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Yes, Yossy Arefi, of Apartment 2B Baking Co., who makes the loveliest grown-up desserts, like Lebni Tart with Persimmons and Pomegranates, once had a troll doll–themed birthday cake.
Here, the blogs you should be reading right now with recipes and tips from their creators.
The Blog: Yossy Arefi is a Brooklyn-based photographer and baker who photographs the sweets on her blog, Apartment 2B Baking Co., almost exclusively with film.
How do you like to incorporate your Iranian heritage into your baking? In my experience Iranians aren't big on baked goods, but growing up in my house there was always a huge fruit bowl or dates or a bit of saffron candy to eat with tea for dessert. That's not to say I didn't have any buttercream–coated troll doll–themed birthday cakes or homemade cookies, because I definitely had those things too. When I want to incorporate Iranian ingredients into my baking, I look toward the flavors of honey, saffron, rose, yogurt, fruit and nuts. My Lebni Tart with Persimmon and Pomegranate is a favorite and my Apricot and Berry Galettes with Saffron were also a big hit. I try to sneak quince into as many desserts as possible in the fall and winter, like in my Quince Custard Cake; and last spring I used rose water to subtly flavor a garnish for Rhubarb Sorbet that was unexpected and delicious. There are also a few traditional cookies made with chickpea and rice flours that I have been meaning to explore. Maybe this will be the year I finally do it.
Your recipes are very seasonal. What are some of your favorite winter ingredients? And what ingredients are you newly obsessed with? This time of year I love citrus so hard. It doesn't grow in the Northeast where I currently live, but I am lucky to have access to lots of specialty citrus thanks to all of the wonderful markets in New York. I just made some killer Pavlovas with Meyer lemon cream and big fat wedges of pink grapefruit, and I have plans to add another marmalade to my site in the coming weeks. Ingredient-wise I am really excited about the whole-grain baking trend that really seems to be picking up steam. I am a longtime fan of Kim Boyce's Good to the Grain and recently added Tartine Book No. 3 and Whole-Grain Mornings to my collection of whole-grain cookbooks that I am looking forward to baking from in 2014.
I love that your parents send you quince. Do they send any other great food packages? Yes! We are definitely a food-focused family and they send me care packages throughout the year full of fun Northwestern food stuff; coffee, chocolate, etc., but my favorite packages are the ones full of Dungeness crab and Salumi salame they send for my birthday and Christmas. Dungeness crab is so incredibly delicious and so much better than the tiny blue crabs and even the lobster we get out here (sorry, East Coasters).
What are some of your favorite sources for props? I tend to hunt for props mostly at thrift, junk and salvage shops, but I also love ABC Carpet & Home, Canvas and West Elm. I also just started taking ceramics classes after a long hiatus and hope to integrate those handmade pieces into my photography soon. My first batch of bowls and plates is in the kiln as I answer these questions.
What blogs are you newly excited about? I definitely have a long list of old favorites (many of which have been featured here), but recently my wanderlust has me very interested in food bloggers from other parts of the world. I love learning about regional recipes and ingredients, and about the subtle differences in the rhythms of daily life abroad. Some favorites are Imen McDonnell's Farmette from the Irish countryside, and the stunning Manger, which is a collaboration between Mimi Thorisson and her photographer husband who live in France. Izy Hossack's Top with Cinnamon in London is so on point; Rachel Eats is the story of a former Londoner now living in Rome cooking beautiful, rustic food. And Wayward Spark is the blog of my pal Camille Storch who lives on a small homestead in rural Western Oregon, which might as well be a different country because her life is so incredibly different from mine.
Kristin Donnelly is a former Food & Wine editor and cofounder of Stewart & Claire, an all-natural line of lip balms made in Brooklyn.