Thursday, April 19, 2012

Philly Kitchen: Jenn Tian

Every other week Penn Appétit profiles a student who cooks on a college budget and in a college-sized kitchen.

This week I got to do something a little different and bake instead of cook with our featured chef. For Jenn Tian, baking is easier (and maybe more fun!) than cooking. She deserves a special place in the hearts of anyone who has ever tried to bake at Penn for her no-nonsense approach. She finds a way to bake with ingredients that are easy for a college student to access and makes baking a piece of cake. If you’re anything like me, the thought of making a cobbler -let alone in a dorm room -stresses you out, but luckily Jenn finds a way to make it super simple.

Penn Appétit: How did you learn to bake?
Jenn Tian: When I was little I always thought baking was the easiest thing, so whenever it was potluck day for school I would bake something, that’s how I started - I was lazy and I didn’t want to cook. My mom is a big baker, the first thing that she taught me how to make were these Chinese rice cakes (Traditional Chinese dessert). That sparked really learning how to bake.

PA: What’s your favorite thing to bake?
Cupcakes, which is so lame because everyone does it, but they’re so easy and so convenient. The best ones ever are chocolate espresso: I add a bit of coffee to brownie mix and then make a peanut butter filling, dip an knife in the filling and then swirl it in to the cupcakes.

PA: What’s your favorite baked good to eat?
JT: I’m a big fan of red velvet brownies. See that’s the thing with baking you get to just make stuff up. My friend made them and instead of making a red velvet cake, it was like red velvet flavor with brownie consistency. That with vanilla ice cream was a winner.

PA: What’s the most difficult thing about cooking in a college sized kitchen?
JT: Space. Counter space. I feel really awkward having to do things at the kitchen table. But it’s really easy with this recipe.

PA: What’s your advice for people who want to start baking in college?
JT: I would say stop trying to be ambitious, which is what this recipe is all about. It’s so much easier if you cut corners and buy things that will help you out like the peaches from the can. You don’t have to add sugar and figure it out. Unless you’re really good it’s hard to start from scratch and you have to be quite precise.

PA: What’s your baking philosophy?
JT: I think that people shouldn’t stick to traditional ideas. So when you think about pie you don’t have to think normal things like peach or apple. If you think red velvet you don’t have to think cake or cupcake you can think brownie or milkshake… I think after you get past the basics of how to measure and cook things, the fun about baking is that you can be really creative.

Jenn’s Peach cobbler
(Recipe adapted from Jenn’s host mom over the summer)


2 cans of Dole canned peaches
Betty Crocker Golden Vanilla Cake Mix
One premade pie crust
Premade pie dough
¼ stick of butter
Optional: include fresh raspberries with the peach filling


Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Put peaches into a bowl. Add ½ cup cake mix.
Mix well until the syrup from the peach cans is well mixed with the cake mix.
Spoon filling into a store bought pie shell. Fill up until peaches are almost to the top, you might not use up all of them.
Take store bought pie dough and cut into strips about 1 inch wide. Lay them across the top of the pie in a crisscross (lattice) pattern. Take ¼ stick of butter and cut into small chunks. Insert butter chunks into the pie between the crust lattices.
Sprinkle a bit more of the cake mix as well as some cinnamon on the top of the pie.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Serve while warm.

-Leyla Mocan

Do you or someone you know cook in your college sized kitchen? Want to be profiled on our next post? Send an email to and we’ll contact you to be featured

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