thinking about all of the things I wanted to try in the kitchen and then started writing them down so I didn’t forget. Taking it a step further, I decided to dedicate a page on my blog to the list, as it is said that when you write down your goals you are more likely to meet them, and even more likely if you share them with others. And so there it is – an ever-evolving list of the culinary feats I hope to conquer. When I am stumped about what to make or blog about next, I often consult that list.

3. I love flipping through my cookbooks for ideas. I own a significant number of them and sometimes I forget about all of the great ideas that they hold!

4. Although it might sound somewhat corny, thinking about my readers will usually give me the kick in the pants I need to get moving. I think about the blogs that I love reading and how disappointed I am when I don’t see new things for awhile. I’m aware that I have a good number of “regular” readers and as a result, I want to make sure they continue to have great experiences associated with reading my blog.

5. Much like cookbooks, I will browse a lot of the food blogs that I follow on a regular basis, as well as food photography sites such as Tastespotting, FoodGawker, and Photograzing. So many times things will just pop out at me and I want to run into the kitchen and make it immediately.

And as a Special Treat, Michelle has given us her favorite receipe for Dirty Risotto. YUMMY!!

Dirty Risotto (original recipe by Giada De Laurentiis)
5 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter
1 lb. sweet Italian sausage, casing removed
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
4 ounces button mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice or medium-grain white rice
3/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves

In a medium saucepan, bring the broth to a simmer. Cover the broth and keep warm over low heat.

In a large heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the sausage and saute until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, bell pepper, and mushrooms and saute until tender, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the rice and stir to coat. Add the wine and simmer until the wine has almost completely evaporated, about 1 minute. Add 1/2 cup of simmering broth and stir until almost completely absorbed, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking the rice, adding the broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition of broth to absorb before adding the next, until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite and the mixture is creamy, about 25 to 30 minutes total. Remove from the heat. Stir in 3/4 of the Parmesan. Transfer the risotto to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with the parsley and remaining Parmesan and serve immediately.


Chelle said...

Sherra, thank you so much for featuring me! I had a great time answering your questions :)

Bridget said...

Thanks for introducing me to such a great blog!

Liz said...

This recipe is *exactly* the same as Giada's, except for the protein.

Anonymous said...

This has already been mentioned but it is Giada's recipe with no credit to the source. HUGE copyright infringement since the wording is the exact same on the directions. I've tried to tell the blogger to give credit but she is deleting the comments. VERY professional, no?

how to take professional pictures said...

Photographers control the camera and lens to "expose" the light recording material (such as film) to the required amount of light to form a "latent image" (on film) or "raw file" (in digital cameras) which, after appropriate processing, is converted to a usable image. Digital cameras use an electronic image sensor based on light-sensitive electronics such as charge-coupled device (CCD) or complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) technology. The resulting digital image is stored electronically, but can be reproduced on paper or film.

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