Everyone needs a friend in the kitchen—someone to exchange recipe notes with and to share cooking discoveries, triumphs and even failures. The Scratch Artist is one such friend. Kathryn's grounded approach to cooking from scratch and candid prose about her own attempts makes her blog a relatable companion. Gotta love someone who eats peanut butter cookies with peanut butter, right?
How did you become the scratch artist?
I’m not one of those people who has always loved cooking. In fact, quite the opposite. I used to find the experience really unpleasant—filled with anxiety and dread. Strange to think that I now cook practically everything I eat from scratch! In my freshman year of college, in a serendipitous Sunday afternoon what’s-on-tv moment, my relationship to food and cooking changed, and along with it, the rest of my life. The spark came from the movie Waitress. I sat in awe watching Keri Russell mix, pour, layer and crimp her way through pie after pie. It sounds silly, but making a pie had never really occurred to me until that moment. By the time the movie ended, I was holding my keys and racing out the door for pie-making supplies. After my first pie, despite its soggy crust and runny innards, I was a convert.
Tell us about your blog, The Scratch Artist.
When I started becoming interested in cooking, I was all enthusiasm and no skill. I jumped head-first into a copy of Baking with Julia that I had seen laying in my mother’s cabinet for years. I was particularly drawn to baking and cooking from scratch. I loved the experience of taking raw, unadulterated ingredients and turning them into something new. Cooking this way was joyous. Ultimately, it was because each time I stepped into the kitchen I had the opportunity to express something of myself. The more contact I had with each of the basic elements that made up the bread, pastry, cake, pie or whatever, the greater my opportunity to put my own spin on it, be creative and put a bit of me into it. This self expression is what I love.
I love cooking because the final product is something that I can share and watch others enjoy. I love the sound of the words, “Here, taste this.” In my world, there are few things that trump a great bite of food shared with others. I work to have my blog capture many of these elements. I want it to inspire people to try making more of their food from scratch—to experiment with being creative in the kitchen and treating cooking as a form of self-expression.
Why do you write about food?
We are all made better, more whole, when we share what we love with others. In a paradoxical way, the more we share what we love, the more we have it ourselves. I love food. I love creating recipes, especially ones that are free from processed ingredients. For years I shared this love with everyone who came into my circle, but as my love grew, so did my desire to share it. I wanted a larger audience to share my passion and so The Scratch Artist was born. That’s the really simple answer. I write about food because I want others to share in my joy.
What are you currently reading?
At the front of the line on my cookbook shelf right now are My New Roots by Sarah Britton and Twelve Recipes by Cal Peternell. Sarah has been an incredible inspiration for me. Every recipe of hers that I have ever followed has come out perfect, and I always learn a new technique or flavor combination. Twelve Recipes is a pure delight. I literally read this book from cover to cover, and I still find myself referring back. Cal’s freestyle tone and approachable, it’s-no-big-deal way of presenting cooking and kitchen fluency is refreshing. I read a lot of different food blogs. I am consistently impressed by the quality of work that so many bloggers put out day in and day out.
What do you most and least enjoy cooking?
I am a baker at heart. Baking is intuitive for me. Somehow I just know what to do and know what everything should look like. At the top of my list is bread. But there are so many things that I love to bake. Nothing beats baking and decorating a fancy cake just because you feel like it, except one thing: eating it! Baking is good for the soul, my soul at least. I least enjoy cooking meat. I’m not particularly good at it, unless the recipe calls for dried out meat! I must get it from my grandmother who had a reputation for overcooking her roasts and what not, in the name of safety. I am always a bit nervous that I am going to make my guests sick when I cook meat. As a rule I avoid it. But recently I am starting to gain confidence.
What's your favorite recipe on The Scratch Artist?
My recipe for 100% Sprouted Wheat Sandwich Bread is probably my favorite. I developed the recipe over many trial runs. If you've ever baked with whole grains, you know that it is more challenging to get a high rise and an airy textured loaf. When you think of 100% whole grain breads, the one word that probably comes to mind is “dense.” But not this bread. I call it the “whole grain Wonder Bread” due to its lightness and soft texture.
This recipe was the first that I considered I had truly developed, as opposed to tweaking an already established recipe. It is also a good representation of what I am looking to share on my site. If you buy prepackaged foods, you are at the mercy of the producer and the ingredients they choose. I spent a lot of time studying ingredient labels and consistently found that in order to have the foods I wanted, I needed to sign on to a long list of ingredients that I really did not want to be ingesting. I love creating recipes for foods that allow me to avoid everything I don't want and feature everything I do want. Another passion of mine is creating foods for people with dietary sensitivities. It is one of the great joys and benefits of cooking from scratch.
Question from Omar of Lands and Flavors: How much time, on average, do you spend on creating a single blog post? (Click here to read Omar's interview)
I wish I had a consistent answer to that question! Sometimes it’s as easy as making dinner, snapping a photo, and sharing my thoughts as if in a stream of consciousness. And other times, it is failed recipes, horrible photos and writer’s block! When I first started blogging it seemed that every spare moment was going toward some aspect of putting out each post. With time I have gotten into a better rhythm, but I can never predict if I will need to reshoot or completely discard a recipe until I’ve already invested my time. I don’t think I’ve ever put a blog post together that took me less than three to four hours from start to finish. That includes conception, making, shooting, writing and doing all of the technical website things. Bottom line: it takes me A LOT of time and it always takes longer than what I predicted, always.