James Beard Awards "I Rise."

I had the honor of presenting the “Outstanding Baker” award at this year’s James Beard Awards at the Chicago Lyric Opera House to B.Patisserie in San Francisco.  The theme was “I rise.”  I wanted to honor this Maya Angelou-inspired theme the best way I knew how—with the words I used in my presentation.  In order to create the script for the event, I was asked what I rise for. In my response, this is what I said:

"I rise for the countless, unrecognized black women who have come before me. 
The black women who have nourished bodies and pleased palates.  
The black women who have used stoves and ovens to create delicious magic.  
The black women who have inspired us all with lovingly prepared food.
The black women, like my grandmothers Leona and Willie Mae, who always served others before serving themselves, often cooking for others before feeding their own families.
The women who cooked collard greens before they were trendy, made elegant layered cakes, and hearty rustic pies bursting with freshly-gathered fruit.   
I rise for them, and I stand on their shoulders.

Anything is possible with passion and determination. I was a full-time practicing attorney when I fulfilled my baking dreams and won the Great American Baking Show.  And while there a few things more important to me than a really flaky puff pastry, one is ensuring that diversity in our food community is represented in the media.

I want the next generation of
Curly-Haired
Melanin-Rich
Thick-Accented
Queer and Straight
Immigrant
Little girls—and boys--
To see that there’s a place for them at the table, too."

*Note: The May 7th remarks were abridged, and the first paragraph was omitted.

James Beard Vallery Lomas.jpg
Vallery Lomas James Beard.jpg
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Vallery Lomas JBA Presentation.jpg

Backstage at Hallmark Channel + L.A. Trip

I recently returned from a whirlwind trip to the City of Angels!  I was invited by the Hallmark Channel’s talk show, “Home & Family,” to film a segment talking a little about my life and making my passionfruit macarons. It was such an amazing trip, because I felt like I was walking in my purpose! Preparing certainly took a lot of work—like nailing down the purple color in the macarons--but being on set just felt magical!  And if you missed it, don't worry, the segment is below:

The set of Home & Family is an actual house.  It’s located in the Universal Studios backlot—nestled between the “Wild Wild West” and “Little Europe.” (Westworld is filmed in the Wild Wild West area.) In fact, as I was roaming around, I saw tour groups from Universal Studios rolling by in the little trams.  (They were taking pictures of me, and I was taking pictures of them!

 A tram giving a tour from Universal Studios

A tram giving a tour from Universal Studios

 In the Wild Wild West

In the Wild Wild West

 In front of the Home & Family House

In front of the Home & Family House

But I digress—back to the actual segment.  I worked with the super talented culinary producers before arriving, and it’s really nice to have everything all set up for you!  All I had to focus on was having fun!  Well.. having fun while making sure I get through the various steps of making the macarons.  The show is filmed live, which pretty much means, anything can happen. Even though I briefly rehearsed the steps of making the macarons, there was no preparation for the many questions from the host and the team tasting the macarons.  

I always find the sheer amount of energy radiating from television hosts fascinating.  There’s a saying that the cameras basically suck the life out of whatever you’re doing, so to appear “normal” you have to actually be like, 50% more energetic!  So basically, it’s some of the most extroverted people you’ve ever met, who all love to talk (like me), under one roof. As an extrovert who is fueled by other people, I left feeling completely rejuvenated!

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 Everyone was wearing pink! With Ali Fedotowsky.

Everyone was wearing pink! With Ali Fedotowsky.

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 The lovely trailer/green room where I hung out until go time

The lovely trailer/green room where I hung out until go time

Oh, and everyone loved the macarons!  In fact, the host Debbie was like, “You should sell these.” And I’m starting to think maybe I should…

While I was in L.A., I also hit up one of my favorite hangouts from when I was a college student at USC—Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles. We ended many a nights out at this Pico and LaBrea mainstay.  I ordered the #13, the Carole C. Special, “one succulent chicken breast and a delicious waffle.”  So much has changed since I last lived in Los Angeles eight years ago—but being able to pull into that super cramped parking lot, walk into the dimly lit restaurants, and order without even having to consult the menu, offered some solace to all of the uncertainty in my life!

 Chef Rahanna!

Chef Rahanna!

 Lodge Bread Co.

Lodge Bread Co.

 Republique

Republique

  Husbands that Cook

 Husbands that Cook

I also discovered some new places. Since I’m presenting the “Outstanding Baker” award at the James Beard gala (more on that later!), I decided I should go check out some of the nominees. I stopped by Republique more times than I’d care to admit (nominated for outstanding pastry chef). Their selection of pastries is outta this world, but get there early. They run out pretty early in the day! I also ventured to a wonderful little bakery in Culver City, Lodge Bread Company.  The breads here were all incredible, but they're also known for their pizza (pizza crust!) Lastly, I met up with some of my “foodie friends”—I had lunch with “Husbands that Cook” and even met Chef Rahanna (finalist from Top Chef Junior).

And I’ve already booked my next trip back to Los Angeles!

Hot Cross Buns

I made a couple batches of these sweet rolls that are a cross between yeast-y dinner rolls and sweet breakfast buns. When I shared a picture with my mom, she asked what they were.  I didn’t grow up eating hot cross buns, but when I told my mom the name, she was transported to her childhood—not for the buns themselves, but because of a nursery rhyme.  “Hot Cross Buns! Hot Cross Buns! … If you have no daughters, give them to your sons” is now playing on repeat in my head.

But even more fun than the Hot Cross Buns! song is making these warm, barely sweet delightful rolls. I saw these popping up on Instagram last year around Easter, so I started do my research on them. They are traditionally eaten on Good Friday to mark the end of Lent.  They aren’t super sweet, but they aren’t savory either. They’re a wonderful blend of barely sweet and barely savory. Plus, a paste of equal parts flour and water is piped on them after they’ve risen, but before they’re baked, to give them their iconic look featuring a cross.  After baking them, I brushed some honey butter on top to give them a nice glaze. 

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This recipe cheats a little and uses both yeast and baking powder.  I did make a batch of these using just yeast, but yeast + baking powder works just fine too. In fact, I found the rolls with baking powder to have a slightly better texture.  I hope you feel inspired to make these for Easter. I think this will be a new tradition for me!

Hot Cross Buns

1 and ¼ cup (10 ounces) whole milk, at room temp.
2 teaspoons rapid rise yeast (1 package)
4 ½ cups (560 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon (12 grams) baking powder
2 (10 grams) teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons (~5 grams) ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons (75 grams) granulated sugar
6 tablespoons (85 grams or 3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs and 1 egg yolk, at room temp. 
zest from one small orange
1 cup raisins
1 apple, peeled and finely diced

For the Paste

2/3 cup (85 grams) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup (85 ml)  water

For the Honey Butter Glaze

3 tablespoons (45 grams) salted butter, melted
3 tablespoons (60 grams) honey

1.    Line a 9 x 13” pan with parchment paper or a silplat. Add the room temperature milk to the bowl of a stand mixer.  Whisk in the yeast to dissolve. Sift in the flour and baking powder.  Add the salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, softened butter, 2 eggs + yolk, and zest from one orange.  Stir to combine.

2.    Using the dough hook, knead for 7 minutes on medium-low speed (level 3 for KitchenAid).  Add the raisins and diced apple and knead and additional two minutes, until the dough is soft and elastic and the raisins and apple are evenly dispersed.

3.    Lightly butter a large glass bowl. Scrape the dough into the bowl and cover with either a dish cloth or plastic wrap.  Let the dough rise for about an hour.  It will become puffy, but it’s ok if it doesn’t double in size.

4.    Remove the dough from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface.  Divide the dough into 12 parts.  Using floured hands, form each part into a ball.  Due to the raisins and apple, the ball won’t be completely smooth, but that’s ok. Add each ball to the lined baking sheet, spacing all 12 evenly apart. Cover the baking (plastic wrap ok) and allow to rise a second time until they’re touching and look bloated and puffy.  

5.    Preheat oven to 375F. Make the flour paste by whisking together equal parts flour and water. Whisk well so the batter is not lumpy.  Add the batter to a piping bag fitted with a plain, small to medium tip. (The batter will be runny.)  Pipe a cross on each bun. Transfer the buns to the oven.

6.    Bake for about 20 minutes, until golden-brown. While baking, prepare the honey butter by stirring the melted butter with honey in a small bowl.  Once the buns are golden brown, remove them from the oven and brush the tops with the honey butter.

7.     Carefully lift up the parchment paper or silplat and transfer the buns to a wire rack to cool.  Allow to cool completely (or enjoy warm, if you’re like me and you can’t wait!)