Desserts for Breakfast
Stephanie started her blog in 2009, and Desserts for Breakfast has been a finalist in the Saveur Food Blog Awards for Best Baking and Desserts blog twice in 2011 and 2013. She is a food and travel photographer, a dessert designer, and she’s also on the tenured track towards professorhood.
I am so delighted to have Stephanie Shih of Desserts for Breakfast here on the show today.
On Her Blog:
It started shortly after my first year of graduate school when I was looking for a new hobby to do outside of studies, and got really into catering for some reason and did a couple of weddings.
Clients really wanted to see photos of what I had done and understand what was being offered. And so the easiest way to set that up was a blog. I just logged onto Blogger and put up a website, and then people started to ask for recipes, and so I started to post recipes. And all of a sudden, I was doing this thing called food blogging.
The first year of grad school is always an adjustment. So it was really nice to have that balance outside of school. I definitely stopped the whole catering thing very quickly after my first year.
On How Blogging Has Changed Since She Started:
Blogging has gotten really intense since I started. There’s just so many amazing blogs out there now, and new ones coming up every single day. And the level that everyone is starting at is just so much higher than before. I feel like when I started, it was just this casual thing. There were a couple of really big blogs like Pioneer Woman and you could just do whatever you wanted, but now it’s such a business, such an actual intense thing that you could do. So that’s been a really interesting shift, I think, in the blogosphere.
Where is my blog going to go? I’m kind of a perfectionist, so every post takes so much time from recipe development to actually making the recipe, to actually photographing it and styling it, and then all the posts, and writing the posts. And so it’s become a big question about, “Okay, well, should the blog continue to be this really good professional thing that’s out there, or just a journal of my life?” and I haven’t decided yet where it’s going go.
On Photographing Steeped: Recipes Infused With Tea:
I like to think of it as exercising the same creative muscle that I hope to bring to research. You’re all one person, so everything we do informs every other part of yourself. So, yes, in a way, it’s a nice escape from thinking about math equations all day, but on the other hand, it’s really great to try to think of how it makes me a better researcher and teacher.
Annelies is kind of amazing. She’s this writer/marketer/recipe developer, and I’ve known her for a couple years now through the SF area food scene, and all of a sudden one day she was like, “Steph, I wrote a book, and I have a publisher, and I’m going to publish this book. Will you shoot it?” And I was like, “Yes! Of course! That would be amazing!” So that was a really awesome opportunity that she definitely put my way, and I’m very grateful to her for that.
The book is excellent. It is a bunch of recipes that are amazing. All about cooking with tea.
Instead of just drinking tea or having tea as a supplement to your meal, you’re really bringing out the flavors and understanding how to use it in these highly creative ways, as a rub, or as a sauce, or infused and steeped. I learned a lot from just watching Annelies use tea in so many different ways I never even thought of.
From a dessert baker’s point of view, the most we ever use is maybe steeping milk with some Earl Grey, or using matcha in cakes. But this book goes way beyond that. One of my favorite recipes is furikake popcorn. Have you ever had furikake popcorn?
It’s this seaweed sesame blend with spices, it’s kind of salty and sweet, and you put it on popcorn. But Annelies does this amazing thing where she does it with tea instead of seaweed, and it’s so addictive and so good. I would have never thought to use roasted tea that way.
On Food Photography vs Experimenting in the Kitchen:
That’s such a hard question. It depends on what day you ask me.
I have to say if I had to just choose one to do for the rest of my life, it would probably be the photography aspect, ’cause you can take that wherever you go. But I wouldn’t want to choose.
On Things Not Going as Planned in the Kitchen but Turning Out Better:
A new experience has been cooking really fast dinners for myself, and I’ve actually gotten really creative with kale and eggs.
There are a lot of things you can apparently do with baked kale and eggs and just different spices. That’s been amazing. So if you get tired of sumac in your eggs, you can just put cinnamon and nutmeg, and it’s like this whole different thing.
Worcestershire sauce is this new thing to me, which is delicious on everything, so that’s definitely been how I’ve been exercising my creativity in the kitchen lately.
The Pressure Cooker:
Which food shows or cooking shows do you watch?
Top Chef, I’m a religious watcher of Top Chef.
What are some food blogs or websites we have to know about?
I have to confess that I’ve been a little bit out of the blogosphere lately just because I haven’t had time to follow-up.
There’s this woman who does these most beautiful photos. Her food site is called Suvi sur le vif, and she just does photos. She doesn’t post recipes or anything, but they’re just like the most gorgeous dark and contrasty photos, or bright and contrasty photos that you’ve ever seen.
Who do you follow on Pinterest, Instagram, or Facebook that make you happy?
On Instagram, there’s this furniture designer out of L.A. that I’ve been following lately.
I think his name is Etrine. He makes really cool, very hipster stools that are highly geometric and I’ve been really enjoying his feed. He does a lot of photos with cactuses recently.
What is the most unusual or treasured item you have in your kitchen?
My grandmother’s rolling pin.
It’s super tiny and I wouldn’t use it for anything ’cause it’s so small, but I really love having it.
Name one ingredient you used to dislike, but now you love.
I recently became convinced of roasted asparagus.
I just wouldn’t touch asparagus. But then someone cooked it to a crisp for me in the oven, and it’s so good.
What are a few cookbooks that make your life better?
Well, I have to say Steeped, first of all, ’cause I have to push Annelies’ awesome book. But in addition to that, any of the David Lebovitz books I turn to any time I need a solid, good dessert recipe.
What song or album just makes you wanna cook?
Lately I’ve been listening to Brandi Carlile’s latest, the one that just came out. Anything I happen to be into at that point is good to listen to in the kitchen.
On Keeping Posted on Stephanie:
Yeah, I’ve been on Instagram a lot lately since I’ve moved to a new place. It’s been really fun to post new pictures of the seasons here that I’ve never experience before and things like that. So my Instagram is @shihbakes, same thing as my Twitter, so I’m on there a lot too. And I apologize, the blog hasn’t been updating as much as it should be, but every now and then I’ll stop in and say hello.