On The Spot


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I’m a PhD student in Religious Studies, right now studying for my exams, which are coming up next Spring.

For this school year I’m living in Heidelberg, Germany, a cute little town complete with a river, castle, and (right now) Christmas markets! During my free time (or time during which I’m procrastinating!) I bake (of course!), knit, and obsess about perfume (smelling it, reading about it, and collecting it). Sometimes I wonder if I should just say good-bye forever to my studies and dedicate myself to becoming a domestic goddess. Someday, all I will do is knead dough in a cottage by the sea…

How long have you been a Daring Baker/Daring Cook and what’s your favorite thing about being in the group(s) so far?

I’ve been a Daring Baker for about a year now, and I love it that I’m challenged. If not forced, I’d probably be in a baking rut. But, as it is, the DB group really pushes me to try methods and pastries about which I would otherwise say, “That’s out of my reach,” or “I dunno…”

What’s your favorite kitchen gadget? How about your favorite kitchen appliance?

My favorite kitchen gadget is my old-fashioned, screw-it-onto-the-table apple-peeler and corer in one. It is fun to use and makes apple pie baking a cinch. My favorite kitchen appliance has to be my food processor, just because of its all around usefulness. Sadly, I am deprived of both these things in Germany at the moment (they are waiting for me in storage).

Are you known for making a certain dish or dessert? If so, what is it?

Well, my magnum opus was a Croque em Bouche wreath I made for my 30th birthday party. For that I not only got to make cream puffs but also learned to spin sugar!

Is there any recipe and/or technique that we haven’t covered yet that you’d really like to make/learn?

How about some Asian desserts and pastries? Maybe egg-custard tarts from dim sum or Japanese mochi? I know the latter isn’t baked, but we did just deep-fry cannoli!

What is the ultimate comfort food to you?

Macaroni and cheese! Right now I’m enjoying the German version of this: Käsespätzle.

Which season (Winter, Summer, Spring, Fall) is your favorite.. why?

Fall, for several reasons: my birthday’s in October, I love Halloween and Thanksgiving, and there are so many lovely smells in the air and the atmosphere is so evocative. Oh, and I love school supplies.

What’s your favorite cookbook for desserts/baking? What’s your favorite cookbook for savory/cooking?

There was a Life series of cooking from cuisines around the world, and its volume on English cooking and baking is my absolute favorite to read and cook from. I am quite the Anglophile, at least when it comes to food, which I believe has unfairly gotten a bad rap.

What did you eat for dinner last night? Did you prepare it or someone else?

Last night my apartment-mate made dinner – risotto with bacon and sage. It was lovely.

The Martha – Angel of Domestication or Minion of Evil? Why?

I feel very strongly about Martha! I’ve been an avid reader of her magazine, Living, for over 10 years now, and I think the accusations leveled against her come from a misunderstanding of her mission. Never have I felt that Martha, or her publications, is out to “guilt” anyone or make anyone feel inferior. I see her role as an educator and her mission to make everyday domestic rituals and duties an expression of care, beauty, and joy. No one is made to feel less of a person if they do not imitate something; instead, the opportunity to explore is offered, not pushed onto readers.

Neither do I think Martha is simply “stealing” age-old wisdom from homemakers and making money off of their ideas. Do homemakers normally teach you how to espalier pear trees or give a history of the brioche? I have learned so much just from reading a magazine! And each Living article is well researched and the photography and design are breathtaking. That’s dedication that benefits the readers immensely. So, those are my two cents on Martha! I know my home life and cooking and baking have benefited from her and her amazing team.

If you could eat in any celebrity chef’s restaurant which restaurant would it be, and which chef owns it?

I dream of eating at the French Laundry, which is really not too far out of reach, since I have lots of family living in the SF Bay Area, and the restaurant is just a couple hours away. Someday!

You can visit JanJan on her blog Simulacra

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