Friday, April 15, 2011

Jam Sauce Creme Brulee & Inside a Food Blogger Life

Have you ever wondered what a food blogger’s shooting area looks like? Are you a food blogger who’d like a peek into someone else’s setup? I thought I’d share a little bit of the inner workings of what goes around here.

When I’m not shooting for a client I’m here at my own home. That means my little house ends up looking a bit too much like a studio, but that’s the life of a regular food blogger.

In my southwestern windows there’s a square white child’s table and a homemade round table I built out of an old beat up coffee table and an outdoor side table. Both tables are set low so I can shoot above them without too much difficulty.

You’ll notice that there are several layers of tablecloths covering the round table. Storing them on top of each other keeps them from getting wrinkled, and I can quickly find what I’m looking for.

I also have several lighting set ups, but the one I prefer is a mix of natural light, soft boxes, and silver and gold reflectors. My other lights tend to stay stored away until I have a large shoot where I’m covering people and food, instead of just small place settings.

My camera is a Canon and I most often use a 50mm macro lens for food blogging. It gives me the flexibility to get close to my subject and move away from it without having to switch lenses. When there are hungry people waiting for dinner, it makes a difference!

Props are a big deal here. (Sorry about the mess, I really do need to clean them out.) When I’m shooting for a magazine oftentimes they’ll ask for a holiday or season specific shot months ahead, and without those types of props I wouldn’t be able to fill the order. This photograph is just a small section of my very messy prop area. Anyone want to help me organize? Please?

As far as food propping goes, I try to purchase as many items as possible that coordinate well together. Lots of solid colors with a few patterned pieces to draw the eye and make the look more interesting. That way the feel can be changed quickly but the items will still work together.

Most of my props come from discount stores like Ross, Wal-Mart when they clearance out their holiday items, and even the Dollar Store.

It’s also important that I take extra time for photographs to get my creative juices going. I try at all costs to shoot when I’m not stressed trying to feed the numerous people who come through my door. I’ve learned that sauces can be thinned out the next day with water, and many foods can be styled later without compromise to quality.

Since I’m a photographer by trade and not a food stylist, I have a couple of food styling heroes whose books have been vastly helpful to me. Food Styling: The Art of Preparing Food for the Camera by Delores Custer, and The Food Stylist's Handbook by Denise Vivaldo are my go to bibles.

Not all things Delores and Denise do apply to us as food bloggers, as we shoot real food that we actually eat, but I’ve learned little things from them that help a lot. Like trimming edges of hamburger buns to clean them up, and brushing foods with oil for a fresher look.

And that’s it. At least that I can remember right now. If you ever have questions please feel free to ask. I’m always happy to try to help.

Jam Sauce Crème Brûlée
Printer Version
This is a twist on the Blackberry Crème Brûlée with Brown Sugar Sauce recipe. Thick jam turns to flavorful sauce on the bottom of your custards. I used blackcap raspberry jam, but marmalade, strawberry or any favorite good quality jam would work well.

Special tools you’ll need are 4 six-ounce ramekins, a fine mesh sieve (strainer) and a torch of some kind. I use Jesse’s shop propane torch (more fire=more fun), but you can buy a little brûlée torch at most fancy kitchen stores.

2 cups (1 pint) heavy cream
4 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
Pinch of Salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
About 1 cup or so fresh or frozen blackberries
8 teaspoons dark brown sugar, divided
Sugar for brûlée

1. Place 4 six-ounce ramekins in a metal rimmed half bakers sheet. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and set a kettle of water to boil.

2. Place the heavy cream in a 3 quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat stirring often until just the point of boiling. Set aside.

3. Meanwhile, in a medium sized bowl whisk together egg yolks, 2/3 cup sugar, salt and vanilla extract. Whisking the entire time, slowly pour about 1 cup of the hot heavy cream into the egg mixture. Then pour the egg mixture into the heavy cream while whisking.

4. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a large clean bowl. Spread 1 tablespoon of your favorite jam onto the bottom of each ramekin. Slowly ladle cream mixture evenly into the ramekins, scraping all of it out of the bowl with a spatula.

5. Pull the oven rack out about half way and place the pan on it. Pour the hot water into the pan until it’s about half way up the ramekins. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Custards should be mainly set around the edges, but the center will still be jiggly.

6. Carefully move the custards to a cooling rack. Once cool, move to the refrigerator and chill for at least four hours.

7. To Brûlée: Sprinkle custard tops with about a teaspoon of granulated sugar and torch with fire until deeply golden brown pulling back the torch as needed so the sugar doesn’t char.

Recipe and photographs by Laura Flowers.


Joanne said...

I loved this look inside your "photo studio"! Photography is something I didn't really think I would get into when I started blogging but I'm becoming more and more intrigued by it and would love to be better at it! And I someday aspire to own as many props as you do. And eat your creme brulee. That last part can be fixed...pretty soon.

ann@Apples and Twinkies said...

Thank you for this post. It was very interesting!

Unknown said...

Thanks for your "behind the scenes" look Laura! I wish my little NYC apartment had room for more props (though I'd settle for natural sunlight! =) )

TaGa_Luto said...

Laura! Thanks for letting us in to your "world" to be honest i always wonder how'd you do your beautiful creations. I have recently bought some colorful plates from Big Lots,thanks to you;) I have been noticing your color coordinated plating. I love that you explained the difference between food bloggers photos vs. the food stylist well said. Now, your Jam sauce creme brulee sounds so good and i'm sure these taste awesome.;)

Betty said...

I loved seeing where you create your lovely photographs! Photography frustrates me terribly sometimes. My son tries to coach me long distance but I think what I really need is practice. And the time to do it. Love all of those props too. :) And don't let me forget that jam brulee- so delicious!

Unknown said...

OMG look at all your props...lucky lady you! I am jealous now...I have a shelf with a few things...Target helps now with all of their available *plastic* plates. I do love them.

Have a great weekend! Love this dish.

Georgia | The Comfort of Cooking said...

Laura, this creme brulee looks incredible! Great job on it, and thanks for sharing a peek into your photo set-up! Food blogging is a mighty unglamorous process with a very glamorous looking result, especially coming from you. :) Have a great weekend.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this peek into how you do things! I'm still very much a beginner in photography and food styling and blogging and I'm super jealous of your props. I'm sure I'll collect some of my own over time, or at least I hope so, I only have a couple things I've bought especially for the purpose of props so far :D And thank you very much for the book recommendations I will look for those :) And your Crème Brûlée looks beautiful! Thank you again!

Rhonda said...

I really enjoyed this post. I'm jealous of your photo space. I've started collecting some items myself. Great sales are hard to pass up.

Chelsea said...

Oh my gosh. Your photo space and props are so inspiring! I actually just bought natural light bulbs for my kitchen-hopefully that'll help!

Maria said...

Great post and the creme brulee sounds so scrumptious!

The Old White Barn said...

Thank you for the "behind the scenes peek" - we're all so jealous of your fabulous creations!

Jennifer said...

Thank you so much, Laura! I really appreciate so much you sharing this. I am still learning so much as I go along with food photography...I really needed this! Thanks again!

Amee said...

This was sooo cool! it's like VH1's behind the music, except "behind the food" :) Very kind of you to share. Now it all makes sense. Everything I photograph is on my corelle plates...maybe time to scout the flea markets for some variety or something. Great great tips. I do love your style.

Simones Kitchen said...

Thanks so much for sharing this Laura! I am always interested in finding out how others do it and their setups so this is greatly helpful!

Christina of Form V Artisan said...

I'm lovin' the colourful props. You have a great gig going for ya here!


Aisha Jameel said...

Lovely blog you have here dear ! Beautifully written and so full of life :) I'm your newest follower !

Xiaolu @ 6 Bittersweets said...

Great post, Laura. Never realized you used soft boxes. It's always great to know a bit more about the set-up others use and to actually see it. What type of camera do you use, may I ask? I can't really help you with organizing props or downsizing b/c I have the same problem haha. As I commented on Flickr, really loving the hidden jam in this perfect creme brulee.

The Atwoods said...

What a great post, Laura! I loved getting a "sneak peak" at your home/kitchen/studio! Keep up the great work! Your photos are amazing!

Anonymous said...

So this is where it is done.... i would be ashamed to take a pic of "my spot" no lights, ect.. exept a small lamp. I try to rely on the sunlight off a very small window. love the creme brulee

Veronica said...

Laura, I'm impressed, but I expected no less because your pictures are always professional quality. I had to giggle at the imagined look on your face if you saw my set up. I've got my super-pro $95 Walmart digital camera, completely with dried on dough smudges, and most of the time I take my dog's food container into the back yard, plop a piece of poster board on top, set my food on top of that, hit the macro setting on my camera and snap. Such a hard core food photographer, right?! LOL! I view food photography as a necessary evil. I wouldn't like to post recipes without photos, but I really would rather not take them.

The Cooking Photographer said...

Veronica it doesn't matter what camera you shoot with. We make pictures more than we take them. I've seen some of your nice pictures.

Xiaolu I shoot with a Canon 50D, which isn't a full frame camera but is great for light sensitivity, is totally programmable to my specifications, and is easier on the wallet than a full frame.

Anonymous said...

I love creme brulee! And this glimpse into what goes into your looks so professional! I love all the props :)

Jacqueline said...

I am soooo glad I stopped by today. It was fun to read about what you do and how! I too have learned that the food doesn't have to be fresh from the oven and I can do it later, but lots of times we eat it all and I wished I had made the time. I do best when no one is around. What great ideas and how fun to peek into your stash!

Sarah said...

Thanks for the peek at your set-up. I am envious of your huge windows. I am often cooking and photographing at night, so I've made a little light box to help light my photos. I also love collecting props; it is so addictive!

Jess @ Sugar High said...

I love seeing how other food bloggers set up their photos, each one helps me out a little by giving me ideas. You have a lot of props! I have to keep myself from getting more than I absolutely need, 'cause I'd make even more of a mess with them. ;)

Your creme brulee looks amazing! Ugh, this is one of those moments when I wish I had a kitchen torch.

VegeCooking Club said...

I love to see inside other food blogger's set ups. Yours is much more professional! I always shoot at night, with one Lowel Ego (I need to buy another) with a certain small 2-year old hand either shaking my tripod or trying to be in the actual photo and a hungry husband at the table while we are rushing to get dinner eaten and cleaned and then off to bath and bed only to get ready for work the next day. It will be so much fun when I have more time to be creative! (On the other hand that will mean my little munckin is growing up and doesn't need me as much.)

Mary @Delightful Bitefuls said...

Love this post! Wish I could borrow all your props ;)

Mary xo
Delightful Bitefuls

Unknown said...

I love your studio. I wonder if I could get my husband to give me that kind of space :D Great brulee.

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