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The Baking Bird
Kylie started her blog in 2008 when she was experimenting with vegetarian and veganism, and through her journey, discovered her love of baking.
Apart from showcasing her baked goods on The Baking Bird, she also shares her favorite places and adventures around where she currently lives, the lively food city of Portland, Oregon.
I am so happy to have Kylie Antolini of The Baking Bird joining me here on the show today.
On Finding Her Passion for Baking:
When I was at home and I was a teenager, my parents were meat eaters. I just became vegetarian because it interested me. I thought it was a healthier lifestyle and I had to fend for myself. So I first started out with getting cookbooks. Maybe you’re familiar with them: How It All Vegan! and The Garden of Vegan by Sarah Kramer and Tanya Barnard. They were my main inspiration.
I first started making some of their savory recipes. And then I decided to experiment with some of their dessert recipes. I just really love the idea that you can bake awesome stuff without using traditional ingredients like butter and eggs, and you get similar results.
I love the process of experimenting like with flax egg replacer or applesauce and bananas. So that was really the thing that caught on to me, and I really just enjoyed experimenting. I felt like a scientist in the kitchen. And to this day, I don’t bake vegan really anymore but one of my favorite vegan baking hacks is putting apple cider vinegar and non-dairy milk and making a buttermilk with it because it curdles the milk, which is awesome because I don’t like going to buy buttermilk because it usually goes to waste. I only use like a cup of it. That’s one of my favorite things that I’ve carried into my regular baking style now.
That was how I found my passion for baking. I just really enjoyed it and I combined my love for photography and started taking picture of things I made and thought, “Oh, I started a blog.”
On No Longer Being Vegetarian:
To be honest, it wasn’t really by choice. I had gotten into running quite a bit around the time that I became a vegetarian, and my body just couldn’t keep up with the nutrition I was getting.
Unfortunately, there were some signs that showed up here and there. My doctor encouraged me to start eating meat. I also suffered from a lot anxiety and insomnia and I noticed the correlation from eating to vegetarian and running too much. So it took a lot of convincing and my parents were really adamant about it. They’re just trying to get me meat all the time, and I was like, “Uh!” But I ended up feeling a lot better once I did and I started sleeping a lot better. My anxiety really went down. So that was really basically it. I wanted to keep being vegetarian but it just wasn’t best for my life.
On Her Interest in Food:
I know that after I was going to being vegetarian, I really got an interest in collecting a lot of cookbooks. I became really obsessed with food because when you have to start combining certain ingredients to have the right nutrition, the right balance, you really have to look at a lot of different resources. So I became obsessed about collecting lots of cookbooks and reading recipes. That was what really got me into cooking.
And my mom was always a really avid cook when I was younger. She kept all the vintage Bon Appétit magazines and was really into that. And my grandmother on my dad’s side is also a great baker. And so I would bake with her.
She’d always have a homemade pie or something for dessert when we come over to eat. I guess they were my inspiration and I grew up in a family that really loved food, so that had a big part of it.
On the First Thing She Baked:
Well, I remember the first thing that I bragged about. It was this vegan chocolate peanut butter pie with bananas, and no-bake. It was so easy and so delicious. I think it was actually from La Dolce Vegan, the cookbook from Sarah Kramer.
Fabulous recipe but terrible photos if you go back and look in the blog. It’s the very first one but it’s delicious.
On Things Not Going as Planned in the Kitchen:
I can think of one or two instances. But fortunately, it doesn’t happen very often which is great. That’s why I think baking is more of my thing than cooking.
I was trying to make a vegan chocolate cake. I turned the pan upside down and it just completely disintegrated and crumbled into pieces. I was like, “Okay.” I think I baked two things that day and they both didn’t turn out. I was like, “This is just not my day.”
Sometimes you have the baking energy and sometimes you don’t. There’s just something in the air and it makes your work shatter. But for the most part, I’m pretty lucky.
It always depends on your oven too. I had to get used to my oven in my apartment. It runs a little bit warmer. So I found over the years that it’s best to play it safe and subtract a little bit of time from your baking time and check it so it’s not too done.
On The Food Culture in Portland, Oregon:
Portland is crazy with food. There are so many people here that love food and have a passion for it. It was the number one reason I actually decided to move here. Because when I first visited, I spent a week here and had a list of places I wanted to go. I was just amazed with how people love food here and get such a wide variety.
You can go to a specific shop just for cupcakes or just for pie. I think the food culture is very experimental and it’s very inspiring. Sometimes it can get a little predictable.
There’s a lot of repeat comfort food here. A lot of pork belly, I see that left and right. So people really love that kind of Southern style. I see that quite a bit. But it makes sense when it’s overcast a lot of the time and it’s raining. So people really enjoy that kind of food here.
There are a lot of donut places. I’m sure you’ve heard of Voodoo Doughnut.
I will drive by and the line can be an hour long. It’s pretty nuts. But there have been a few places that have popped up that you can get donuts now. Pip’s Doughnuts is really amazing if you’ve ever had a chance to check them out. And my personal favorite is Coco Donuts.
On Special Places to Eat in Portland:
I would have to say as far as dinner places, my favorite, favorite place is Tasty ‘N Sons. They’re at North Williams and they’ve opened another location Downtown.
And I really have been loving Ox. I went there for my birthday. I had a fabulous birthday meal.
LucLac has an amazing happy hour. You can get like a huge variety of different small plates for just $15. They make amazing cocktails too. So they are really awesome. Sweedeedee is my favorite brunch place that can get really crazy busy though. A lot of people have caught on that it’s amazing.
For really good vegetarian/ vegan food, Harlow is wonderful too. They make great smoothies.
Levant is also really nice. They have Mediterranean food and they just started doing a brunch. And Scott Snyder who’s the owner, he’s actually from Santa Cruz where I’m from. So we have some ties to that in some ways. He’s really great. His food is awesome.
The Pressure Cooker:
Which food shows or cooking shows do you watch?
Well, I don’t have a television, so I think that makes me the odd one out. But I did just finished watching the last season of Top Chef.
Two of the chefs on the show were from Portland and that was all over the Portland news. I had to watch it.
I actually had an opportunity to photograph Doug Adams who was on the show, one of my freelance jobs for the Portland Mercury. So that was really awesome. I got to meet him in person and that’s made me more interested in watching the show.
What are some food blogs or food websites we have to know about?
I definitely have a lot of favorite bloggers I follow on Pinterest and Instagram or what-not. My three favorites of late would be Half Baked Harvest. Perhaps you’re familiar with her. And my latest obsession, Twigg Studios. I think she’s from England or Australia. I forgot. Anyway, I contacted her because I just fell in love with her photography and wanted her to know that her stuff is amazing. So definitely check her out. Her photos for just her recipes are genius.
I also recently discovered Broma Bakery and I really like her recipes.
Who do you follow on Pinterest, Instagram, or Facebook that make you happy?
I would say Instagram, I really love following Izy of Top with Cinnamon. Her recipes and photos are amazing. I really love Call me Cupcake. She is lately @linda_lomelino. She is amazing too. And then also, the Twigg Studios gal with her blog.
As far as Pinterest, I don’t really always know who I’m following.
What is the most unusual or treasured item in your kitchen?
I wish I could say I had some really cool hand-me-down spoon from a great grandmother or something.
I would say my most treasured item, because I use it so frequently, two metal mixing bowls, my small and large. I bought them a few years ago when I started making macaroons. The recipe I was going off of said that it was best to have metal bowls just for keeping the coolness and protecting it from too much heat. And I love them.
I just use them for everything, so I couldn’t bake without them.
Name one ingredient you used to dislike but now you love.
Cardamom did not sit well with me at all. But now, I love it. I want to put cardamom in every single thing I bake. A lot of recipes on the blog have cardamom in them. I almost have to stop myself because people are going to get tired of using cardamom now. It’s really weird. I don’t know what it was. I don’t know if it was becoming vegetarian and experimenting with spices, but I love cardamom and also ginger. I used to hate ginger and I use it all the time now.
What are a few cookbooks that make your life better?
I think my number one favorite go-to resource book is The Flavor Bible. It’s pretty awesome.
If I want to tweak a recipe or I have an idea, I can go to that and it will list a bunch of ingredients that go really well with it. It’s pretty spot on.
They also recently released a Vegetarian Flavor Bible. I haven’t looked at it. But Flavor Bible is amazing.
I also really love the Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book because they have just the basic pie and cake recipes that you can make your own. They’ve been tested by the best of the best bakers and scientists. And that’s what they do all day long. So that’s a really great resource to have too.
What song or album just makes you want to cook?
I love music so much and I always try to put on a record when I bake. It’s really tough. I would have to say Bruce Springsteen, Born in the U.S.A.
On Keeping Posted with Kylie:
I think I’m most active on Instagram, The Baking Bird, and Pinterest. I’m also on it quite a bit. Yeah, Instagram and my blog.