Golden Birthday


I am breaking my personal rule today and posting without a recipe, or even anything food related.

It’s my 17th birthday and it feels like spring.

What is a golden birthday? This may sound silly, but it’s when the date of your birthday matches your age. My birthday is April 17th. 17 is one of my lucky numbers. My blog is called 17 and Baking. Golden for sure!

I do have raspberry chocolate cake and more relevant, food related birthday dinner stuff coming up that I’m simply too distracted to blog about now… I can’t wait to share it all with you! :)

Thank you to everyone who made this day special for me – I had a lovely birthday.

April 17, 2009 at 5:01 pm 8 comments

Simple Pear Tart for two – SHF

I wish I could travel more. Traveling is something I’ve barely done, and yet, it’s one of my favorite things. There’s so many things I love about it – mostly, I just love to experience something so totally different from what I’m used to. A different skyline, a different perspective and culture, a different lifestyle… and different food.

Food is one of the biggest highlights of my travels, limited as they might be. It’s as important as the monuments, the museums, the shopping. Bagels, pizza, and cheesecake in New York, the best bubble tea and bao bing in Houston’s Chinatown, french brioche toast and tea in Victoria, Canada. Oh, but Paris…

I was in 8th grade when I went to Paris with my French class – such an amazing trip. While I didn’t photograph any of our meals, I remember them vividly. Crêpes, bought right on the street and spread with nutella; fresh sandwiches made with beautiful, crackly baguettes; and a fresh, flaky croissant served with orange juice and chocolat chaud every morning for breakfast.

And Fauchon, the famous luxury bakery! My French teacher told a story of a boy one year who was left behind in Fauchon, so mesmerized by the pastries that he did not notice the group leave the patisserie and board the subway. Madame called it a nightmare. Me, I think it sounds like a dream come true!

I really wish I would have discovered my love for baking at that point in my life. At the time, I’d never heard of Fauchon, and while I left feeling full and impressed (I bought an excellent fig éclair at what I thought a ridiculous price), I didn’t fully appreciate the visit.

When I saw that April’s Sugar High Friday, hosted by Heather of Diary of a Fanatic Foodie, was to make a dessert inspired by travel (“Take Me Away”), memories of Paris came back to me with surprising strength. There were so many unbelievable desserts I tried. But what made me think utterly of Paris? And what was simple enough to make at home, right after school?

This lovely pear tart was the ticket. Back to Paris, I mean. :)


April 15, 2009 at 11:03 pm 16 comments

My Favorite Cookies

It doesn’t matter how many cookie recipes I dog-ear or bookmark. I’ve tried everything from tuiles to the famous Word Peace cookies. These gingersnaps will always, always be my favorite cookie EVER.

I don’t mean to go over the top, but I love these cookies. I am in love with them. I love them down to the last detail.

First of all, they are beautiful. I’ve never made any cookie that is this consistantly perfect. Chocolate chip cookies come out misshapen and flat, sugar cookies always seem to brown unevenly, even oatmeal raisin cookies can come out bland – never these cookies. Every single cookie comes out a perfectly round circle, beautifully cracked, and sparkling with big crystals of sugar. And the flavor! Cinnamon is my favorite spice, and these cookies have the perfect balance of sweet and spicy.


Really, I could keep raving, and I’m trying not to go overboard. But if you’re not already sold and measuring out the sugar, I won’t feel bad about continuing. The texture of these cookies is just right; they’re lightly crisp around the edges and chewy in the middle. The cookies are (in my opinion) the best size, gone in three bites and leaving you wanting more. You don’t even a mixer. It only takes two bowls. The dough takes 5 minutes to make! Plus, plus, they’re only 60 calories a cookie. Not that that matters. :)

On another note… I’m enjoying the last days of my spring break and decided to make myself a light box for my photography. I had all the materials on hand, so it was free, instructions courtesy of Strobist. These were my first photos using it… I’m pretty pleased with the results, although I was using natural sunlight. I’ll have to see how it works with artificial lighting.

But back to the gingersnaps. Please, please do yourself a favor and make these.


April 12, 2009 at 5:17 pm 84 comments

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chunk Muffins

As a little kid, you get invited to a lot of birthday parties. You know, the kind where every kid in the class gets invited, and so the present opening process takes forever. The nice thing is, it’s inexpensive to please young kids, and the presents were never more than $10.

But by the time I got into middle school, birthday presents began to cost $30 or even $40! Now that I’m in high school, I have to admit I’m glad we don’t need to be spending that much money anymore. Birthday parties don’t exist anymore. But I can’t get enough of birthday presents, so I bake instead of buying.

Like today, when my friend M- celebrated his 17th birthday. I’ll get right to the point. Peanut butter and chocolate chunk muffins, oh my god!

Peanut butter is something that’s been in my life a long time. PB and honey sandwiches were a school lunch staple for many years. Peanut butter was the preferred treat of my first real (non goldfish) pets, my rats Blue and Dewdrop. And I could never resist feeding Tilly, my sweet and neurotic dog, a half tablespoon of peanut butter to watch her jaw get glued together.

Peanut butter pretty much improves everything. Celery? Complete bore on its own, transformed into a deliciously crunchy and refreshing snack with the addition of peanut butter. Toast and jam? Reaches a whole new level of creamy and sweet. But throw chocolate in the mix and you’ve truly got something addictive.


April 10, 2009 at 6:51 am 15 comments

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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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