Warning: the following post is entirely biased. I am not being compensated in any way, but if I’m nice – Joy Wilson, a.k.a. Joy the Baker, might share the crumbs from her recipes for the next cookbook. I am in the neighborhood, and always an eager guinea pig for someone as creative in the kitchen as she is. BTW, her book is off the hook, so you DO want to read this post, because I have a signed copy to give-away!
I’ve been following Joy the Baker, voted one of the top fifty food blogs in the world by the London Times amongst numerous other prestigious awards, since forever. Okay, so I exaggerate, but almost since it’s inception in 2008. An intoxicating place where her endearing sense of humor, passionate recipes, and uncomplicated directions tease the flavors and textures to life in my mind – without adding inches to my waistline, since her photos deftly take over where my imagination wanes. On the occasions a vicarious taste alone will not suffice, I make sure there’s plenty of company over to keep myself from devouring the entire batch. I’m overJOYed (pun intended) that she agreed to do this interview, even if I it was slightly under duress.
JA: The burning question at the forefront of my mind is when you bake those wickedly tempting goodies, can you eat just one, or do you just have an incredibly high metabolism?
JOY: I think I live on a balanced diet of doughnuts and kale. I’m either eating cookies, or some sort of juice smoothie. There isn’t really an in between. This combination, combined with daily bike riding, feels good to me these days.
JA: What was your Easy Bake Oven speciality, and did you bake from scratch or use mixes?
JOY: I was the girl that begged for an easy bake oven every year until my dad granted me full use of the house oven at 8 years old. I always baked from scratch, only because my parents thought it a waste to buy boxed mixes.
JA: What, if any, unusual ingredients would we find in your pantry?
JOY: I love various kinds of salts. I have truffle salt, smoked salt, and vanilla bean salt that is absolutely incredible on chocolate chip cookies.
JA: I have nightmares about being forced back into the high school chemistry lab – that’s why I’m primarily a cook, not a baker (that, plus the fact I can’t eat just one). Yet in my sneak peak of your book you actually make practical sense of of all the technical bits for the chemistry challenged; such as why size matters when it comes to using eggs. Did you ace chemistry?
JOY: Don’t even talk to me about chemistry. The only tiny bit of science I know is about baking soda and buttermilk reactions in the oven. That’s as deep as my knowledge goes. And don’t even get me started on Calculus. I’m out!
JA: I was already a fan, but I think I graduated to groupie status when you blogged about making your own brown sugar. What other self-made fixes do you have up your apron?
JOY: I often find myself making cake flour because I never have it on hand. I simply measure out a cup of all-purpose flour, take away two tablespoons of that flour and replace it with cornstarch. I then sift the mixture three or four times. Boom! Cake flour!
JA: You could probably turn hell (hot enough to bake) into heaven with your recipes, so what tools would you be sure to take with you? What tools would you suggest a novice baker be frugal over, and which ones, if any, do they need to splurge on?
JOY: Splurge on a good mixer. I adore my Kitchen Aid. I love a good set of metal mixing bowls, and good quality, heat-resistant spatulas. I save on the frilly stuff, like plates, place settings and linens… thrift stores are GREAT for those sorts of finds.
JA: Ann Thornton has been in the news lately when she was dropped by Food Network for allegedly plagiarizing recipes by Martha Stewart and the Barefoot Comtessa (although FN denies this, and sites ratings for their action). What do you think distinguishes an original recipe from an adapted one when baking is really all about ratios?
JOY: It’s tough… because baking is soooo much about ratios. I never claimed to have invented cookies, or cakes. I think a recipe is adapted when you’ve added or subtracted several ingredients that speak to the core of what that baked good is. Also, I am always quick to site my inspiration and sources when adapting recipes. So little is truly original now, I have no problem mentioning the talented chefs I’m inspired by.
JA: Let’s talk photography. I can spot one of your food photos as easily as I can differentiate a Warhol from a Lichtenstein. You have such a distinct style of composition, color, and lighting. How did that evolve into the mouth-watering photos we see in your book, and on your blog today?
JOY: I’m a self-taught photographer, so the process has all been trial and error. I want my photographs to speak of me. I use lots of pattern and color and often odd compositions. I shoot with mostly natural light, and have slowly taught myself about aperture, focus, shutter speed, and photo editing. It’s all been a learning process. My photos are untrained and imperfect, but they feel good to me… so I’m going with that.
JA: A genie just granted you three wishes, what would they be?
JOY: 1). Less suffering. 2). More smiles. 3). And warm doughnuts. Not necessarily for me… but for everyone in the world.
JA: What is next for Joy the Baker?
JOY: I’d love to write another book… perhaps exploring the savory side of Joy the Baker. We’ll see if I can get that ball rolling. Beyond that, I’m happy plugging away at the book and the podcasts, and trying to stay connected to beautiful people around me.
Those that know me, know how I abhor driving in traffic (previously I would have thought you needed a passport and a visa to drive that far), but I actually braved driving to Pasadena in rush hour traffic, because a). I wanted a signed copy of the book to give-away to one of you, b). I wanted my own copy of the book in time to make a birthday cake for myself, and c). Joy had mentioned she was nervous no one would turn up to her first book signing. I knew better, she is waaaaaay too enchanting, and adored by legions of fans, but I understand
how scary that first signing can be, and I wanted to be supportive. She couldn’t have been more wrong. Vroman’s bookstore in Pasadena was packed, standing room only, and they sold out of her books (glad I got there early)! The recipes are so imaginative and exciting – I can’t wait to try the vegan chocolate cupcakes next, and the photos are pure Joy at her best – GORGEOUS eye candy all the way through.
1). You must become a member of JulieAnneRhodes.com. It’s FREE, unless of course you’re a clever clogs, and realize that joining the premium membership pays for itself in money and time saved every week when you practice the Personal Chef Approach™.
2). Let me know what your favorite Joy the Baker recipe is in the comments section below, and post about the give-away on your Twitter feed and/or Facebook status. Better still, feel free to blog away about it!
4). Please send one email listing all of your entries to dear jewels at julieannerhodes dot com no later then noon PST on March 31, 2012. All entries will be verified, and any that do not meet the rules and guidelines will be disqualified. Winner will be announced on Monday April 2nd, 2012!
BTW, Just to prove Joy Wilson is not a one trick pony, or solely a brilliant baker in this instance, she recently posted a recipe for Arroz con Pollo on her blog that she adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe. As usual, the photo enticed me, so I made it for supper that evening, and now I make it for all of my clients, and they LOVE it too. I can’t wait for that cookbook ” exploring the savory side of Joy the Baker.” Find the Arroz con Pollo recipe here at Joy the Baker. Also, in honor of Saint Paddie’s Day you can find my Slow-Cooked Guinness Corned Beef Brisket as my recipe of the week for all to enjoy.
PS. Just in case you would like to meet Joy Wilson for yourself here is her book tour schedule.
PPS. As part of your qualifying entry for the signed cookbook give-away, what is your favorite Joy the Baker recipe ever (in the book, or on the blog)? Please leave your answer in the comments box below.