17 and Baking's Teen Baker Elissa Bernstein
Michelle MooreIt all started with a cookbook and a camera for 17-year-old food blogger Elissa Bernstein.
The author of 17 and Baking, a blog that is as much about being a high school senior in Bellevue, Wash., as it is about baking pies, cakes and cookies, says it was a fortunate encounter with a cookbook at Costco when she was 14 that started her on her path.
"I bought it because I thought the pictures were really pretty," she tells KitchenDaily. "And I ended up baking something from it because I had all the ingredients on hand." When her first cake was done, she says, "it looked just like the photo, and I just kept baking."
She got her KitchenAid stand mixer for Christmas when she was 15 and first began blogging about her culinary creations in August 2008 when she was 16. She baked banana bread and snapped a few photos that she considered worth sharing. "I did a couple of posts and then I gave up and stopped," she says. "I didn't think anyone was looking at it. Period. And school started. I got busy and I forgot."
But in March 2009, just shy of her 17th birthday, she began blogging again, and this time, she hasn't stopped. "Even if I felt like nobody was reading it I would probably keep doing it because I bake anyway, I love to photograph, and it encourages me to write every week," she said.
What are her favorite recipes? She's a fan of her Perfect Gingersnap cookies, found on 17andBaking.com under a post entitled "My Favorite Cookies," a pumpkin bread with a cream cheese ripple that she's made every fall since she turned 13 and her Rainbow Pride Party Cake.
Growing up in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue, Bernstein says her dad was the family's biggest cook. "He's the kind of person who does dinner parties and really likes to do that kind of thing," she says. "My mom is really big on baking bread. She doesn't like the sweet stuff. All of our bread is freshly made by her, so as a family we have the whole meal covered.
"Even though none of them like to bake, actually, they've helped me bake," she says. When the family isn't cooking, they're often watching the Food Network in the Bernstein house.
Elissa's a fan of the Barefoot Contessa, Bobby Flay and "Iron Chef."
Bernstein also manages to find time to volunteer at Gilda's Club Seattle, a support center for cancer patients and their families when she's not interning at the Seastar Restaurant and Raw Bar in Bellevue, Wash. "I'm trying to expand, I'm trying to do everything that they'll let me do," Bernstein says. "It's a really good experience, but I actually don't want to go into the culinary world as a career."
Her hopes instead are geared toward college. She's applied to nine, and set her sights on the Ivy League with applications to Brown and Columbia, where she hopes to study communications or literature and pursue her passion for writing.
"My three main hobbies are writing, photography and baking, which are all part of the blog," she says. "I don't know if I'm going to get a kitchen in college, which kind of scares me, but hopefully I can find a way to make it work."