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Updated: 9:44 a.m. Wednesday, June 13, 2012 | Posted: 2:44 p.m. Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Food Matters: Baker rises from blogging gig to book deal



Beautiful photos of gorgeous baked goods? Check. Witty, if-I-can-do-it-you-can-do-it-too prose? Check. Recipes to indulge your DIY ethos? Check.

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Joy Wilson's new book, "Joy the Baker," (Hyperion, $19.99) is a perfect example of why bloggers make great cookbook authors. They are content-generating machines — Wilson, who is based in Los Angeles, shoots all of her own photos and is quick to respond to reader comments and tweets — who have figured out how to build a brand and almost cultlike following from scratch. If you're lucky enough to score a book deal, that faithful online community turns into an off­line one during the inevitable book tour that follows. For Wilson, that includes a stop at BookPeople at 7 p.m. Tuesday to talk about her blog-to-book journey, her inspiration for the recipes that made the cut for the book and why you don't have to go to culinary school to make it in the food world. To get a feel for Wilson's delightful writing style and the kinds of dishes she gushes over in the book, check out her site (http://joythebaker.com) or taste for yourself with this buttermilk skillet cake topped with warm praline.

Buttermilk Skillet Cake with Walnut Praline Topping

For the cake:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. baking soda

3/4 tsp. salt

6 Tbsp. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup buttermilk

For the praline topping:

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1/4 cup heavy cream

Generous pinch of salt

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. Grease and flour the bottom and sides of an 8-inch ovenproof pan (preferably a cast-iron skillet) and set aside. A 9-inch cake pan will also work. To make the cake: In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar until well incorporated and lighter in color, about 3 minutes. Add egg and yolk, beating for 1 minute between each addition. Beat in the vanilla. With the mixer on low, add half of the flour mixture. Add the buttermilk and when flour is just combined with the butter mixture, add the remaining flour. Beat on low speed until almost all of the flour has disappeared. Remove the bowl from the mixer and finish incorporating ingredients with a spatula. Spoon batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for about 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

While the cake bakes, make the praline topping: in a medium saucepan, combine brown sugar, butter, cream and salt over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a soft boil for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and add vanilla and nuts. Stir. Mixture may seem too loose for the cake, but let it sit in the pan for 20 minutes. It'll firm up. After the mixture has rested for 20 minutes, and the cake has been baked and removed from the oven, pour the praline mixture over the warm cake. If you baked this cake in a cake pan instead of cast iron, remove the cake from the pan, place on a cake plate, and pour topping over cake. Spread evenly. Serve immediately or at room temperature. Cake will last, well wrapped, at room temperature for up to 4 days.

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- From "Joy the Baker" by Joy Wilson (Hyperion, $19.99)

Crazy ideas given form at F&D pastry bake sales

For the past few Saturdays, Jodi Elliott and Rosie Shipman, the pastry team at Foreign & Domestic, have been hosting bake sales out of the restaurant at 306 E. 53rd St.

The effort initially began as a way to earn a little extra money to replace their current on-the-fritz oven with a new convection oven, but after fans of their pastries started lining up earlier and earlier, Elliott says they have decided to extend the sales into July and maybe even beyond.

"It's been a lot of fun for Rosie and I to go crazy and do whatever we want, pastrywise," Elliott says. "We've gone kind of nuts with it."

Bacon and Gruyere croissants, chocolate cupcakes with caramel buttercream, sausage, egg and cheddar sandwiches, strawberry cream cheese buttercups, turtle brownies, whole pies and even a mix for the restaurant's cottage cheese pancakes, which they used to feature on their now-discontinued brunch service.

Elliott says that the cash-only bake sales, which take place from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. (or until they sell out) on Saturdays, will continue through the summer, except for July 7 and 14, which they'll take off so Shipman can go on vacation. Elliott is also hoping to add a monthly dessert tasting to the events lineup. You can check out their blog at blog.fndaustin.com for info on the bake sales, events and behind-the-scenes news and updates on the restaurant.

Helping entrepreneurs reach retailers' shelves

Food entrepreneurs are increasingly turning to crowd-sourced fundraising sites like Kickstarter.com and IndyGogo.com to help get their projects off the ground - but even if they get the money to make their product, product-makers have an uphill climb to get the item in stores.

Quirky.com calls itself a "social product community," which is another way to say that it's a site where everyday inventors and those who are fascinated with product innovation can submit ideas and offer suggestions on how to improve them. Developers at Quirky keep an eye on which products inspire the most chatter, and every week, they pick two products to start working on in their own offices to help bring them to life.

And by "to life," I mean Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, Toys R Us, Ace Hardware, the Container Store and a number of other online and offline retailers where you actually shop.

I'd never heard of Quirky until shopping at Target recently, where I found a Stem citrus sprayer ($4.99) that you insert directly into a lemon, lime or orange. On the package is a photo of inventor Timothy Houle, and when you search the product on the site, you can see how long it's been in stores (77 days), how many units have been sold to date (40,673) and how much money he's made ($5,782). (You can also see all the other cool food-related products that Houle, who lives in Michigan, has been helping develop through comments and suggestions to other inventors on the site.)

Stem isn't the only food product that Quirky has already put into stores. Mercado ($24.99) is a farmers market bag with multiple mesh pockets to hold the produce; Stake ($29.99) is a grilling tool that transforms from a spatula to a fork to tongs; Sliders ($24.99) are double-prong skewers with a piece of plastic to help you slide food off the skewers after it's cooked.

Unrelated to food but connected to Austin, local inventor Barbara Miles's product, Unhampered, a folding laundry basket that retails for $29.99, just went on sale, and while they are securing retailers, you can buy one at www.quirky.com.

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