In my opinion, one of the crucial things about blogging is taking drool-worthy shots of food as we all first eat with our eyes. I have no idea about professional food styling/photography but it’s something I would like to learn and be able to apply one day because I’d like do a little more than the simple “white plate, white background” (but I must admit, it’s just much easier and cheaper that way). Food styling is definitely not cheap; there are many different props one would need to buy, linen, odd glassware and crockery etc, but it does makes a huge difference to the photos.
So when Dario tweeted about the possibility of doing a food blogger’s food styling/photography session with him I put my hand up as I wanted to learn a few tricks from him as his photos are always stunning. I joined forces with Karen and we baked up a storm to learn a thing or two about food photography. We came armed with two recipes each to tackle and worked with Dario to brainstorm some ideas about what we think each photo would look like.
With Summer being around the corner I really wanted to make a dessert which featured mangoes in it. I wanted to make a mango cake like this but unfortunately I do not have the skills to make a beautiful rose out of mangoes (maybe one day though). My all time favourite dessert is pannacotta so I thought about incorporating mangoes in it and serving it with a jasmine tea syrup to jazz it up a bit.
We walked into his studio to find huge windows letting in a lot of natural light, a lot of camera gear, a small-ish kitchen with a wide selection of props, backdrops and cabinets of food styling utensils. Dario asks “Do you shoot with flash?”, we both looked at him thinking “Are you serious/crazy?! Everyone know that you don’t shoot food with flash” but apparently he does as it allows him to have more control over the light source so it was going to be interesting watching him shoot our desserts with flash and to see how these pictures would turn out.
The curtains were drawn back, it was pitch dark, there was a soft box placed near the photo set up for the light source and little mirrors around the desserts to bounce off the light to highlight certain areas. You can view such set ups here and here. I’m really surprised by how fantastic the photos turned out with flash and thankful for Dario for showing us a few tricks of the trade.
And as for the pannacotta? It was smooth, creamy and wobbly (everything you’d expect from a pannacotta). Even though you could taste the mango, I don’t think there’s any harm in adding a little more mango puree to the mixture (just make sure you adjust the dairy content though) and I think it would be nice if coconut milk or cream was used as a substitute.
Photos are courtesy of Dario (www.foodpixels.com)
An original recipe by Phuoc
1 large mango
7g (2 1/2 tsp) powdered gelatin
300mL thickened cream
¼ cup caster sugar
Jasmine tea syrup
1 ½ cups hot water
½ cups sugar
1 tbs jasmine tea leaves
Edible flower petals (optional)
For the mango pannacotta
- Peel mango and obtain all the flesh.
- Blend up and pass it through a sieve. Reserve 1 cup of puree until required (the rest can be used to make smoothies etc).
- In a medium bowl, sprinkle gelatin over milk and let it stand for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan heat cream and sugar over medium heat until sugar dissolves and bubbles form around the edge. Remove from heat.
- Pour cream mixture into gelatin mixture and stir until gelatin dissolves.
- Mix in mango puree.
- Pour into 6 ramekins/dariole moulds, tap on counter lightly to release any bubbles and refrigerate until set (about 3 hours).
- To unmold the pannacotta, dip the moulds in a small bowl half-filled with hot water for about 10 seconds, invert onto plate and slightly shake to loosen (if still slightly stuck then continue shaking – do not place back into hot water which would result in a pool of melted pannacotta mixture).
- Serve with cooled jasmine tea syrup and edible flower petals (if using).
For the jasmine tea syrup
- Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves and then bring to a boil.
- Cook for about 8 minutes until volume has reduced by about half.
- Remove from heat and add tea leaves and steep for 4 minutes, strain leaves.
- Cool and refrigerate until required.
Here’s a preview of the other dessert to come.