Maple Nut Scones

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Maple Nut Scones
One of my fall rituals is to sit outside Starbucks under some twinkling golden aspen leaves with a salted caramel mocha and a maple oat nut scone. I look forward to that every year so you can imagine how bummed I was to find out that Starbucks has done away with those pastries. :(

Well, clearly I had to make them myself. I experimented around a bit, added some pumpkin spice and eventually ended up with scones that do taste similar to those SB used to have but that are overall lighter and less dense, which, I think, is because I didn’t put any actual oats in them. I have to say I like these better than the ones from SB. :)

I also took my camera outside last week to let it get some fresh air and snapped a few fall color pics. This is what Colorado looks like during the second half of September, isn’t it pretty?

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Aspen-Forest-Colorado

Maple Nut Scones
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 6
Ingredients:
For the scones:
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pumpkin spice
  • ⅔ cup roughly chopped pecans
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¼ teaspoon maple extract
For the glaze:
  • 1 cup plus ¼ cup powdered sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon maple extract
  • 4 to 6 teaspoons milk
Instructions:
  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and spice together in a bowl.
  3. Add the pecans to the dry ingredients and mix well.
  4. Mix cream, milk and maple extract together in a bowl. Add about ¾ of the milk mix to the dough and mix with a spoon. If the dough is too dry to bring together add more of the milk mix until you can form the dough into a loose ball.
  5. On a floured surface, pat the dough ball into a 6- or 7-inch round.
  6. Cut the dough round into 6 wedges, place them on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  7. Let the scones cool completely.
For the glaze:
  1. Whisk 1 cup powdered sugar with the maple extract and 3 teaspoons milk. Add more milk if the glaze is too thick. Coat the surface of the scones with the glaze and let it dry.
  2. Whisk ¼ cup powdered sugar with the remaining milk and drizzle on top of the glaze.

Food Photography and Styling: I wanted to create an outdoor fall feeling so I used dark wood planks that look like an outside table and sprinkled some leaves onto them. A white cup would have been too attention-grabbing for a background item so I used a more subdued, purple one. I happened to see the purple tissue paper lying about in my prop closet (I have started to keep just about everything that could potentially be a prop) and thought it would work well with the cup and the rest of the set so I put it on the plate. Even with the scones and the paper the plate looked a little naked so I placed the spoon on it. Few people would eat scones with a spoon but I figured it could be there for the drink and was therefore not too much of a stretch. I lit the set from the back and filled in the shadows with a reflector.

 

Lens: I took the food photo with my 105mm f2.8 NIKKOR macro lens. You can find the current version of this lens through the following link (I use an older version that is no longer being sold): AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED Lens.

Camera: I used my Nikon D600 for both photos. You can find the current version of this camera through the following link: Nikon D610 DSLR Camera.

Homemade Chili Powder

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Chili Powder with Ingredients
Until last week I actually didn’t know what all was in chili powder and since that’s a bit embarrassing for someone with a spice food blog I finally went ahead and educated myself. I found many different chili powder recipes and almost all of them called for cumin, garlic, oregano, and, of course, a variety of chili peppers. For my recipe here I chose ancho chili (which is dried poblano) and Hungarian paprika for some good flavor and chipotle chili for some spici- and smokiness. Recipes with the blend in action coming soon!

Homemade Chili Powder
 
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Author:
Ingredients:
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon roasted dehydrated garlic
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon ground Hungarian paprika
  • ½ teaspoon ground chipotle chili
  • 1½ teaspoons ground ancho chili pepper
Instructions:
  1. Put all ingredients together in a mortar and grind with a pestle until you have a homogeneous spice blend.

 

Food Photography and Styling: I got the pretty metal plate at an antique store the other day and immediately thought it would look good with spices on it so I chose it for this photo. My favorite tarnished spoon was a good fit for the plate so that’s where I put the finished spice blend on. I missed the rule of thirds by 100 miles, the spoon almost runs down the middle of the frame and the bowl of the spoon is nowhere near an intersection point, but I still thought the composition worked well. I lit the set from the side and used a lot of flags to block the light in the top and bottom parts of the frame to create almost a spotlight to illuminate only the spices.

Lens: I took this photo with my 105mm f2.8 NIKKOR macro lens. You can find the current version of this lens through the following link (I use an older version that is no longer being sold): AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED Lens.

Camera: I used my Nikon D600 to take this photo. You can find the current version of this camera through the following link: Nikon D610 DSLR Camera.

 

This entry was posted in spices.

Prop Talk – Wood “Walls”

Food Photography Props Wood Boards

Food Photography Props wooden boards

Hello, hello! Here comes another installment of my Prop Talks. (To read previous posts of this series, just click on the Prop Talk! tab in the menu at the top).

First, I want to let you know that I am going to reduce the frequency of the Prop Talk posts to once a month from now on. I need to pace myself a little better with these. :)  Today I’ll show you some of the rustic wood boards I use in the background of some of my photos as wooden “walls.” I often like to have a horizon line in my photos with a table and a wall in the background behind it. Since I don’t have actual antique wood walls in my studio nor in the rest of my house (and I would venture to guess that few photographers do) I just prop up antique, textured wood boards either directly onto the table or against the back of a chair behind the set. Above are three pieces I use frequently, a wooden board, a wooden tray and a wooden shutter. They all have great texture that looks nice (and, in my opinion, authentic) in photos. Below are the three pieces in action:

Herbed Orzo with Grilled Zucchini

From post Herbed Orzo with Grilled Zucchini.

Roasted Chicken

From post Roasted Cornish Game Hen with Homemade Seasoning Salt.

Shrimp Gumbo and Rice

From post Shrimp Gumbo.

What about you? Do you use rustic wood surfaces as backgrounds? What are your favorites?

Dacquoise Trifle

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Hazelnut Almond Dacquoise Trifle

A dacquoise is a cake made of nut meringue sheets that are layered with chocolate ganache and espresso-flavored buttercream. Yeah, it’s a really, really good cake. Now, here’s what you do when you’re sleep-deprived because your allergies are keeping you awake at night and as a result you carelessly drop the meringue on the kitchen counter and it breaks into pieces: you make a dacquoise trifle. Simple as that and tastes just as amazing. :)

I did not come up with this recipe myself, instead I followed America’s Test Kitchen’s instructions pretty closely (other than making a trifle instead of a cake, of course). Their recipe is absolutely super.

So, the dacquoise is made with a German-style buttercream, which is butter whipped with a pastry cream. Here’s how that works: you make a pastry cream with milk, egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch and cook it like a pudding. Then you chill it while attending to the nut meringue and the ganache. When you’re ready to make the buttercream you make sure that both pastry cream and butter are at the same temperature (about 65 degrees F.) I really mean the same temperature (within about 2 degrees of one another), measured with a thermometer, not with your finger. Otherwise the buttercream will curdle and you will be so irritated that you will probably curdle, too. If the pastry cream is too cold, you can carefully warm it over a pot of hot water, stirring constantly and paying close attention. As long as you observe the temperature thing you’ll be fine. The rest of the recipe is straightforward. It does take quite a bit of time but most of that time is inactive, plus it tastes so good that it’s really worth every minute!

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Dacquoise Trifle
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 10
Ingredients:
For the meringue:
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons almond meal
  • ½ tablespoon cornstarch
  • ½ cup sugar, divided into 2 quarter cups
  • 2 egg whites (keep the yolks for the buttercream)
  • ⅛ teaspoon cream of tartar
For the buttercream:
  • 1½ cups milk
  • 8 egg yolks
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 32 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 4 teaspoons instant espresso powder
For the chocolate ganache:
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 4 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 cup heavy cream
For garnish:
  • about 20 hazelnuts, half of them finely chopped
Instructions:
For the meringue:
  1. Heat the oven to 250 degrees F.
  2. Whisk almond meal, cornstarch and ¼ cup of sugar until well combined and no clumps remain.
  3. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar to soft peaks.
  4. Continuing to beat, slowly add ¼ cup of sugar to the meringue. Beat until you have stiff peaks.
  5. With a rubber spatula, carefully fold the almond mix into the meringue.
  6. Spread the meringue onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet in a thin layer, about 9 inches by 12 inches.
  7. Bake the meringue for 1½ hours.
  8. Without opening the oven door, turn the oven off and let the meringue cool in the oven for another 1½ hours.
  9. Crumble the meringue into small pieces.
For the buttercream:
  1. Heat the milk to a low simmer.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch in a bowl until they turn lighter in color and texture than they were when you started.
  3. Once the milk is hot, whisk about half of it into the egg mixture.
  4. Transfer the egg/milk mixture back into the pot and continuously stir with a wooden spoon until the mix thickens. Once it thickens take it off the heat immediately, cover and chill in the fridge for 2 hours.
  5. After 2 hours, take the pastry cream out of the fridge and let it warm up to room temperature.
  6. Beat the butter with the espresso powder until fluffy and creamy.
  7. Measure the temperature of the butter and the temperature of the pastry cream. They both should be about 65 degrees F. If the pastry cream is too cold, warm if carefully over a pot of hot water, stirring continuously.
  8. Once butter and pastry cream have the same temperature, start beating the butter and add the pastry cream to it in 5 to 6 batches. Beat for at least 30 seconds after each pastry cream addition and scrape down the sides of the bowl frequently.
  9. Cover and use or store in the fridge until you're ready to use it.
For the chocolate ganache:
  1. Put chocolate and espresso powder in a bowl.
  2. Heat the cream to a full boil, then pour it over the chocolate/espresso mix. Let the mix sit for a minute.
  3. Stir until you have a homogeneous consistency.
For the assembly:
  1. Pipe a ½-inch layer of buttercream into ten 7-ounce jars.
  2. Add about 2 tablespoons of crumbled meringue on top.
  3. Drizzle a thin layer of ganache over the meringue layer.
  4. Repeat the previous three steps and pipe a buttercream layer on top.
  5. Set a hazelnut in the center and sprinkle chopped hazelnuts over the top.
  6. Chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours to give the buttercream time to soften the meringue layers a bit.

 

Food Photography and Styling: In its cake form the dacquoise is a mighty elegant dessert but I felt that in its trifle form it took on a decidedly rustic appearance so that’s what I went for here. I used a Weck jar that I got from the World Market a while ago because I liked its curve and its substance for this recipe, it’s so thick and non-delicate that it works well in a rustic setting. I piped with my large 9P tip because I wanted a more loose look rather than the sharp, elegant curves that the 1M tip creates. I kept the set dark with a bunch of flags and let only a sliver of light come through from the side to make it look as if the jar was illuminated by a small window to the side.

Lens: I took this photo with my 105mm f2.8 NIKKOR macro lens. You can find the current version of this lens through the following link (I use an older version that is no longer being sold): AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED Lens.

Camera: I used my Nikon D600 to take this photo. You can find the current version of this camera through the following link: Nikon D610 DSLR Camera.