Karen Kerr is the creative force behind Karen’s Kitchen Stories, a blog that chronicles recipes that she has successfully – or even unsuccessfully – created. She enjoys creating ‘stretch’ recipes because she finds them highly challenging. Her recipes are a tad complicated than usual. They may require lots of ingredients.
She loves to explore new cooking techniques. She also loves breads. She’s such a bread geek that she has completely immersed herself into perfecting the art of baking bread. Her blog is meant to teach people that they don’t have to be an expert to cook fabulous food.
1. What are 'stretch' recipes? And why do you like making them?
"Stretch" recipes to me are recipes that require learning new techniques, and using new ingredients. These recipes often take more time and require more steps. There are lot of reasons why I like making them.
First, I have never been much of a day-to-day cook, but got hooked on putting together dinner parties for friends and trying new recipes. It was kind of a high wire act, because I'd decide to make a bunch of fancy recipes that I'd never tried before... no dress rehearsal. I love the tension and the challenge.
2. What is the appeal of complicated recipes? Why do you choose to make them instead of simple ones?
I really love learning. In fact, I took up this avocation after completing my thesis for my Master's degree. I was pretty tired of reading dense books, and cookbooks seemed like the perfect antidote. I also fell in love with the magazine, Fine Cooking, which is designed for people who are really into exploring cooking.
I actually make simple recipes every weekday. It's just that I get so much pleasure from carving out half of a day or two on the weekend and just losing myself in the challenge.
3. Why do you love making breads? Which bread recipe are you proudest of?
Oh bread! Making bread is so therapeutic! It just amazes me that just a few ingredients can produce so many different breads based on the techniques you use. It's a slow and relaxing process, and requires some intuition to learn about how the weather, ambient temperature, the nature of your starter, and when the dough is ready to shape and bake.
You also have to use your instincts to know when your flour to water ration is just right. There is also so much to be learned about other world cultures when baking bread. I'm proud to say that I have kept a sourdough starter alive for about 5 years.
Which bread am I most proud of? With about 285 breads on my blog, this is really difficult. Since I can't narrow it down, I think this post kind of sums up some of my favorites from last year, with this cranberry sourdough kind of bubbling up to the top. It's a recipe that is so adaptable.
4. You had lots of different careers. Which one is the most memorable?
I've enjoyed all of my careers, but I'd have to say my most memorable career was when I was a regional manager for a music retailer. I was super young but I was given a ridiculous amount of responsibility for my age, running up to 15 stores throughout southern California.
I love music, and I got to be surrounded by other music lovers and learn about new music as it emerged. I worked long hours, and managed a lot of moving parts. This job prepared me for all of my subsequent careers, and made them all seem easy. If you ever want to hire a hard worker, hire a merchant/retailer.
5. Finally, can you give us three of your most popular recipes?
My three most popular recipes over the history of my blog are:
How to Reach Karen Kerr of Karen’s Kitchen Stories