peach crumble pie | the vanilla bean blog
peach crumble pie | the vanilla bean blog
Years ago, after completing college and moving back in with my parents for a spell, I would pick my Grandma up once a week and take her out shopping. She was close to 90 and could no longer drive, but was always eager to get out of the house and buy her own groceries and necessities. One of her favorite haunts was a neighborhood department store that she insisted on stopping by, and she would push her cart around the aisles aimlessly, happy to be out and about. This particular store didn’t have much for me to look at, but I would always wander over to the kitchen section and browse around until Grandma was ready to leave. I remember falling in love with one particular item: a glass cake stand with a heavy domed lid. Every week I would go back and debate purchasing it, but I had just graduated college without much in my bank account. So each time I would pass it by, dreaming of the cakes I could make to fill it.

That August I celebrated my 25th birthday, and there it was wrapped up so pretty: the cake stand I had been coveting. My parents gave it to me that birthday, but I’m pretty sure they were tipped off by my Grandma, who couldn’t help but notice me eying it each week. Almost twelve years later I still own the glass domed top to the stand, but the bottom chipped after I dropped it one sad evening. Over the years I’ve collected a few more stands, and use them frequently. But not just for cakes: for muffins and scones and cookies and fruit, also. I love having one perched on my counter; an interactive display of sugary goodness to brighten the day.
peach crumble pie | the vanilla bean blog
peach crumble pie | the vanilla bean blog
peach crumble pie | the vanilla bean blog
peach crumble pie | the vanilla bean blog
Last week the folks at Martha Stewart asked if they could send me a cake stand (pictured in the post here) from the Martha Stewart Collection (exclusively at Macy’s) and I could hardly say no. That very first cake stand was a Martha Stewart stand, and I had loved it dearly for years. I’m looking forward to all the birthdays, anniversaries, and get-togethers this new piece will be a part of.
peach crumble pie | the vanilla bean blog
(and, although I was given the stand, all my opinions here are my own).

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sarah kieffer
Here’s a few photographs from a recent family session I had. I always feel honored being asked to capture precious beginnings.

A few things:

I’ve seen a whole lot of food bloggers getting on the Steller bandwagon this past month. It’s one of my favorite Apps, and I highly recommend checking it out if you haven’t yet.

I find myself dreaming about this place. It would be an epic vacation.

As you might know we just moved, and I’ve been struggling with wanting our new space to be so perfect right away. This article was so good to read, and reminded me I already have everything I need.

Anne Lamott on Robin Williams passing. She always has the words.
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sarah kieffer
sarah kieffer

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Gâteau Basque | the vanilla bean blog
“I do think you have to change with the times in a way that renews your core essence, not abandons it. To change for the sake of change—without an anchor—that is mere faddishness. It will only lead you further astray.
-Richard C. Morais, The Hundred-Foot Journey

A few days ago DreamWorks approached me to create a post inspired by their new movie The Hundred-Foot Journey. I eagerly accepted because a) Helen Mirren is in it and b) I had a good reason to make gâteau basque, with a twist. The movie is a charming tale that interweaves food and love, and two very different cultures. It comes out August 8th so I haven’t seen it yet, but I was smitten by the trailer, and saw it got two thumbs up from Food Loves Writing, who viewed it this past weekend. I also started the book yesterday, trying to finish it before I see it in the theater.
Gâteau Basque | the vanilla bean blog
So here is gâteau basque, a French dessert from the Basque region of France. I made a Chai tea pastry cream for the filling, which is very untraditional, but in the spirit of The Hundred-Foot Journey, I decided to change things up. “Never be afraid of trying something new, Hassan…It is the spice of life.”
Gâteau Basque | the vanilla bean blog

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buttermilk cake with rhubarb frosting + cardamom cream | the vanilla bean blog
This cake was made in celebration of Saveur Magazine’s 20th birthday. When it comes to cake I only think in chocolate, but I got the idea of rhubarb buttercream in my head and thought it would pair better with a white cake (although, after eating it, I think it could go either way). There are 21 cakes altogether on the above link, and I recommend checking them out; so many beauties.

We’re still in the moving zone here; we’ve got one week to pack up the rest of our house and say our good-byes. I feel very bittersweet about the whole affair, but am looking forward to the change.

“So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.”-Herman Hesse
buttermilk cake with rhubarb frosting and cardamom cream | the vanilla bean blog

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sarah kieffer
Sorry for the silence over on this end. It’s been a crazy month; we are in the process of selling our house and buying another, and my days have been filled with taping boxes and filling them with everything we own. So instead of a recipe I bring you some photos from a few family sessions I’ve done recently.

And:
I have Shortcakes with Roasted Fruit and Rosemary on Wit & Delight, as well as a Cherry Skillet Cake on Handmade Charlotte.

Lady and Pups. I want to make everything.

How Animals Eat Their Food. (I love this. Also, Part 2.)

Gary Provost on writing.
sarah kieffer
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sarah kieffer
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chocolate pots de crème with lavender and sea salt | the vanilla bean blog
Back when I worked at the Blue Heron Coffeehouse, I spent a lot of time making banana bread. It was one of my daily tasks, and after weeks and weeks of mixing and mashing I could have made the bread in my sleep. However one Friday afternoon, after making it had become more routine than pleasure, I had four loaves that sunk in the middle and tasted terrible. I had no idea how it happened, as this recipe was etched in my soul for all eternity. Larry (the coffeehouse owner) walked over to my prep table to take a peek at the wasted loaves, and I’ll never forget his words. “The kitchen gods are always watching,” he said. “You may think you have a recipe down, and that you can never make it wrong, but the minute you feel you own a recipe, or have pride approaching your workspace that lacks any form of humbleness for your ingredients and movement, the gods will remind you, and teach you respect again.” He said it in all sincerity, and in such a strong, kind voice, that those sentences have never left me in my own kitchen.

Which brings me to chocolate pots de crème. It was Thursday. I was just going to ‘whip these up, easy,’ while also interacting with two little ones who were officially on summer vacation and were already bored, working on three other things in the kitchen for blog posts and our own evening meal, and trying to clean my house for dinner guests. I rushed around, unfocused on what I was doing: the chocolate looked completely melted, it must be. I didn’t bring the eggs to room temperature, but they will be fine. But what came out of my oven, 30 minutes later, was not creamy chocolate pudding. The top was bubbly and the darkest brown, and the bottom almost gray with tiny flecks scattered throughout it. I didn’t stop to really notice this, however, and threw them in the fridge to cool. “They’re fine! How bad can pudding taste?” Actually very bad, as my dinner guests and I found out later that evening. Grainy, gray pudding is not what one wants to serve new friends who just finished asking you questions about your food blog. Larry’s words came to mind as our guests graciously finished their cups and said kind things. I had forgotten to take that moment to breathe, feel my ingredients, linger in the whisking and melting and pouring. I had served myself humble pie (or, pots de crème, I guess), aware of the gods above.

Later that week I made the dessert again, taking my time to get things right. I’m happy to report it is delicious: creamy and dreamy, as I knew it would be. I offered up thanks to the heavens, grateful for hard lessons that eventually bring beauty.
chocolate pots de crème with lavender and sea salt | the vanilla bean blog
chocolate pots de crème with lavender and sea salt | the vanilla bean blog
Vibrant Food Cookbook
chocolate pots de crème with lavender and sea salt | the vanilla bean blog
Months ago, Kimberley Hasselbrink from A Year In Food asked on Facebook if anyone would be up for testing recipes for the book she was working on. I immediately emailed her; I had been a fan of her site for such a long time. A few weeks later she sent me some to test: Cornmeal Pancakes with Kumquat Syrup, Autumn Breakfast Bowl, and Summer Berry and Peach Crisp. I knew right away this cookbook was going to be on heavy rotation in my home.

One thing I love about The Year In Food is Kimberley’s unique, yet unpretentious recipes. I always leave her space wanting to make something; I may have to pick up an ingredient or two, but the recipes are beautifully simple and never boring. So here’s another cookbook to add to your wish list: Vibrant Food.

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rhubarb-blueberry-apple pie | the vanilla bean blog
Last week I received my copy of The Homemade Flour Cookbook by Erin Alderson in the mail. I’ve been a fan of Erin’s site Naturally Ella for a long time, and last September had the pleasure of meeting her (and photographing her wedding). Erin is a hardworking, go-getting woman, and one of the most generous souls here in blogland. I’ve been terribly excited about her book.

The premise of the book is exploring ‘the different ways to grind flour including electric and non-electric grinders, food processors, blenders, and even coffee grinders, making it easy for any do-it-yourself homemaker to have fresh flour whenever needed.’ The flours range from barley and einkorn, to gluten-free grains like quinoa and corn, and even legumes: chickpeas, lentils, and beans all are used. Erin explains the different ways to grind them, and has a vast array of recipes for all kinds of eaters.

I had a pile of rhubarb in our garden, and a pint of blueberries that were on their way out, so Erin’s Whole Wheat Rhubarb Pie immediately jumped out at me. It’s a jem, and one I will look forward to making each summer.
rhubarb-blueberry-apple pie | the vanilla bean blog
(Also, A few things:)
Jennifer Causey and Yossy Arefi made this lovely video on the pie making process: Raspberry Rhubarb Pie.

Sara had her baby. I can’t get over these gorgeous and amazing photographs.

A little documentary by Flight of the Conchords. Don’t know how I missed this!

I love this song by PHOX.

Don’t forget to enter my giveaway! You could win a copy of Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book, a year subscription to Pure Green Magazine, a bottle of Lavender Extract from Hatchery, or a copy of The New Artisan Bread in Five

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chocolate pudding cakes with no-churn basil ice cream | the vanilla bean blog
“I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience. But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools – friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty – and said ‘do the best you can with these, they will have to do’. And mostly, against all odds, they do.” -Anne Lamott
chocolate pudding cakes with no-churn basil ice cream | the vanilla bean blog
pudding cakes with no-churn basil ice cream | the vanilla bean blog
chocolate pudding cakes with no-churn ice cream | the vanilla bean blog
Three years ago to(almost)day I started The Vanilla Bean Blog. I don’t have a grandiose paragraph to write about this space, but I have to say that I never imagined all the wonderful opportunities that have come my way would happen. When I began blogging, I was a stay-at-home mom with two small children looking for a little outlet to help keep my whirling, never-quiet mind slightly sane. Now, I am a working-from-home mom with so many good things filling my plate.

It’s been a lovely adventure.

And I have to thank YOU (yes, you!). So many beautiful people have come into my life because of this small space, and I am blown away by your kindness and encouragement. So here’s a little giveaway to give you my thanks. There will be 4 winners for these four items: a copy of Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book, a year subscription to Pure Green Magazine, a bottle of Lavender Extract from Hatchery, and a copy of The New Artisan Bread in Five. I’ll pick the winners in one week, just leave a comment on this post with your email address. (And much thanks to Cooks Illustrated, Pure Green Magazine, Bread in Five, and Hatchery for donating such lovely gifts!) (Also, because the items are being shipped from the companies listed, the giveaway is only open to US residents.)
vanilla bean blog giveaway
And, of course, there’s chocolate pudding cakes with basil ice cream. This recipe is actually one of my very first posts, but I decided to re-do it. I’ve changed the recipe a bit here and there, and since it is one of my most favorite desserts, I thought it deserved another chance to shine (not buried away deep in the archives).

And! Minneapolis peeps! Recently I asked for your help in voting for me in the Saveur Food Blog Awards, and a good friend commented that if I won, “I bet she’ll make us chocolate cake!” I agreed, and now want to follow through on my promise. If you are a Minnesota local (or will be around here this Thursday) would you like to join me for chocolate cake and some sweet door prizes at Forage Modern Workshop? We’ll also be celebrating the Vanilla Bean Blog turning three. RSVP only, so if you’re interested in coming, please email me at thevanillabeanblog@gmail.com and I’ll give you all the details. I’d love to meet you and say thanks!

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Pure Green Magazine
*photo by Pure Green Magazine

‘In later life the idea of a moveable feast for Hemingway became something very much like what King Harry wanted St. Crispin’s Feast Day to be for “we happy few’: a memory or even a state of being that had become a part of you, a thing that you could have always with you, no matter where you went or how you lived forever after, that you could never lose. An experience first fixed in time and space or a condition like happiness or love could be moved or carried with you wherever you went in space and time.’ – Patrick Hemingway

I have a piece in the newest issue of Pure Green Magazine. It’s about Larry and Colleen Wolner from The Blue Heron Coffeehouse; the couple who made me fall in love with baking, and gave me structure for all my kitchen adventures. I spent a weekend with them last summer and we spent a lot of time in the kitchen: cooking, talking, and taking pictures. Here are some outtakes from our time, and a recipe for the simple, yet amazing, raspberry tart Colleen made. The story I wrote and other photos can be found in Pure Green Vol. 8, which you can order here. It’s a beautiful publication and if you haven’t checked it out, I highly recommend doing so.
The Blue Heron Coffeehouse
The Blue Heron Coffeehouse
The Blue Heron Coffeehouse
The Blue Heron Coffeehouse
Colleen Wolner | The Blue Heron Coffeehouse
The Blue Heron Coffeehouse
The Blue Heron Coffeehouse
The Blue Heron Coffeehouse
One other unrelated thing:

Recently I asked for your help in voting for me in the Saveur Food Blog Awards, and a good friend commented that if I won, “I bet she’ll make us chocolate cake!” I agreed, and now want to follow through on my promise. If you are a Minnesota local (or will be around here the first week of June) would you like to join me for chocolate cake and some sweet door prizes at Forage Modern Workshop? We’ll also be celebrating the Vanilla Bean Blog turning three. RSVP only, so if you’re interested in coming, please email me at thevanillabeanblog@gmail.com and I’ll give you all the details. I’d love to meet you and say thanks!
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