Tell us about yourself.
My name is Aran Goyoaga. I was born and raised in the Basque Country in Spain, but moved to the United States in 1998. My career has had many turns, but it has always revolved much around food. I grew up in a family that owned a pastry shop. I studied business and economics, but then made a total switch to go to culinary school. I worked as a professional pastry chef for about 5 years before I started the blog Cannelle et Vanille. Since the blog, I have been working as a freelance food stylist and photographer.
What is beauty to you and how do you define beauty?
Beauty to me is anything that creates an emotion and connection between people and also objects. So hard to describe. Anything that moves me I find beautiful.
Why do you love cooking food? For you, what does food represent?
I think for me is such an emotional thing tied to my family and my upbringing. I love feeding people and making people happy through food. I also love working with my hands and being methodical about a task.
Tell us about your blog. How did it come about?
As I mentioned, I had been working as a pastry chef until 2006 when I become a mother. I found it very difficult to work the long hours and raise a baby, so I decided to stop working. I didn’t work in pastry for a year, but then the creative bug started to itch and realized I had to continue to develop recipes and share. So I started a blog as a mere way to do that.
What’s the story behind the title, Cannelle et Vanille?
I grew up in my grandparents’ pastry shop where it smelled of cinnamon, vanilla, milk, sugar and butter. Those were the defining smells of my youth and when I started the blog, I immediately thought of those two smells. It was very spontaneous.
You’re known for your gluten-free recipes. What challenges have you faced with cooking without gluten?
Baking chewy bread is always a bit of a challenge because the texture and consistency of bread comes from the elasticity of gluten. But other than that, I do not find it challenging at all. I have always loved to experiment with different flours so when I gave up gluten, a whole new world opened up for me.
Your blog is recognized for its aesthetically beautiful photographs. Were you always adept at photography? How important are aesthetics when it comes to presenting your food?
I think I have always been a [food] stylist. I have always worked with food in a visual way, before I worked in a professional kitchen and certainly during that time. My style has evolved obviously, but I have always thought of food in a visual way, after flavor of course). Photography came later after I started the blog and realized the importance of images to be able to relate a story and convey emotion.
Congratulations are in order for your new cookbook, which was released in October . What were some important concepts you wanted to incorporate into the book?
Thank you! I wanted the book to show that cooking gluten-free does not need to be clinical or depriving. It is not about substituting and trying to achieve old flavors, but thinking in new ways and realizing there are many possibilities out there.
We have to ask about that Sour Cherry Gateau Basque. Why sour cherries? What’s the story behind the dessert?
Gateau Basque is a traditional dessert in the Basque Country. A mix between a cake and a tart, filled with cherry compote and other times pastry cream. Very typical of the French Basque Country. I love cooking with sour cherries which are not the traditional filling, but work very well.
You’ve worked with some delicious pairings like chocolate/tahini, candied kumquats, and tonka beans. What unique ingredients, those that may instill apprehension in some, do you enjoy cooking with? Any ingredients you’ve yet to use but hope to encounter soon?
I am mesmerized by herbs and foraging wild foods. I recently went on a foraging trip with chef Ola Rudin and discovering new ingredients was so revealing and inspiring. Woodruff is my new favorite.
You’ve shared many recipes with your readers. What are some of your favorites? Why?
That is so hard to pick. Honestly, I cannot remember all of them! I think I am best at baking and desserts and so I would have to go with those. The arroz con leche recipe is definitely a star.
What songs are on your personal playlist?
Oh, this one is a good one as I am a huge music fan. I could go on and on. Some of my all-time favorites are:
All My Friends / LCD Soundsystem
Windowsill / Arcade Fire
Hey / Pixies
Disorder / Joy Division
The Neighbors / Jonathan Richman
Marfa Lights / Dirty on Purpose
When You Find Out / The Nerves
Angeles / Elliot Smith
and many more!
What are three things most people don’t know about you?
1. I twirl my hair between my fingers non-stop when I am tired and anxious.
2. I have lazy eye so I wore a patch for a year when I was little (and hated it!).
3. I am a cookbook hoarder.
For more of Aran’s work, check out her food blog, Cannelle et Vanille.