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Where do you turn for your *own* inspiration?


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Hi Dorie! It was wonderful to meet you in Philly last week and I'm glad to see you made it at least to Chicago in one piece. :wink:

I've been thinking about what I see as a dichotomy in your cookbook work. So much of your cookbook writing has been focused on interpreting the work of others (Pierre Herme, the gaggle of guest bakers on Baking with Julia, all the wonderful chefs of Paris Sweets), that I wonder how it was different for you to put together the new book. Were most of the recipes already part of your repetoire, or did you start at all from scratch? How much was reinterpretation of the familiar, and how much was from-the-beginning?

All of which is a round-about way of asking -- when doing "your own" baking, where are you most likely to turn for inspiration?

Edited by RuthWells (log)
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Ruth, I was really glad to meet you and your mom in Philadelphia. I thought the tea at The Four Seasons Hotel was wonderful -- what a civilized way to begin my book tour. And, yes, I did make it to Chicago in one piece, although I didn't stop sniffling for another day or so. Aaarrrgh.

You're right, there is a big difference between the work I do when I'm collaborating with chefs and the work that is "my own".

When I wrote my first three books, Sweet Times, Waffles from Morning to Midnight and Pancakes From Morning to Midnight (all out of print), I started pretty much from scratch. I had perhaps 30 of the 100 recipes that were in Sweet Times in my kitchen notebook, and I had scribbles in that notebook about recipes I wanted to create, flavor combinations that I thought would be interesting and desserts I'd eaten and liked. I also had a few sketches of cakes and pastries I thought were beautiful. But I had nothing for either Waffles or Pancakes; for these books, I was developing only new recipes.

When it came to the recipes for Baking From My Home to Yours, I was able to go back to those kitchen notebooks, which were now much fuller, and pick out my favorite recipes, the recipes I'd been making for family and friends over the years. All of the recipes had to be retested, of course; many had to be tweaked; and some I more than tweaked because I discovered that my tastes had changed.

I did create some new recipes. For the most part, the new recipes were for desserts that were inspired by chefs I'd recently worked with or sweets I'd recently had and loved.

And as always, inspiration came (and comes) from ingredients. And from cravings -- mine, of course, but also those of my family and friends.

I just had this thought -- perhaps I am inspired to create recipes in the same way that someone is inspired to make something that sounds good to them when they flip through a cookbook. In the cook or baker's situation, they are inspired by what they see or read; in my case, I am inspired by what I want, but I just go that extra step and create it.

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I just had this thought -- perhaps I am inspired to create recipes in the same way that someone is inspired to make something that sounds good to them when they flip through a cookbook.  In the cook or baker's situation, they are inspired by what they see or read; in my case, I am inspired by what I want, but I just go that extra step and create it.

This is a very interesting notion, and I thank you for articulating it so well. As a strictly-home baker, I find that I'm never able to bake as much as I would like to, and am therefore a bit slow to change my habits. :wink: But I've noticed in recent months that my mental approach to baking has shifted. In the past, when the urge to bake has hit, I'd pull out a few books and flip pages until I'd lit on something I'd like to try and had all the ingredients for on hand. Recently, though, I'm more likely to start with an idea (e.g. "Hmmm, I'd really like a big chewy cookie that I can dunk in milk, and I want to use some dried cranberries and that great cinnamon from Penzey's"), and from there, to back into a pretty-close recipe that I then tweak as needed. It's a small thing, but it really feels like a whole new way of looking at the world.

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I just had this thought -- perhaps I am inspired to create recipes in the same way that someone is inspired to make something that sounds good to them when they flip through a cookbook.  In the cook or baker's situation, they are inspired by what they see or read; in my case, I am inspired by what I want, but I just go that extra step and create it.

This is a very interesting notion, and I thank you for articulating it so well. As a strictly-home baker, I find that I'm never able to bake as much as I would like to, and am therefore a bit slow to change my habits. :wink: But I've noticed in recent months that my mental approach to baking has shifted. In the past, when the urge to bake has hit, I'd pull out a few books and flip pages until I'd lit on something I'd like to try and had all the ingredients for on hand. Recently, though, I'm more likely to start with an idea (e.g. "Hmmm, I'd really like a big chewy cookie that I can dunk in milk, and I want to use some dried cranberries and that great cinnamon from Penzey's"), and from there, to back into a pretty-close recipe that I then tweak as needed. It's a small thing, but it really feels like a whole new way of looking at the world.

Exactly, Ruth. My husband is fairly new to baking and is definitely of the "flip through the books and see what looks good" persuasion. He sort of looks at me with awe/wonder/bafflement because I tend to start with an ingredient or even the season and figure out something from there.

~ Lori in PA

My blog: http://inmykitcheninmylife.blogspot.com/

My egullet blog: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=89647&hl=

"Cooking is not a chore, it is a joy."

- Julia Child

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