Friday, July 1, 2011

Baker's Profile

Ellen Jackson

Ellen Jackson

The recipe for Ellen Jackson's professional life might read something like this: Take one undergraduate English major; form into a six-year publishing career in New York City. Add a degree from the New England Culinary Institute and season with a baking demonstration by renowned pastry chef and cookbook author Emily Luchetti. Roll out into 12 years as a professional pastry chef in restaurants from New Orleans to Portland, Oregon.

And then the recipe gets really interesting.

"When my feet got tired and my back began to ache," Ellen writes on her website, foodprintstyle, "I turned in my rolling pin for a different sort of career in food. These days I write about it, and make it smile for the camera."

"It's a natural fit," she told us. "I love food and I love words. Now I get to bridge those two worlds."

Since she made the switch, Ellen's delicious words and pictures have appeared in Edible Portland,, and the food section of The Oregonian. She's also an accomplished food stylist who has co-authored several cookbooks, including The Grand Central Baking Book, which features recipes from the Pacific Northwest's acclaimed Grand Central Baking Company. And she continues to develop recipes, some of which she shares on her website.

"Cooking and baking have always been a part of my life," says Ellen. In the early 1990s, when she was checking out cooking schools, she attended Emily Luchetti's baking demonstration in San Francisco. "She sparked an interest I wanted to cultivate," Ellen says. But during Ellen's two years at the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vermont, the curriculum was geared to earning a general culinary degree. "The program offered just one unit in basic baking and another on pastry technique," Ellen recalls. "Which was fine since I wasn't focused on a career in baking and pastry at that point."

After culinary school, Ellen got a job as a line cook at a Portland, Oregon, restaurant. Within a few weeks, though, she switched to the pastry kitchen: "It was a better fit. It didn't take long for me to realize that the discipline and precision of baking and pastry were for me." She liked the morning hours, too. Eventually she owned her own wholesale baking business.

As a professional baker in high-end restaurants, Ellen focused on consistency and perfect technique. In her current career, she says, she can focus exclusively on high-quality seasonal ingredients. "Fresh is always better," she says. "Seasonal fruits, local eggs and butter. But the other ingredients need to be excellent, too. I have always preferred to use C&H Sugar—especially the superfine sugar. It's foolproof for meringues!"

Her new life, says Ellen, is a happy balance of baking, recipe development, and writing. Key to that balance is a healthy lifestyle that includes eating wisely and exercising (important when you bake for a living!). Naturally, she still enjoys sweet treats—such as this refreshing Chocolate-Chocolate Mint Ice Cream recipe, which she developed for us using C&H Organic Light Agave Nectar.

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