Rebekah Peppler, Food Stylist, Writer, Recipe Developer

Photos by  Christine Han Photography  for Pantry Confidential. 

Photos by Christine Han Photography for Pantry Confidential. 

Rebekah Peppler, Food Stylist, Writer, Recipe Developer
Oh, Rebekah! This is the type of person you can while away an entire afternoon with. A midwestern gal with Wisco roots (and proud of it!), she’s happiest talking about summer sausage and singing the virtues of the oft-misrepresented 7-layer salad (have you heard of either?). Rebekah’s down-to-earth demeanor belies her fancy classically-trained pastry chef background and Type A-when-it-comes-to-work personality, but it’s this ability to maintain balance so effortlessly while giving everything a just-so finishing touch that makes her the popular food stylist she is. She works hard, parties harder, and makes everything look like a breeze in the process—that’s when you know you’re dealing with a pro. 

Read on to learn what surprising ingredient Rebekah tries to incorporate into much of her baking and get your hands on a KILLER Negroni rhubarb float recipe—AND! A chance to win her Short Stack Editions: Honey cookbook!

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Hi Rebekah! Please tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do as a food stylist. Can you share with us the road you took to get to where you are today?
I studied journalism and art history in college back in Wisconsin then moved to New York City to study pastry arts at the French Culinary Institute. I always knew I wanted to combine my love of words, food and beauty in one place. Food styling and writing are two incredible channels to do so. 

I’ve found that the job of a food stylist is very often glorified into this epic dream gig. Don’t get me wrong, it totally is. But it’s not just hanging out on set with tweezers and spray bottles making food look gorgeous. The thing most people don’t know about food styling is the vast disparity between time in the kitchen and time on set. I spend 90 percent of my time sourcing, shopping, schlepping, prepping and cooking the food and about 10 percent playing with the food on camera. All that "preliminary" work leads to the perfect final shot, not just the fun Dexter tools. 

How did your Honey Short Stack book come about?
I've known and worked with the team behind Short Stacks for years now and consider them both friends and colleagues, a combination that always make for crazy fun collaborations. I remember when the idea behind the publication was just a twinkle in the publisher Nick's eye and I told him once he made it happen, I was in. Once Short Stacks came to fruition, he called me up, asked which ingredient I wanted and it snowballed from there. I’m lucky I claimed honey, it’s such an incredible ingredient to play with.

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Please walk us through a “typical” project. How exactly do you develop a recipe? Many people don’t know what goes into creating one, especially all the unseen labor that goes into simply procuring and preparing the ingredients.
Since I’m not sure a “typical” shoot exists, I’ll walk you through a stand-alone recipe. When I’m developing recipes they’re normally for either a magazine, online publication or a cookbook. First, a client reaches out with an idea of what they need, say 10 easy fall recipes for a food magazine. We work out the contract (rate, deadline, etc.), then I come back to them with one to two sentences on each recipe detailing the range of ingredients, what method I’m planning on using and anything else that might interest them. They come back to me and say, your ideas are perfect, go develop! I write up full drafts for each recipe (littered with “TK"s to fill when I’m in the kitchen), run to the store(s), shop all the ingredients and hop in the kitchen. Depending on the recipe, I'll test it two to four times to get it just right, sometimes more if it's finicky. Then I'm on my computer filling in the TK’s and adding any changes I made along the way. I also make sure each recipe is written in the style of the publication (everybody has their own quirks). I send the finished recipes out with my invoice and log all the details into my personal accounting sheet for the year (freelance is all about organization--I don't know what I'd do without Excel and Moleskin notebooks). If all goes well, I’ll eventually see the recipes in print, send a copy to my mom and et voilà! A recipe. 

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How would you describe your cooking style + food aesthetic? Where do you draw inspiration from? 
While I'm all for sampling the newest thing to enter the food world, when I'm in my home kitchen it's all about the classics with a twist. I grew up in the Midwest (Oshkosh, Wisconsin) and in a kitchen brimming with hearty, locally-sourced ingredients. To me, cooking at home isn't so much about technical skill or crazy ingredients but rather--as hokey as it sounds--the heart you put into it. My heart happens to have a particular fondness for dairy.

What do you like to make for yourself after a full day of cooking for others?
Does a glass of wine count? Honestly, after a completely packed day surrounded by food on set I can usually be found on the couch with a wine glass in one hand and a hunk of cheese in the other. Bonus points for also taking the time to pull out crackers and olives but don't count on it. 

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What do you love most about your kitchen? 
My kitchen is petite but has epic (compared to what I've had in the past) counter space. I put two stools on the opposite edge of the middle island and have spent many afternoons force feeding friends/getting them tipsy while I test recipes on the other side. It also boasts a (modest 20-inch) gas stove (especially dreamy as I suffered through electric in many of my past apartments) and (a first in my seven years in NYC) a dishwasher. 

Also, since the apartment is south-facing, it's flooded with light all day long which makes for particularly lovely prep and writing days (and even more delightful fire escape cocktail hours). Plus, the dainty size of the space has really allowed my Type A tendencies to blossom, forcing me to be extra creative with storage: I have one drawer and four narrow cabinets all day to work with and I can say with a happy heart that the only thing that is relegated to the (apartment's only) closet is the ice cream maker. If that’s not a win, I don’t know what is.

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Where do you shop for kitchen supplies?
Honestly, for such a tiny space (my apartment has a single closet), I have a completely stocked kitchen. I’m still holding out for a Vitamix but otherwise I can’t fit another thing in. If I need something for a shoot it’s NY Cake and Bake in the city, A Cook’s Companion on Atlantic in Brooklyn or I’ll hop on Amazon Prime

More often, I’m shopping for ingredients and there's plenty of places I love: Kalustyan’s, Sahadi’s and Dual Specialty Store for spices and dry goods. I’m constantly at Whole Foods, Fairway and Union Market. Plus there’s a deli down the street from me that has the craziest stuff; I’m always in there. 

Favorite utensils to use at home?
A fish spatula and a Microplane. They're in constant rotation.
 
Top pantry essentials in your kitchen?
I have an over-stocked pantry due to all the recipe testing I do, but personal essentials include whole coffee beans, honey, good crackers and always, always gummy candies.

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Do you have a secret ingredient you love to use?
It’s not a really secret or a surprise if you’ve ever worked with me but I absolutely love malted milk powder. The, I’d-bring-it-to-the-desert-island-with-me, kind of love. You give me free reign and 9 times out of 10 I’ll put either that or poppy seeds into a recipe. I also end up putting a ton of booze in recipes. My bar, conveniently located next to both my kitchen and my bed (a perk of living in a teeny apartment!), is nicely stocked and never fails to provide inspiration. Sometimes I’ll just buy an interesting spirit not so much for the cocktails I can make with it but what I imagine I’ll dream up in the kitchen with it. 

I’ve also recently started playing with powdered milk. Like the kind you get in the bag for a ridiculously cheap price. I’m trying to figure out how to make a cookie I used to eat as a kid and I’m convinced the secret lies in that bag of Carnation instant. 

Guilty pleasure ingredient or dish?
Seven layer salad. If you're not from Wisconsin you may not know what this is but, basically, fill a casserole dish with (in this order) a layer of lettuce, chopped bell peppers, red onion, celery, mayonnaise, sharp cheddar cheese and bacon and you have the dish I eat as soon as I land on home soil. I just got back from a trip home and, no joke, I ate it once a day… mostly for breakfast. So far, no one I've met in NYC (or anywhere outside my home town) gets the allure but I'm working diligently on changing that. 

CHEEZ DRAWER.

CHEEZ DRAWER.

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Who are the chefs and food producers you admire?
There are so many people in food to admire right now and I’m so darn fortunate to work with a lot of them. I’ll keep it short and personal: Melissa Clark is a dream to work with and her recipes are always spot on. I was cooking her recipes way before we met and find myself even more enamored with them—and her—the longer we work together. Same goes for my assistants, Jade Zimmerman and Adelaide Mueller. Those woman can cook and they make me look better than I could ever make myself. Lauren Deen for taking a chance on me so many, many years ago and pretty much throwing me into the start of my food styling career. And, oh, my grandma for pretty much everything. She still grows and picks her own raspberries and knows how to make a pie with them that will make you weep.

Favorite cookbooks, blogs and sites?
Anything by Dorie Greenspan. I spent most of college baking from her books and she never steered me wrong. Same goes for Julia (Child). 

Whose pantry would you like to raid?
Does everyone read that as panty raid at first? For the pantry, I’d raid my mom’s. She has the most meticulously organized and perfectly stocked pantry. It’s insane and I’m never happier than when I’m cooking in her kitchen. I’d also raid Bon Appetit's, because their test kitchen manager Brad keeps that place stocked to a T.

As for a panty raid, she’s going kill me for saying this but I’d totally raid my close girlfriend Erin Hartigan’s… she knows why. (Sorry, E.)

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*   *   *
Negroni-Rhubarb Floats

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Courtesy Rebekah Peppler

Makes about 2 cups 
1 pound rhubarb, sliced into 1-inch pieces 
½ pound strawberries, hulled and quartered
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 ounces Campari
3 ounces gin
2 ounces vermouth 
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 orange peel ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Vanilla ice cream
Champagne or sparkling wine

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

In a medium bowl, combine the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, Campari, gin, vermouth, vanilla bean and seeds, orange peel and salt. Toss to combine and dissolve the sugar. Spread on a baking sheet in an even layer and roast until the rhubarb and strawberries are soft and jammy, 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.

To serve, scoop vanilla ice cream into chilled coupe glasses. Top with a generous spoonful of the roasted rhubarb mixture and a hefty splash of champagne. Serve immediately.

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Thank you for opening your home to us! Stay updated with Rebekah and her delectable creations on social media: 
Rebekah Peppler |  Instagram 
 

For your chance to win a copy of Rebekah's Short Stack book, Honey, please leave a comment below. You have until Friday, August 14, 11:59pm/EST, to enter. Winner will be chosen at random - good luck! 

*Photos by Christine Han Photography for Pantry Confidential. All photos on Pantry Confidential are original unless otherwise indicated. Please credit and link back to our site when using our images, thank you. 

Yossy Arefi, Food Photographer, Food Stylist and Blogger

Yossy Arefi, Food Photographer, Food Stylist and Blogger

The moment you step into Yossy's cozy Greenpoint home, you know you're in for a treat. Is it the welcoming waft of just brewed coffee hitting your nose? The plate of orange-tinged saffron shortbread beckoning for a taste? The soaring high ceilings rimmed with charm aplenty crown molding? Yes, yes and yes; but there's more to it. There's an easy, unaffected quality to Yossy's style, which fans of her popular Apt. 2B Baking Co. blog will quickly recognize; and it's exactly this quiet confidence that draws you into this baker's dreamy, sweets-filled world where simplicity and beauty reign.

Read on to learn how Yossy broke into the food world and tips to prevent pie crust shrinkage this holiday season!

Hi Yossy! Please tell us a little bit about yourself, your baking background and your full-time turn into photography.

I've always had food-centric jobs and when I moved to New York about seven years ago, I thought I might go to culinary school then work in the restaurant industry. I had a great time touring all of the culinary schools here and meeting the instructors, but I got big time sticker shock when it came to the financials. I decided that I still wanted to work in the industry, but I was going to have to approach it from a different angle so I got a job at a restaurant as a reservationist and eventually worked my way into the kitchen. I worked at that same restaurant for five years as a baker and cake decorator where I studied cookbooks and learned a ton from my co-workers.

While I was working at the bakery I started an online bakeshop, Apt. 2B Baking Co., and related blog. The shop never quite took off, but it did help me realize that I did not want to own my own bakery. It also helped me realize that I loved photography and sharing food through my blog. Through some connections I made through blogging I was able to start doing a bit of freelance photography and about two years ago, I stopped working at the bakery to pursue food photography, styling and recipe development as a career.

We understand your father's Iranian. What did you eat growing up and did you spend a lot of time in the kitchen? How much of the Iranian culture influences your cooking?

Yes! Both of my parents are wonderful cooks and we all (I have an older brother) spent a lot of time in the kitchen growing up. My mom grew up in the Pacific Northwest, but I think she really learned to love food and cooking when she moved to Iran with my dad in the late 70s. I grew up eating a combination of traditional "American" food and Iranian food, and love both. My favorite Iranian dishes were and are the rich stews flavored with dried limes, served with fragrant basmati rice, thick plain plain yogurt and pickled garlic to cut the richness. I think I get my love of tart, sour foods from Iranian cooking and my dad. He'll squeeze a lemon or lime on just about anything for flavor, a habit that I've also picked up. I was just talking to a friend about comfort food; hers was rice with butter and mine was rice with plain yogurt, which really says it all.

An assortment of Iranian pantry staples (l-r): dried limes; saffron (from her dad's stash!); two types of sumac (or "somagh" in Farsi); dried barberries

Left: Oh, just some of Yossy's saffron pistachio shortbread cookies lying around. | Right: Another masterpiece.  

We love the calm, gentle tone that accompanies the photos on your blog. Can you walk us through your cooking and shooting/editing processes?

I like to bake and cook all sorts of things, but what I love most is reflecting seasonality in my photos both through the ingredients I use and in the way that I use the light that changes throughout the day and year. I want my blog and photographs to feel more like a slice of life than a photo shoot. Sure, there is some styling and futzing that goes on, but in the end I want the food to speak for itself. I recently moved to a new apartment with a big, white porcelain sink that I love photographing. Almost every time I wash a batch of produce, I photograph it in the sink. It's not that exciting, but it's real life and it's simple and beautiful. I mean it's cute and all when people tie a stack of cookies up with string, but who actually does that?

What's your favorite camera and medium to shoot just for fun?

I love my Pentax K1000 and Holga. My blog is almost exclusively shot with my thrift store Pentax and Kodak Portra 400 film. The Holga is great for shooting outdoors and I never worry about breaking or ruining it because it is already stuck together with tape, ha!

Capturing Yossy capturing her own creation.

What's your most memorable professional or personal food shoot?

I have been spending a lot of time with Tama Matsuoka Wong lately, who is a professional forager and author who works with Daniel, Gramercy Tavern and Acme among other chefs and restaurants. At the beginning of fall she took me to a pawpaw grove in Pennsylvania that was incredible! Pawpaw are these crazy tropical looking fruit that are native to the east coast, so we got there and Tama started scampering up the trees to pick the best fruit. I was underneath her, trying to take photos and Tama was just tossing pawpaw at me. The crop was so abundant this year that you could hear them falling to the ground every time the wind picked up. That day we also foraged for shiso, onion grass, nettles, chestnuts and some seeds I can't remember the name of off hand. It was cool and raining all day and by the end of it there were leaves in my hair and I was covered in mud, but it was so much fun. Her enthusiasm and zest for foraging is unbelievably contagious. We have a wonderful working relationship and friendship that I am so happy to have.

We never tire of black grout + white subway tile. Would you believe this girl did this backsplash job herself?

What kind of savory food does a pastry chef like to make for herself on a day-to-day basis?

I cook a lot for work so when I cook for myself I lean towards very simple dishes with bold flavors. I like a lot of heat, salt and acid to balance out all of the baked goods and rich foods I inevitably consume. I also have a soft spot for avocado toast with plenty of chili flakes and crunchy salt; it's the perfect meal.

Top pantry essentials in your kitchen?

For baking: good butter, vanilla beans, and an assortment of flours and sugars.

For cooking: good olive oil, vinegars, tomato paste, aleppo pepper, sumac and salts aplenty.

Yossy's go-to vanilla bean source: Beanilla for fresh beans that are super economical in bulk!

How would you describe your cooking style?

Simple and seasonal (even if that is a bit of a cliché at this point).

Favorite kitchen utensils or gadgets?

A mandoline, kitchen scale, bench and bowl scrapers, simple maple rolling pin, my hand-me-down Dutch oven that gets almost daily use, cheap peeler, sharp knives and my collection of pie plates. Oh,and I love having all of the beautiful handmade spoons and pottery I've received as gifts from my talented friends around. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, so I like it to feel really homey and comfortable in there.

Left: Ariele Alasko's gorgeous hand-carved wood creations. | Right: Tartine's starter never fails. 

Favorite cookbooks/blogs/sites?

Gah, too many! Laura from The First Mess really inspires me to eat healthy, nourishing meals. I love Seven Spoons for its writing and calming photography. I think that Izy from Top with Cinnamon is top notch - and only 17! Tim from Lottie and Doof has excellent taste. Bon Appétempt is hilarious. Andrea Gentl of Gentl and Hyers is a huge inspiration and her blog, Hungry Ghost Food and Travel, is just gorgeous. Kimberley from The Year in Food is a friend and such a talent. Kelsey from Happy Yolks always has something solid to say. Orangette was the first blog I discovered and it inspired me to start my own. Sarah's Vanilla Bean Blog has such a calm tone that I just love. Food52 has it going on.

As far as cookbooks go I love Claudia Fleming's book, The Last Course; Alice Medrich's Pure DessertNigel Slater's books; the Chez Panisse cookbooksDorie Greenspan's collectionOttolenghi's booksTartine Bakery's cookbook and Tartine Bread; Kim Boyce's Good to the Grain. I could go on here for awhile...

Who is your biggest food inspiration?

There are so many incredibly talented cooks, chefs and bakers out there and they have undoubtedly left an impression on me, but I'm most inspired by my parents and anyone else who can get a wholesome home cooked meal on the table after a full day's work.

Favorite restaurants?

Well, I love a good burger so I have to put Shake Shack on my list. The burger at Anella just up the street from me is also quite good. The falafel from Taim is A+. Saltie's sandwiches are amazing. Buvette is so great for breakfast. Vanessa's dumplings are cheap and awesome. Paulie Gee's and  for pizza. The pork buns at Momofuku are addictive. I recently had a Laotian meal at Khe-Yo in Tribeca that was incredible and so unique. Glasserie is also a new neighborhood favorite; they had a rice and yogurt dish last fall that was so, so good. 

Bakeries: Dominique Ansel Bakery (he is so much more than the cronut), Four and Twenty BlackbirdsDoughnut PlantPeter Pan DonutsDoughSullivan Street Bakery is phenomenal; Ovenly's peanut butter cookies are amazing; Bien Cuit makes beautiful breads and pastries.

What would your ideal last meal look like?

A feast somewhere in the Northwest, in the summertime, on the beach at sunset (where it will be magically warm but not too hot), full of friends and family eating Northwestern classics like salmon, Dungeness crab and oysters followed by a full Iranian meal made by my wonderful Aunt Guiti, who currently lives in Iran.

Whose pantry would you like to raid? 

The women of The Canal House. I was lucky enough to meet them at their studio this fall and it took all of my willpower not to poke through all of their cabinets.

Left: A coquettish partner-in-crime, Abigail, joins in on the fun. | Right: Yossy dons a Kill Devil Hill custom apron.

***

Salted Caramel Apple and Cranberry Pie

For the Crust
12 ounces all purpose flour 
8 ounces cold butter
4 ounces ice water
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
½ teaspoon salt

Mix the flour and salt together, then pour the whole lot on a large cutting board or countertop.

With a bench scraper, cut in half of the butter until it is the size of lima beans, then cut in the other half of the butter until it is the size of quarters. Add the apple cider vinegar to the water.

Using your fingers, flick the water on to the butter flour mixture and gently fold it in with your bench scraper. You have added enough water when you can pick up a handful of the dough and squeeze it together without it falling apart.

Press the dough together, then split it in half, and wrap each half in plastic wrap and form into a disk. Chill the dough for at least one hour before using. I like to chill mine overnight.

Salted Caramel
1 cup sugar
¼ cup water
½ cup butter
½ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt

Combine the water and sugar in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Add the butter and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook until deep golden brown, about 7 minutes. Then carefully add the heavy cream and salt. Whisk to combine. Set aside while you prepare the rest of the filling.

For the Filling
4-5 large apples (about 3 pounds) I like Mutsu (aka: Crispin), Jonathan, Golden Delicious and Cortland varieties
⅔ cup fresh cranberries
½ cup sugar
¼ cup all purpose flour
Zest and juice of one small lemon
Zest and juice of half of an orange
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
½ cup Salted Caramel (recipe above)

Peel the apples and cut them into thick slices. Place the apples in a large bowl with the cranberries then add lemon and orange juices and zests, stir gently to combine. Add the sugar, flour and vanilla bean seeds and stir again.

For the Topping
1 egg, beaten
A few teaspoons of coarse sugar, like turbinado or light demerara

To Assemble and Bake

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out one piece of the dough into a 12-inch circle, 1/4-inch to 1/8-thick, and place it into a 9- or 10-inch pie pan. Place in the fridge while you prepare the rest of the pie.

Roll out the other piece of dough into a 12-inch circle, 1/4-inch to 1/8-thick, and place it in the fridge to chill while you prepare the filling.

Fill the prepared pie shell with the apple mixture, top with the second crust, trim the edges so there is about 1/2-inch of overhang then crimp the edges and cut a few vents in the top. If you'd like to make a lattice top, here is a really great primer for all sorts of pies.

If the crust seems soft or warm, slide the whole pie into the fridge or freezer for about 15 minutes before you bake it. When you are ready to bake brush the top of the pie with a beaten egg and sprinkle with a healthy dose of coarse sugar.

Put the pie on a baking sheet to catch any drips and bake for 15 minutes on the lowest rack of your oven, then lower the oven temp to 350ºF and bake for 40-50 minutes or until the crust is deep golden brown and the apple juices bubble.

Yossy's baking tip to prevent crusts from shrinking: 

Don't overwork the dough while you are mixing it and give it some time to chill and relax before you bake with it. I think overnight is best. Also, make sure the dough is nice and cold before it goes into the oven.

Be sure to follow Yossy on her blogTwitterPinterest and Instagram, where there's no shortage of inspiring snaps of her creations and white-socked Abigail. She also writes a column called Project Dessert on Food52.

*Photos by Christine Han Photography for Pantry Confidential. All photos on Pantry Confidential are original and copyrighted. Please credit and link back to our site when using our images, thank you.