The French Experiment

I woke up with a craving for french toast this morning. So I thought I would post my breakfast, although it was more like brunch by the time I was done making and shooting them. The result was tasty, though I will need to experiment with the wild blueberry sauce again. The flavor was good but I think it needs to be a little sweeter and maybe add some lemon zest or perhaps some cream sherry to give it extra something…

Since the recipe is still in the development stage, I will not post the recipe today but hope you enjoy the pictures.

I really enjoy food photography. It’s challenging and yet very calming at the same time. One of the great things I’ve learned from food photography is that, it forces you to learn about using good lighting and correct aperture settings. Unlike some subjects, you can’t get good food photos without knowing these technical details.

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A New Pie Experiment

Here it is… the recipe for the new pie I’ve created: CranApple Crumble Pie w/ Warm Apple & Butter Rum Sauce. From the photos, it looks like a lot of work but it actually took only about 1-1/2 hour of prep and cooking time. I would say the difficult part of this experiment was the photo shoot. The lighting was difficult because there were no natural light available. Though, making sure to not burn the food while taking photos or getting the camera all sticky was the most challenging. This is when being good at multi-tasking comes in handy. I hope you enjoy the post and any comments or suggestions are greatly appreciated. Thank you… and Make a Great Day!

Peel and slice apples into 1/4 inch thick, then cut the slices to about 1″ pieces. For even cooking time, it’s important that the thickness of the apple slices are as even as possible.

In a large bowl, combine apples slices, dried cranberries, brown sugar, corn starch, cinnamon, nutmeg and white pepper. Gently stir until well mixed. And pour the filling into a prepared pie crust. Evenly sprinkle pie with streusel crumb topping.

How to make the streusel crumb:
Ingredients:

1/4 Cup Butter (lightly melted: about 20 seconds in the microwave)
1 Cup Unbleached Flour
2 Tablespoons Sugar
1/4 Cup Rum

In a mixing bowl, combine butter, flour and sugar. Add rum and toss with a wooden spoon to make crumbs. Take a hand full of the crumb mixture and squeeze gently to make larger clump. Break the clump of streusel over the pie filling. Repeat using all the streusel. Do not press the streusel into the filling.

Bake pie at 350 degrees for about 55 minutes.

Cranapple Crumble Pie with Warm Apple & Butter Rum Sauce
Serves 6 to 8

I used a pre-made pie crust. It’s faster and less messy. For the apples, I used Fuji Apples — it’s sweet and juicy but hard enough for baking.

How to make the pie filling:
Ingredients:

4 Cup Sliced Apples (I like using Fuji Apples for its sweetness)
1/2 Cup Dried Cranberries
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar (packed)
2 Tablespoon Corn Starch
2 Teaspoon Cinnamon Powder
1 Teaspoon Nutmeg
1 Teaspoon White Pepper
2 Tablespoon Rum
1/4 Cup Butter

1. Peel and slice apples into 1/4 inch thick, then cut the slices to about 1″ pieces.

2. In a large bowl, combine apples slices, dried cranberries, brown sugar, corn starch, cinnamon, nutmeg and white pepper. Gently stir until well mixed. Set aside.

3. Melt butter and rum together in a small pot over medium high heat. Bring to a boil for about 30 seconds. Pour hot butter rum mixture into the pie filling mixture and stir gently — until all apple slices are well coated.

4. Pour filling mixture into a prepared pie crust.

5. Sprinkle streusel crumb evenly over the pie.

Bake pie in a 350 degrees oven for about 30 minutes. Check to make sure the streusel crumb isn’t too brown. Cover pie with a piece of foil and bake for another 15 minutes. Take off the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes. By now you should see thick hot pie juice bubbles out of the crumb topping. Take out the pie and let cool before taking it out of the spring-form pan.

Warm Apple & Butter Rum Sauce

In a large saute pan over medium high heat, melt butter. Add apples and saute for a few minutes. Make sure the heat isn’t too hot or the butter will burn. Pour in apple cider and add sugars, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Stir apple mixture and when it boils, turn the heat down to medium. Cook apple mixture for 20 minutes and add the rum.

How to make the Apple & Butter Rum sauce:
Ingredients:

2 Cup Sliced Apples (cut into 1/2″ pieces)
1/4 Cup Butter
1/4 Cup Regular Sugar
1/4 Cup Packed Light Brown Sugar
1 Cup Apple Cider Juice
1/3 Cup Rum

In a large saute pan over medium high heat, melt butter. Add apples and saute for a few minutes. Make sure the heat isn’t too hot or the butter will burn. Pour in apple cider and add sugars, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Stir apple mixture and when it boils, turn the heat down to medium. Cook apple mixture for 20 minutes and add the rum. Make sure to stir occasionally. Continue to cook for an additional 15 minutes. The apple slices should be soft and almost translucent.

Assemble the dish:

Place a slice of pie on a plate and ladle a couple of tablespoons of the Apple & Butter Rum Sauce around the pie and top with whipped cream if desired. Enjoy!

Going Bananas!

It’s one of those weird taste quirks I have; I don’t like to eat bananas when it gets freckly. Actually, I like it best when it’s still a little green. Well, I bought this bunch last week and because of the warm weather, it got ripe quicker than I could eat. Since there were still many left, I felt guilty about throwing them out and decided to let them ferment longer so I could make them into my “TO DIE FOR…” (as my customers used to say)banana breads. I’ve sold many loaves of these delicious breads during my career as a baker/bakery owner. I loved everything about owning a bakery except for the crazy baker’s hours. I had to get up at 2 a.m., baked until 6:30 a.m. and deliver the baked goods by 9:00 a.m. to open shop at 10:00. I missed my little bakery… it was a fun place and a great learning experience. I learned the hard way about business failure; my hard work and fantastic baked goods couldn’t compensate for lack of cash flow… and…stupid mistakes.

Good news! You don’t have to get up at 2:00 a.m. to bake these… the recipe is very easy and once you make the batter, you can add different ingredients to it. Just make sure the bananas you use is very, very ripe; almost rotten but no molds. This is the secret to moist and great banana flavor that seem to lack in many other banana bread recipes. The smell is heavenly when you bake these breads.

Banana Bread Recipe

Makes 9 mini-loaves

1 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup butter, softened
2 Eggs
2 Cup Mashed ripe bananas (4-5 medium)
1/2 Cup Buttermilk
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 Cup Cake Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
3 Cup Assorted Berries

Place oven rack in the middle position and pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

  1. Mix sugar and butter in a large bowl.
  2. Stir in eggs until well blended; add vanilla extract, and buttermilk.
  3. Beat until smooth. It is best not to use an electric mixer.
  4. Add baking soda, and flour. Mix until all ingredients are blended.
  5. Gently stir in the mashed bananas and mix well.

Streusel Topping:

 1 Cup Unbleached Flour
1/4 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Butter Softened

Cut butter into flour and sugar until crumbly.

For Blueberry Banana Nut Bread: 3 mini-loaves

Add 1 cup frozen(thawed) blueberries and 1/4 cup chopped walnuts to 2 cups batter. Stir gently or else the juice from the berry will make the batter look muddy. Scoop batter into the baking pan and topped with extra blueberries and struesel. I used a size 16 ice cream scoop for quicker and cleaner measurement but you can just fill the baking pan with about 3/4 cup of batter. Bake for 20 minutes; turn pan around and bake another 15 minutes; this ensures even baking if you don’t have a convection oven. The bread is done if a small knife or wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let sit and cool for about 15 minutes. Use a small spatula to loosen the sides and remove from baking pan. Enjoy!

Strawberry Banana Bread:

Direction same as for Blueberries but use 1 Cup chopped fresh strawberries instead.

Very Berry Banana Bread:

Direction same as for Blueberries. Use 1 Cup frozen mixed berries (raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries)

Enjoy!

Very Berry Experiment

Cooking is so much fun, especially when the recipe turns out great. I had so much fun making the Very Berry Crepes yesterday. I’ve decided to experiment and bake something with the leftover berries. I had wanted to bake a pie but since there weren’t enough berries, I ended up making tarts instead. Normally, I would use a ready-made crust but since I didn’t have any on hand, I came up with the idea of making a lemon pepper crust. Black pepper in the pie crust?!! Hey, isn’t that what experiments are all about? :) When I cook, I normally don’t use measuring utensils. I am one of those types who just eye balls very thing and most of the time fairly accurate. So, I will not be able to post the Very Berry Tarts with Lemon Pepper Crust recipe today.

Overall, I thought the experiment was a success; the lemon black pepper crust is really interesting. It gives the berries a very nice added flavor. Although, the tarts tasted really good, I wasn’t happy with the photography session. In food photography, the cooking time for the dish is usually shorter so the ingredients still look good. Since the tarts were to be our desert, I had to bake it longer and the berries got over cooked. I’ll have to remake the recipe for food photography next time… and will include the recipe.

Make a Great Day! And have a fantastic weekend everyone. :)

Very Berry Crepes

I went to the farmer’s market yesterday and looks like the berries are finally in season. They looked so good, I knew just the right recipe for them; my famous Very Berry Crepes. I used to served them at the cafe I owned long ago… ahh… what a great little place it was. Okay, back from memory lane… more on that chapter of my life later.

Bon Appetit!

Very Berry Crepes Recipe

Ingredients:

For the crepes:
1/2 Cup Unbleached Flour
1/2 Cup Milk (non-fat optional)
2 Eggs
1 Teaspoon Sugar
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Combined all ingredients in a large bowl and mix until batter is smooth and mostly lump free. Use a non-stick medium size (10 inch) frying pan to cook the crepes. Pour about a 1/4 cup of batter into the heated pan; swirl the batter around until the bottom of the pan is evenly coated with a tin layer of the batter. Unlike pancakes, the crepe cooks quickly. When the bottom is lightly golden brown; flip the crepe over and cooked for a couple of minutes more. The batter makes about 5 crepes.

Crepe Filling:
1/2 Cup Blueberries
1/2 Cup Raspberries
1/2 Cup Sliced Strawberries
1 Teaspoon Sugar
2 Tablespoon Sour Cream

Combined all the berries and sugar together; set aside. Gently combine sour cream and the berries just before serving. Fill the crepe with desire amount of filling and serve with maple syrup. Enjoy!

Rainy Day Fun

I had so much fun on my date with Macro yesterday, I was hoping for a second date… unfortunately, the rain came back. Not wanting to risk getting my camera wet, I decided to shoot whatever I could find around the house.  I bought a studio light box last week, so I thought today would be good to experiment with light and exposure. I started with my dog, Frisette. She was a great model… no attitude problems and only cost me a chicken jerky.

The next subject was my breakfast… when I first sat down to eat it, I thought it looked pretty enough for a picture and maybe I could shoot a few frames before eating it. Right… those few shots turned into a couple of hours. It was afternoon by the time I was done with it. 

Okay… I did sneak in a little Marco time with this shot.