Thursday, August 14, 2014

Bite-sized pastries

Or petit four which literally translated from French means "little oven" (come on, any of you really not know that?) they are supposed to be small, dainty and able to be eaten in a single mouthful. They are appearing more and more on buffets, coffee breaks, receptions etc as an alternative to the cakes, pastries, flans and gateaux of yesteryear. Suppose you just have to eat more of them to get the same effect? Discuss...
Here are some I snapped last week

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Midsummer murmurs

Here we are on the countdown to Midsummer in Scandinavia (it's raining quite hard as I write this) and things are shaping up pretty good, days so long that it gets dark for a mere hour or two at the most and bright sunshine from 5 in the morning, the local neighborhood is busying itself tidying up already tidy gardens and folks are organizing get-togethers and the associated food and drink, the majority of the events in Sweden take place on the 20th with the 21st being a "rest day" there is herring to be eaten with new potatoes and then strawberries and cream oh and a little snaps apparently!

Whilst in Denmark the midsummer happens on the 23rd/24th (known as Sankthans) with huge bonfires in public places and I dare say some snaps too! Food wise amongst the traditional Danish hot-dogs, potato salad etc is this fantastic dessert made from buttermilk, egg yolks, lemon zest, vanilla and some small biscuits that are like farleys rusks (remember?) all together with some super fresh local strawberries it's a real delight on hot days.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Creating mood

So another Eurovision song contest comes and goes and the Scandi fever can subside at least for a year, it would have been a bit much if Sweden had won (was a good song mind) having hosted it last year oh goodness me was it really 40 years ago that ABBA won ...etc etc

A couple of fun shots recently made with a couple of chefs illustrating how you can change the mood of a photo with light, expression and some attitude. In addition to the energy and personality of the subject in a photo it has been said that sometimes it's not what you light in a photo it's what you don't light and a closer study of the portfolios of masters such as Gregory Heisler and Dan Winters illustrate this point to the max. Shadows are most definitely your friends.
In fact a photographer can make you look any way he/she wants just with a few adjustments of lights, hands up who as a kid has ever held a torch under your chin in the dark and laughed at the ghoulish image! Yes under normal circumstances faces don't look great lit from below.
These pictures below were all shot with basically the same lighting which was 2 flashheads to the left of the scene bouncing their light off a big white sheet hanging between 2 trolleys, very simple. A reflector was positioned or removed on the right hand side as needed.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Bread rolls and beer

I used beer instead of water in the dough for these rolls but the thing is the beer here from the supermarket is limited to a maximum of 3.5% alcohol so it doesn't taste that beery, it looks like real beer but the taste is a bit on the watery side if you want to learn more about alcohol in Sweden...this from Wiki:
Sweden has a government alcohol monopoly called Systembolaget for sale of all beverages stronger than 3.5% by volume. Minimum purchase age at Systembolaget is 20 years, but 18 at restaurants and bars with proper permission.
Beer is legally divided into three classes. Class I (maximum 2.25%), called lättöl ("light beer"), is sold without restrictions (although shops often set their own age restrictions). Class II (up to 3.5%), called folköl ("people's beer"), is sold in regular stores, but with the minimum purchase age of 18. Class III, starköl ("strong beer", over 3.5%) is sold only in Systembolaget stores.
Here is some Guiness at 3.5% and another supermarket beer, I like the bit where it says "same great taste as the pub" never-the-less the rolls tasted great!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Spring Equinox

 Like every year at this time on a clear moonlit night they gathered around the stones and waited...

...and like every year nothing happened! sorry chaps it's just a photo!
Today it's the Spring Equinox at least according to Julius Caesar when he created his calendar back in 45 BC. In loose terms (according to some) it's when the day and night are of equal length although today, here in Sweden however it means another rainy day as far as I have seen.
But we do have some Daffodils in the garden threatening to come out and the shrubbery is also looking about ready to green up. So this weekend will be the first official gardening weekend and no doubt the neighbour hood will be alive with the buzz of electric garden tools and the chug-chug-phut of poorly maintained mowers. Happy spring!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

In the style of a classic

Photo credit Bill Gekas
When I first saw this image I thought wow, when I looked on the photographer's web page I said wow again.

Bill Gekas is an award winning and self taught, fine-art portrait photographer. He was born and lives in Melbourne, Australia.
He took a series of pictures of his daughter influenced by the style of classic paintings and whilst they aren't always exact copies of other pictures I think he has absolutely nailed the style, tone and lighting. His lighting setups are often very simple with relatively modest equipment but the results as you can see are just great and unsurprisingly he has won many awards for his work.  
See more of this brilliant series on his site here

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The truth about croissants

I am very good at eating croissants, I made those above this morning well last night and this morning actually. I have made quite a few in my time as well, my first real job after I left catering college was in the pastry kitchen of London's Mayfair hotel, one of my scheduled shifts started at 05.30am and we had to have the first couple of trays of croissants ready by 07.00am we made hundreds, exactly how many depended on how busy the hotel was.
The dough was always made the evening before usually by someone else so you were always relying on their skill to make it just right you had to trust them, although we followed a recipe there was a certain amount of know-how as well, the dough had to have the right consistency a bit more or a bit less milk, the time of year was a factor too, less yeast in the summer and a bit more in the winter and then the timing, not too much mixing on the machine but enough. Proving time as well, not too long but long enough, how do you know? You know because you do it every day and you were taught by someone who did it every day before you came along, you poked the dough and knew it was ready, right consistency.

The right stuff

We used good quality ingredients, the same brand all the time so we could rely on them as well, you get to know your ingredients too. The butter had to be bashed with a rolling pin to make it soft, how soft? you just knew. If someone got it wrong the night before with the dough it was you who suffered the consequences in the morning, it happened (thankfully very rarely)

Making croissants at home is not the easiest thing to do, why? because you don't do it every day and with all of the variables in there, time, consistency, temperature, ingredients etc etc but it's not impossible.
The recipe or method is not that complicated they are to be found in most good pastry books but you have to approach it with the right frame of mind and don't be put off if the first time they don't come out of the oven perfect, just try again, those around you will certainly encourage you to try again and again because the smell of them and enjoying a croissant you have made yourself, well it does take some beating.