Back when I was in university, over 4 years ago, before I had any notions of starting a blog, let alone going into the pastry industry, I followed one blog. I didn't know about any others and to be honest, I can't remember how exactly I stumbled across this one blog. That blog was A Cozy Kitchen.
I checked that blog every. single. day. And she posts every few days, which is just ridiculous. I went through the recipe archives and read every post there was to read. I would be taking notes on my laptop in my classical archaeology classes and in any spare minute that the professor wasn't talking, I simply typed in the letter "a" and it was autofilled to my favourite blog. I was obsessed.
Adrianna has such a distinct writing style that is casual and friendly and silly and it just feels like she's your best friend sitting next to you on the couch, enthusiastically telling you about mundane everyday things but making them sound exciting and hilarious. Her recipes were approachable, easy, and just, well, cozy. At that point in my life, my baking repertoire was limited to cookies and scones, but little by little, her recipes and photos and writing made me edge out and expand my baking horizons.
My favourite recipe of hers is her apple cider muffins. They're simple, delicious, and subtly spiced, but the reason that I love that recipe is because I have a wonderful memory attached to those muffins.
I had just begun dating my boyfriend, four and a bit years ago now, and I was head over heels for this guy, but was trying to not let him know how much I liked him after such a short time. One day while in class, I read a post on A Cozy Kitchen about going apple picking with her friends and how she made the apple cider muffins. I searched up local apple orchards as a possible date with my boyfriend but found they were all at least two hours drive away. I thought that instead we could make the muffins together. He wasn't into baking but loved eating anything sweet, and I was getting into baking, so I thought it would be a great way to spend an afternoon.
On the weekend, I woke up early and began measuring out all the ingredients and putting them in containers and plastic baggies. I measured out everything separately so that my boyfriend and I could mix it all together. I brought along my muffin tin and liners, but assumed that my boyfriend had things like a bowl, a whisk, and a box grater.
I went over to his place and brought out all the pre-measured ingredients out of my backpack.
"Okay, so we need a few mixing bowls to start with!" I said, excitedly, ready to get started.
He didn't have any. At all.
I was a bit crestfallen and thought that our cozy baking afternoon was not going to happen after all. But, being the sweet guy that he is, he said that he would go buy one right then and there. So, he put on his jacket and ran to the dollar store a few blocks away to get a mixing bowl. When he came back, all proud of his quick fix, I said, "Awesome! Okay, can you get the whisk out for me?". His face fell.
Aaaaand for the second time in fifteen minutes, he ran to the dollar store to buy a whisk. I bet the shopkeeper had a little laugh at him.
Thankfully, he had everything else that was needed. The muffins were mixed, baked, and were enjoyed with a warm mug of tea. It was a wonderful afternoon that I remember with a big smile on my face.
About a year after that, I started to think about getting more into baking. A staff member on a wildlife reserve that I volunteered at for a couple months in South Africa suggested that I pursue that instead of university, because I was just going to university because I didn't know what else to do with my life. With that idea planted in my head, I thought about starting my own baking blog. Maybe that would help my figure out if baking was something I really liked enough to make it a job.
Except…how does one start a blog? I had a basic DSLR camera that I'd had for a few years, I researched different blog hosting websites, and I tried to figure out a name for the blog. But I didn't really know how to get the ball rolling. I emailed Adrianna one day, asking a few questions about copyright infringement on recipes (was I going to get sued if I made someone else's recipe??) and just blogging in general. I half expected her to never reply because, you know, she was a big food blogger and I'm just this newb asking dumb questions.
But she replied a couple hours later. And she was so friendly and kind and supportive! I was so blown away by her willingness to help and her thoughtful suggestions. It was the first time that I felt confident about starting a blog. She recommended I buy a book on basic recipe ratios called Ratio, so I did. I read that book in one night.
So, I started my blog and put up a few posts. I would look forward to my weekend baking all week long. I asked for baking books for my birthday, I discovered new food blogs, and I thought more about pastry school. I went for a tour of one school and was equal parts pee-my-pants excited and poop-my-pants nervous. But it made it seem more real to me. I could do this. My parents were more onboard with my idea to go to pastry school because they could see that I was interested in baking through my blog.
I ended up enrolling in a pastry school a few months later, didn't enrol for another semester of university, and started pastry school a few months after that.
So, you see, the only reason I started my blog was because of Adrianna and A Cozy Kitchen, which led to pastry school, which led to where I am now - top graduate in my class in pastry school, working in a high-end patisserie, and my blog has more readers than just my mom and dad. I believe that I owe my career in part to Adrianna. I 100% owe my blog to her, that's for sure.
I don't think she knows the impact that she has had on my life because first of all, I'm terrible when it comes to telling people serious and meaningful stuff 'cause I always end up making it into a joke (a terrible joke, most of the time) and secondly, I'm worried that I'll sound like a crazy fangirl that's gonna appear beside her bed in the middle of the night, breathing heavily and hoping to snip off a lock of her hair to keep in a jar forever (I'm not, I promise).
My way of saying thanks, albeit a very inadequate way, was to buy her new book, The Year of Cozy. I'm not one to buy a lot of blogger cookbooks, mostly because I already have 20-something professional baking books and I'm hesitant to put any more weight on my desk or else it'll collapse, but I couldn't resist hers. It's not just wonderfully cozy recipes for any season, it's also crafts and diy's and little ways to make your life more than just the everyday drudgery of work-eat-sleep. And, like her blog, her writing is the same we've-known-each-other-for-years way.
While this recipe isn't from her new book, I couldn't think of a better recipe to show how much one little blog has changed my life and put me on the path that led to where I am now. I am so crazy grateful for her and her blog because I honestly don't know where I'd be without them.
Apple Cider Loaf
Recipe adapted from A Cozy Kitchen
175 g brown sugar
100 g granulated sugar
125 g neutral tasting oil
150 g eggs
300 g all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder
250 g apple cider
170 g sour cream
2 apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored, grated, and juices reserved as part of the apple cider measurement
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray two loaf tins (or one large one) with non stick spray or butter.
Combine the sugars, oil, and eggs together in a large bowl and whisk to combine. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cloves. In a third bowl, mix together the apple cider and sour cream.
Alternately add one third of the flour mixture and cider mixture to the eggs, folding to incorporate each addition before adding the next.
Gently fold in the grated apple. Pour into the prepared loaf tins and sprinkle generously with coarse sugar.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the loaf springs back to the touch. Remove from the oven and let cool for 20 minutes before inverting onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.