Yes, I’m crazy about breakfast, but not if it includes something scrambled. I guess I’ll eat them if:
The doctor says “Do it!”
They’re hard boiled.
There’s a bowl of Sriracha nearby(seriously, gotta mask that eggy taste).
Don’t get me wrong, eggs are amazing and extremely versatile. Wanna make a custard? Yolks are your best friend. Meringue for my pie? Hand me those egg whites. Need a lift for your cake? You get the picture.
If you are an egg fan and a grilled cheese fan, you need to make this sandwich. Trust. They’re very impressive, equally simplistic, and go from kitchen to table in less than 10 minutes. Plus, if you’re like me, you’ll be the lucky one eating all the leftover holes of grilled cheese. Now, that’s what I’m talking about!
Oh my goodness! The new year is here! Are you ready for it? I’m not sure if I am, but that is of no consequence. It’s here, so I better get it together.
Around this time everybody starts making resolutions for themselves and their families. I get it. You want to better yourself and your situation. Usually, I promise myself the same things: lose weight, better hair care(gotta keep my ‘fro tight), get myself organized, blah, blah, blah.
Things have changed this time around. This past year I’ve embarked upon an adventure called I bake he shoots and I couldn’t be more excited. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt the level of enthusiasm that I feel for the work that Dave and I have begun.
So this year…I’m making one New Year’s Resolution:
To fully commit myself to this project, this joint adventure, this endeavor. This year will be dedicated to great food + great photography.
…and better hair care. Seriously, I never kid about my ‘fro.
Alright…enough about ‘fros and revolutions resolutions. Let’s talk food. More importantly, breakfast.
The latest issue of Food Network Magazine has a beautiful cover of Christmas cookies, but inside you’ll find a nice spread dedicated to pigs in a blanket. But not any old pigs in a blanket…french toast sausages. What?
Normally, I’m not really into french toast. I’m a waffle girl. On occasion, I’m a buttermilk-pancakes-with-a-side-of-bacon girl, but when I saw those sausages wrapped up in french toast? I was a changed girl.
Now, I’m not gonna lie to you. These babies take a little bit of work. This isn’t a everyday recipe. I’d file this under special occasions, like the Breakfast in Bed category. Or, the Mother’s Day Brunch category. Or, the I’m-sorry-I-didn’t-pick-you-up-from-the-hospital category. Well, you might need to dig a little deeper for that one.
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.
There. Will. Be. Cornbread. There will most definitely be classic cornbread.
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
I got canned while on vacation. Yes, me. vacay. fired.
It was slightly embarrassing and perfectly understandable. You see, my boss was a troll.
Wait…that’s not fair. Perhaps, she was just a perfectionist? Nah, she was a troll.
At the time I was working at a bakery. I was super excited because finally, someone was paying me to do what I love. My neighbor, we’ll call her ‘Miss Good Intentions’ got me a job making pastries at a second bakery around the corner. I should’ve known it was a bad idea as she never had anything good to say about her boss; but I took the job anyway. I worked at the second bakery for three days. Here’s how it went.
I met with the owner, a scary looking woman who looked like she desperately needed a bowl of soup and a nap. I kinda felt sorry for her. Little did I know she would soon can my ass so my sympathy was a bit misplaced. She showed me the recipes and how she wanted everything baked. No problem.
After my 4 hr training session(Day 1), I was left to my own devices. I baked all the scones, muffins, cookies, etc. and plated them. It was ten minutes until opening and everything was ready, but wasn’t yet placed in the display case. Troll noticed and hit the roof. Queue the tongue-lashing I received with an audience. The cashier felt so bad for me she offered to make me a latte.
With 20 ounces of Low Carb Monster in me I returned to the bakery energized and determined to please Troll. I kept to myself, focused on the tasks at hand and got everything baked and displayed under the wire. There was no praise from Troll she just hobbled over and gave me a new list of ‘things to prep’.
At the end of my shift she asked me to return the next weekend. I couldn’t as I planned to spend a week with my great friend Marsha, who was pregnant with her first child. I offered to come back the weekend after my return and Troll accepted.
The following week, whilst vacationing in Alabama, I got a call from the manager. She asked where I wanted my wages sent as my services were no longer needed. There was no ‘wtf’ reaction from me; I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction. Politely, I answered her question and ended the conversation.
What upset me most is the fact that I never got to try their donut muffins. You see, the bakery was famous for them. Did I mention that Troll never let me try any of the baked goods? Good lord, Troll…have a heart!
Ever since, I’ve been obsessed with donut muffins. Now that Fall is upon us, I had to make a pumpkin version. I give you…jumbo pumpkin donut muffins!
I love these bad boys. They’re big, lightly spiced and stay super moist. Put them in a basket and give them to your mom, or your boss. Unless, your boss is a scary looking woman that looks like a troll.
½ c milk(I used buttermilk, hence the baking soda)
1 t vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Spray jumbo muffin pan with baking spray or line with jumbo paper cups.
Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Mix wet in a measuring cup or small bowl.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry.
Divide evenly among the six cups. I filled each cup with double scoops, size 16.
Bake for 25 minutes.
To make the glaze, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 1 heaping tablespoon of heavy cream over low heat. Slowly whisk in 1/4 cup of brown sugar and remove from heat once fully melted. Vigorously whisk in 1/2 cup of confectioner’s sugar. Use immediately.
This was a good one. After a lousy shoot last week that produced unusable pictures, I was relieved this session went well.
Frankly, when things go bad, it’s typically due to a lack of planning and bad technique. It’s nearly impossible to “wing it” with studio food photography, yet I’m still dumb enough to do it on occasion.
This week, I planned, metered, and carefully coordinated the colors and composition before I picked up the camera. When I finally took the first shot, I knew I had nailed it.
The lighting was composed of three lights. The main light was a monolight bounced off a white wall at f11.5. The second light was bounced into a large piece of foamcore at f8.5 to give a little more wrap and the third was a soft silver umbrella set at f4.5 to provide fill from the opposite side.
I liked the natural look of this setup, but there were problems with specularity off the top of the muffins. A little specularity is normal and necessary, but the top of the muffins were completely blown out. I adjusted the camera and lighting angles but I finally used my hand as a Gobo over the top of the muffins. It was a stupid simple solution, but sometimes it’s just easier sticking your hand on to the set and blocking the light.
This was a fun shoot and I saved a $1000 on lighting modifiers by bouncing a light off the wall and a piece of cardboard. It’s easy to get caught up with all the latest gear, but when it comes down to it, once light bounces off something or travels through a piece of nylon, it’s all going to look the same. The only thing that truly matters is the size of the light relative to the subject. Of course, if Chimera calls tomorrow with a sponsorship, I’ll sell out faster than M.C. Hammer jumping off a Taco Bell.