I am so excited to kick off this new series here on In Search Of Yummy-ness! Every month I will be interviewing one of my favourite bloggers, and sharing their kitchens, typical workdays and favourite eats. To get things started, I’d like to introduce you to my friend Janice, from Kitchen Heals Soul.
About Janice Lawandi:
What happens when a woman with a PhD in Chemistry decides to run a food blog? You get a website full of delicious sweet treats with scientific accuracy.
Janice Lawandi honed meticulous research and testing methods during her years in school. After completing her PhD, she transferred those skills from the laboratory into her kitchen, using her chemistry knowledge to create delicious baked treats. Janice’s attention to detail means that her recipes are easy to reproduce in your kitchen! Here’s what she had to say during our recent chat.
So Janice, how would you describe your blog to someone who has never seen it? What can people find there?
Kitchen Heals Soul is a baking blog. Originally, I started it to chronicle the recipes I was trying and what I was making (savoury or sweet). It lacked focus at the beginning, to be honest.
I decided to concentrate on baking about one year into blogging. In the last 2 or 3 years I’ve also thrown in a little science too, with the hopes of teaching readers something new, or to give people a few tips and tricks to help them bake with less worry.
Are you blogging full time? What does your typical workday look like?
I wouldn’t say I’m blogging full-time because I don’t earn income exclusively from my blog. I am self-employed though, and my projects revolve around recipe development, food photography and styling and also food writing (mostly food science writing).
My typical day starts the afternoon before (if that makes sense). That’s when I plan out the recipe I’ll be making the next day, researching ratios or particularities that I need to watch out for. I write out the recipe the day before I make it and I do any shopping the day before as well. This way, I’m ready to go early the next morning.
Then it’s a matter of following the recipe that I’ve carefully written out and, if all goes as planned, I can photograph it right away (or just about).
If I’m making a layer cake, I might make the cakes the day before and then assemble them on the day I’m photographing the finished cake. Then it’s a matter of sorting through the photos and picking the best, editing them, and typing up the recipe.
If I am working on a cookie recipe, I might weigh out and bake 1 scoop of dough. If something goes wrong, I can easily calculate how much dough I’ve used, what is left, and adjust the cookie dough accordingly. In this case, I would still remake the final cookie recipe at least once more before publishing to make sure I did all of my math correctly and to check that it all makes sense, yielding the identical cookies to those I photographed.
I would hate for a reader to try one of my recipe and get a result that doesn’t look like what’s in my pictures!
When you’re not cooking or blogging, what are you doing?
I’m probably at the gym. I’ve been working out for 10 years and I have gradually increased my exercise to 6 hours a week (on a good week).
I take a classical ballet class, boot camps, HIIT, spinning, and even yoga. I keep it varied so that I don’t get too bored. On Sunday mornings, I follow-up my workout with brunch (hey, it’s all about balance!).
Do you have anything new and exciting happening in your life that you’d like to share?
Each season, we pick an unusual location in the city, and we organize a dinner prepared by an invited chef for a very small number of guests (usually about 12 to 14). The dinner celebrates the season and also local ingredients.
We held the first dinner in a stand of the Jean-Talon market. Obviously, there was no kitchen, so we transformed the market stand into one with a couple of induction burners. We created a tiny, exclusive restaurant in the heart of the market. It was pretty magical.
What’s in your fridge right now?
An obscene amount of cookie dough, because I was working on a cookie recipe project for a client. I am actually storing some of it in my parents’ freezer. I portioned it out so they could take it home to freeze it, and bake it whenever they have a craving for something sweet.
Ok, it’s pop quiz time. Hungry friends show up at your door unexpectedly – what are you going to feed them?
Definitely popcorn with lots of salted butter and a cup of tea. I’ll also try to pawn off some leftover cake or cookies (or pie) from blog posts and recipe development projects, especially if I know they work in an office: in that case, I’ll send them home with doggy bags to bring to work and share with colleagues.
What do you love about your kitchen?
It’s very open, and I have a lot of counter space to work on, which is good because a lot of my work is done in the kitchen.
Name one item in your kitchen that you would be devastated to lose.
I was going to answer stand mixer, but since I did do a certificate in Pâtisserie de Base at Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa and we made all the recipes by hand (no mixers or thermometers), I guess I can survive without one.
I think if my kitchen scale died, I’d drop everything and rush out to replace it ASAP! I like to measure ingredients precisely and I think weighing ingredients leads to more reproducibility. Also, if I tell you I used 125 grams of all-purpose flour, there’s no ambiguity. If I tell you that I used a cup, depending on how I filled that measuring cup (and how you fill yours), the difference can be huge and really change everything!
Do you listen to music while you cook? If so, what’s playing?
I think music got me through grad school. Long hours in the lab were slightly less painful because I always had music playing in the background.
Today, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen and I still need my music. I am a Sirius satellite radio subscriber and have been for years. I like the alternative music channels, but also rock and acoustic. I think I’ve mellowed with age.
I’m hungry, where should we go to eat?
If we are hanging out in the South-West of Montreal, near where I live, we’d probably go for lunch at Patrice Pâtissier, and of course, we are having pastries for dessert. Everything Patrice makes is exceptional. I love his éclairs and his maple financier.
It’s the middle of a hectic week, what are you making for dinner?
Ideally, I hope I’m eating a grain bowl of some sort, with either brown rice, barley, or quinoa, topped with lots of chopped fresh veggies (in summer) or roasted veggies (in winter), with a fun dressing.
If I’m not eating that, then I might be eating popcorn with butter and salt. Don’t tell my mom.
When was the last time you ate an entire pie in one sitting?
Ummm, all the time! Duh! OK, maybe just half a pie, but still….
Sometimes, I make something so good that I scarf it down within the day. People don’t believe me, but it’s true (and a little embarrassing).
It’s also probably not very healthy since most of my baking has a good amount of sugar and butter, but that’s why I exercise so much. I’ve written about this on my blog actually: I made a Concord grape focaccia once and proceeded to eat the entire thing. Why? It was too good to leave behind and I knew the sweet focaccia would be stale and sad the next day, so what else could I have done?
I had no choice, really.
This is not a sponsored post.
Photos have been published with permission from Janice.