In case you haven’t heard, Nikki Jean is amazing! Not only is she a talented singer/songwriter but she’s also quite a baker. From running her own cookie socials, to baking 1,000 cookies while on tour, she’s a talent that just won’t quit.
We had the good fortune to talk to Nikki about baking, the Philadelphia food scene and her much acclaimed new album, Pennies in Jar, which she collaborated with notable songwriters like Burt Bacharach, Carole King, and Bob Dylan (um, awesome!).
Growing up, Nikki was heavily influenced by the talented bakers and cooks in her own family, including her aunts and her grandmother. As a small child she often assisted one of her aunts who baked wedding cakes, and really caught the baking bug. Her family, both with mid-western and southern roots, provided the perfect foundation for forging her own food traditions and a knack for turning recipes on their head.
This past Easter, Nikki decided to build her own menu, departing from her family’s more traditional approach to the holiday, serving glazed turkey legs (instead of ham) next to mashed potatoes, fresh spring peas, candied carrots with thyme and for desert, French Silk Pie, a recipe she discovered in an issue of Cooks Illustrated.
While she may be best known for her Chocolate Chip Cookies, she tends to lean towards more interesting combinations like Dark Chocolate Cherry Almond or Oatmeal Rum Raisin cookies. Currently, Nikki is developing a S ‘mores cookie, modifying a traditional graham cracker recipe into a chewy cookie with a bruleed marshmallow topping. Sounds delicious!
Clearly, Nikki has a talent for combining flavors and making her own creations, and honestly, she wishes you would too, imploring us all to ‘expand your cookie horizons!’
Here are a few other points of interest from our conversation:
PH: What’s your desert island piece of kitchen equipment?
NJ: My scale! It has truly elevated the consistency of my baking.
PH: How many cookie recipes do you have?
NJ: At least 100
PH: Are there any recipes or foods you’d like to know how to make?
NJ: If anyone has a recipe for Peach Butter, I’d love to have it!
PH: What dish would you rather buy than make yourself?
NJ: The Veggie Philly Cheesesteak with Polenta Fries at Sabrina’s – it’s seriously delicious and I’m not even a vegetarian!
PH: Do you have any recipe tips or tricks you’d like to share?
NJ: When making Mac-and-Cheese, stir in a little herbed boursin cheese. It immediately up’s the creaminess. Also, I really think mac-and-cheese should be made in individual serving sizes so everyone has equal access to the crunchy bits and golden brown top.
PH: Where are some of your favorite Philadelphia spots for food shopping?
NJ: I head to Reading Terminal for vegetables and dairy from the Fair Food Farmstand and poultry from Godshall’s. I’ll also go to the Italian Market to pick up meats from the many wonderful butchers there, kitchen gear from Fonte’s, my one-stop-shop for all my kitchen (equipment) needs, and spices at the Spice Corner.
Want more Nikki Jean? Be sure to check out this video on our sister site, Philly 360 ̊, where she tours Fonte’s and talks about eating in Philly.