If you have yet to discover Russell van Kraayenburg’s blog Chasing Delicious, you better get a move on. From classic recipe videos to kitchen tips to beautiful desserts, Russell’s Chasing Delicious is one blog you need to get to know. Russell invites his readers into his kitchen, offering them a glimpse of many of his childhood stories. His mission is to “inspire and educate you about the big, delicious world that surrounds us all,” and I think he does just that. Recently I had the opportunity to ask Russell of few burning questions about his favorite foods, his beautiful photography, and his unique incorporation of videos on his blog.
Other than the usual suspects (butter, eggs, flour, sugar), what is your favorite ingredient to add to a dessert recipe?
This is a tough question. I am always pushing myself to try new things, so my favorites tend to be as fickle as I am. A year ago I might have said pecans (whole, chopped, ground into flour, or turned into pecan butter). A couple months ago it would have been a number of fresh herbs. Right now I’d probably have to say vanilla, specifically the vanilla bean. We use vanilla in so much that we have become accustomed to the flavor, almost to the point of ignoring it. We expect it to be present in most everything we bake and yet rarely let it shine. I find the challenge of making vanilla the star thrilling. And when I give someone a dessert made with vanilla beans, they almost seem bewildered that it’s just vanilla that they’re tasting. It’s that surprise you can get from vanilla that I am chasing right now.
What is your all-time favorite food, baked or not?
My all-time favorite food would have to be a whole roasted chicken–preferably stuffed with celery leaves, thyme, and citrus and served with roasted veggies and homemade gravy. I love it for two reasons. First, I grew up on this dish, and it has been a favorite for as long as I can remember. Second, you can do so much with the leftovers: meat for chicken salad or soup, bones and giblets for homemade stock, and vegetables pureed into their own gravy or for a roasted veggie puree soup.
Since I’m a dessert blog, I should probably give a dessert answer too. My favorite dessert has to be creme brûlée. Caramelizing the sugar, breaking through the hard sugar crust, and the contrasting textures and flavors all make it such a scrumptious dessert. And it uses my current favorite, the vanilla bean.
I’m absolutely in love with the ‘classics’ videos you post. Why did you decide to start this for your blog? Is video editing/production just one of those skills you picked up along the way?
Thank you very much. I actually studied film and television production while at The University of Texas at Austin. One day, about a year into blogging, it hit me that I wasn’t using any of my college education in Chasing Delicious. I decided to start experimenting with videos and soon started the classics series. I love all forms of visual storytelling, and I think video gives you the chance to tell a story you might not be able to share with just photos or words. With my classics videos I wanted to try to capture the story behind our favorite recipes, the reason why us food-obsessed bakers hop into the kitchen every chance we get.
Your videos generally feature you, your bowl, and your spoon. Are you against using electric mixers?
Despite my love for the old-school, I use my stand mixer all the time–probably too much. But I find a recipe requiring only a glass bowl and a trusted wooden spoon magical. It reminds me of baking as a child with my mom. We mixed just about everything by hand. I wanted my classics recipes and videos to reflect that simple, homemade approach to baking. Besides, sometimes it is just more fun to get your hands dirty while baking.
Your photos always feature beautiful backgrounds and props. Where is your favorite spot to buy props?
I love hitting up thrift shops when looking for props. Each time I go out it is like a treasure hunt. I never have a plan or even an idea of what I am looking for. I just let myself rummage through the shelves and bins until I find something old and grungy that jumps out as beautiful to me.
What’s your all-time favorite cupcake flavor?
My favorite cupcake flavor is key lime pie. Surprisingly though, it is a flavor I’ve never tried making myself. My friend is the baker at a cupcake shop down the street from my house, and it was there that I first tried that particular flavor of cupcake. Ever since then, if I get a craving for a key lime pie cupcake I go straight there.