Classic Cornbread & My Last Supper

Classic Cornbread: a no-fail recipe for your Thanksgiving or Holiday table.

I don’t think about death.

I mean…yes, I know we are all going to leave this earth at some point, but I don’t dwell on the subject. Rather than considering the afterlife, heaven or never-ending abyss, I ponder the meal which comes beforehand. My last indulgence which satisfies me wholly, as if to say:

My palate is at peace. I am sated and ready for my next adventure.

Let’s see. Now…I’m not sure what will be piled on my plate. Perhaps, a big bowl of Killer Cajun Shrimp or maybe a huge piece of Beatty’s Chocolate Cake. But if I know one thing, it’s this:

There. Will. Be. Cornbread. There will most definitely be classic cornbread.

Classic Cornbread: a no-fail recipe for your Thanksgiving or Holiday table.

When I write ‘classic cornbread’ I mean nothing super-fancy. For me there’s no need to throw fire-roasted corn kernels or Gruyere with minced shallots into the batter. It doesn’t need the aide of honey maple butter or cranberry pepper jelly.  Ok…maybe the honey maple butter, but you get my point, right?

Classic Cornbread: a no-fail recipe for your Thanksgiving or Holiday table.

Honestly, I’d be delighted with just a chunk of cornbread, sweet butter and some strawberry preserves. After that, I’d be ready to walk into the light.

How about you? What will you have at your Last Supper?

Classic Cornbread Recipe

Classic Cornbread recipe slightly adapted from food.com

Classic Cornbread
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • 1 c cornmeal
  • 1½ c buttermilk
  • 1¼ c flour
  • 1½ t baking powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 t salt
  • ½ c granulated sugar
  • 1 egg, large
  • ⅓ c butter, melted and cooled (1/2 c butter, browned on occasion)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Coat 10 inch skillet with 1 tablespoon of oil or baking spray.
  3. Mix cornmeal and buttermilk in medium-sized bowl. Set aside. (The acid in the buttermilk softens the cornmeal while you prepare the rest of the recipe.)
  4. In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar.
  5. In a measuring cup or small bowl mix the cooled melted butter and egg.
  6. Combine butter-egg mixture with cornmeal-buttermilk mixture.
  7. Pour wet into flour mixture and combine until there are no more streaks of flour. Do not overmix.
  8. Pour batter into prepared skillet.
  9. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

 

Classic Cornbread Photo Shoot – Behind The Scenes

by David

This was a busy day.  It started with a family photo session and ended with insanely delicious cornbread.  Mondo may be known as the “cookie lady,” but when I hear the cast iron skillet hit the stove, Mondo’s true talents come to light.  This girl knows how to make classic cornbread.

Setting up the Shot

Most of the photography videos I watch online skip the metering and chimp their way to a good shot, but light meters are an essential tool in a commercial environment.  The thing most people don’t understand is that meters aren’t about setting the shooting exposure, but instead, establishing ratios on the set.

When I shoot a model on a white background, I use an incident meter to set the background at two-thirds of a stop over the shooting exposure.  This gives me a pure white background without blowing out the hair.  This level of accuracy is mandatory for catalog work and impossible without a meter.

For the classic cornbread shoot, I wanted something dramatic with deep shadows so I went with a 1:4 lighting ratio.  In other words, I setup the main light at f16 and the fill light at f8.  I ended up setting the shooting exposure at f11, but it could have been a little more or less depending on how I wanted to render the highlights and shadows.

Of course, all of this is made possible by metering.  Over the years, I’ve played around with various lighting ratios and typically know what I  want before I shoot it.

The lighting

For the main light, I used a light panel placed 45 degrees and approximately 5 feet behind the shooting table.  For fill, I decided to use a 60″ Softlighter directly behind the camera.  This was used to lower contrast and provided a very even on-axis fill.

I typically place the light panel closer to the food, but I wanted the light to have a little “snap.”  A lot of beginners assume that a light gets rougher when moved closer, but the opposite is true.

The character of light is determined by the size of the light relative to the subject.  If the light is moved closer, it gets bigger and softly wraps around the subject.  If it’s moved back, it gets smaller and creates hard crisp shadows.

Odds and Ends

Mirrors and fill cards are a big deal for food photographers.  On the shot below,  I wanted to have light scrape across the top of the food, but it was creating a very harsh shadow on the edge of the pan.  I couldn’t add another light without killing the texture, so I bounced a little light into the shadow with a silver fill card.  It was a perfect solution provided by a piece of scrap I found around the studio.

classic-cornbread-4

On this shot, everything looked great at first, but the surface of the knife and jam were lifeless.  Unlike the cornbread, these were reflective objects, not textural objects.  Reflective objects show dimension by mirroring the items around them.  Instead of scraping light across the surface, I created reflective specularity on the top of the jam with a 10 degree gridspot.  I then placed a white card over the knife so it would reflect the card of the black surface of the studio.

classic-cornbread-5Wrap-up

By metering the set and understanding the nature of objects, I was able to do everything in-camera.  Instead of chimping away and hoping for the best with the lighting, I did the work during the shoot and left with very little to do later.  When I got home, I turned on the TV and watched Homeland instead of spending half my life in Photoshop.

All in all, a great shoot with a delicious meal at the end.

Technical

Camera: Nikon D90
Lens: Tamron 17-50mm 2.8
Strobes: White Lightning x1600
Tripod: Manfrotto
ISO: 200
Focal Length: 50mm
Shutter: 125

Aperture: f/11

Beer Bread & Why We Have So Many Bottle Caps

BeerBread2-website

We drink beer around here.

Beer Bottle Caps

Can you tell?

Got an “A”: drink a beer.
Lost my wallet: need a beer.
Chips is on: grab a beer.
Tuesday morning: breakfast beer.

Are you feeling me? We really don’t need a reason in this house. Beer time=anytime.

There’s nothing like the first pull of an ice cold beer-for real. Yesterday, after waking early and having a very productive morning I realized I lost my wallet. Yeah, that really happened. Why? C’mon, you know why. I’m a hot mess. After searching in the hot-ass sun for an hour there was really only one thing left to do…cry on the floor in a fetal position get some beer. The dman came to my rescue and picked up a sixer of Hangar 24 Orange Wheat Ale. I love this beer. Golden. Tangy. Refreshing.

Hangar 24 Bread

The following morn I had one beer left. What should I do…drink or bake?

I decided to bake beer bread then immediately regretted my decision. That was my last beer! What was I thinking?  An hour later with a fresh cold one in hand, a calm came over me and I had changed my attitude. This bread takes less than five minutes to put together and then the oven takes care of the rest. That’s my kind of recipe as sometimes I can be slazy* in the kitchen.

I’d say this beer bread was a wee bit on the sweet side. Dried thyme and oregano were added to the batter but the herbs got lost in the mix. I’m thinking…next go ’round I’ll throw in a handful of raisins and 1 tsp of cinnamon for a sweet treat. Or perhaps, I’ll cut the sugar by 1 Tsp and add some fresh herbs with grated cheese. Either way, I have a bread recipe that requires no yeast, kneading or proofing and that makes me smile.

Beer Bread on Bottles

Now, if you’ll excuse me…Chips is on in five.

*slazy (adj.): simultaneously smart and lazy. Originated by Karen of The Art of Doing Stuff.

Beer Bread Photo Notes

by David

Gameplan

I wanted this one to be warm and low key. Most food photography is super bright, but beer bread is a comfort food that called for something a little different.

Lighting

To achieve this look, I used a simple light panel and a white bounce card. The panel is made of 400 Leelux that has a warm tint. Most of the time I correct for this tint with a custom white balance, but I shot everything on “Daylight” and left the images warm.

When lighting anything, you have to consider the nature of the object. Bread screams “texture,” so I placed the panel 45 degrees behind the subject and let light scrape across the surface. This gave the bread dimension and created contrast. To fill in the shadows, I placed a white board opposite the light.

The fill was minimal and left deep shadows to accentuate the texture.

beer bread lighting diagram

Bonus Round

After styling the bread to perfection, Mondo put the bottle caps together for the last shot. For this one, I wanted crisp, long shadows to give the bottle caps dimension. I hit them with a 20 degree gridded spot light from behind that created directional light with limited wrap. This gave the image a lot of punch and I filled in the dark side of the caps with a white fill card …. simple and effective.

beer bread lighting diagram 2

Wrap-up

This was a smooth session and we actually finished early. After the shoot, we went out and celebrated with our good friend Nadia Elahi who just got a full-time professorship at Los Angeles City College. Congratulations Nadia, tenure is just around the corner.

Tech Notes

Camera: Nikon D90
Lens: Tamron 17-90mm 2.8
Strobes: White Lightning x1600
Tripod: Manfrotto
ISO: 200
Shutter: 125
Aperture:  f/11

Beer Bread Recipe

Recipe slightly adapted from Ezra Pound Cake

Beer Bread
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Makes 1 loaf
Author:
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 bottle (12 ounces) beer
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted (Note: Feel free to reduce to ¼ cup.)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-x-5-x-3-inch loaf pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and any herbs and/or cheese, if using.
  3. Using a wooden spoon, stir the beer into the dry ingredients until just mixed.
  4. Pour half the melted butter into the loaf pan. Then spoon the batter into the pan, and pour the rest of the butter on top of the batter. Slide a baking sheet onto a lower rack to catch any butter that might overflow from the loaf pan (there is no need for this when you use ¼ cup of butter).
  5. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until golden brown. Brush loaf with melted butter. Serve immediately (or wait until later. I had mine for breakfast the next morning).