lovely little inspiration: michelle lopez of hummingbird high on baking and more
This afternoon I am so, so excited to share an interview with the lovely, kind, and – of course – immensely talented Michelle from Hummingbird High!
Michelle has been one of my absolute favorite baking bloggers and photographers for several years now, and I was just thrilled when she agreed to compose responses to the seven questions below.
My life has been a bit (read: insanely) crazy lately, but when everything begins to settle down I’ll have heaps to write about.
Enough on that, though. I hope you all enjoy this post!
1) When and why did you begin blogging? Was there something or someone in particular that motivated you?
I started blogging nearly four years ago, during the winter of 2011. I’d just moved from San Francisco to Denver. Denver was a strange experience for me, since I’ve pretty much lived only an hour away from the ocean my entire life. But because Denver’s a mile up in the mountains, you have to make a ton of adjustments to account for the lower air pressure, the different temperature that water boils at, etc. None of my usual recipes would work! I started a blog to keep track of the changes I would make to my favorite recipes, and before I knew it, I had a full fledged baking blog. I’ve since moved away from Denver, but can’t quite kick the baking habit 😉
2) The desserts you create are absolutely gorgeous! Do you have any tips for novice bakers? Is there a particular treat that you find difficult to bake from scratch?
Yes! If you’re a nervous baker who doesn’t have a ton of experience yet, my advice is pretty simple: follow the recipe! Baking is a little bit more scientific and less forgiving than cooking. For instance, when you cook something and it’s too bland, you can usually correct it by throwing in a little more salt or seasoning. Similarly, if something’s too flavorful, you can usually calm it down by adding more of an ingredient that will balance it out.
With baking, you really have to know what you’re doing before you make any adjustments. Adding too much of one ingredient, especially all the fun things that give it flavor and personality (stuff like fruit, chocolate, etc), throws everything off balance. Pick a baking cookbook and try and bake your way through it, following the instructions down to a tee; you’ll start seeing similarities between certain types of recipes, methods, and instructions that will teach you what you can change and what has to stay the same and why.
And for me, pie crust has always been my least favorite thing to make — my crusts are always ugly, and my dough often turns out to be too difficult to work with. Either too dry or too soft. It’s the worst! But I recently spent a few weeks making the Four & Twenty Blackbirds pie crust recipe over and over again until I finally got it just right! Practice makes perfect, I guess. But pie really still is my least favorite thing to make, lol.
3) Do you have a favorite recipe? If so, what is it?
Oooh, that’s a tough one!!! I love this chocolate cake with creme fraiche frosting, this yellow birthday cake (which is based on a cake from Miette Bakery in San Francisco), and this lemon tart (an ancient post from when I first started blogging; I really should update it with better photos!). I also love these supernatural brownies and the New York Times chocolate chip cookie recipe. Obviously, I like a lot of chocolate 🙂
4) What three baking ingredients (besides basics like flour, sugar, etc.) could you not live without?
Ooh, another tough one! Definitely, definitely a bottle of high-quality vanilla extract. And some high-quality chocolate for baking. And finally, some sort of citrus zest — I love throwing a little lemon or orange zest into my baked goods to give them a little something, something extra.
5) Your photographs and styling are so beautiful, Michelle! How do you typically prepare for a food-photo shoot?
I usually bake on Saturday mornings and do all my photography in the afternoon. Most recently, all my photos have been taken in natural light and I’m lucky enough to have a beautiful south-facing window in the kitchen that lets in a ton of diffused light.
6) Which blogs do you derive the most inspiration from?
Of course I love all the big, popular baking bloggers like Molly, Sarah, and Yossy, but lately I’ve been spending a ton of time on smaller, up-and-coming blogs. I love almost everything that Alana from Fix Feast Flair makes; her recipes just sound so delicious and 100% up my alley. Same goes for Betty from Le Jus d’Orange. Summer from O&O Eats, Nik from A Brown Table, and Renee Kemps have the most inspiring, beautiful photography. And I feel like I’m baking soul sisters with Sarah from The Sugar Hit, Thalia from Butter & Brioche, Megan from Hint of Vanilla, and Katie from Butterlust. Despite our different styles, I love all their desserts!
7) What advice would you give to someone just beginning their a) photography and b) blogging journeys?
For both photography and blogging, my advice is also pretty simple: just do it! Don’t feel self conscious, especially if you feel like your work isn’t as good as others. We all started from the same place, and the more you do it, the better and better you’ll get over time. And be yourself! There are a ton of amazing blogs out there, and only one you. There’s room for all the unique voices!
Michelle, thank you, thank you for participating in this series! Your blog is utterly beautiful. ♥
Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!