Say hello to an absolute smasher of a holiday dessert. If you’re looking to serve something that’s easy and next to impossible to mess up but at the same time stellar both in taste and looks then this is the ticket.
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The vanilla cream is actually the same recipe I already shared with you a while ago here; it’s made with eggs, cream, vanilla and sugar, stiffened with gelatin and takes literally just a few minutes to put together.*
The cranberries are quick and easy as well, you just simmer up a simple syrup flavored with cinnamon, briefly submerge frozen cranberries in it, then roll the berries in sugar. I sprinkled a few chopped pistachios over everything for extra visual appeal but you can skip them if you want to. The light and sweet vanilla cream contrasts perfectly with the tart berries that have just a hint of cinnamon flavor. It’s my new favorite dessert, and not just for the holidays!
*The vanilla cream recipe comes from The Centennial Collection of Favorite Recipes from Grace Episcopal Church in Paducah KY, Second Edition 1975
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar (more for rolling)
- 3 tablespoons water
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup frozen cranberries
- 1 teaspoon powdered gelatin
- one 2-inch piece of vanilla bean
- 2 eggs, separated
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- finely chopped pistachios for garnish (optional)
- Heat sugar, water and cinnamon in a saucepan to a simmer.
- Once the sugar is dissolved, add the cranberries. Stir them around to make sure they are completely coated with the syrup.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cranberries onto parchment paper.
- Add granulated sugar to a shallow bowl then roll the cranberries around in it, one by one, until they are all fully coated.
- Add gelatin along with 3 tablespoons of cold water to a saucepan. Let sit for 4 minutes.
- Cut the vanilla bean open and scrape out the seeds.
- Whisk the egg yolks with ⅓ cup sugar and vanilla seeds in a bowl until creamy.
- Whip the egg whites to stiff peaks.
- Whip the cream with 1 teaspoon sugar to stiff peaks.
- Heat the bloomed gelatin just until dissolved.
- Whisk the gelatin into the egg yolk mix.
- Fold in the cream.
- Fold in the egg whites.
- Fill the mix into a large bowl and chill.
- Scoop the cream onto individual plates and serve with the cranberries.
- Sprinkle pistachios on for garnish.
Food Photography and Styling: The plates you see in this photo are actually meant for large candles (I think I got them at World Market a few years ago) but I like to use them as props for food and I thought their elegant and modern look went well with this dessert.
I took the plates off my prop shelf and had just set them on a small black table next to a window when I saw a ray of morning sunlight run across them. The light looked absolutely beautiful on the plates and I would have photographed the dish in that natural light but I hadn’t actually made the dessert yet (and of course the light was gone within 15 minutes) so I tried to replicate that same morning light with my strobe.
That is one of the aspects of food photography I still enjoy the most, taking full command over my equipment and creating and placing every shadow and every highlight exactly where I want it. It’s always a challenge and it took a bit of experimenting here but I settled on my through the doorframe technique and used a thin white curtain to diffuse the light.
Nikon D600, 105mm, f/8, 1/125 sec., ISO 100. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight.