The Crème of the Crop (Project Food Blog – Challenge 1)

This post is my first entry for Project Food Blog, foodbuzz.com’s quest to find the next food blog star. Click here to see my contestant profile. Voting begins Monday, September 20, 2010. Follow me on twitter, facebook, or through my RSS feed to keep up to date with my progress in the competition. I appreciate your support!

My name is Jacob, and this is my kitchen. In my kitchen there’s only one rule: make it beautiful, or don’t make it at all.

Join me as I share my passion for food, photography, and entertaining. I will simplify your cooking, inspire you to be fearless in the kitchen, and show you step by step how to recreate beautiful, delicious, homemade meals that anyone would be proud to serve. This is real food, my way.

Here in my kitchen, I focus on traditional heirloom recipes, flavors that we all already know and love, with the volume turned up: stylish comfort food at its best. Cooking should be easy and enjoyable. Simple, fresh ingredients prepared thoughtfully, elevated to something extraordinary. At the end of the day, I want to make food that is uncomplicated, unpretentious, and undeniably good, served in a way that shows my friends and family exactly how much I care about them.

Growing up, my parents never entertained. We very rarely had friends over, and certainly never hosted what might be described as a dinner party. Because of this, I always romanticized the idea of throwing parties and entertaining guests. I watched countless hours of cooking shows, and fantasized about a life like those television chefs had. I dreamed of silver trays, cocktail parties, and unattainably beautiful food. This left me with a deep sense of longing to invite people into my home, starting at a very early age. I remember even as a six and seven year old, waking up early on special occasions to prepare breakfast. Before serving it, I would sneak into the back yard, gather a few fresh flowers, maybe pick a few berries, and then I would come back inside and make sure that the table was arranged perfectly. While my skill set has certainly grown since then, that same desire to express my care and affection for people through food still remains. From the chargers to the flatware, from the table cloth to the effortless fold in your perfectly pressed napkin, what that beautifully set table is actually saying is, I care about you.

My photography has now become an extension of that beauty: a way of taking food, such a temporal medium, and transforming it into something lasting. People often jokingly refer to my blog as being like “food porn.” But I think that’s exactly what it really is. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that I believe that the food images are meant to be erotic. Certainly not. But they are designed to be tantalizing. It is always my goal to capture each dish in such a way as to evoke the desire to both eat the food, and even more importantly, to make it. While I am very new to food photography, photographing the food that I make is slowly becoming an obsession of mine. Luckily, this blog has provided me with the perfect platform to share it all with you.

My favorite recipes in the kitchen are those that seem extremely complicated, but that are, in reality, extremely simple. I like to call these my “fabulous fake outs,” and I can’t think of a better example than crème brûlée: an inexpensive, but perfectly elegant dessert that ranks among the world’s most decadent treats. It feels so luxurious, and seems so complex, but, truth be told, it is almost embarrassingly simple to make. Best of all, it can be prepared days in advance and assembled right before serving, making it perfect for entertaining. You can flavor it in any way that you want: with chocolate, Grand Marnier, lemon, espresso, amaretto, green tea, Irish cream, etc.  The possibilities are really endless. Here the addition of honey, lavender, and vanilla makes this custard extra special. The lavender adds a subtle but distinctly floral flavor, much in the same way that bergamot perfumes Earl Grey tea.  The sweet honey is a perfect backdrop, echoing the flavors of the lavender, and it is all rounded out beautifully by the soft, sweet, creamy vanilla. Add to that the crunchy, caramelized sugar crust, and this dessert just feels like a vacation. Everyone loves it, and no one has to know how incredibly simple it was to make.

I start by lining up eight individual ramekins in a roasting pan filled with about an inch of very hot tap water. In the bottom of a saucepan set over medium heat, I combine  four cups of heavy cream with one vanilla bean (sliced down the middle and scraped of its seeds), one heaping tablespoon of dried culinary lavender, a third of a cup of honey (or to taste), and a large pinch of salt. Once the mixture reaches a boil, I take it off of the heat and allow the flavors to steep for five minutes. I then return the pan to medium heat, and bring it back to just below boiling.

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, I whisk together one whole egg, eight egg yolks, and a splash of pure vanilla extract. I strain the hot cream mixture through a fine mesh strainer to remove the lavender buds and vanilla bean, and, while vigorously whisking, slowly pour the cream into the egg mixture until fully incorporated. I divide the custard between the eight ramekins and bake at 300º for one hour, or until they are just set, but still ever so slightly jiggly in the center. Remove the ramekins from the water bath and allow them to come to room temperature. Cover and chill for at least two hours but for up to five days.

When you are ready to serve, sprinkle a small spoon full of granulated sugar onto the top of each, making sure it is evenly distributed, and then slowly pass the flame of a kitchen torch over the surface to caramelize the sugar. (Don’t have a kitchen torch? Never fear. Heat your broiler to its highest setting, place the rack approximately six inches from the element/flame, and broil your sugar covered custards for anywhere between thirty seconds and two minutes, watching carefully as not to let them burn.) Let the caramelized custards sit for a minute or so, allowing the sugar crust to harden. Serve it up on its own or garnished with a few fresh berries, then sit back and enjoy the applause.

My posts here on Jacob’s Kitchen are my daily meditation, and I hope daily inspiration to you to invite a little more beauty into your lives, to take more chances in the kitchen, and to give the food that you prepare and the thought that you invest into presenting it the respect that it really deserves. Cooking for our families is a sacred undertaking. What could be more important than doing it well? It’s easy. Follow me, and I’ll show you how.

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109 Comments

Filed under Desserts, Project Food Blog

109 responses to “The Crème of the Crop (Project Food Blog – Challenge 1)

  1. beautiful as always…story and pictures!

    Much luck!

  2. Wow! I drool over every picture you take. The food almost jumps off the page and into your mouth. With such vivid descriptions, you can taste the dish.
    What a wonderful post for your first PFB competition!

  3. loved loved loved this post. You do indeed make beautiful things! I share with you the fact that my family never entertained and nobody ever got much into baking, which is why now my blog focuses on that!

  4. Wonderfully written. You really draw people in and make them want to read more. Good luck in the comp!!!

  5. I promised myself that I’d just breeze thru some of the contest posts. No comments. Just clear some of the in box. But, yours stopped my in my tracks. Beautifully written and photographed!!! And, the recipe sounds spectacular. We’ve made creme brulee in vanilla, pumpkin, chocolate, amaretto – but I’ve never thought of lavender and honey. Perfect combination!!! Kate@kateiscooking

  6. b kinch

    Your friends are fortunate that hosting is as much your passion as cooking! Beautiful post. I’m looking forward to the next!

  7. What an extraordinary post. I truly enjoy all of your posts and your stunning photography, but I actually read each and every word of this one. Your photos and posts do exactly what you hope to do, they make me want to reach in and make that item, take it off the plate and taste and smell it. Nicely done!!

  8. Good luck! I have enjoyed “meeting” you through Foodbuzz, and you are an inspiration to us all! You definitely have what it takes to be the next Food Blog Star!

  9. Nice entry post for the contest…the photos are lovely. Wishing you the best with the contest :)

  10. Great Job! Love your blog… Good luch in the competition.

  11. Tastes Better With Friends

    well, you summed it up very well! Your kitchen, you’re Jacob and beautiful things are produced.
    Good luck!

  12. “Make it beautiful” was also a phrase my favorite chef instructor often used. Your pictures are beautiful and great entry! Good luck!

  13. Beautiful post! Good luck on the challenges!

  14. Great entry, and photography! Bonne chance!

  15. It’s so much fun reading everyone’s first challenge posts. Great job defining yourself. The photos are gorgeous. Best of Luck.

  16. Your photos always make me so hungry!! Great post :) Good luck!

  17. delicious! I love your photos and the food looks amazing… will be sure to follow you blog in future! I’ve just started food blogging myself (1 week old!) so it would nice to have some inspitation :)

  18. What a great post and site- I wish I had your photography skills. I have to go back and check out these dishes in your blog! Best of luck in the Challenge!

  19. great post – good luck!

  20. I like your one rule! Good food should look good. Bad food should look good too so I can feed it to my kids! Good luck in PFB!

  21. I’m also participating in PFB and looking forward to reading everyone’s great entries! Good luck!

  22. Mhm, delicious looking little creme brulee pots! And fantastic entry post – I definitely agree on the food porn front.

    Good luck Jacob, I think your photography and recipes are beautiful and I’m backing you! Despite being part of the competition ;)

    Jax x

  23. Oh my goodness, this sounds amazing!! And I your pictures are outstanding!

  24. this is one of the good posts I’ve seen. wish you all the best of luck in the future challenges. with this kind of entry (and photos to boot), i’m sure you will go far. even if i’m also joining, you bet a vote from me goes out to you!

  25. Your photography leaves me speechless. A foodie with ADD would have a hell of a time trying to leave your blog. As I’m typing I’m being tempted by photos of ginger mint lemonade and fennel & orange salad.

    I love that creme brulee is such a canvas for other subtle flavors. I think the key is to keep it subtle because creme brulee is so beautiful by itself so honey, vanilla and lavender sound fantastic.

    Cheers and good luck!
    Matt Kay

  26. Incredibly beautiful! You make it sound so simple and look so beautiful.

  27. You certainly follow your own rule when it comes to creating beautiful food. Your photography skills are not bad either ;) Best of luck in the competition. Im sure you’ll be a contender!

  28. Dee

    Great Post, Great pic!!!

  29. Great Post and Beautiful Pics! Good Luck!

  30. Yay! I’m so excited for you on this journey. You have become a part of my daily meditation as well. I find your photos, and the knowledge that your foods, are as tasty and beautiful as ever!

  31. bonnielu

    I came across your blog through the competition. It’s been really neat to see how different everyone is. I love the composition in your photos, really beautiful and thoughtful. It’s almost like you can smell the scent of lavender through your screen.

    Good luck!

  32. Make it beautiful, or don’t make it at all… Well that is certainly a beautiful creme brulee. Congrats on completing your first challenge.

  33. Creme Brulee is my absolute favorite dessert, especially when it is lavender infused. Great post and good luck with PFB. Check out my entry if you have a minute.

  34. Good luck. Your photos definitely give you an advantage. I am hoping to get better there, but it takes so much practice!!

    Jason

  35. Beautiful photo’s. Best wishes in the PFB challenge.

  36. Gorgeous pictures as always! Best of luck!

  37. You got my vote! Cheers and aloha.

  38. Thanks everyone for all of the support! I really appreciate it! Who knows how far I will actually go in the competition, but I figured it would be a fun challenge in either case.

    Thanks for stopping by! =)

  39. Glad you had fun with the challenge, I know I did! Even though you are team Jacob and not Team Edward, I’m voting for you anyways!
    -Gina-

  40. you have lovely recipes with even lovelier pictures! I’m a fellow contestant too – loved your writeup, and glad to have discovered another beautiful blog:)

  41. hi , you got my vote congrats

  42. gorgeous layout and post all the best!

  43. Really nice post. Your photography is great! We voted for you too.

    Thanks for visiting our blog.

    http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/1/view/488

  44. Your passion for food and cooking totally resonates! Thanks for sharing your insights. I voted for you. Good luck!

  45. Your pictures are stunning! Great first post man, and thnak you for the nice comments on mine! I definitely gave you a vote too!

  46. I really, really want that creme brûlée! Looks amazing! I voted for you as well. Good luck!

  47. Thanks for your vote, Jacob!!! You totally have mine, friend!

  48. I just went on to vote for you. If I were the judge, youd definately be in the running Jacob. Really…one of the best blogs on my list! Best wishes.

  49. Beautiful pictures! Creme brulee is one of my favorites! You’ve got my vote!

  50. I just found out that pot de creme is a fake out! Now I’ll have to try this.

  51. Beautiful photography, I love creme brulee (and that spoon in one of the pictures, very pretty). You’ve got my vote.
    And hey, if you’d like, stop by my site and vote for me if you like what you see :D

    http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/1/view/197

  52. beautiful, absolutely stunning photographs…I’m so jealous. I know that you’ll definitely have a leg up on the photography step by step photo blog challenge…

    now I’m craving creme brulee. I voted for you! Thanks for voting for me.

  53. I voted!!!!! Love your pics! Good luck!!!

  54. You had me at creme brulee. You got my vote!

  55. Jacob, thanks for the vote! I went right on and returned the favor :) Your blog is absolutely gorgeous–each and every photo is beyond “tantalizing”! Good luck!!

  56. We love your photos!
    You have a very beautiful kitchen.

    -KC

  57. Ed

    Excellent post and great pictures. You have my vote!

  58. Julie

    I’m a fan of “fabulous fake-outs” too! Great post, and it gets a vote from me!

    Thanks for your vote on my PFB post: http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/1/view/248

    Julie @ Willow Bird Baking

  59. Great post! I’m with you on romanticizing dinner parties due to boring parents, it always surprised me on the rare occasions when I’d come home and someone not in my immediate family was there. You have my vote.

  60. Your mouth watering photos should make you the winner hands down Jacob!

  61. Thanks for the vote! Your photos are beautiful and your food looks amazing. You got my vote! x x x

  62. Beautiful Creme!!! Just gave you a vote! You can check out my post here: http://tinyurl.com/2ec2hlq thanks!!

  63. Jen

    Thanks for the love over at Twenty-Something and Starving! I decided to return it :) Your blog is wonderful, and your photos really are like food porn!!! The fact that you do it all with a point and shoot is that much more impressive. Great job, Jacob, here’s another vote. :)

  64. Hello Jacob,
    You got my vote! I love all your recipes and photos. I wish you all the best and good luck.

  65. Great writing and wonderful photography. Who knew that those two skills would go so well with your love of cooking? “Fabulous Fake Outs” – love it. Good luck in the competition!

  66. Love your mouthwatering pictures and you definitely got my vote!

  67. Hey Jacob! All the best in the contest! Just voted for you :))

  68. Great post. Definitely agree – I love the dishes that are so easy to make that you almost feel bad taking credit for making them!

    Beautiful photos and great writing. Looking forward to reading more. You’ve got my vote!

  69. Hi Jacob :) Thanks for your vote!! And who wouldn’t vote for you? You have a beautiful blog and I look forward to seeing more. Good luck to you.

    Thank you, Shelly
    Nibbles of Tidbits

  70. Lovely post and photos! I love your philosophy on food, photography, and entertaining! It really sounds like everything you do comes from the heart and your passion really shines through!

    Just voted for you! Best of luck with PFB!

  71. Thanks for your vote for me, and I just voted for yours! The photography won me over pretty quickly :)

  72. I love your blog! I’m voting for you :)

  73. Hi Jacob! Thanks so much for popping into my blog so that we could be introduced. I just love your entry and especially your commitment to stylish comfort food. You’re definitely getting my vote!

    Good luck!

  74. Your photography is so beautiful that I wanted to leap into the computer for those berries. Great post! You got my vote :)

  75. Hey!! Thanks for stopping by my blog — it’s so funny because I was actually just snooping around yours yesterday. I found you via PFB and bookmarked your s’more brownie recipe to make this weekend!!

    I voted for you too! :)

  76. Great post, thanks for stopping by! Good luck to you in the contest – I voted for you.

  77. Oh Jacob, your blog is unbelievable. Thank you so much for coming onto mine to motivate me to see your gem. Your blog is now one of my favorites and of course you have my vote. Look forward to becoming a copy cat cook and trying some of your delicious looking dishes!

  78. I can feel your passion through this post! Well done! I just voted for you!

  79. Thank you for the vote! Your post, as always, is simply beautiful. I read regularly and of course, you have my vote! Good luck!

  80. Wonderful post. Your photos look great. I think I’ll have to try that recipe. Creme Brulee is always a winner with so many people. All the best on the challenge.

  81. I’m really enjoying reading the challenges. Best of luck!

  82. Thanks for your comment! I appreciate it. I love your posts, and this one is no exception. Just voted for you…you will go far in this competition!

  83. WOW! That is all I can say. Your pictures are beautiful! And a very well written post to boot. I voted for you, thanks for voting for me.

  84. Amazing pictures and a great entry. You got my vote. Do check my entry and if you like it don’t forget to vote.

    http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/1/view/667

    Cheers
    Thas

  85. Hi Jacob! So funny, I just voted for you and then I got your message! You’re a very talented cook and I love seeing your recipes and photos. Best wishes in the competition (=

  86. KarmaFree Cooking

    love your photos… much luck in PFB. I hope we both can go on to the next round.

    Check out my post and if you like it, I hope you vote for me too.

    http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/1/view/250

  87. Hi Jacob – I really like your rule. Beautiful indeed!
    Good luck!
    LL
    P.S. You got my vote, of course.

  88. Amazing photos! Wow. Glad you found my blog. Gotta love foodbuzz. I voted for you!

  89. Love your photos & well written post! You have my vote (and hopefully you’d vote for me too :P) All the best for the Project Food Blog!

  90. I wish you luck on the challenge Jacob! I didn’t participate in the challenge but I love to read others’ story and ambition!

  91. Beautiful – gets my vote – good luck
    Sue

  92. Lovely post, and creme brulee used to be my favorite dessert before I turned vegan. Your presentation is gorgeous.
    I voted for you too. :)

  93. I love your beautiful blog and delicious recipes. Best of luck to you on the PFB Challenge!

  94. haha you had me at the twilight reference. hilarious. hopefully foodbuzz has many a tween who will vote for team jacob! haha

  95. Great post! I love your header and all the great photos in your side bar!

    Awesome job! Glad to “meet” you!

  96. Your photos are mesmerizing. I just ate and now I’m starving again. Just voted for you, good luck in the competition!

    Lick My Spoon

  97. Delicious Post Jacob! You have my vote! (and have made me hungry)! – Megan@foodalution

  98. Lovely photos! I like to entertain, too… and my family didn’t do a lot of it either, so I’m winging it for the most part. Sure is fun to figure it out as I go along, though!

    Great post. Got a vote from me.

  99. WOW. So happy I happened across your blog! Your pics are BEAUTIFUL. It makes me think: can I just stay, hang out awhile?

    Just voted you; good luck!

  100. you have my vote. . .In love with this post! Your recipe looks beautiful, so inviting.

  101. Fabulous fake-out indeed! I was always intimidated by the idea of creme brulee. You make it sound and look way too easy, Jacob! Those are the most amazing creme brulees I have ever seen, and now I’m determined to give it a try (I’m taking your word that it’s not that difficult).

    Didn’t know you were a contestant for Project Food Blog. Had I joined earlier, I would have totally voted for you purely based on beautiful photos! :)

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