Maple and Walnut Nanaimo Bars (Daring Bakers)

January 27, 2010 at 2:17 pm 134 comments

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Lately, I’ve been in a writing rut.

I’ve been in food ruts where I made the same types of desserts over and over, and I’ve had weeks where inspiration simply escaped me. I’ve had photography ruts, too, where every post would somehow have the same style of photographs. I think every food blogger has those moments where you long to shoot images of vintage cars, textured bark or copper kettles, anything but another cookie.

These days, I haven’t had any recent baking disasters and my photography can only improve. But I’ve never experienced a writing rut before, and even stringing those two words together makes my heart ache like a bruised peach. I can’t describe how stifling and disheartening it feels to have nothing to say. I have never felt speechless before, and it makes me feel cloudless and empty.

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I tried to pinpoint where it started, and I think I know. Last month the blog received more attention than usual and got some national exposure. I was out of town the week that it happened, and when I came home, I was startled by the sudden spike in subscriptions and Facebook friend requests. All my numbers had gone up, thirty times my usual number of hits, and more comments than I could read in an hour.

At first, I was exhilarated. I couldn’t wait to post again, and I was so touched that 17 and Baking meant something to so many new people. But as I started sifting through the comments, I encountered something I’d never expected to read on my site – wisps of negativity that deflated any of my short-lived joy.

I’ve never received disparaging comments before. I mean, it’s one thing when a recipe doesn’t work out for somebody or when I’ve made a silly mistake on my post. But amongst the flood of new comments were little pebbles of cruelty, a silt of snide comments and offhand criticisms. I knew those people shouldn’t matter. I knew nobody with a dream or a zest for life would write “Who cares?” on a 17 year old’s blog.

But honestly? I’m not kidding anyone, especially not myself. Those comments did matter to me.

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I remember for the first time, dreading my next post. Although only a tiny percentage of comments from the recent exposure had been discouraging, the damage was done. I considered writing about my hesitations and reservations, or about how I found the strength to move on. But nothing I wrote rang true, and ultimately, I didn’t want to display my disappointment and tarnished confidence to the world. That isn’t the kind of person I am.

I wrote a lighthearted post instead, and kept my feelings to myself for once. And somehow, inexplicably, I lost my voice for a few weeks. I was unsatisfied with everything I wrote, and I finally had the last straw when I rewrote last week’s post four times before posting, and still was unhappy with the result. I wanted to find my passion again.

Passion, not flour or sugar, is the life of this blog. I refuse to let it wilt, because this blog has truly had a tangible impact on my life. I can feel it stirring in the back of my mind when I’m home alone, making hot chocolate and trying to find matching socks. I feel it pulsing through my veins when I walk to class, wet leaves still clinging to my boots. And I feel it most of all in my heart when I read your comments and emails, because nothing makes me as happy and enriches my life as much as your words.

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Last week I discovered that I was nominated in the category of “Best Weblog By a Teen” in the 10th annual Weblog Awards, and it lifted my spirits in an unbelievable way. I felt like I was made out of thin air, or quite possibly liquid sunshine. I’m so honored and thrilled to be part of this year’s nominations!

Browsing this year’s nominees has also shown me plenty of great sites I wouldn’t have found on my own. None of the other teen nominees are specifically food bloggers, but their interests range from current issues to fashion to daily ponderings. I definitely encourage you to check out this year’s weblogs and maybe even vote for 17 and Baking! [2/28/10 Update: You might like to know that I won. :) ]

I finally feel like I have found my voice again with this post. The words came out easily once more, like the dusk I’ve been swept in has finally dissipated. When I finished writing this post and read it over in a final edit, I felt a deep satisfaction that I’d nearly forgotten.

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I don’t know if it’s the nomination, the passing of time, or the fact that this month’s Daring Bakers challenge was pleasantly easy. All I know is that I am bursting with metaphors and adjectives, I have so much that I want to say and so much I want to learn. I’m so lucky to know where my passions are and to have the means to pursue them with everything I have, and I can’t help but look forward to February with a considerably lighter heart.

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and http://www.nanaimo.ca.

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Here in Washington state we don’t get nanaimo bars, or at least I’ve never seen one. I’ve seen them on Tastespotting and thought they looked good, so I was excited to see that they were this month’s challenge. Unfortunately, I can’t say that I liked them. I have a sweet tooth, but even without the maple flavoring, these were tooth achingly sweet. They were also much too rich in the way that an overly buttery buttercream is too rich.

Nanaimo bars have three layers – chocolate on top, a middle buttercream layer, and a cocoa-coconut bottom layer made with graham crackers. For the chocolate layer, I used some unsweetened chocolate to tWe were encouraged to make gluten-free graham crackers for the challenge, but I didn’t have the ingredients on hand and made the original recipe instead. It just so happens I’ve made this exact graham cracker recipe before for my Autumn S’mores, so I’ll give the gluten-free version below.

Gluten-Free Graham Wafers
Adapted from 101.cookbooks
Makes about 10 large graham crackers (more than that for me)

1 cup (138 g) (4.9 ounces) Sweet rice flour (also known as glutinous rice flour)
3/4 cup (100 g) (3.5 ounces) Tapioca Starch/Flour
1/2 cup (65 g) (2.3 ounces) Sorghum Flour
1 cup (200 g) (7.1 ounces) Dark Brown Sugar, Lightly packed
1 teaspoon (5 mL) Baking soda
3/4 teaspoon (4 mL) Kosher Salt
7 tablespoons (100 g) (3 ½ ounces) Cold Unsalted Butter (Cut into 1-inch cubes)
1/3 cup (80 mL) Honey, Mild-flavoured such as clover.
5 tablespoons (75 mL) Whole Milk
2 tablespoons (30 mL) Pure Vanilla Extract

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine the flours, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Pulse on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal. If making by hand, combine aforementioned dry ingredients with a whisk, then cut in butter until you have a coarse meal. No chunks of butter should be visible.

In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the honey, milk and vanilla. Add to the flour mixture until the dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky.

Turn the dough onto a surface well-floured with sweet rice flour and pat the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 2 hours, or overnight.

Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of sweet rice flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be quite sticky, so flour as necessary. Cut into 4 by 4 inch squares. [To make things easier on myself, since the bars just need crumbs, I used a cookie cutter to quickly cut out stars.] Gather the scraps together and set aside. Place wafers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. Repeat with the second batch of dough.

Adjust the rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius).  Gather the scraps together into a ball, chill until firm, and reroll. Dust the surface with more sweet rice flour and roll out the dough to get a couple more wafers. Prick the wafers with toothpick or fork, not all the way through, in two or more rows.

Bake for 25 minutes [more like 12], until browned and slightly firm to the touch, rotating sheets halfway through to ensure even baking. Might take less, and the starting location of each sheet may determine its required time. The ones that started on the bottom browned faster.

To make crumbs: When cooled completely, place enough wafers in food processor to make 1 ¼ cups (300 mL) of crumbs. Another way to do this is to place in a large ziplock bag, force all air out and smash with a rolling pin until wafers are crumbs.

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Maple and Walnut Nanaimo Bars
Makes an 8×8 Pan

Bottom Layer

1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) Unsalted Butter
1/4 cup (50 g) (1.8 ounces) Granulated Sugar
5 tablespoons (75 mL) Unsweetened Cocoa
1 Large Egg, Beaten
1 1/4 cups (300 mL) (160 g) (5.6 ounces) Gluten Free Graham Wafer Crumbs
1/2 cup (55 g) (1.9 ounces) Walnuts (Finely chopped)
1 cup (130 g) (4.5 ounces) Coconut (Shredded)

Melt unsalted butter, sugar and cocoa in top of a double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, nuts and coconut. Press firmly into an ungreased 8 by 8 inch pan.

Maple “Buttercream” Middle Layer

1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) Unsalted Butter
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons (40 mL) Heavy Cream
2 tablespoons (30 mL) Vanilla Custard Powder (Such as Bird’s, or Vanilla pudding mix)
2 cups (254 g) (8.9 ounces) Icing (Powdered) Sugar
2 teaspoons (10 mL) Maple Syrup
1/4 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Dash of cinnamon

Cream butter, cream, custard powder, icing sugar, maple syrup, vanilla extract, and cinnamon together well. Beat until light in colour. Spread over bottom layer.

Chocolate Top Layer

3 ounces (87 g) Semi-sweet chocolate
1 ounce (29 g) Unsweetened (Baker’s) chocolate
2 tablespoons (28 g) (1 ounce) Unsalted Butter

Melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Let cool to room temperature. When cooled, but still liquid, spread over the top of the bars.

Printer Friendly Version – Maple and Walnut Nanaimo Bars

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Buttercream in Bloom Rising Confidence and Yeast-Raised Doughnuts

134 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction  |  January 28, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    Your Nanaino Bars look beautiful. I love the walnuts on top. Your graham crackers turned out beautifully, too!

    Reply
  • 2. Jenny  |  January 28, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    I’ve been following your blog for a few months now, and I think you’re doing a bang-up job, not just because you’re 17 years old and you’re doing this and school and getting ready for college. Your writing (and your photograhy, cut yourself slack!) is better than most food bloggers out there, and it’s clear that you’re a thoughtful writer and a thoughtful baker/cook.
    Not everyone’s going to like you, and it sucks when you see it in writing, especially when it’s directed at something you’re so passionate about. And I know it sounds empty for me to say ‘who cares’ – you’ll have to arrive at that place yourself. I’ve never met you, but I’m proud of what you do. You set a great example for other writers, food bloggers or no, and I’m lucky to call you a peer.

    Reply
  • 3. Astrid  |  January 28, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    You are truly talented and passionate about baking and writing, and clearly you are extremely strong, too! Good job overcoming your little writing slump. You deserve all of the recognition you are getting. And to answer the comment, “who cares?”, I do!

    Reply
  • 4. carolyn  |  January 28, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    you have the most beautiful photos, elissa, and i’m glad you found your voice again!

    Reply
  • 5. Ítalo Cabral de Melo  |  January 28, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    Hi, I’m from Brazil and I’ve been reading your blog since i saw an indication on GNT’s website. I’d really love if you could make a brazilian sweet recipe, it’s called Brigadeiro. If you’ve never heard of Brigadeiro, you can google it. I’m pretty sure you’re gonna love it and will be glad to share your experience with us.

    Reply
  • 6. JoJo  |  January 28, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    this is so beautifully written, and I’m so proud of you for speaking out on this event and articulating your feelings so wonderfully! miss your emails girlie. I’ve been pretty lazy. I’ll hit you up this weekend. xoxoxox

    Reply
  • 7. Jill @ Jillicious Discoveries  |  January 28, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    Congratulations on your nomination! I love the flavor combination of maple and walnut that you choose. They look delicious!

    Reply
  • 8. Marian (Sweetopia)  |  January 28, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    17 and yet so wise… I can’t even say ‘beyond your years’ if it were to compare to me, because I AM older and still grapple with what you’ve overcome today.
    Does that make sense? You’re writing is definitley better too that’s for sure!

    I feel like you’ve said how I’ve felt here and there with my blog… I am so passionate about it, yet I’ve allowed myself to become deflated and dejected due to a few snide comments here and there. (I even had a racial slur about my cookies!)

    It’s good to remember (remind oneself), as you have, that those comments should be dismissed; to concentrate on all the good in our world.
    Keep your light shining through and thank you for your post.
    xo,
    Marian

    Reply
  • 9. ruric  |  January 28, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    Coming out of lurking to show my appreciation for your work. Been hooked ever since I saw your rainbow cake on foodgawker (I think that’s where I saw it). That was amazing.

    I love your posts. The photos are lovely and your writing is very thoughtful. I don’t even bake (last time was years ago) but I read your blog faithfully.

    Reply
  • 10. Claire  |  January 28, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    So sorry that you are experiencing such negative comments. Your writing is excellent, far superior to any 17-year old I know. Keep up the hard work and enjoy it at the same time! Your bars are just beautiful and I LOVE the cute star-shaped crackers. :-)

    Reply
  • 11. Tania  |  January 28, 2010 at 10:35 pm

    Beautiful.

    I love you. <3

    Reply
  • 12. Pam  |  January 28, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    There will always be people who will try to knock you down… even if it seems for no reason at all.

    They are most likely, miserable people who need to make other people miserable.

    I think you are amazing!!! I just recently turned my passion for baking into a business ( a small one, but we gotta start somewhere lol ). Your “Buttercream in Bloom” truly inspired me and although mine didn’t turn out as beautiful as yours, I can’t believe that I did it.

    I admire the fact that at 17, you know what your passions are and are strong enough to follow them. I look forward to watching you grow up and I will always be a loyal reader.

    Thanks for sharing your life with us, Elissa <3

    Reply
  • 13. Elaine  |  January 29, 2010 at 12:57 am

    First, I really enjoy your blog. It’s fun to see what you bake, although I can’t attempt them myself (I live in Asia and have no oven, plus a lot of the ingredients are too expensive). And it’s fun seeing your voice evolve. As a former 17-year-old and now professional writer, it reminds me of myself a bit (and, I think you’ll enjoy seeing how your views of your writing change through time — even though some may later strike you as cringe-worthy! But that’s part of trying out your wings).

    Second, yes, people can be mean and it can be discouraging. But think of it this way — they’re probably doing it because they’re jealous, mainly of your skill (with either words or baking) and the attention it’s gotten you. Not that I can do this either, but try to think of these comments as the dark side of compliments. If you weren’t good, you wouldn’t be getting them.

    Third, while a blog is more like fiction since a bit more of your heart is in it than it might be in things like straight journalism, if you go on to make writing your career you’ll hear lots of tough comments on your stuff — and yes, some of it will be mean. It’s something you have to get used to. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt or make you angry, but it’s something you have to learn to take in stride. It’s part of the writer’s voyage. You can’t let those voices shut you up!

    Reply
  • 14. Victoria  |  January 29, 2010 at 4:25 am

    Dear Elissa,

    First of all, please may I adopt your daddy? I had a little tear in my eye when I read his words of support and adoration of his little girl. If you’re reading this, Elissas’ daddy, hello to you!

    Secondly, as new follower of your blog (I followed a link from Joy The Baker) I genuinely felt upset for you and totally understood why you felt that way after receiving disdainful comments. I, too, would be affected, even though I know I shouldn’t be swayed by others. If I could give you one piece of advise it would be this. People who feel they need to pass their own negativity and cynicism onto such grounded people as yourself, are bitter, stuck in their own ruts which they are unable to climb out and jealous. They need to be disregarded, unless their criticism is constructive.
    But, you’re one smart cookie – you don’t need me to tell you this ;-)

    By the way, its people like yourself who have inspired me to start my own blog. I signed up for an account only yesterday and cannot wait for my internet connection at home to be set back up again, so I can start unleashing some of my own pent up thoughts and feelings.

    I wish you everything good. You inspire me and give me hope and I thank you for that.

    Victoria (UK)

    P.S I too cannot believe you are just 17 :-)

    Reply
  • 15. Ana  |  January 29, 2010 at 6:19 am

    amazing! Beautiful !

    Reply
  • 16. Betsy Potash  |  January 29, 2010 at 6:59 am

    Hey,
    It’s Betsy, the travel blogger from Bulgaria. Just as you were seeing those nasty comments, teenagers in Bulgaria were looking at your blog in my class and becoming inspired to keep up their blogs and improve their photos and writing. I think your blog is great, it even finally convinced me to start a cooking blog of my own based on the adventures of cooking in Bulgaria. Come see it at http://itstartedinbulgaria.blogspot.com if you’d like. I’ll probably blog my twist on your bagels there pretty soon – I’m planning to make them again tomorrow as we’ve already eaten the whole batch in no time at all!
    Betsy

    Reply
  • 17. Michelle  |  January 29, 2010 at 10:34 am

    Oh, honey. Don’t ever let the negative comments affect you. Ignore them. There are always going to be negative people out there. Don’t give them the power to affect how you feel. You’re an amazing person and you do amazing things. It’s obvious that many people care about you. You rock. Do your thing and let the haters hate! :)

    Reply
  • 18. Kim, Rambling Family Manager  |  January 29, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    Hi Elissa:
    I’ve already commented, but I have something to add. I was reading the other comments and ran across #55 from Ítalo Cabral de Melo, who is from Brazil and wrote about Brigadeiro. What a funny coincidence- my Brownie Girl Scouts are working on a presentation about Brazil and we needed a food item to go with it. I googled Brigadeiro and it is absolutely perfect for our project!! I am so excited and if Italo reads this comment, you’ve helped us out immensely. Not only is this a great candy that I think the girls can make easily, it’s Brazil’s national candy! Perfect, perfect, perfect.

    You are bringing together people from all over! :)

    Reply
  • 19. LinuxGirl  |  January 29, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    I found your blog when I went to the Bloggies to vote for my favorite cycling blog, Fat Cyclist and I read your blog. I am so glad I did. You have such an eloquent way of speaking about the baking you are doing. I love to bake and cook as well and reading your blog makes me more excited to try more things. Keep it up and ignore the people who come in in passing and are negative in your comments, they’re just jealous!

    Reply
  • 20. Jennifer  |  January 29, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    I’ve just found your blog by way of the awards page (I voted for you, btw) and I think you are an amazing writer and photographer and even though I have yet to try any of your recipes, I’m sure they’re amazing as well. Don’t let anyone bring you down!! :)

    Reply
  • 21. Jill  |  January 29, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    I was on the Weblog awards site earlier tonight and I was thrilled to see that you were nominated. And I voted for you!

    I’m sorry to hear about the negative comments. I hope all the positive helps to outweigh the negative. You have a lot of fans!

    Reply
  • 22. Flavia  |  January 29, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    You have a lovely blog. Be proud of it always because it is uniquely yours. I discovered you a few months ago through another food blog and I enjoy your writing and photography. I’ve been writing my own food blog for almost a year. It’s not quite the quality I want, but I’m working on it and trying not to get discouraged with it. Keep up your fantastic work and thanks for your inspiration!

    Reply
  • 23. Melissa  |  January 29, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    You are so cute! Your photography & food looks gorgeous.

    I hope the negative comments are disappearing. You’re awesome, and no one should say otherwise! Even just a little negativity can ruin your whole day, week, even month.

    Keep up the awesome-ness!

    Reply
  • 24. Michelle Moore  |  January 29, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    YUM!

    Reply
  • 25. Jenny Tan  |  January 29, 2010 at 11:15 pm

    As a mother of 2, I am so proud of you, young lady! Words hurts deeper than physical pain, but we need to set those aside and move on, and I am so glad you did just that. And congratulations on your nomination! :)
    I totally agree — the middle layer of the bar is too heavy for my taste too! But I did enjoy the graham crackers.
    All the best to you.

    Reply
  • 26. Erika  |  January 30, 2010 at 4:15 am

    I think your blog is great. There are always rude people that love to post mean things on blogs or other things online.Just remember for ever rude person their are more positive people out their that enjoy your blog and are cheering you on. Thanks for sharing yourself and your baking.

    Erika

    Reply
  • 27. Tess Quizon  |  January 30, 2010 at 5:03 am

    I am not a writer so am not really good at expressing myself. But feel like I have to say something coz am more affected by this post than the previous ones. Your passion are photography, baking and writing…mine is reading. I love to read! (though am not sure if u can call it “my passion”.) Reading keeps me company on days that am really, really low. Kinda getting some inspiration or smile from someone else’s world, who unselfishly shared thru writing. Thats what I get from 17 and baking. It may not be a bad idea to process those negative comments but let those whom you affected in a very positive way help u go through it. Am I making any sense? :) Am behind u girl; we all are!!!!

    Reply
  • 28. einav  |  January 30, 2010 at 7:49 am

    Hey! my name is Einav and i’m 15 years old.
    I allso love to bake-cakes, cookies,and sweet things. i saw in your blog what are you baking and you are so good! I admire you!
    You have so much luck that you have a great mixer,cauze in my home my mixer bought before 20 years! and i all the time say to my dad “If i have good mixer i would make____” :)

    Einav

    Reply
  • 29. betchacanteatjustone  |  January 30, 2010 at 8:02 am

    I totally voted for you!

    Don’t let other people bring you down (I realize it’s easier said than done) I’m glad you found what you needed to get back to what you love!

    Hugs!

    Katie

    Reply
  • 30. lavienouveau  |  January 30, 2010 at 9:07 am

    I don’t understand how anyone could say anything mean about or to you! Your writing is so amazing – I am eternally jealous and wish I could string words together the way that you do… and then your photos! so gorgeous! Even with years and several college courses in photography under my belt I still obsess over how beautiful your images are! And I won’t even mention how you can make things that I wouldn’t even dare to try and you’re three years younger than me.

    Don’t let them get you down girl – they’re just jealous… REALLY!

    Reply
  • 31. Food-Fitness-FreshAir  |  January 30, 2010 at 9:35 am

    This sounds delicious…and you certainly don’t seem like you’re in a photography rut right now. These photos are beautiful! I just got an SLR, so I’m enjoying looking at food blogs with good photos to help me advance my own skills.

    Reply
  • 32. margaret13  |  January 30, 2010 at 9:41 am

    Wow. This is my first time visiting your blog, and that’s what I have to say. I, too, love baking, but the fact that you have the recipes, plus the pictures, plus something else is amazing. I am glad that you got over your “writing rut” (I absolutely it when I get writer’s block), and as for those jealous, insecure people who posted mean things on your blog…. that is what they are. They are insecure people who are jealous that you have accomplished something fabulous. Congratulations on getting your confidence back after what they did to you! :-)

    Reply
  • 33. anahita  |  January 30, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    “Flatter me, and I may not believe you.
    Criticize me, and I may not like you.
    Ignore me, and I may not forgive you.
    Encourage me, and I will not forget you.
    Love me and I may be forced to love you.”

    William Arthur Ward

    from a person who just discovered you a post earlier and fell deeply in a trance.

    xoxoxo

    Reply
  • 34. Leah  |  January 30, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    I actually LOVE Nanaimo bars, and see them relatively frequently here in Seattle (but then, I’m always on the lookout for them!)

    But what really really caught my eye in this post are your gorgeous (ginger? sugar?) sea star cookies. Did you use a star cutter and a fork? or how? I love love them – we spend summers on the Olympic Peninsula and see a lot of sea stars. One of my sons also LOVES all ocean creatures – I know he’d be thrilled with these cookies… Please share! :) And, I’d love to hear the story behind the cookies, because your “stories-behind” are always wonderful. As someone with health issues, I only bake for people I truly love and there’s always a “story-behind”.

    Also, I totally get the fear thing. One of my favorite bloggers wrote a great recent post about the same thing. It might speak to you: http://www.finslippy.com/finslippy/2010/01/a-few-words-about-fear.html

    Cheers!

    Reply
    • 35. Elissa  |  January 30, 2010 at 2:51 pm

      Leah – Thank you! The cookies are actually graham crackers – graham crackers go into the bottom layer of the Nanaimo bars, and part of the challenge was to make homemade graham crackers. At the end of this post you can find the recipe for the gluten-free graham crackers, or you can look up my Autumn S’mores post for the gluten-containing recipe. I used a star shaped cookie cutter and then used a fork to prick the arms. Like you, I really loved the way these crackers looked, and was thinking of making shortbread with the same design. Thanks for the link, her site is great!

  • 36. Ivonne  |  January 30, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    Michelle: This is my first time visiting your blog and I just wanted to say how impressed I am. It’s beautiful and you are a lovely writer. When you’ve been blogging for awhile, you do begin to realize that unfortunately not everyone out there is a positive person. And it’s true, sometimes negative comments can affect us more than we know. But you’re a lovely, sweet person with great talent so just take that stuff in stride and know that you’re doing what’s right for you! Your nanaimo bars are gorgeous!

    Reply
    • 37. Elissa  |  January 30, 2010 at 4:11 pm

      Ivonne – Thank you! This is great to hear, since I’m a big fan of your blog, and I appreciate your comment :) BTW, my name is Elissa, not Michelle – she is my amazing high school photographer.

  • 38. Leah  |  January 30, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    Thanks Elissa, I’ve never tried homemade graham crackers. Looks like that’s about to change!

    Reply
  • 39. Aparna  |  January 30, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    Your bars are looking so good. And congrats on the nomination. I voted for you a few days back.
    Writer’s blok or rut happens to every blogger, I think. As for those negative comments, the only way to handle them is to ignore them!
    You have an excellent bit of space out here.

    Reply
  • 40. sholcomb  |  January 30, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    I am so sorry that some people wrote negative comments. I am even more sorry, as a teacher, that those negative bits hurt you and caused you to doubt yourself.

    I found your blog through a recommendation from another teacher friend (an English teacher), and was amazed by it. Most 17 year olds are stumbling through without a clear sense of what to do that day, let alone having such a clear passion. I was even more astounded by your wonderful writing ability.

    Please do not let the “trolls” get you down. You are amazing, in every sense. Everything that I have seen on your blog looks, sounds, and reads as wonderful. Keep it up.

    Reply
  • 41. sara  |  January 31, 2010 at 1:15 am

    GORGEOUS! Love the walnut decoration on these…makes them look so pretty! Love the idea of using maple in the middle…an extra bit of Canada inspiration! :)

    Also – sorry to hear people have been leaving negative comments – so terrible! I don’t know who has the time to read and comment on blogs they don’t like…easy enough just to click away! Anyway, sorry you’ve had to deal with this…I think your blog is awesome!!! :)

    Reply
  • 42. Elizabeth  |  January 31, 2010 at 5:27 am

    I love your blog and I love that you are a young and talented baker–bar none! I can’t wait to try your Hostess cupcake knockoffs, as I dislike the originals but think in theory they *should* be delicious.

    People who want to spread negativity have bigger problems than your blog. Keep doing what you’re doing, and honing those amazing baking and photography skills, and only good things will follow…

    Reply
  • 43. Kelly  |  January 31, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    Girl, I know professional photographers and bakers who don’t turn out nearly as awesome results as you do. You should be proud of your baking, your writing, and your photography–each of them is an ability that you have perfected. I’m reading your blog from Italy right now and I am absolutely itching to try baking some (…all) of your most recent recipes!! Keep doing what you do Elissa, because you’re doing a great job.

    Reply
  • 44. Lori in Denver  |  January 31, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    Elissa, I am a new reader/fan and just wanted to say that I love your blog. I am so happy that I stumbled across it. Great job on your writing, baking, and photos — you’ll go far in this world, young lady! Be proud of this amazing accomplishment.

    Reply
  • 45. Debbi  |  February 1, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    Like all of the others who have already voiced their opinion, I can’t believe that there are so many mean-spirited people out there who are so quick to make negative comments. Please remember this when the next writer’s block comes along- You have many followers and admirers who adore you; I don’t know you personally but I feel as if I do from the lovely way you share what’s in your heart. You have a great future ahead in writing, baking, web design, or whatever else you put your heart into. I also can’t believe that your are 17, but you truly are wise beyond your years. Keep all the great recipes and beautiful photos coming our way- you are a very special and talented adult waiting to happen!

    Reply
  • 46. Cookin' Canuck  |  February 1, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    Well, I’d say that you have fully pushed past your writer’s block! You have more writing talent in your little finger than many bloggers could hope for in a lifetime. I know it is hard to ignore the comments of ill-meaning commenters but all I can think is that they are envious of you. Please don’t stop doing what you’re doing. I, for one, thoroughly enjoy reading each new post.

    Reply
  • 47. Jill  |  February 1, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    Hi Elissa — I am a stranger who is delurking to repeat what so many have already said: you have a wonderful voice on this blog, and you are a writer. You will always know that truth, and that’s a wonderful thing to carry with you as you venture forth into life. And, dang, negative remarks are the worst no matter where you encounter them, but the one thing they are good for is to help you develop thick skin. You clearly already have a thoughtful, sensible head on your shoulders, and while it’s impossible not to feel stung by negativity, you seem like someone who will grow from it. Keep your stories coming, because they are lovely!

    Reply
  • 48. Alex  |  February 1, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    You take beautiful pictures. And bake beautiful items. I just stumbled upon your blog but I love it! It’s already a favorite!!!

    Reply
  • 49. Cate O'Malley  |  February 1, 2010 at 8:47 pm

    Congrats on your amazing achievement, and I’ll just echo what others have said … don’t let a few negative comments sway you from continuing to follow your passion. Our motto is to be like a duck and let it roll off you … quack!

    Reply
  • 50. Sunny  |  February 1, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    Don’t be discourage by what other says. You are truly a talented baker, photographer and writer. You’re writing never fails to captivate my attention. Your words soothe and comforts the soul, keep up the good word and hold your head high.

    haha nicee, 100th post :)

    Reply
  • 51. Amy  |  February 2, 2010 at 6:24 am

    I think you are wonderful and an inspiration to people of all ages–including me who is 22 years your elder! Continue to follow your passions, and everything else will fall into place. Keep up the amazing work!

    Reply
  • 52. Sarah  |  February 2, 2010 at 8:37 am

    Dear Elissa,
    I am a longtime reader, first-time commenter, and I want to let you know that you are an inspiration! I am 20 (and baking) and I wish I had half the skill, drive and creativity that you have. You have a very bright future in whatever one of your many talents you choose to pursue. Good luck with your nomination!

    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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