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I recently stumbled upon Katie Quinn Davies‘s portfolio.  While are a ton of awesome food blogs out there with equally awesome photography, I have yet to find another food blog that can match Katie’s phenomenal eye for styling and photo composition. And unlike many stylists who thrive on perfection (spot-clean edges on plates, clear glasses, etc…), Katie is able to make tiny crumbs and spills look enticing.

I’ve been baking alot lately. I’m not a very good baker, but I’m starting to get better. The whole process is so relaxing. I ended up dedicating this 3-day weekend to improving my baking and food photography. Beats calculating free cash flow. Plus, I figured that if I could become good enough, perhaps I can justify finally buying a Kitchen Aid.

whisk!!

This morning, I ran to Walmart and Home Depot, where I bought some wood panels, poster boards, and paint. The metallic background here is actually black poster-board with a layer of Martha Stewart’s metallic paint. I plan on following up after with a DIY post on how to make these backgrounds.

chocolate truffle tarts2

So what did I learn from hours upon hours of observing Katie Quinn Davies’ food portfolio?

  1. If you’re like me where simply looking at photographs isn’t enough to instill inspiration, draw out the photographs that you admire. No joke. Take some colored crayons and briefly sketch/color in everything. This helped me truly understand color composition, food placement, and food props that make the styling a success.
  2. Observe the style. I know that I’m not a patient person. I have no desire to wipe plates clean and brush crumbs off the frame. In fact, I prefer to eat as a I shoot, and photographing half eaten food is a great excuse to do that.
  3. Textures matter. Even the simplest of Katie’s shots feature a monotone backdrop with a rag to offset the flat texture.
  4. Props matter. White square plates don’t work for everything. Not saying that you should spend a small fortune to buy props, but these Mason jars were worth the $3.97 (or so I think…). They come in a 4-pack.
  5. That being said, there’s stuff already in your house that you’re probably overlooking that could be used as props- ie brown paper napkins.
  6. Cover imperfections with confectioners’ sugar or make it look as if you had purposely made the imperfection.

chocolate truffle tart

I think this was a pretty good first attempt. Don’t let these photographs fool you though. I don’t have an offset spatula (those things cost like $8 for a piece of metal!), so the top of the tart wasn’t completely flat. In fact, there were slight ridges from my knife. So, I covered it with some sweet whipped cream and sifted some confectioners’ sugar. Note that I made sure to dust the backdrop too.  Initially I was going to take the tart out of the pan but parts of the tart would have flaked off. Hence, I decided to use a darker backdrop to contrast the white ceramic.

 

a bite in

For those of you who are more interested in the tart itself and not the photography behind it, apologies. The tart is rich. Don’t make this if you plan on going on a diet. Several things should alarm you. There’s a ton of butter and a ton of cream. We haven’t even factored in the sugar. I’d caution that while it’s possible to cut back a bit on the cream and butter, the texture will get compromised. Luckily, you can cut back on the confectioners’ sugar within the pastry. Instead of 2/3 cup as recommended below, I used only 1/4 cup.

Remember, the only baking involved in a chocolate truffle tart is the pastry crust so the quality of your chocolate is super important. After you melt the chocolate, whatever you taste is however the tart will taste. Input = bad chocolate; Output = bad tart.

Now remains the hardest part. What am I going to do with all of these chocolate truffle tarts? I can’t eat them all!!


 

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Chocolate Truffle Tart
Baking Illustrated
Serves 12 to 14 (so don’t be a pig!)

Ingredients:

Sweet Tart Pastry

  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour + more for dusting the work surface
  • 2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 stick of cold unsalted butter (8 tablespoons), cut into 1/2 in cubes (8 tablespoons)

Traditional chocolate truffle tarts typically have a chocolate shell. To make the chocolate shell, substitute 1/4 cup cocoa powder for 1/4 cups of flower.

Dark Chocolate Truffle Filling

  • 12 ounces high-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or 2 cups of chocolate chips)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 stick of butter (6 tablespoons) at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon cognac (or triple-sec)

chocolate!!!

Left over chocolate? Don’t fret. HERRO CHOCOLATE COVERED STRAWBERRIES!!

Method:

You should make the filling after the pastry has baked and cooled because the chocolate will solidify when it cools. There is heavy cream in it after all…

Sweet Tart Pastry

You’ll need a food processor for this. If you don’t have one, good luck because it’ll be hard to do by hand. Whisk together the yolk, cream, and vanilla in a bowl. Set aside.

Place the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor and combine briefly. Then, scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture. Pulse it 15 times in 1 second intervals so that the butter gets cut and incorporated into the flour. The resulting mixture should resemble course meal.  While the machine is running, add in the egg mixture. Process for an additional 12 seconds until everything forms into a dough. Turn the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and press into a 6 inch disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 48 hours.

This was a fail for me. My food processor is super tiny so it couldn’t fit the egg mixture. Instead, I mixed egg mixture into the flour mixture by hand. The dough barely came together and was very dry so I added some more cream (about 3 more tablespoons). Eventually, it finally stuck together. It turned out fine after the baking. Hooray!

Remove from the refrigerator and let it stand at room temperature. Unwrap and roll out between two lightly floured large sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap to a 13 inch round (this assumes you are using one round tart pan). If the dough is too soft, stick it back into the fridge. Lay the dough into the tart plan and ease the dough into the pan corners by gently lifting the edge with one hand while pressing it into the corners with the other hand. Press the dough against the fluted sides of the pan and run a rolling pin over the top of the tart pan to remove the excess dough. Freeze the dough-lined pan tart for about 30 minutes. (Note that you can actually freeze this for up to 1 month as long as you seal it in a giant zip lock bag!)

When you’re ready to bake, you’ll want to preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Listen up here- this is important. Make sure you have baking beans or else the dough may puff up in the middle. If you don’t have baking beans you can use regular Goya beans. Just line the bottom of the dough-lined tart shell with foil and then pour on the beans. Bake for 30 minutes, rotating halfway through the baking time. Bake until golden brown and set aside to cool.

Dark Chocolate Truffle Filling

No double broiler needed! Instead, we’re going to use the heat from the cream to melt the chocolate. Place the chocolate in a medium bowl and in a small saucepan, heat the cream to a simmer over medium-high heat. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and set aside for a minute. Using a whisk, slowly stir the chocolate and cream until smooth. Then, slowly stir in the butter until combined. Finally, stir in the cognac (or triple sec).

After the tart shells are cooled, pour the chocolate filing, using an offset spatula to spread the filling to the sides of the tart and smooth the top. Refrigerate until firm, for at least 2 hours and up to 48 hours.

Because the chocolate is so rich, it’s best served with some slightly sweet whipped cream.

Check out some other fabulous treats at Yahoo’s Shine Supper Club