Blog Name: The Vanilla Bean Blog
**Category: **Best Baking/Desserts Blog, Readers' Choice
**Running Since: **May 2011
Geographic Location: Minneapolis, MN
When and how did you become interested in baking? During my college years I worked for two wonderful people, Larry and Colleen Wolner, who own The Blue Heron Coffeehouse. They made (and still make!) the most wonderful food—almost all from scratch, all local, all organic. They were doing it way before it was hip, and they taught me so much about food and about people. I saw their passion and delight in what they did and fell in love: with them, and with their food. I started making chocolate chip cookies for them on busy weeknights, and slowly they taught me everything else.
What are your favorite posts? In terms of recipes, I have a few: Spice Cake with Cardamom Frosting, Peach and Cherry Galettes, and Bittersweet Chocolate Tartlets with Flaky Spelt Crust + Crème Fraîche. In terms of text, I have two. A forager's pie, because it reflects so many of my daily adventures: chaos mixed with laughter. And Cardamom Pound Cake, which reminds me when I read it how bittersweet this life can be.
What is your process for developing a post? I'm terribly addicted to cookbooks and find any excuse to pull out bowls and whisks and put something new in the oven. I like to make something quite a few times before it goes up on my site—occasionally (and very rarely) there is something so amazing it only needs to be tested once, but more often I try to get to know a recipe before I share it.
What do you draw inspiration from? As I mentioned before, cookbooks are a huge source of inspiration. Nigel Slater's books are always being re-read (and often you can find one on my nightstand, along with a Lord Peter Wimsey mystery), and I'm a big fan of Alice Medrich, Cooks Illustrated, SaraBeth Levine's From My Hands To Yours, Tartine, The Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and Kim Boyce's Good to the Grain. I also frequent many food blogs, and a few of my (many) favorites are Local Milk, Apt 2B Baking Co, Top With Cinnamon, The Faux Martha, Zoe Bakes, Seven Spoons, and Sprouted Kitchen.
Also, basil. And cacao nibs. Two of my most favorite ingredients.