Friday, May 22, 2009

Interview: Amanda of Is This Thing On? v.1

As some or most of you know, I am by trade a journalist and so my curiosity never dies. That said, I wanted to introduce my interview series with other people about their experiences in that most noble endeavor: cooking.

Today's interview is with Amanda of Is This Thing On?. I met Amanda in college; she has now just completed her master's degree in English from the University of Maine and moved back to the Bad News, so hopefully she'll be coming to teach me how to bake. She specializes in cupcakes and I would like to announce that she has graciously agreed to make my wedding cupcakes! Anyway, the interview is pretty long, so I am splitting it into two parts.

Amanda's Hokie Hi-Hat cupcakes: meringue dipped in candy melts to create "the DQ effect."

Newly Domesticated: Why does baking appeal to you?

Amanda: I love baking because it allows me to check out of my busy, complicated grad school life and focus on manageable steps that I know (or hope) I can handle. Baking and blogging about it makes me feel good at something. Cupcakes are the perfect baked good because I can be creative with flavors and decorations without a huge amount of risk; since I’m still following basic recipes, I’m not as on-my-own as I am when cooking. 

ND: What are your earliest memories of cooking?

A: Cooking was always my sister’s thing. She had the Easy Bake Oven and the dreams of culinary school, and I didn’t really want to be involved in the kitchen. I remember one particular time in middle school when my aunt was trying to teach me how to make a pie. I was adamant about not being a pie making person, and I think — again — I just shoved my sister in the direction of the kitchen and got away with it. I used to think I just wasn’t a good cook, but I realized that wasn’t really true in college when I started cooking for myself. 

ND: Are you self-taught or were you educated?

A: I was all ready to say self-taught, but I think it’s more accurate to say that I’m blog-educated. My mom taught me some of the basics about cake and icing, but since I didn’t really start baking until I lived alone, I’ve learned the most from food bloggers. I have a tab on my iGoogle homepage for cupcakes and one for cooking, and I check them about half a dozen times a day. It’s a little bit out of control, but I just can’t get enough! Some of my favorites are How to Eat a Cupcake, Pioneer Woman and Cupcake Project

Outside of my foodie blogs, I have quite a growing collection of cookbooks. Over the past year, I’ve started reading them like novels. Old cookbooks are the best. Even if I don’t make any of the recipes, I really enjoy reading the ingredients and instructions. I laughed at myself the other night when I realized I was reading a cookbook in bed before going to sleep. So, even though I’ve not taken a course on baking or cooking, I guess I’ve been getting an education from a number of sources.  

Amanda's Maple Bacon, Fauxtress and Blueberry Ricotta cupcakes. Amazing, no?

ND: What do you like best about cupcakes?

A: I love the size and portability of cupcakes. Since I take most of my baking projects to other people, they have to be easily moved, stored, and eaten. I used to just drop them off in the English Dept. with a post-it note advertising their flavor(s), and that would be impossible with a messy cake that had to be cut and plated and blah, blah, blah.

Cupcakes are also really forgiving. In each batch, I have between 12 and 30-some chances to make a really cute cupcake. I can make 15 really awkwardly decorated cupcakes, photograph the 3 successful cupcakes and no one has to know that I practiced on most of them.

And let’s be honest, things are just cuter when they’re small.

And people are less likely to refuse a cupcake because they are “being good.” It still happens, but not nearly as often as when I bring other sweets. Okay… I’ll stop listing the cupcake pros now.  


Evan said...

Nice interview. I'm looking forward to part two.

Good luck with learning to cook/bake. My suggestion? Watch lots of Food Network shows.

Amber said...

i have been doing that and I've been surprised how much it's helping. I can't imagine what people did before cable.