Perfect Baked Potato & My Bus Adventures

Perfect Baked Potato. An easy recipe for baked potatoes by Alton Brown |

As I’ve mentioned before, I live in the traffic-choked city of L.A. It’s a cool place, but it’s not perfect. For example, I don’t love trying to get on the 405, taking 45 minutes to get anywhere or screaming at idiots who think they own the road. Well, maybe I enjoy that last bit.

On occasion, I take the bus. How does that go? Well, we have a love-hate relationship, the bus and I.

I love that it’s cheap. I love that I can sit, relax and catch up on the latest from Karen at The Art of Doing Stuff. I love that I don’t have to pay for a wtf? $65 school parking permit. All I have to do is come up with a buck-fifty and enjoy the ride.


Cheap-ass ride = colorful cast of characters. Here are a few of my favorites/not-so-favorites:

The Smoker: This gent pulled a bunch of papers from his pocket. I figured he was just getting rid of junk; but then he took a bank receipt and used it to create a makeshift holder for the tiniest spliff I’ve ever seen. Waste not, want not…I guess. It was all I could do to suppress my laughter and was nothing but smiles for the rest of the ride.

The Pet Lover: This chatty-Cathy sat next to me and asked her mom to put her puppy on the phone.  She then proceeded to speak baby-talk to it for about 10 minutes. Hey man, I get it. Everyone loves their pets, but what’s with the baby-talk? On the phone? On the bus? Have you no shame? Apparently, not.

The Rastafarian: This guy sat down right next to me which was fine, until his stank wafted over. It was an incredibly offensive mix of chronic and ass. This one was partly my fault because if I know one thing it’s this, “Never sit at the back of the bus”. Sitting there is like asking for trouble….the extremely funky kind.

Perfect Baked Potato. An easy recipe for baked potatoes by Alton Brown |

I could go on, but I won’t. You’re busy and so am I. So let’s take a break and make a baked potato for lunch. Strike that. Let’s make the perfect baked potato.

It used to be when I wanted to make a “baked” potato, I would stab it with a fork a bunch of times, put it in a plastic bag, and throw it in the microwave. The result would be mediocre at best. The ends would be hard and overcooked, the skin would be soggy, and the inside would have that undercooked crunch which no one desires.

Enter Alton Brown, who puts the potato directly on the rack and then walks away for an hour. No foil, no mess and definitely no microwave. The outside is salted and crispy. The inside is light and fluffy. It’s fantastic!

Perfect Baked Potato Fixins |

Now, then…are you ready for a perfect baked potato? Excellent. Let’s go buy a 5 lb bag along with all the fixins. I’m gonna take the bus. Does anyone care to join me?

Perfect Baked Potato Recipe

Perfect Baked Potato recipe from Food Network

Perfect Baked Potato
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 4
  • 1 russet potato (or up to 4)
  • canola oil
  • kosher salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Position racks in top and bottom thirds.
  3. Wash potato (or potatoes) thoroughly with a stiff brush and cold running water. Dry, then using a standard fork poke 8 to 12 deep holes all over the spud so that moisture can escape during cooking.
  4. Place in a bowl and coat lightly with oil.
  5. Sprinkle with kosher salt and place potato directly on rack in middle of oven.
  6. Place a baking sheet on the lower rack to catch any drippings.
  7. Bake 1 hour or until skin feels crisp but flesh beneath feels soft.
  8. Serve by creating a dotted line from end to end with your fork, then crack the spud open by squeezing the ends towards one another. It will pop right open. Mind the steam.
  9. Enjoy with a pad of butter, dollop of sour cream, sprinkle of cheese or whatever your heart desires.


Check out Dave’s photography technique at Perfect Baked Potato Photo Shoot: Behind the Scenes.

Salted Sour Cream Ganache & Why Mockingbirds are Great

Salted Dark Chocolate Frosted Cupcake Wide

Mockingbirds are assholes…incredibly talented, naturally gifted, vocally impressive assholes. Yeah, that’s kinda harsh, but it’s totally true. There once was a time when I slept freely: window open, fan blowing, enjoying a peaceful sleep. But all that changed when a flock of mockingbirds came and settled in the tree across the street.

Hold on. Deep breath. Let me start over.

Mockingbirds are great… great at imitating other birds, car alarms, wind chimes, you name it. Great at keeping me up at all hours of the night with their captivating, yet endless serenades. Great at inciting me into a (standing-barefoot-in-the-middle-of-the-street-with-a-hand-full-of-rocks) rage. True story. I’m not a violent person, mind you, but this is no joke. Don’t. Mess. With. My. Slumber.

Ugh, something had to change.

So…after altering my sleep schedule, purchasing a case of earplugs and buying stock in Ambien, I’m a new person. Mockingbirds are awesome now. I totally appreciate them. They’re my new best friends…really.

Salted Dark Chocolate Cupcakes Vertical

Now that I’ve been converted to a lover of all-things mockingbird, I’d like to celebrate with cupcakes…jumbo sized cupcakes with salted sour cream ganache. Whew, that’s a mouthful!

I like this recipe because the frosting is easy to make. Frosting is the reason why I don’t make cakes more often. All that whipping, making sure the frosting is the right consistency and then a crumb coat? Are you serious?

Salted Cupcake For this batch of cupcakes frosting is out and salted sour cream ganache is in. This ganache has two ingredients: dark chocolate and sour cream. It makes for a slightly tart dark chocolate topping which is nicely complimented by a sprinkling of Fleur de Sel. I suppose you could add a third, powdered sugar, so there would be a bit more sweetness to it. Either way it’s perfectly enjoyable. Kinda like the singsong brilliance of the mockingbird…as long as I’m not trying to sleep, that is.

Salted Sour Cream Ganache Photo Notes

by David

I was dead tired during this shoot. In addition to running a commercial studio, I do A LOT of outside retouching. It pays the bills, but fixing the work of awful photographers can be exhausting.

One of the things I love about food photography is the fact that most of the work is done in-camera. If a shooter lights a cookie from the wrong direction, no amount of Photoshop is going to save the day. To correctly light any type of still life, the photographer has to know the nature of the object. Does it have texture? Is it translucent? Is it reflective etc….? These are all factors a photographer has to take into account before snapping a single shot. If you figure out the object, carefully style it, and light accordingly, the work in Post is going to be minimal.


So how did I light these objects? I did it all in Photoshop (just kidding). The lighting setup is pretty simple with one large light panel very close to the subjects. This created a nice soft wrap-around light with a fast fall-off. The fill is provided by a white bounce card.



Tech Notes

Camera: Nikon D90
Lens: Tamron 17-90mm 2.8
Strobes: White Lightning x1600
Tripod: Manfrotto
ISO: 200
Shutter: 125
Aperture:  f/13


Salted Sour Cream Ganache Recipe

Sour Cream Ganache recipe slightly adapted from Umami Girl
Sour Cream Cupcakes recipe slightly adapted from Anne Burrell

Sour Cream Ganache
Author: Carolyn Cope
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6
  • 10 ounces dark chocolate(I used Ghirardelli’s 60% Cacao)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • Pinch of salt
  1. Place chocolate in a microwave safe bowl.
  2. Heat chocolate in the microwave in 30 second bursts.
  3. Make sure to stir chocolate after each 30 second burst.
  4. Once the chocolate is completely melted mix in a little bit of the sour cream to temper the chocolate.
  5. Add the rest of the sour cream and stir to combine.
  6. Do not refrigerate before using.
  7. Store in the refrigerator for 1 week.

Recipe slightly adapted from Food Network

Sour Cream Cupcakes
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Makes 6 jumbo cupcakes
Serves: 6
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 1½ sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¾ cup sour cream
  • Special equipment: jumbo cupcake pan
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Reserve.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the butter and sugar. Using the paddle attachment beat the butter and sugar together until they are light and fluffy. Turn the mixer off and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  4. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time. Mix vanilla, milk, sour cream and add slowly. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, as needed. With the mixer on medium speed, gradually mix in the flour.
  5. Spray muffin tin Baking Pam or line with paper cups. Fill the muffin cups about ⅔ of the way, dividing the batter evenly.
  6. Put in the preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. Check about halfway through and rotate the muffin tin.
  7. The cupcakes are done when a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle of a cake.
  8. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack, frost and sprinkle with salt, if using.