developing the cover of molly on the range

as a serial book-by-its-cover-judger, determining the cover of molly on the range was more difficult than picking all of the first day of school outfits from my past, combined. in the beginning, about two years ago while i was working on my proposal, i was really drawn to the idea of something painfully minimal, inspired by the covers of vintage church cookbooks and rose bakery's breakfast, lunch, and tea. when i was little i hoarded plain white t-shirts and absolutely refused to wear any clothing item with a brand label showing, so i suppose this was very on brand. 


this is breakfast, lunch, and tea, the book that made me fall in love with food photography. source: little growing lights


"but, molly, how will people know this is a book about food??"

is a question that was raised by my publisher with the correct concerns that people might think it's a book about cow-wrangling or folk music or go-go dancing on top of a stove range.

"also, we want to put your face on the cover!"

well, hmmm. i wanted something timeless, and maybe something that you could even put on your coffee table as eye-popping room decor, and with my goal of becoming a blonde in 2016 already in the works, i did not consider a brunette 26-year-old kind-of-puffy-because-i-had-just-spent-a-year-recipe-testing-layer-cakes me to be a timeless image for the cover. 

so i did some noodling around on the internet and decided that a very empty cover with a few homespun illustrations of cooking-related objects and chickens could be nice, timeless, and informative. with my publisher, we narrowed down our list of illustrators and started doing mockups. i loved folk-y, earthy illustrations that didn't feel at all trendy or too flashy. i wanted something that would be ok getting a little roughed up by soy sauce splatters and mustard stains. i was very excited about this.

but still, i was told, my face would be going on the cover!  

oof da!! how would that work? how could a photo with an illustration look timeless and minimal and not like a third grade art project? we looked at various book covers that had done this recently, like the portlandia book. it worked for portlandia, but i definitely didn't see it working for molly on the range. i wanted to really try it though and see how it could work, because maybe there was something i was missing, so we even went so far as to hire an illustrator to do a draft, complete with super adorable chickens, loaves of challah, and an egg cracked open at the bottom of the cover. it was so fun but in the end it simply didn't mirror the content of the book. 

i became more and more eager to figure out a cover that would welcome you. there was a lot of back and forth with my extremely patient publisher, and then i think it was at a barnes and noble in phoenix where i slowly began to see things from their perspective, re: my face on the cover. as eggboy, eggpop, and eggmom perused the american history, agricultural business, and novel sections, respectively, i placed myself in the cookbook section and judged covers. love and lemons made me want to go to the farmers' market and buy vegetables, home baked made me want to cream some butter with some sugar and eat a slice of cake and then learn to take pictures like yvette and oof. the books with smiling faces on the cover made me want to knock on those people's doors and sit in their kitchens while they not only cooked whatever they wanted to cook for me, but also talked to me about their stories and thoughts behind whatever they were cooking. and that's what this book is, it's narrative. one day i'd love to write a book about cakes or baking or one very specific group of foods, and for that, a cover with no face would make more sense i think. but molly on the range is you coming into my home and me telling you about my ex-boyfriends and the real eggboy story and farts, it's one side of a theoretical pen pal-ship, and the recipe selection has a little bit of everything.

so i said to my publisher, ok let's put me on the cover, but please can it be minimal. 

they obliged, but by this time the cover design was already way, way late, so we scrambled for inspiration. we loved the kinfolk table and this and that, and wanted to make sure it was as warm and happy as possible. i booked chantell to come that week, picked up a white background from a farm down the road (made new friends in the process!), and altogether tried to stop eating salt in an effort to look my best. luckily (!!!) the funfetti cake that appears on the last page of the book was still in my freezer and ready to be a cover model. 

we had three wardrobe options:

the first one was eliminated almost immediately because it was too holiday-specific. and between the second and third one, it was collectively decided that the blue chambray shirt was more farm-y and timeless. bingo! so they airbrushed out my fly away hairs and away we went! 

lisel jane ashlock's hand lettering for the subtitle gave it a kind of homespun quality that i love, and rae ann, my book designer, took to my obsessive requests for "a slightly more brownish grey/maybe more black than grey/maybe a little lighter but still really dark" font color with the patience of a saint.  

and there it was, just like that!

it truly took a village and i am so happy with it! it was far from what i expected when i began writing the beast, but i feel that it represents me and the feeling that i want you to get from this book.

we weren’t finished though! we still had the spine and back cover to do, but it was a total walk in the park compared to the front cover process. it was almost like this, verbatim:

"molly, what color spine would you like?"

"yellow yellow!"

"ok! and how about the back cover?" 

“can it be blank… like literally nothing except for maybe a blurb or a chicken?”

“nah, let’s put a photo on the cover. something that will tell people that it’s not exclusively a cake book.”

“oh. ok sure, what the heck!”

“how do you like these?”

“hotdish! perfect.”

“ok actually we like it but think that the tray would be more descriptive of the book’s contents.”

“umm hmmm errrrrrrm. ok”

“this good?”

“yes, perfect.”

and just like that, molly on the range was dressed and ready for the first day of school and beyond. phew!! and i've gotten the sweetest feedback from you guys! so thank you for that. just one more month until she hits the shelves! eeeeeeee it’s almost here!!!! 

-yeh!

(please preorder if you haven’t already!!)

choose your own adventure bloody marys

throughout my year of making molly on the range, i had a lot of shoot days where my primary task was taking a few options for beauty shots of the five or six dishes that were on the schedule for that day. most of the shoot days fell in the winter, when the days are extra short around here, so that was silly and took a lot of advanced planning, but in general it wasn't too unlike photographing a blog post. there was more pressure knowing that the photos would get put on paper, however at times it was actually physically easier than shooting a blog post since i knew there wouldn't be much room in the book for many more angles and process shots, beyond one final beauty of the finished dish. 

but! there were also a few different kinds of shoot days that involved people (!) and festive wardrobes (!) and entire party setups, captured by chantell! we had a bonfire, a harvest party, a dumpling party, a brunch party... they were much bigger productions than blog posts and there were a lot of moving parts to coordinate, like humans and props and making sure all of the humans showed up in seasonally appropriate attire (which didn't necessarily reflect which season it actually was. for example, don't ask when we shot the holiday party... the answer is not "around the holidays.") it was a lot like planning a real party! so fun. a little more stressful because if something went wrong i couldn't just spill the punch bowl, call the cops, blame it on the neighbors, and get it out of my life. these were parties that'd live on in physical form. 

one of my favorite parties was our brunch party, modeled on our town brunch club. brunch club member emeritus kristin came up all the way from minneapolis, eggsister came from fargo, farmhouse pottery sent such gorgeous props, and we ate so many of my favorite recipes from the book. (i've strategically included a few preview shots of these up above but the little labels depicting what they are are hidden because those are secrets until the book comes out! #october4 #pleasepreorder) bloody marys were obviously involved but sadly the recipe didn't make the book. 

so here they are now, in honor of sherrie's end of summer #drinkthesummer party, which you all need to check out because i am thirsty and needing to pee just looking at these titles: salty melon slush, garden tonic punch, and jalapeno watermelon cooler to name a few!

i think i make a good bloody mary because savory drinks excite me sooo much. it's like cold boozy soup and--bonus!--you get a serving of vegetables. this recipe is fun because it gives you a good base recipe which you can spice up based on whichever fancy hot sauce you have hiding your fridge. and then depending on what hot sauce that is, that's what you call it. harissa bloody mary, zhoug bloody mary, sambal oelek bloody mary, sriracha chipotle obscure-hot-sauce-in-an-unmarked-bottle-that-you-found-in-your-bag-after-a-long-night-of-tequila-in-tijuana* bloody mary... the world is your hot sauce oyster and impressing your brunch guests is just a few shakes away! 

(*this is fictional, it never happened, stop worrying, mum)


choose your own adventure bloody marys

makes about 6 servings

ingredients

4 c tomato juice

1 c vodka

4 cloves garlic, smashed

1 1/2 tsp celery salt, plus more for garnish

1 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp ground caraway seeds

1 tsp ground horseradish

1 1/2 tsp worcestershire sauce

1 tb lime juice

black pepper 

hot stuff ***

garnish:

celery stalks

lime wedges

pickles 

bacon

***This is the essence of this recipe, what makes it. Open up your refrigerator, find the fanciest spicy situation that you have, and then add it to taste. This will be the title of your Bloody Mary. Harissa Bloody Mary. Sriracha Bloody Mary. Zhoug Bloody Mary. Sambal Oelek Bloody Mary. Or a combination.

clues

In a pitcher, mix together the tomato juice, vodka, garlic, salt, sugar, caraway seeds, Worcestershire sauce, lime juice, a few turns of black pepper, and hot stuff. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. To serve, give 6 glasses a celery salt rim job and distribute the mixture evenly. Garnish as desired with celery stalks, lime wedges, pickles, and bacon. 


-yeh!

molly on the range is out october 4 and you can pre-order it now!

cardamom coffee cake with bulletproof frosting

i am on my way to la jolla right now for my family's kind-of-annual gathering of playing music at the la jolla summerfest! my suitcase is packed with:

1) stretchy pants and flowy dresses for eating maximum animal style in-n-out and tacos

2) drum sticks, timpani mallets, a pencil (a pencil! haven't used one of those in ages!), and concert black outfits

3) my new wedge sneakers that i was inspired to get because of sarah lynn's shoes on bojack horseman and i'm so obsessed with them. i feel like i'm in back to the future and i never want to take them off. 

being in la jolla always takes me back to the days when my name is yeh was a newborn, when i'd interview my family and friends and take pictures of night time tacos with my little point and shoot. did you know my name is yeh was born in los angeles...7 years ago?? and then when it was just a few days old we drove down to la jolla and i blogged up a storm while my dad was in rehearsal. i think i made like 30 blog posts in that one week i was there. including one about shopping lololololol. 

for this trip, i'm excited to play castanets in some prokofiev, go to a padres game, see my san diego homies, run outside without getting avalanched by mosquitos, and maybe make a mini cake with mia because she is apparently becoming quite the cake stylist these days! 

 

when i was in tel aviv earlier this month, shiran so sweetly schlepped all of the ingredients for this tiramisu ombre cake over to my airbnb. i was so stinkin excited for this cake but then my stupid airbnb oven didn't work!!! i was so sad and couldn't shake my new craving for coffee in a cake, so this is one of the first things i made when i got home and then i brought it to my friend emily's birthday party. i put cardamom in it because cardamom and coffee are like potato chips and ketchup. potato chips (and coffee) are great on their own but adding ketchup (or cardamom) takes things over the top, am i right?? and it's dressed in an outfit of coffee buttercream, aka bulletproof frosting. (it's really just coffee and butter and sugar but bulletproof sounds really cool (to get actually bulletproof-y, make sure you use grassfed butter (well, you should do that anyway since it tastes good))). so go on, get buzzed on caffeine and have your cake too! 


cardamom coffee cake with bulletproof frosting

makes one two-layer, 8-inch cake

ingredients

cake:

1 3/4 c sugar

2 1/2 c all-purpose flour

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cardamom

2 large eggs

1 c buttermilk

1/2 c flavorless oil, like canola

1 tb vanilla extract

3/4 c strong coffee, cold or at room temp

frosting:

1 c unsalted butter, softened

3 c powdered sugar

1 tb instant espresso dissolved in 2 tb water 

1 tb vanilla extract

a pinch of kosher salt

a pinch of cardamom

sprinkles, coffee beans, and cardamom pods (optional, for decorating)

clues

cake:

preheat oven to 350.

grease two 8-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment.

in a large bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients. in a medium bowl, whisk together all the wet ingredients. whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. pour into cake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. begin checking for doneness at 28 minutes.

let cool in the pans for 10 minutes, and then turn the cakes onto a lightly greased cooling rack.

frosting:

use an electric mixer to beat all ingredients together until smooth.

assembly:

once your cakes are fully cooled, level them. place one layer on a cake board, spread a thick layer of frosting on top, and then place the other layer on top of that. use an offset spatula to frost the cake smoothly all over. top with sprinkles, coffee beans and cardamom pods. 

enjoy!


zucchini and feta pizza with fresh mint and preserved lemon (a.k.a. the yas queen)

happy pizza friday, dudes and dudettes!!! 

eggboy and eggmom are currently in the living room rehearsing--eggboy on trombone, eggmom on the piano--for their big show this weekend at the town heritage days! they're playing all-american tunes like yankee doodle and america the beautiful and i'm feeling like i should stand up at attention throughout this whole band practice (licking the lips, on the verge tears, michael phelps-style, you know?). but obvi i've got pizza on the mind since it's friday.

there is this magical zucchini that's been in our refrigerator for weeks now. it's massive and i don't think it's ever going to go bad. i bought it for this pizza but only ended up using a small part of it and so every day for the past five days i've intended on making the chocolate zucchini muffins from love and lemons' book but then a cold attacked and i've been trying to brute force this shit out of my system by way of vegetables and yogurt. or maybe it's allergies and then i think the yogurt makes it worse? oh screw it. i'm making those muffins today.

ok, so, the yas queen pizza is pretty much exactly this pasta but with pizza dough and zucchini instead of pappardelle. i made it over the fire on fourth of july and it was a crowd and twitter favorite. it is so bright and summery and a worthy departure from saucy pies.  


the yas queen pizza

(zucchini, feta, fresh mint, preserved lemon, garlic, pine nuts, harissa, jazz hands!)

1. make a batch of jim lahey's pizza dough and give it its full rising. (feel free to use another dough but the temps and timings here are for jim's dough)

2.  preheat the oven to 500ºf, divde the dough in half, and flatten it out into a 10-11" circle on a floured surface or piece of parchment

3. top with a layer of thinly sliced zucchini (use a mandoline or vegetable peeler), brush it with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, top with a handful of crumbled feta, toasted pine nuts, chopped garlic, and chopped rinsed preserved lemon (you could also sub out a squeeze of fresh lemon after baking)

4. bake until the crust is browned and splotchy, begin checking for doneness at 7 minutes

5. sprinkle with fresh mint and splatter paint with harissa

6. enjoy!

and here is a very mediocre method of cooking a pizza over a fire (a.k.a. a cry for help): put a baking steel over a fire, either by propping it up with heat-safe bricks or a metal rack, and heat it up. slide your assembled pizza on and cover it with an inverted cake pan. this is kinda janky. check every so often to make sure the bottom doesn't completely char. when it's about to burn on the bottom and the top is cooked just past raw dough status, it's basically edible. top with mint and harissa. 


-yeh!