the perfect apple-almond cake photo

There’s something about fall that screams baking! During the summer months I run away from the oven with terrorizing memories of the sticky and sweaty kitchen years I endured as a baker, but as soon as the backyard fills with leaves my little inner baker wakes up.

apple-almondcake

The falling leaves and crisps nights make it irresistible for a warm and sweet baked good right out of the oven, together with a cup of coffee and a good book. The heat of the oven helps me warm up the house in the absence of a fire-place, which would make this story seem more fairytale than it really is; and if I had a say, my fairytale would include year-round mild weather and an ocean view.

Fall’s slow death into winter also slows life, or at least it feels that way. I rediscover books with folded pages and pencil notes from before the rush of summer. A bit dusty, but not at all forgotten, they guarded their message and waited for me and our daily afternoon coffee, or evening glass of wine. 

One of those books I’m a few pages from finishing is Best Food Writing 2015, a yearly compilation of food-related essays, which has been done for more than a decade now, by Holly Hughes. I got hooked on these books a few years back when my interest shifted from cookbooks {yes, i still buy some of those} to food writing as narrative, a way to tell food stories. 

As I planned for this post, an essay from this book came to mind, “The Imperfect Family Kitchen,” by Debbie Koenig.

The essay begins with: “Food writers are lying to you,” yikes! and I agree, for the most part. She talks about the behind the scenes of recipes development {or recreation} and food photography, and the reality we don’t show on blog posts like this…Nope, I don’t have any pictures of dirty dishes for you, sorry.
We ‘lie’ because ugly pictures don’t sell, and pretty pictures DO, they attract people to follow and click on a link. 

When I first started this blog, my pictures were ugly, as not pretty or appealing, my goal was to share a recipe and a story, and didn’t understand that the photos made a difference. There were many reason for my bad photos {not to say they are absolutely great now, but better} besides my lack of skill.  My kitchen is dark, with orange-yellow maple cabinets and dark green-blue counter tops. My pictures reflected that, even worse when I’d turn the lights on to photograph dinner the yellow hue would translate onto the photo. 

honeycrispapples

Hours of reading about food photography and a full week of deconstructing and reconstructing my office made my photos crisper and cleaner. The office became a white box, I took the carpet off and installed plywood planks on the floor, and painted walls, floor and ceiling a crisp white, to bounce the window light and not alter the color of the food. 

My pictures don’t reflect the dated refrigerator, the broken-down microwave, or the prop I use to keep the oven door close because the hinges don’t work. They show an “edited” idea of how cooking really happens here. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kitchen and many great meals successfully come out of it, including this apple cake, but how many people really want to see a load of bad pictures full of reality? 

germanapplealmondcake

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Whole Grain Banana-Chocolate Bundt cakes

Once in a while the grocery store where I shop has ‘brownish’ bananas on sale, as it happened a couple of weeks ago, so I buy enough to make a few loaves of banana bread.

The desperate look of the in-need-of-a-home bananas brakes me every time and I end up sheltering more than enough to make the usual banana bread, plus some other quick bread variation that I could serve for afternoon tea or even dinner; banana-chocolate bread baked in mini bundt pans fools anyone into thinking is dessert.

chocolatebananabread

The whole wheat and rye flours hide behind the dark {extra-brut} cocoa powder and the chunks of 68% chocolate giving it a sense of indulgence, plus lowering the sugar allows the chocolate flavor to shine and support the bananas as the first act.

chocolatebananaminibunts

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Applesauce-Quinoa Bread

“No, I don’t eat fish unless I, or someone I know, caught it, I also don’t eat quinoa” Tammi said at dinner.

I had made applesauce-quinoa bread that day, had taken the photographs and was planning to write a post on the wonders of quinoa in your baked goods until Tammi planted the little quinoa seed and its problematic existence in my brain.

We were celebrating the first evening of Slow Meat in Denver with people from around the globe. Tammi is an American living in Australia raising pigs sustainably and humanly. She looked at me and said, “Hell, we are eating all the quinoa and the natives who depend on it are having a hard time affording it.

Why? Why did you have to say that?

I was happy when it didn’t occured to me that my healthy bread was a problem for a person thousands of miles away in the Andes Mountains, or is it?

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Banana-Oat and Rye Bread

I’m not a huge fan of banana bread, I often find it too sweet, dense and ‘bananay” {is that a word?} My husband loves banana bread, and even more when chocolate chips mysteriously make their way in it.

Lately, I have been playing around with flours I bought from a small mill called Carolina Ground, after reading an article about the difference between mass-produced, bleached, nutrition-less flours and those made from small batches of organic grains, stone-ground, cold milled and fully extracted.

I bought whole wheat bread and pastry flours, and whole rye flour. The article and the websites of the artisans who work with theses types of flours explained that this way of crushing the entire grain between stones at a temperature lower than 100 degrees, allows the oils and nutrients from the germ and the husk to rub against the endosperm resulting in a cream-colored flour.  Continue reading Banana-Oat and Rye Bread