As part of FBC’s 5th anniversary we’re sharing a special 24-day Holiday Countdown from December 1st to the 24th. We’re going back in time to reconnect with some very special FBC Members. These Canadian food bloggers were among the very first FBCers to be showcased in our Friday Featured Blogger series that still runs today (we’ve featured almost 250 bloggers in five years!).
Name: Janice Lawandi
Blog Name: Kitchen Heals Soul
How has your blog evolved over the past five years?
I think that my blog has become more focused. Well, I hope it has. In 2010, Kitchen Heals Soul was a jumble of recipes without a common thread. There wasn’t much planning behind the blog. Today, my blog is specifically about baking. I’ve mixed in a little science along the way to reflect my background in Chemistry and also to show how I think when I think about baking recipes.
I don’t want to just provide another cake or cookie recipe. The internet is full of those. I like to try to include some useful information too so that we can all learn how to bake better. I ask myself a lot of questions when I bake so, over the years, I’ve tried to share what I’ve learned about the science behind baking, and not just the recipes themselves.
For example, you'll find a ton of layer cake recipes, but you’ll also find a post where I discussed the bubbles in cakes, what causes them, why they might be larger than they should be, how to make them smaller and more even. I was inspired to write that post while making a cranberry cardamom cake with cream cheese frosting, I noticed the bubbles in my cakes were larger than usual. A few years ago, I wrote a blog post about how the cooking temperature affects marmalade set. I came up with the idea while I was making a batch of marmalade, and decided to take out a sample every degree as it cooked to see how much difference a degree of extra cooking actually makes. I then made a palette of marmalades to show how the temperature affects the marmalade set. It was really neat to see the difference a degree or two makes, and David Lebovitz even shared my blog post about it on his Facebook page!
The one thing that hasn’t changed is that I still share what’s going on in my life. Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn’t share at all, but then readers send me emails when they read about my life because they appreciate my honesty. I think it makes me relatable and a little more human and real. So, I share the good and the bad. That’s life!
What’s your favourite holiday tradition?
Baking with my mom at Christmas. It drives my dad absolutely nuts because we bake way too many cookies (most years we make about 12 types of cookies, if not more). The cookies we bake are the kind that store well, like gingerbread people, sugar cookies, rugelach, shortbread, etc. They keep for months in a cool, dry place, and they go perfectly with a hot cup of tea.
Share a favourite holiday recipe with our readers
I am obsessed with my grandmother’s white Christmas cake recipe. It’s a fruitcake, but it’s not overloaded with fruit so most people like it (even those that don’t love fruitcake usually). The cake base is flavoured with almond extract. We usually cover the cake with a layer of marzipan rolled out fairly thin and then smear on a thick layer of frosting that's spiked with a little booze (like rum or brandy). I love this fruitcake. I look forward to it every year, and once it’s made, I eat a piece (or two) every day until it is gone. I’ve also baked it in muffin pans or ramekins to make “individual” fruitcakes. Super cute for the holidays.
What are the must-have staples in your holiday pantry?
My pantry basically has to have EVERYTHING I need to bake during the holidays because there’s no time for last-minute grocery trips when you're baking 12 kinds of cookies, as well as fruitcake: a good amount of baking soda and baking powder, real vanilla and almond extracts, icing sugar, granulated sugar, all kinds of brown sugar (from light to dark), 10 kg of all-purpose flour (literally), candied fruit and fruit peels (like glacéed cherries and candied citron for fruitcake), butter (so much butter in the fridge, and more butter in the freezer, just in case), booze (rum, brandy, cognac, sherry), spices (nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, allspice …), marzipan, dried fruits (dates, cranberries, golden raisins, currants), Grandma Fancy molasses. I’d also like to add that it’s super important to make sure you have enough containers to pack away and store all the goodies. We like to use decorative metal tins that we line with plastic wrap. I buy extra parchment too. I can’t live without parchment.
Follow Kitchen Heals Soul on social media
Be sure to check out all the bloggers in our Holiday Countdown Series and find out how their blogging journey has progressed over the last five years!