Creme Fraiche Quiche

Creme Fraiche Quiche

My Mom used to crawl in the bed at night, after a long day of being a mail carrier, a wife and mother and exclaim “Best part of the day!” just before she drifted off to sleep.  To her,  it seemed like there was no greater reward that peaceful rest at the end of the day.

As a kid, I had a hard time relating to my Mom’s Ode to Bedtime.  I was sure that I could have, at the very least, squeezed one more episode of The Cosby Show into my night.  Nope.  Bedtime was bedtime, not because there were overly strict bedtime rules, but because my Mom was just dog tired.

Nowadays I feel like I have a better understanding of my Mom’s nighttime sentiments.  My head hits the pillow after a long day and I’m asleep before I can even turn the bedside lamp off… and I don’t even have little kids yet!

You were right Momma.  Sometimes crawling under the covers is the best part of the day.

Other times, quiche is the best part of the day.  True.

In exciting, not sleepy or quiche related news:  my Mom, after over 30 years of delivering mail, retires from the Post Office… today!  Holy heck Mom!  Way to go!  Thanks for working hard for the family all those years.   I couldn’t be happier for you.  I hope you find a new “best part of the day”.  For reals, I love you Mom!

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Joy the Baker Answers Part Two

You Can Do It Apple Pie

Part Two!?  Catch up on Part One here!

If you had children and could only share one recipe with them, what would it be?

If I could only share one recipe with my kids, I’d no doubt teach them how to make a Sweet Potato Pie.  Wait… I haven’t even taught you all how to make a Sweet Potato Pie!  I’ll get on that.  Pies are a big deal in my family, it’s the only real way to get out of doing the dishes at holiday time… “I made the pie!” and you’re sitting pretty on the couch at dish time.  Brilliant!

What is your favorite cookbook specifically for cakes and cupcakes?

I’m a sucker for the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook. It’s simple, approachable and has some really lovely recipes.

Graham Cracker Coffee

How do you like your coffee?

Two tablespoons of fresh ground coffee with 3 cups of hot water in a French press. Thow in some sugar and whole milk… press the press and coffee is a go!

What 3 things did you learn in culinary school that everyone should know?

Ah… as I mentioned before, I wasn’t one for the fancy-hat-wearing culinary school scene.  I did take a three month Professional Baking Course here in Los Angeles to get my feet wet just after I graduated with my bachelor’s degree.  By then I had already been working hard in bakeries.  I just wanted to see if professional culinary schooling was something that would float my boat.

culinary school

When as our final class project we made a Croquembouche, I knew that large-and-in-charge-culinary school just wasn’t for me.  Beautiful, yes.  But what the heck am I going to do with a Croquembouche!?

I did learn some great things in the baking program.  Here are three off the top of my head.

1.  Always fluff flour before you measure it in a measuring cup, and don’t pack it in there too heavily before you level it off with a butter knife.

2.  Baking recipes almost always call for large eggs.  Using medium or jumbo eggs will throw off your recipe.

3.  Don’t ever ever ever ever EVER touch boiling sugar.  And if you do, thank the teacher that put the bowl of ice water next to your station to instantly cool your bad decisions.

AND!  BONUS!  Here are three things I taught myself in the kitchen. Good oven mits go a long long long way. Buttermilk lasts waaaay past it’s printed expiration date… weeks people… weeks. And, if you’re standing in the baking aisle at the grocery store and you’ve forgotten your list at home, just buy the flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda… you’re probably out.

Is there a particular bakeware you would swear by?

Can I tell you a secret? I’m not super picky when it comes to bakeware. Heck… I’m the kind of baker that doesn’t even use parchment paper when I’m supposed to. There isn’t one name brand that overwhelms my kitchen. The only piece of glory that I swear by is my Kitchen Aid Mixer. The rest of my pans and such I get from my local restaurant supply store. They’re cheaper than those fancy kitchen stores and I know the products work because they have to stand up to restaurant type use.

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Fried Breakfast Polenta with Blackberry Meyer Lemon Jam

Fried Breakfast Polenta

Pop Quiz:

If you could only eat one thing for the rest of you life what would it be: sweet and creamy breakfast polenta with milk or (oh my gracious heavens) sweet and creamy fried polenta bars with blackberry meyer lemon jam?

No contest.  Fried polenta with blackberry jam every day, all day.  Let’s do this.

Remember yesterday I told you about Vanilla Brown Sugar Breakfast Polenta?  That was just a dirty trick to make you have enough leftover polenta to make the real deal:  fried polenta.

A quick heads up:  this recipe involves butter and results in an almost French Toast-ish, outta this world breakfast.  If you’re not ready for that… completely understandable… you might want to sit this one out.   I won’t judge.

Fried Breakfast Polenta

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Vanilla Brown Sugar Breakfast Polenta

Vanilla Brown Sugar Breakfast Polenta

I don’t do dishes in the morning.  Dishes are no way to start the day.

While I am all about a big, fat, kitchen wrecking breakfast- morning clean up is absolutely nowhere in my early day itinerary.

The reality is, I may not get to have that perfect, sunny morning weekend wake up experience everyday.  I am convinced, however, that there’s a way to put a smile on my face every morning… even if you have to force it on with a wrench.

When I’m in no mood to get out of bed and start my day I give myself this little speech in my head:  Joy,  stop being such a crabby pants.  Get out of bed, go put on that big robe that feels like a combination of cloud and kitten and make yourself breakfast without setting those robe sleeves on fire.  While you’re treating yourself to a fine morning… go ahead and take a break from those breakfast dishes.  You’ve done enough work just getting out of bed… The dishes can wait.

And just like that, the ugly Monday morning isn’t as nasty a beast as I thought.

Make Monday morning Vanilla Brown Sugar Breakfast Polenta, and let the dirty pan soak in the sink until you get home from work.  Live a little… don’t do the dishes.

Vanilla Brown Sugar Breakfast Polenta

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Joy the Baker Answers Part One

Old Stove

You mentioned once that you were an English major in college. What did you want to be when you grew up? Did you ever do it? How did you move from English major to Baker Extraordinaire?

I was an English major in college. Ironically enough, reading makes me fall asleep. Crazy, right? Somehow I managed to work my way through five (yes, it took me a while) years of college. I worked two jobs through college, always with food, often in kitchens. For those years, I either had my head (fast asleep) in a book, or my hands elbow deep in dough. When I finished college, I found that I loved baking so much that I didn’t want to stop working with food. I somehow wanted to find a way to incorporate my love of story telling with my passion for food. So far that journey has lead me here- cooking, photographing and writing for you fine folks. I honestly can’t think of any place I’d rather be!

Have you thought of making healthy versions of some of your recipes, or proposing a corpus of kid-friendly, healthier recipes that use fruit sugars and fat subs for a more conscious approach of your culinary art?

I think butter is beautiful. I think sugar is dreamy. I think cream is over the moon. I bake with ingredients that put a smile on my face. I certainly wouldn’t consider the treats on my site as everyday meal-time staples, but for a special occasion… when you need to reach out to that inner sugar fiend… this is a good place to come.

If you’re looking for fruit sugars and fat substitutes, I just may not be the baker for you. It’s just not what I’m passionate about these days. While I do have a handful of healthful recipes like my Gnarly Muffins… these recipes just don’t bring a sparkle to my eye like cream, butter and chocolate do.

What kind of camera do you use? Did you take classes or is it just the camera that creates those gorgeous shots?

I use a Canon XSi with a 100mm macro lens. It’s a lovely, easy to use camera, made even more awesome with the fancypants lens. Can I tell you a secret? There was a time when the lens to my camera was worth more money than the car I was driving. True…. that’s really true.

I also have to tell you that I’ve actually never take a photography class. A dear friend handed me a SLR camera, gave me a 15 minute lesson all about aperture and depth of field I think he might have mentioned shutter speed once or twice… but that was it. He knew what I wanted to shoot and he showed me exactly how to do it.

The 100mm macro lens It’s totally worth it, isn’t it?

Yes. Yes it is.

Did you go to culinary school? Do you currently work at a bakery? Have you been working at a bakery for your entire professional life?

Here’s the deal: I’m a self taught baker. I didn’t go to culinary school. Why? It was just too darn expensive. As a result, I’m no master at cream puffs, my bread baking is sometimes a comic tragedy and fancy French desserts make me break out in a cold sweat. But that stuff just isn’t where my passion lies. I’m more interested in getting in the kitchen with my Dad to recreate his favorite pie, or filling my kitchen with girlfriends to play with cookie recipes. My approach is all about food, stories, laughs and love and I didn’t feel like I needed culinary school to teach me that.

What recipe ingredients are worth splurging on?

Whatever you love… it’s worth splurging on. I love food, so I think the good stuff is worth seeking out. Recently I’ve come to love raw, artisanal honeys. The people at Ames Farm seem to know what they’re doing with bees. They have lovely honey that I usually eat by the spoonful. I also love love love good chocolate. I like to buy Valrhona when it comes to my chocolate baking needs. Expensive, yes… but the quality is absolutely worth the extra dough.

Clean Your Plate Pancakes

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Peanut Butter Banana Cream Pie

Peanut Butter Banana Cream Pie

Pie takes time.  Pie requires attentions.  Pie demands love and care.  Pie, even for an everyday baker like me, is a lost art.

I needed a good, old fashioned, pie contest to help me slow down, take a breath, and dream up the most delicious pie I could.

The most delicious thing I could dream up was this:  bananas, homemade peanut butter, chocolate, graham crackers, butter, whipped cream, and as much sugar as I could reasonably pack into a single pie dish…. and some chocolate shavings for good measure.

The result:  one mad Peanut Butter Banana Cream Pie.  The contest:  inspired by Whitney and several bottles of wine.  The contestants:  as serious about pie as they are about being incredibly fashionable and audaciously cool.  The competition:  stiff.  The winner:  one devastating, delicious and perfectly tart Key Lime Pie.

Peanut Butter Banana Cream Pie

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How To Make Homemade Peanut Butter

How to Make Peanut Butter

Some things in the world are just too too easy.  Peanut butter is one of those things.

I suppose those easy things work to compliment the tasks in life that are far too complicated for their own good.  These complicated tasks include, but are not limited to, matching your socks fresh out of the dryer, finding your other slipper in a closet full of shoes, and emptying your vacuum bag and finding replacements of the same size and shape… seriously, why is that so hard!?

Where these little bits of life are difficult, some things, like homemade peanut butter, are easy peasy.  Thank goodness for the little things.

How to Make Peanut Butter

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Ask Joy the Baker

flour and such

Can we have a heart to heart?

Good.  Thanks.

The reality is… I’m up to my ears in emails from many of you lovely people.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s great!  I totally love it… but honestly, I’m overwhelmed.

Let’s make this fun.  If you have a question… any question, leave it as a comment to this post, and I’ll answer it.  Any and every question, answered… I promise.

It could go something like this:

Hey Joy, do you really like pancakes as much as you say you do?  What’s your favorite toothpaste?  Do you have a recipe for peach cobbler on your blog?  And what should I make my Dad for his birthday?

My answers might be something like this:

Yes,  I really do like pancakes as much as I say I do.  My Dad’s pancakes are a little bit of awesome.  Aquafresh… the silver kind, that’s some good toothpaste.  Peach cobbler?  No not yet.  And for your Dad’s birthday how about Mocha Coffee Coffee Cake?

See?  We could be going places with this.  Maybe you have a question about my camera.  How about culinary school?  We could talk about that.  Anything at all…

Let’s do it.  You ask.  I answer.  Easy as pie!

Double Chocolate Devil’s Food with Fresh Raspberries

Double Chocolate Devil's Food Cake

How are you going to share the love the Valentine’s Day?  How do you share the love every other day of the year?

At the restaurant, this Saturday night’s reservations are already fully booked.  We’re going to be packed to the gills with love birds.  We’ve got people calling trying to pull the VIP card.  What’s that?  Oh.. you happen to think you and the chef are bffs this week and you’d like a table for two at 8?  Tough luck.  Really…

But Friday night…?  Not a soul.

What a day Valentine’s Day is… so ripe with expectations, how can you satisfy?

I remove myself from the whole game.  There are so many other gorgeous days of my life that I prefer to share love with the world around me.  How do I do it?  It usually involves butter, brown sugar and cocoa powder, but that’s just my style.

Sometimes love is as simple as sending someone a goofy postcard.  As deliberate as looking someone in the eye and smiling as you pass on the street.  As tiring as staying up extra late to make your Mom a birthday cake.  We share more love than we might realize.  Everyday, in the little things.  Let’s remember that this week.  Let’s remember that always.  It’s those little touches that make this life seem loads brighter.

Summer Raspberry

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Cherry Jam Cookies

Cherry Jam Cookies

I need this recipe in my back pocket. It’s the recipe that tricks everyone into thinking that I’m the girl with a constant supply of eggs, flour, butter and every other baking necessity constantly on hand. In reality, I often only have one egg in the fridge, and just enough butter to have to take an trip to the store.

Don’t believe me? Would I lie? Um… no.

Here’s one thing I do fib about: sleeping. I just woke up from a nap. I have sleepy nap time marks on my face… totally undeniable napping has just occurred. If you were to ask me if I just woke up from a nap, I would deny it up and down. I dunno… just a little weirdness from Joy the Baker. I prefer to think of the white lie as somehow charming, and the sleep marked face as evidence of a guilty but of so indulgent afternoon.

Enough about napping. Go check your fridge for that lone egg and stick of butter, and you must have a bit of jam in there too!

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We Have Winners!

Southern Style Strawberry Cake

My gracious!  You, friends, surely came out in immense numbers for this little giveaway.

Thank you… you know, it’s just nice to know that you’re all around.

Eli B- lucky you!

Rachel H-  Wow!  You win!

Kim B-  Can you believe it!?  You won!

I’ll email you and kindly ask for your address, and you each get a Baggu bag!

Now…. I  have good news:  bonus bags!  I have two more to give away!

Bonus winners are:

Maja-  Sweet, right?

Amanda W-  Awesome!  Bonus bag for you!

Winners picked by  Gee, thanks!  For the many hundred of you who haven’t won a bag.. stick around.  I’ve got more goodies coming your way!

Still looking for a little something to whip up for Valentine’s Day?  This Southern Style Strawberry Cake might be right up your alley!

Pink Grapefruit Yogurt Cake

Grapefruit Yogurt Cake

Allow me this space to keep it real.

Part of growing up (and oh how I want to wrestle that concept) is figuring out how to comfort myself.  Man alive… that’s a hard one.

We all have our shaky moments, when life flips itself upside down and reminds you that you’re not exactly the boss of everything around you.  In those moments, believe me when I say, I just want to hurl myself on the floor and throw a bona fide tantrum.  The only problem with tantrums, is that people don’t really cares much as they did when I was three,  and it just ruins my mascara.

Then there’s french fries.  French fries are far better than tantrums.

Even better than french fries I’ve found, is a good, loud sing.  When I needed comfort yesterday, when I was feeling a little shaky, I literally stood in my living room and sang whatever songs came to mind.  Loud.  With my eyes closed.  Like I really meant it.  From the inside.  It felt so so good.

And then there’s cake.

Grapefruit Yogurt Cake

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Heart Shaped Dipped Krispies

Heart Krispies

Holy WOW, people!!

Where the heck did you all come from!?  I had no idea so many of you were sneaking around.  I’m glad I could coax you out of the shadows with a giveaway. I only wish I had more bags to give away… Stick around, I’ve got more stuff to give.  For reals.

In the mean time, how about a little Valentine inspired treat?  When I think of Valentine’s Day, I usually want to run and hide.  Red roses, pink boxes of candy, cheap champagne… count me way way way way out.  The one thing about Valentine’s day I can support is homemade heart shaped treats.

And so, with the charmingly kitchy elements of Valentine’s Day in mind, I bring you Heart Shaped Dipped Krispies.

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Baggu For You


I’ll be honest, I have reusable grocery bags just about coming out of my ears.  The one big problem is that I leave the darn bags at home exactly every time I head out to the store.  I feel like a nasty whale killer every time I walk out of the store with a boat load of those thin plastic bags.  Sure, they’re good for cleaning cat liter, but still… the whales.

Baggu figured it out for us.  Reusable shopping bags that fold and scrunch up into a little pouch that you can keep in your purse or in the back seat of you car.  I think they’re actually everything bags.  I’ve used mine as a gym bag, as a quick overnight bag and as a purse… but I’m a little hippie like that sometimes.

I have three bags that I think you should have.  Let’s go ahead and call this a giveaway.  Three bags for three readers.  One each.  

Want one?

Leave a comment.  Tell me whatever you like.  You’ve got until Saturday, and then the random drawing and mailing begins.


Salted Chocolate Vanilla Bean Cookies

Chocolate and Vanilla Wafers

What would it feel like if vacations lasted forever?  Would it feel as good as I think it would?  Yes.  Yes, it would.

Reality hits hard after you’ve had days to let your brain ease into a happy mush.

I’m not complaining.  Does it sound like I’m complaining?  Ok… maybe a little.  It’s just hard to let vacation time slip out of my hands.

Maybe permanent vacation is like only eating these cookies for the rest of your days.  Sure, they have both chocolate and vanilla, but you can’t eat cookies forever.  They’d lose their cookie goodness.  Maybe permanent vacation would somehow start to feel like work.  Constant cookies and vacation? I’d be willing to experiment  just to see how the two would treat me after a few years.

Chocolate and Vanilla Wafers

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The Most Friendly of Reminders

Monster marshmallow pie

Before I hop on a plane back to Los Angeles from Seattle, I just wanted to give you a little nudge.

Did you cast your vote in the 2009 Bloggies?  Did you ask your Mom to vote?  Did you hassle the hubby to vote?  How about your puppy?  Does the puppy have an email address?

The last day to vote is Monday, February 2nd.  Voting ends at 10pm EST.

I know what you’re thinking:  Holy Cow!  That’s tomorrow!  I gotta vote!

I support that impulse.  I thank you for that impulse.

Here’s pie is you need a muchload of marshmallows in your life.  Yes, muchload.