I'm Jess, a grad student and food photographer obsessed with chocolate. I love things made of sugar, lasers strapped to helicopters, and silly hats.
Come visit on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, for stories about food, bakeries in Seattle, and my most definitely being up to no good.
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I’m going on a blogging/tweeting sabbatical. Starting now.
Why? Because I’m still sick, and it’s not getting better. I’m not dying – trust me, that would be a different kind of post – but for now the best thing I can do is limit my non-school engagements. I’d planned to get away with dropping my post frequency, but cold turkey really is the best option. And that also means going silent on twitter. Cold turkey, not cold pheasant-that-kind-of-has-turkey-features.
My goal is to do this until January 1, 2014. Ricochet will probably be inactive slightly longer, while I work with full force on my next big project, but I’ll return to twitter by then. And by then, you won’t be able to get rid of me.
I’m not particularly thrilled about this decision, but my health has been poor for too long. I just need time to recuperate.
Also, right now I want to devote my free time to doing the things I talk about doing, rather than just writing about what I want to do. So if you need a co-conspirator for potentially bad ideas, I’ll still be checking my jessica @ ricochetbiscuit.com email. (If you’re a friend catching this and I haven’t contacted you yet, send me a smoke signal.)
In the words of Granny Weatherwax, I aten’t dead. I’m just off doing other things instead of my thesis.
While I normally only comment here on desserts, over the weekend I felt inspired to work with vegetables.
Recently, nearly every weekend we’ve gone to the Patty Pan Collective’s grill at our local farmers’ market to get quesadillas.
I doubt they’d cure anyone of their fears of new veggies, but they’re beautiful. It’s a regular quesadilla, only they first cook up a huge pile of chard, zucchini, beets, and whatever else is in season, then tuck a scoop of those greens into each piece of cheesy goodness. It all blends together into this melty, warm, handheld treat. And they’re huge – even at $6, Chris and I usually share one before hitting the market stands.
Since the market this week was out of sunflower sprouts, my latest addiction, I thought it could be fun to make my own version based on what I’d already eat if it wasn’t in a quesadilla. I picked up a variety of chard and a handful of beets, but you could really go to town with whatever you want. In this version you can’t miss the kale, which is both soft and crispy, and the beets lend an earthy, sweet note that brightens the whole meal. Honestly, it’s so good that you could eat the cooked vegetables on their own, but it’s more awesome with cheese.
They also use some form of spice blend that looks like it’s red pepper based, yet I have never sat down to analyze it because I’m too busy eating. I used a shichimi togarashi blend, which is mainly red chili pepper, as it was what I had on hand that seemed like it might work. I’d go for whatever you think your family will actually eat, be it plain paprika or just some cracked black pepper.
These do not taste exactly like the Patty Pan’s quesadilla of awesome, and I didn’t plan them to. It’s just a variation on what they do well, and something I’ll probably make when I’m hungry on non-market afternoons.
So in case you couldn’t tell from my previous posts, I have a slight obsession with macro photography. Slight. Ever tried to do super crazy macro photography, though? I haven’t, and I thought it was time to play around.
Now I shoot with a 100mm macro lens, which gives me the joy of not having to practically put the food in my face in order to take a shot I like. (It’s also so heavy I can use it for lifting weights, but that would make it some of the most expensive exercise gear ever.) That doesn’t mean you need something that overkill. In fact, I’ve used my cell phone for macro work on more than one occasion for pretty spiffy results, or even my kit lens in a pinch.
This isn’t as much of a game as it is a challenge, a challenge to get you to shoot big for shooting small.
How to play:
Go into your kitchen, right now if you can.
Find the smallest things you’ve never photographed. Skip the truffles, the tiny cookies. Let’s go for grains of rice, individual oats, nuts. (If you go for something as small as rice, no more than a tablespoon or so.) If you’re using a cell phone or you’re not liking what you’re finding, absolutely go larger, but the goal is to have teeny, tiny things.
Pick three or four.
Arrange and photograph however you think is most awesome.
I decided to try two versions, one with toys and another following the rules.
For the first, I finally put my miniature food erasers to work. One of these days I’ll build a full tiny tea set, but for now I just have the two, the taiyaki and sakura mochi. (For those not in the know, taiyaki are fish-shaped cakes, usually filled with azuki bean paste, or anko, and sakura mochi are mochi filled with anko and topped with edible cherry leaves.)
These erasers are too cute for their intended purposes. They’ll make great food models, though.
Once out of the bag, the tiny erasers were just adorable – and I only had one thing that would work as a prop: a tiny cupcake wrapper.
And again, just in case that dinky strawberry didn’t imply how small these are, I added a normal-sized spoon to the mix. I was really wishing I had one of my five centimeter scale bars from college, but one makes do when lacking proper scientific equipment.
Maybe I should just order calipers.
Next I raided the shelves and grabbed dry sushi rice, some hazelnuts, popcorn kernels, and some chocolate-covered freeze-dried strawberries from an older review that were still good and wouldn’t make it to my next trip. (Well, now they’re not going to make it because I ate them all while writing this post, but that’s okay. I can claim otherwise.)
I realized when I started shooting that not only did I have no clue what I was doing, but that I’ve never even shot rice before at this level. And, honestly, it’s hard to make a single piece of rice interesting. First I tried moving individual grains around to form lines, as I thought spirals could be awesome, but apparently rice follows its own polarity or something at the granular level. Every time I put one down it would rotate 90-130 degrees, and generally in the direction I didn’t want them to go.
I did try to salvage these shots by adding other objects, but they just got… boring.
So, back to the drawing board.
Since I couldn’t get them to cooperate in thin lines, I scooped up all the rice into a pile and started pushing it around into twists and turns. Now that worked, and worked rather well. In fact, this gave me an idea for an all-rice shoot I’ve been avoiding.
This was fun. I love the idea of building solar systems and galaxies on a plate, less awful variations on those dioramas I somehow avoided through childhood. (Given that they happened at both my middle and elementary schools all the time, I’m whispering a small thank-you to the teachers that let us mummify chicken carcasses instead.) It’s not the most creative photograph I’ve ever made, but I could see spending a few hours making rice zen sculptures with clean hands, photographing it all, then making rice with it all for dinner.
So go shoot something small, and see what happens.
This is a series for a collaboration between Kiri Callaghan, me, and our helpful friends at Theo Chocolate and Guimauve Confections. We regret nothing except that the marshmallows disappeared all too quickly.
Back in February for my very first test of Guimauve Confections, I made inside-out s’mores with their Neapolitan marshmallows, which are delicious, but also ridiculously messy. These mallows, once roasted, are gooey, near-liquid flavor bombs held together by the thinnest of crispy sugar shells. Great when you’re eating them solo, not so great when you’re trying to hold things between them and not wreck your clothing.
Would absolutely make them again, only I’d eat them with chopsticks. And have a hoard of damp washcloths nearby for the collateral damage. Or maybe I’d make them into something closer to a confection: roast smaller marshmallow pieces, let cool, then dip in chocolate and top with a piece of graham cracker.
For Marshmallow May, Guimauve sent over some s’mores marshmallows, which are exactly what you think they are – chocolate and vanilla swirled marshmallows with soft graham cracker chunks both on top and mixed in. Eating them straight out of the bag, they’re a bit messy with all the crumbs, but you won’t care. They’re giant soft, fluffy, wonders, things you wish you could have eaten when you were six, and the chocolate and vanilla mallow streaks are distinctly delicious.
Keeping it classic, I decided to turn them into meta-s’mores: s’mores made with s’mores marshmallows. (I did try to stack them with more marshmallows for meta-meta-s’mores, but the jenga heap of a dessert collapsed way too fast.)
You can use whatever chocolate you want, but I decided on Theo’s 45% Salted Almond, which gave salt and crunch to the finished s’mores. I’m always a fan of salt to increase the sweetness, and there’s something magical about milk chocolate in s’mores. Maybe it’s from mainly eating them with Hershey bars as a kid, but it’s just awesome.
I made them inside on a rainy day; I’d love to roast these outdoors now that the sun’s out. Since they’re huge, I cut my marshmallows in half before roasting and didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything. All I tasted was a bite of my childhood dreams.
I was way too amused by the idea of cake bingo as something to do at wedding shows, so here’s a card for those of you who might want to give it a shot. I personally feel you should only mark off a square if you’ve eaten the cake/treat, but if you’re gluten-free/lactose-intolerant/allergic, no one will fault you for avoiding sugary trouble.
There are no winners, only happiness.
If I was doing this, I’d want someone to take over a table we could bring all the desserts to. I mean, if we’re all hunting cake, I prefer to compare notes over a smorgasbord of sugar rather than block everyone else who’s trying to get a taste.