Healing from my Candida overgrowth has caused my diet to be extremely restrictive nowadays but the positive effects are mighty. I am my old self, full of energy and positivity; even my photography style has changed. With this extra energy I can now face this stark schedules and more!
The first third of the year has been dedicated to a food competition since the last 3 years: Les Réncontres Science et Cuisine (check my 2011 and 2010 posts) but this year a new one popped up in the same time window and it was a food-photography competition too.
This year they both had pretty close deadline with the first being at the 15th and the second at the 30th of March. While I will dedicate soon a explicative post to the the Réncontres competition, this one is focused on the second one: Cook-Image.
To take part to the fun, we were asked to provide 5 shots of a single or different dishes along with the recipes; a walk-through shoot was also allowed.
I was quite excited at the prospect of producing 5 different shots of still-life trying to keep them tied together somehow.
It all came down to inspiration (as always is). The competition was organized by a French committee so it was rather natural to resort to French cuisine to get the creative juices running. It was pretty straightforward then to pick eggs as the star of the dish and then of the shoot.
Naturally, I had to go dessert... It seems that each time I want to be particularly creative and kinda stylish I am pulled by my sweet tooth.
To showcase both the egg yolks and the whites, I decided to feature a créme anglaise and a meringue in the final dish. Dealing with photography and textures, I wanted to have crepes in the dish too. The five different shots were this way set: one for each component, one for the final dish and a still life of eggs.
The whole shooting took quite a few days mostly for the sketching of the compositions and the fine tuning of the actual flavors.
This recipe of mine isn't really innovative but surely takes advantage of what eggs and the season can gift us.
The delicate textures of the egg-based components called for light but assertive flavorings and no real intrusion in the textures dimension; so I went citrus with a combination of lemon, orange blossoms and mandarin. For obvious reasons (meringue cant have any fat in and crepes have just a little bit) the rich component of the dish had to be the créme anglaise so I added quite a bit of butter in it; you can't go wrong with a nice buttery sauce, right?
From the photographic point of view the shots that created a bit more difficulty was the Italian meringue one. The creative sketch was pretty cool but once I took the shot I actually disliked it a lot so much that I redid the whole composition for a new shot. The next day though, when I compared the two different exposures, I actually liked the original concept best. Once the Italian meringue was redone, I gave it a second try.
I was expecting a long night of shooting so much so that I took a coffee at almost midnight, but I was set after a couple shots...
The shot is simple both chromatically and prop-wise. The crystal bowls just add height and a little dimension to the main stars of the shot: a billowy Italian meringue and the lemons. The addition of a metal whisk, keep up the reflections play while adding visual texture and context.
And finally here you are the recipe. Don't let its length fool you, I bet you have already made each and every components hundreds of times, now put them together my way.
Crêpes soufflées aux agrumes (citrussy crepes soufflées)
Ingredients (make 6 people; roughly 12 crepes):
- 1 egg
- 50 g all-purpose flour
- Milk (preferably full-fat), as needed (see text)
- Sugar, to taste
- 1 pinch of Salt
- Melted butter, to taste
Mandarin English buttercream:
- 3 egg yolks
- 45g sugar
- 1 pinch of Salt
- 180g milk, preferably full-fat
- 50g cold butter, cubed
- 1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon grated mandarin zest
Citrus Italian Meringue:
- 3 egg-whites
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
- 240g sugar (roughly twice the weight on egg whites)
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon orange blossoms water
Zingy Butterscotch sauce:
- 2 tablespoons of sugar
- 2 + 2 tablespoons of mandarin juice, divided
- 10g butter
- 1.5 teaspoons of lemon juice
- Mandarin segments
The day before the service, prepare the English buttercream, the butterscotch sauce and the crepes batter.
For the English buttercream, put the milk with the mandarin zest in a saucepan and bring to a low simmer; cover and let infuse out of the fire for 10-15 minutes.
Bring the infused milk back to a simmer and in the meantime whisk together the egg yolks with the sugar until the ribbon stage (they will get a nice pale yellow color and form a ribbon when falling on themselves from a whisk). Pour in the simmering milk little at a time whisking carefuly. Transfer the whole mixture back to the saucepan and on a low fire, bring it to 80C/176F whisking thoroughly.
Take the english custard out of the fire and start whisking in the cold butter one little cube at a time. Transfer the custard into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and transfer in the fridge to cool down.
For the crepes batter, combine the flour with the egg and a little milk until you obtain a smooth paste. Continue adding milk until you obtain a whipping-cream consistency. Add sugar to taste and refrigerate until ready to use.
For the butterscotch sauce, dilute the sugar with 2 tablespoons of mandarin juice and bring it to a dark amber caramel over medium fire. Add then the butter and whisk till the sauce is nice and smooth. Let the sauce cook until a nice nutty aroma will emanate from it, at this point add the remaining 2 tablespoons of mandarin juice to the saucepan along with the lemon juice. Whisk the sauce over medium fire until smooth and reserve.
The day you want to serve the dessert prepare the Italian meringue and the crepes.
For the first, mix the sugar and 1/2 cup of water in a saucepan; place it over medium fire and let it boil until the syrup reaches 120C/248F. In the meantime, in a glass or metal bowl, combine the egg whites with a pinch of salt and the lemon juice. Whip the egg whites until firm peaks form and then mix in the lemon zest.
When the syrup is at 120C/248F, drizzle it onto the egg whites continuing beating on high speed. Continue beating until the meringue will be nicely smooth and shiny and cool to the touch, at this point mix in the orange blossoms water.
To finish the crepes, melt the butter in a non-stick skillet and whisk it in the crepes batter. Pour in enough batter to thinly coat the bottom of the skillet and cook until golden brown on one side before flipping the crepe over.
A trick to properly coat the pan is to pour the batter on the side of the skillet closest to the handle and swirl it across the skillet; if you should have holes, you can always pour a little more batter onto them.
To present the dessert, pour some of the cold buttercream on the bottom of the plate, stuff the crepes with some Italian meringue and a drizzle of the butterscotch sauce. Lay the stuffed crepes soufflées onto the buttercream and finish with some mandarin supremes.