Aran Goyoaga wrote this cookbook with recipes and stories inspired by her childhood in the Basque Country, motherhood, and living as an ex-pat. The book is divided by season and within each chapter you will find a section for small plates and another for sweet treats. Aran left the professional kitchen of the Ritz Carlton to stay home with her first child and she channeled her cooking into her blog, Cannelle et Vanille (cinnamon and vanilla) after the smells of her childhood. Aran became gluten free in 2009 and began adapting all her recipes to her new lifestlye. You can tell from her gorgeous photography that she had outdone herself. We asked Aran a few questions to get to know her a bit better. (Note - this book is not a kosher cookbook, but most of the recipes can be made kosher)
You have quite an impressive background cooking in a professional kitchen, do you ever miss it?
I come from a family of professional pastry chefs and I worked as one myself for a few years before I become a mother. I miss the camaraderie, the discipline and the intensity of the professional kitchen. It was addicting. But at the same time, I don't miss the grueling schedule, no holidays off... It wasn't very compatible with family life unfortunately.
You became gluten free in 2009, as a pastry chef how did you handle that adjustment?
I started to dabble in it in 2009, but was diagnosed with gluten sensitivity in early 2010. It's then when I become completely gluten-free. The adjustment was actually easy because I was so ill that I was ready to try anything. I followed a strict elimination diet for the first 6 months or so and I stopped eating not only gluten, but also dairy, soy, sugar, most grains, caffeine... I quickly began to feel better and felt very encouraged. Having worked as a pastry chef, it's engrained in me the curiosity to experiment and try new ingredients. I loved learning about different flours and testing new recipes. It felt very natural and exciting.
Is there any food you still really really miss?
In all honestly, I rarely have any cravings for it. I stood inside Poilâne in Paris with that smell of yeast and freshly baked brioche permeating the air. That is probably the only time I have felt nostalgic for bread, but because it makes me so sick, I could never even attempt to eat it.
You organize this cookbook, Small Plates Sweet Treats, by season, why did you decide to do it that way?
I am inspired by seasons and it's really how I like to shop and cook at home. My grandparents were farmers and most people we knew grew their own food, so cooking was always associated with the time of year and what was available at the time. That strong sense of seasonality has never left me. When vegetables and fruits are picked at the right time, at their peak and have grown in soil in accordance to nature's rhythm, their flavor is so intense that cooking becomes simple and flavorful.
Who is your cooking inspiration?
I am inspired by many people really. My own family, other cooks and chefs, what the farmer might suggest... I have been very inspired by Basque chefs Hilario Arbelaitz and Martin Berasategui who have an immense understanding of technique and great respect for the raw ingredient, which is the way I grew up.
What is your favorite dish to cook?
I find it hard to pick only one dish because it varies constantly. I really like to eat things with a spoon, so soups, custards, creamy risottos (yes, I eat them with a spoon), but I think that one of my favorite things to make are tarts. Both savory and sweet. Something about playing with different textures of doughs and fillings, rolling pastry... They are so versatile and allow for many variations. In my book, the Swiss chard, pear and Gruyere tart seems to be everyone's favorite.
How did you learn to take such gorgeous pictures?
I am a self-taught photographer. I started slowly by reading the camera's manual and practicing a lot. I would observe the photographs I responded to and try to understand what it was about them that I loved. This really taught me a lot about light and composition.
What is your earliest cooking memory?
When I helped my grandmother and mother cook Christmas dinner. It was a stew of lamb with artichokes, carrot and potatoes that my grandmother made often. The artichokes were dredged in flour and dipped in egg. That became my task. I stood on a green-colored stool and felt such connection to what I was doing.