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A picture of Lauren Gill

Lauren Gill

Pastry diva, facilitator of weirdness (Ag47)

in artist, baker, food, mac

Who are you, and what do you do?

Oh hey you, I'm Lauren Gill.

I'm a former social service worker, farm worker rights activist, and educator from Chicago who now divvies her time up between running an underground bake shop and making desserts for an award-winning underground supper club! I also am part of leadership for an art collective made up of women and girls devoted to being weird, being loud, and being creative -- a message girls aren't told enough that is 100% absolutely awesome and okay!

What hardware do you use?

BAKING & SWEETS-MAKING: I am in a serious, committed relationship with my KitchenAid Mixer. It handles most everything I need and is my standby for cookie batters, early stage help with breads, creams, egg-heavy cakes (like sponges and angel foods), and frostings.

I grew up in a big Sicilian & Puerto Rican family where, in order to help my mom, I was given ingredients, a fork, and a bowl (maybe two) and was told to rely on my wrists -- it makes me even more grateful for my KitchenAid.

For pie crusts, purees, crumbles, chops, and dices, I let myself splurge on my second fanciest item and would suggest everyone do the same -- the Cuisinart 14 cup food processor. This makes your time in a kitchen almost too easy, but when needing to make big batches of anything, it's my best friend.

If you really love to bake, buy a scale. It is more precise than measuring cups. I haven't had to update from this guy yet, but depending on the precision of what you want to make, you might need to.

I have a very basic immersion blender that isn't even in stock anymore, but I do believe in their necessity. Between my food processor and this, I haven't really found a reason to need a crazy ass blender that costs the same as my rent.

For frozen treats, I use my Cuisinart machine, and have finally found a use for all those damn green-lidded Ikea tupperware containers I've bought (their long flat ones are PERFECT for storing frozen treats and giving you the most ample amount of runway for a good scoop!)

The other smaller necessities are a Silpad, my very simple Ateco decorating set (with some slight additions of large star and circle tips), and our Taylor digital cooking thermometer, which is absolutely necessary for patisserie creams, and chocolate work.

ART MAKING & FACILITATING: We are a donation based art collective, so we use everything from typewriters to write poems about the storms in our heads to cigar boxes to create personal puppet theatre kits to using an adult's MacBook Pro to show our girls how to make animated .gifs of their own drawings to acrylic, water color, and puff paints and beyond.

We're a multi-medium focused group, so we don't draw lines on what we'll make art with and/or from!

And what software?

BAKING & SWEETS-MAKING: I truly believe that the only book any person needs in their kitchen is The Flavor Bible. Not only will it open you up to new flavors you may have never experimented with before, it'll keep you honest about using all the veggies in your CSA and all the canned goods in your cabinet.

After that, for me, comes Michael Ruhlman's Ratio which cleanly and clearly outlines all the ratios you need that go into most sauces, doughs, custards and more. His other books (including his newest, Egg) are also recommended.

I also read through copies of Lucky Peach for inspiration, alongside the quarterly magazine we get for being members of the Southern Foodways Alliance.

ART MAKING & FACILITATING: To keep things organized for the mentors in the collective, we use Google Drive, Trello, and the occasional maddening Doodle.

We also actively implement the use of hugs, high-fives, positive language, howls at the moon, Taylor Swift sing-alongs, random acts of glitter paint, communal snacking, and celebrating all the wacky and weird parts we are lucky to have inside of us.

What would be your dream setup?

For baking: A kitchen so big that it could host a 6-foot stainless steel butcher block alongside a very nice, reclaimed wood table that could seat 8-10 of my closest friends and community members at a time. I don't feel like I need too much more, supply wise, but I would never reject a Willy Wonka style lifetime supply of quality chocolate.

And if we're getting absolutely crazy and Oprah is sponsoring this request or something: this and maybe some amazing commercial frozen treat machine.

For Ag47: We would share a space with a lady-run art space or community center and build and collaborate together. We would never have to scale back our artistic ideas for a lack of funding, so we'd have a sponsorship sitch with Blick. We'd be connected with all the artistic and creative women in the city of Chicago (and beyond!) who would pop in to teach as guests and show our girls that you can work as an artist, if you'd like to, in this world.

We would also have the amazing commercial frozen treat machine referenced up there.