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b.y.o.b. - top with cinnamon Meet Izy Hossack, the 17-year old publisher of the London-based food blog, Top With Cinnamon. Izy is an avid baker who learned much of what she knows in the kitchen from her Italian-American “mum.” She loves baking, cooking, crafts and fashion but also points out that she is a complete computer and chemistry nerd. Upon discovering the wonderful world of online food writing, Izy spent a few years learning from her favorite blogs until she felt comfortable enough to start whipping up her own crazy ideas. Just a few weeks ago, we had the chance to chat with Izy about her deliciously prolific blog, her creative baking, and her love of .gifs. SPENSER MAGAZINE: What is it about baking that first interested you over other forms of cooking? IZY HOSSACK: Baking allows me to use both parts of my personality, my scientific side (with all the measuring, timing and methods) and my creative side (there are so many variables, that the possibilities for creations are literally endless). I find that with most forms of cooking, I can follow a list of ingredients and make up the quan- tities and methods and it'll be great; with baking you have to be precise and you can't mess with the recipe unless you know what you're doing. Plus, with baked goods - you can spend an hour baking a batch of cookies that you can enjoy for a week, but with cooking you can spend 3 hours making a meal that's devoured within 30 minutes. That, and cookies make you more friends than pasta. SM: How did you get comfortable using your creative side in baking, given the need for precision? IH: I think that over time, you get a 'feel' for baking. You learn what will mess up a recipe, usually after some kind of experimental disaster, and that different recipes have different levels of flexibility. For example, macarons have a very low tolerance for change, but something like muffin batter is pretty resilient. It just takes time to understand what each ingredient is adding to a recipe to make it all come together. In chocolate chip cookies, the sugar isn't only there to provide sweetness; it helps the cookies to brown and gives them crisp edges and stops them from be- ing dry and cakey. But certain sugars will give different effects; brown sugar for example will provide a chewier and more flavorful texture. SM: Are there any other ingredients that offer flexibility — like white v. brown sugar — that come to mind? And what do you tell others to encourage them to be more creative? IH: Try flour. The gluten in flour holds a dough together, and also helps to bulk up the dough. But, in many instances, it's quite simple to substitute up to 25% of the flour for another dry ingredient - say, cornmeal, ground almonds or cocoa powder. If you find the idea of messing around with a recipe too daunting, try taking flavor profiles or tex- tures from other recipes you've tried, figuring out what is making that flavor/texture happen, usually via a particular ingredient or method, and use that in another recipe to make some kind of delicious hybrid. SM: Do you have any particular ingredients that you love to bake with; that you always keep in your pantry? IH: One of the 'must-have-at-all-times' ingredients for me is Maldon salt. It has such a great flavor and is perfect for sprinkling onto food - both sweet and savory - because the crystals are so thin and gorgeous! Another thing I always need around is pure maple syrup. I love to drizzle it onto pecan butter-slathered pieces of rye toast, finished with a sprinkle of Maldon and cinnamon, of course. There's also golden syrup. It has such a unique flavor, and is the only way I know of for making really sticky gingerbread. Since last summer, when I tasted the bittersweet chocolate chip cookie at Delancey (in Seattle), I have been smitten by super dark chocolate. There are always a few bars of Le Menier 70% dark chocolate tucked away in the freezer, ready to be chopped up into generous chunks, and folded into my favorite cookie dough. SM: Finally, tell us a little about how you got into using .gifs. Was the first one a happy accident? Do you have a favorite? IH: I think it started when I had just finished taking photos of some coffee hazelnut ice cream last year. I saw that it was melting and dripping, so I started taking a continuous series of photos, trying to get a photo mid-drip. I ended up with enough photos to make a short .gif. From then onwards, I've been pretty much addicted to making them, I even use the .gif style to make food videos that are a few minutes long. So far though, my absolute favorite has to be the one where I am pouring maple syrup onto a stack of pancakes. It's awesome because the camera captures it in so much detail, and as its a .gif, you can watch it over and over and over again!