It was her freshman year of high school when Washington-raised, rising chef Sahana Vij decided to take her craft to the next level. Baking was always a love of hers—a result of her mom teaching her to make dishes like French toast, cookies and brownies early on in her life. But as she grew into her teenage years, Vij discovered she didn’t just want to bake—she also wanted to find a way to impact the world in a way that extended beyond her kitchen.
So, at 14 years old, Vij started crafting her own recipes (and doing her own photography) for what would eventually become her cookbook, Bake Away. Less than five years later, the cookbook, which officially launched last October, has raised close to $50,000 and is sold by major retailers like Amazon, Whole Foods and Target. All of Vij’s continued earnings will go toward No Kid Hungry, an organization working to end child hunger.
Vij, now a freshman in college at the University of California, Irvine, majoring in journalism and minoring in global sustainability, says that the concept of giving back was instilled in her from a young age. “Growing up, my mom took me to a local women and children’s shelter, where we would serve enchiladas and dine with them,” she says. “So I really wanted to continue working with the community through this project.”
Vij also wanted her cookbook to embrace creativity and self-expression. The 20 featured recipes are inspired by places across the United States—and the memories she associates with each of them. For anyone who purchases her cookbook and attempts to make her recipes, “Make them your own, tweak them,” says Vij. That’s part of the fun.
“The individuality in the things we create is what makes them so special and so unique,” adds Vij, whose ultimate goal is to open up her own bakery. “I think food just connects people on a much deeper level.”
Inspired by her travels to the Bay Area, Vij includes a San Francisco Churro Bowl and Banana Sundae recipe in her cookbook, which she also shares with Sweet July.
“I actually was born in the Bay Area,” says Vij. “My dad would take me back to San Francisco a lot just to see the area. I remember I went with my dad and one of our friends to the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory, and I was freaking out because it’s just all chocolate. We ended up ordering a banana split—there’s photos of me with the bananas all over my face because it was so good. And so with the churro bowls, I just thought it would be a really cool twist.”
Get Vij’s San Francisco Churro Bowl and Banana Sundae recipe below!
Sahana Vij's San Francisco Churro Bowls and Banana Sundae
Reprinted from Bake Away. Copyright © 2021 by Sahana Vij. Photographs copyright © 2021 by Sahana Vij.
1/3 cup butter
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp granulated white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup water
1 cup flour
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup white sugar for coating
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon for coating
2 quarts vegetable oil
FOR CARAMELIZED BANANAS
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 banana, sliced
In a saucepan over medium-high heat, mix together the butter, sugars, salt and water until it reaches a boil. Lower the heat to low, then add the flour, folding it in until a dough forms and it is evenly incorporated. Turn off heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
Once fully cooled, add in the vanilla and eggs, making sure to fully incorporate each.
Transfer the dough into a piping bag with a circular or star tip.
Flip over a muffin tin and spray the back side with cooking spray to prevent the dough from sticking. Pipe the churro dough around the flipped muffin cups to form a closed spiral bowl. Freeze the churro bowls for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Combine the sugar and cinnamon for coating in a small bowl and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large pot; the oil should be done heating within 10 minutes. Place the frozen churro bowls in the oil to fry. Allow each to cook for about 30 seconds, then flip to allow each to cook for another 30 seconds, making sure the bowl is golden brown. Take the churro bowls out and set on a plate with a paper towel to drain.
Coat the bowls in the cinnamon sugar mixture, spooning the mixture into the bowls and around the inside of them and making sure to cover them evenly.
To prepare the caramelized bananas, melt the butter and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat and add the sliced banana. With the spoon, gently move the banana slices around the pan for about 5 minutes, coating them in the sauce. Turn off the stove and move the pan off heat.
- Scoop store-bought vanilla ice cream into the churro bowls and top with the caramelized banana. Serve immediately.