School, Seattle, The Northwest… The World?

October 9, 2009 at 10:40 am 1,583 comments

I think the first time it happened was near the end of April last year.

I was standing in line for lunch, feeling bored and hungry and a little irritated, when someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around and faced a girl I didn’t recognize, whom I’d never met before. She looked a little nervous and said, “Sorry, I just had to ask – are you the girl with the food blog? My mom and I really like your photography.”

It was such a strange feeling and such an unexpected moment, to be recognized. It didn’t feel like fame, but I had no idea how else to put it. I thanked her, gave a real smile because I was grateful and honored, and went on with my day in a much better mood. But it’s happened over and over again since then.

On Facebook, I have an album called “Food Photography.” It has around 250 comments and is “liked” by 40 people, many of whom I never talked to until they complimented me on my baking. I’ll be sitting in environmental science when someone will quietly complain, “I’m so hungry!” and give me a meaningful look. The sophomores who ride my bus smile at me and ask if I’ve made anything neat recently. And teachers stop me in the hallway to say they’ve heard about my blog, and could I please write down the address for them?

Even though I’m a senior and my high school is relatively small, I’m not well known. I have classes with the same people over and over, and I’ve never been much of a social butterfly. And I know I’ve said this before, but it’s true – when I first created 17 and Baking I didn’t tell anyone about it because I thought it was embarrassing. I didn’t think it would be cool to have a food blog. I thought people would think I was weird. So I kept it to myself and tried to hide it from the world.

I only showed it to one of my friends when I’d written about him, and I thought he would get a kick out of seeing it. To my surprise he ended up making a blog of his own (suited to his own interests) and linked to mine. Unlike me, though, he wasn’t shy about sharing, and soon many of my classmates had seen his blog – and through it, mine. (If you are interested, he has a great economics blog called the Marginalist.)

To my surprise, people didn’t think it was uncool or strange. Food is universal. Food brings people together. Because really, when it comes down to it, who can resist anything warm and fresh from the oven, whether a sweet chocolatey cookie or a soft chive-studded cream cheese biscuit?

As I began to write this post this morning, I received a message on Facebook from an old friend I haven’t talked to in four years, N-. “Hi Elissa,” she wrote. “I don’t know if I’ve told you this before, but my big sister goes to Berkeley and she loves to bake, and she likes your blog.” N- continued on to tell me that her sister decided to have a bake off with her new roommates. One of them suggested a certain cookie recipe from “this blog… seventeen something…” to which N-‘s sister (whom I’ve never met) exclaimed, “That’s Elissa!”

It was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever heard, to have spread not only through school and the food blogging world but to college students in California simply having a bake-off. It lifts me off my feet and makes the sun shine out of my heart. Thank you for reading my blog – thank you, thank you, thank you!

Normally I wouldn’t, but I’ve got to ask – if you’re reading this, please leave a comment! Whether it’s your first time visiting or I’m welcoming you back, I’d really appreciate it if you left your location. I’m just curious to know where my readers are. I’ll start… Seattle, WA!

I don’t often opt for savory over sweet, but breakfast is one of those things where I crave salt over sugar. I’d had my eye on these Chive Biscuits for a while when I decided to make them. Part of the appeal was the inclusion of buttermilk and cream cheese. More than anything, that made me think of soft, flaky, and savory biscuits. They didn’t get as tall as I expected, but with chives from our own backyard and a squiggle of clover honey, they felt like home.

Cream Cheese and Chive Biscuits
From Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook
Makes 12 biscuits

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh chives
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
4 ounces cream cheese, cold, cut into small pieces
1 1/4 cup buttermilk

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, and chives. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter and cream cheese until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with a few larger clumps remaining.

Pour in the buttermilk; using a fork, mix in buttermilk until incorporated and the dough just comes together. The dough will be slightly sticky; do not overmix.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. With floured fingers, gently knead about four times, until all the crumbs are incorporated and the dough is smooth. With a lightly floured rolling pin, gently roll the dough to a 8-b-11-inch rectangle, about 1 inch thick. Using a bench scraper or long offset spatula to lift the ends of the dough, fold the rectangle into thirds (like a business letter). Give the dough a quarter turn. Roll out the dough again (to the same dimensions), and repeat the folding process. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Return the dough to the work surface. Roll out as before, and repeat the folding process. Give the dough another quarter turn; roll out dough one more time, again into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Using a sharp knife, divide the rectangle into 12 equal squares or rectangles. Place on prepared sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Bake, rotating the sheet halfway through, until the biscuits are golden and flecked with brown spots, 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer the biscuits to a wire rack to cool.

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1,583 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jen  |  June 16, 2012 at 12:15 am

    Great designs! So cool, Metuchen, NJ

    Reply
  • 2. Lesa  |  June 21, 2012 at 9:22 am

    New Zealand! Got directed here from Smittenkitchen, love your blog and your photos and of course the recipes! I really admire how you started this when you were 17 too :)

    Reply
  • 3. Kristen  |  June 24, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    Lake Grove, New York :)
    16 and baking

    Reply
  • 4. Carol Tagliaferri  |  June 27, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    Carol from Danville, CA…I’m loving your blog!

    Reply
  • 5. Emma Robertson  |  June 28, 2012 at 8:47 am

    Hamilton, Ontario, Canada… 14 and baking ;)

    Love your blog and congrats on all the success you’ve had! :)

    Reply
  • 6. monica  |  June 29, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    Hi Elissa,

    I’m home with a bad sprained ankle and two days ago I made beef stew in the slow cooker, had some left over wine, and wanted to find something to cook with it. My search took me to your red wine chocolate cake. Now I have spent the better part of two hours reading your blog. I love it! Thank you for all your recipies and for writing from your heart. You’ve inspired me here in Redondo Beach, California.

    Reply
  • 7. Jennifer  |  July 3, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    Roswell, GA! I love your recipes. Keep it up! =D

    Reply
  • 8. Brochie  |  July 8, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    15 american but living in Porto Alegre, Brasil!

    Reply
  • 9. Mira  |  July 9, 2012 at 6:30 am

    14 and living in Mumbai, India!

    Reply
    • 10. Brigid  |  July 9, 2012 at 9:28 pm

      New York City!
      Love your blog…. I am a graphic designer who loves to bake!

  • 11. Hannah  |  July 10, 2012 at 3:25 am

    15 and from South Australia. Love your blog! Your writing and photography are both beautiful. Keep it up :)

    Reply
  • 12. Jill  |  July 10, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    crown point, Indiana
    Just found your blog but loving it =)

    Reply
  • 13. Penbrel  |  July 13, 2012 at 10:57 am

    hello Elissa – 16, from the Southwest of England. Just found this gem – it’s one of the big inspirations to do my own! You should come over here sometime, the food’s great and the people are awesome. Thanks and love, Penbrel x

    Reply
  • 14. Melissa P  |  July 15, 2012 at 2:52 am

    Sunshine Coast QLD Australia!

    Reply
  • 15. Andrea  |  July 20, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    Povazska Bystrica, Slovakia.
    Can´t remember how I found your blog, but I love it! :)

    Reply
  • 16. Dr. Lamb  |  July 22, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    Palmerston North, New Zealand
    Originally from Seattle, WA
    Veterinarian who feeds baking disasters to her pets! <3

    Reply
  • 17. krista jones  |  July 25, 2012 at 10:02 am

    Logan, Utah :)
    found you through pinterest!

    Reply
  • 18. Coachie  |  July 25, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    Seattle, WA
    I’m the guy yelling across the pass at you during lunch!! 8-)

    Reply
  • 19. Nea  |  July 26, 2012 at 12:53 am

    Keller, Texas!

    Reply
  • 20. bakingandme  |  July 26, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    Toronto Canada :)

    Reply
  • 21. Celeste  |  July 28, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    Singapore(:

    Reply
  • 22. Georgia  |  July 29, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    Loved the post. Welcome back!
    Lincoln, NE :)

    Reply
  • 23. Ian  |  July 30, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    Pittsburgh PA looove your blog.

    Reply
  • 24. Brittany  |  August 9, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    from Alabama but living in Jerusalem, Israel
    looove the chrysanthemum cupcakes :)

    Reply
  • 25. Greg  |  August 11, 2012 at 9:43 am

    Tampa, Florida

    Reply
  • 26. havesomecake  |  August 12, 2012 at 1:01 am

    Vienna, Austria!!

    I love your blog!

    Reply
  • 27. KELLY  |  August 20, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    WOOSTER, OHIO

    Reply
  • 28. Rozie  |  August 22, 2012 at 9:14 am

    As a fellow 17 year old, and food lover, I find your blog so inspiring!

    London, England

    Reply
  • 29. Poppy  |  August 30, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    Love your writing, insight, pictures and of course the food! Hailing originally from Olympia WA, now in Santa Clara CA. Keep up the amazing work!!!

    Reply
  • 30. Holly  |  September 15, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    Reading from Ocala, Florida! I found your blog this afternoon and I love the way you write, plus it’s kick-ass finding other teens who love to bake! (Even if you are 20 now)

    Reply
  • 31. K.O Rasoi  |  September 18, 2012 at 7:53 am

    Loads of love for your blog and recipes coming from London, England!

    Reply
  • 32. Julia Elder  |  September 18, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    Reading from Charlottesville, Virginia! LOVE YOUR BLOG.

    Reply
  • 33. Laura-Lea  |  September 21, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    Cache Creek, British Columbia, Canada
    Keep on inspiring others with your cooking:)

    Reply
  • 34. Dani  |  September 27, 2012 at 2:12 am

    Glad I stumbled upon another ‘kindred spirit’…
    It made me smile, because you remind me of myself when I was your age. Thank you for sharing your sweet passion and inspiration as you provide us with a glimpse of your life’s magical journey.:)
    Granite Bay (Greater Sacramento), CA.

    Reply
  • 35. Nadya  |  October 8, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    Made the Condensed Milk pound cake this morning. My husband found it amazingly delicious! Love your blog and set on a journey to re-create all the amazing food you are making :) Anchorage, AK

    Reply
  • 36. Lauren  |  October 16, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    I’ve read and ogled your blog for a couple of years now. Your photography is stunning and I always feel a sense of peace and lightness when I read your writing. It’s all so lovely! I’ve tried a handful of the recipes you’ve posted and have never been disappointed. The red wine chocolate cake is one of my favorites and a usual go-to dessert for potlucks and parties. It’s definitely a crowd-pleaser. I started reading when I lived in Orlando, Florida, and I’ve kept on checking in while living in Ames, Iowa.

    Reply
  • 37. Laura  |  October 18, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    Chadds Ford, PA

    Love your photos!

    Reply
  • 38. Jo  |  October 19, 2012 at 6:22 am

    Singapore. Great pic of condensed milk. Jo Harrison

    Reply
  • 39. Jacqui  |  October 29, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    Adelaide, in South Australia :-)

    Reply
  • 40. corina  |  November 5, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    Fullerton, CA
    AND
    Porterville, CA

    Reply
  • 41. Sue  |  November 8, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    Made the pound cake – very delicious but too much for the bundt pan. Next time I will use less in the pan. Thanks for sharing all your
    ideas.
    Silver Spring, MD

    Reply
  • 42. McKenzie  |  November 10, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    Temecula,CA

    Reply
  • 43. Bethany  |  November 25, 2012 at 5:00 pm

    Currently in Copenhagen, Denmark, formerly of Deerfield, Mass. I cannot remember how I found your blog, but I started following you before you went to college. Always glad to read how much you love Boston. :)

    Reply
  • 44. Chelsie  |  November 29, 2012 at 11:57 am

    Denton, TX

    Reply
  • 45. tj  |  December 2, 2012 at 6:02 am

    Melbourne, Australia

    Reply
  • 46. Julia  |  December 12, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    Gothenburg, Sweden! I love your writing and photos, and the recipes of course :)

    Reply
    • 47. Nancy Baker-Krofft  |  March 25, 2013 at 2:09 pm

      My family of Petersons originate in Gothenburg, and we love to bake.

  • 48. chocolateandcarrots  |  December 14, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    I’m from Columbia, South Carolina! :D

    Reply
  • 49. Anna  |  December 21, 2012 at 3:32 am

    The skinny biscotti recipe is fantastic… Thanks
    Anna, Melbourne, Australia

    Reply
  • 50. Hilde  |  December 21, 2012 at 9:14 am

    I am very new to this blog. Just baked the checkerboard cookies. Lots to learn here. I’m from Katwijk aan Zee in The Netherlands.

    Reply
  • 51. Jennifer  |  January 12, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    I’ve been trying to recreate a much loved recipe from my childhood for rasberry oat bars with coconut. I’ll try tweaking your lovely looking recipe. I’m a Canadian living for the time being in Rijnsburg, The Netherlands (coincidentally, in the town just over from that of the previous respondent), previously from Beauvechain, Belgium,Tolland Green, CT, Toronto, Ontario, Cedar-by-the-Sea, British Columbia, and a dozen other places. Thank goodness for the constancy of baking! I only wish now that one could buy decent brown sugar or oats in NL…

    I loved your dorm baking story! I had to be content with cooking up gourmet oatmeal porridge with apples and currants in my dorm room , in a hot pot that was only meant to be used for liquids.

    Reply
  • 52. robynjanesheppard  |  January 26, 2013 at 11:10 pm

    Rochester, New York.

    Reply

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Elissa Bernstein



I'm Elissa: a 17 (now 21) year old baker in Seattle Boston juggling creative nonfiction workshops, subway maps, and my passions for writing, baking, and photography. Photo above © Michelle Moore

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I want to read everything. #TheStrand Mmmmm... Green tea chocolate lava cake! #spotdessertbar Last night I sat in @StephenColbert's chair. My life is now complete. AHHHHHHHHH! #ColbertAudience Yay! Spontaneous mid afternoon macaron break. @bouchonbakeryrc Ohmygosh! Strawberry and tarragon gelato! FAO Schwartz is equal parts chaos, commercialization, and crazy happy joy About to eat my first Pink Lady apple! (More like Red Red Red Lady.)

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