Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Donna Hay Styling and Photo Challenge #3

Gorgeous, right?

My version, how on earth did they do it?
With just few hours to spare before we roll into December I add my contribution to the fun Donna Hay styling photo challenge.  There were only three of us who participated this month, so please check Simone's entry here and Jenn's here.   It was a challenge for sure, but life is not fun if we don't get pushed a little, right?

For this month's challenge, Simone chose the dessert featured on the cover of Donna Hay magazine issue 45, published in the summer of 2009.  The photo is by William Meppem, styled by Justine Poole.  I remember that cover well, like many other amazing DH's photos it had the promise of a great and comforting apple dessert, so I was eager to try it.  To my disappointment, I quickly discovered the recipe was wrong.

Simone and I exchanged many e-mails about this recipe since I tried it as soon as she posted it for a dinner party I was having at my house.  I knew something was wrong with the recipe when I made the caramel base.  There is so much water in the original recipe that the end result is more like a soup, and the recipe doesn't call for reducing the liquid nor caramelizing it on the stove.  The dumplings got soggy after the baking and the overall taste was not pleasant, not to mention that the caramel didn't really caramelize nor looked like the one in the magazine photo on page 93.  I contacted the magazine but I haven't gotten a reply (yet).  I doubt that the staff will try the recipe again to correct it, but I am surprised that they made such mistake.  Even if they accidentally inverted the amount of sugar and water I doubt that it would work.

Beautiful and tiny lady apples
I re-made it using only 1/2 cup of water, baked the apples in the liquid (which didn't caramelized again),  but baked the dumplings like biscuits on their own.  My final version looks really different from the magazine photo, the apples lost all their color and the assembly obviously looks completely different (for the styling I added the biscuit on top of the apples).  My apples also cracked during the baking both times, even using different types of apples (small gala the first time, and lady apples for this photo).  The dumplings, which are actually biscuits, are really tasty, but if baked without all the sugar from the caramel I would add more sugar in the dough, they are not sweet at all.   The caramel sauce was still too liquid after baking and the butter separated onto an oily film.  I also noticed that the dumplings had some crystal sugar on top but surprise surprise the recipe doesn't call for that step.  Crystal sugar adds a nice crunch and sparkling effect to many baked goods, and I use it a lot.

Anyhow...the challenge was the photo, so here is how I did it.

The photo has what looks like natural light coming from the upper left, however it is at a very big angle so I decided to use my living room for the staging since it has almost wrap around windows.  The light was also bounced from the bottom right to decrease hard shadows.  The white balance  in my picture is all wrong, not to mention the too small spoon at the wrong angle, but I really don't have time to take more pictures, so that has to suffice. 

Here is my set up, glamorous, isn't it?

Here is another version of the photo where I played with the contrast on photoshop, just for fun.

I loved this exercise, but I am so hypercritical that I can't seem to like my photo.  Oh well...

I would like to urge you to participate so you can push your limits when you take food pictures, and would also like to thank Simone for starting this fun challenge, keep them coming!  If you want to join us and push yourself as a photographer follow the instructions here.


Junglefrog said...

Not sure if my comment went through as I got a rather weird looking error message from Blogger.. In any case; I was saying that I think you did a really good job. Despite all the recipe troubles (and goodness, those were quite a few right? lol) you managed to make the photo look pretty much like the original. Yes the apples are different but I think we all agree that the ones in the original photo seem a little too red.. Thanks so much for joining in this difficult one Laura!

Dewi said...

It came out pretty nicely Laura!

I can understand if blogger make mistake in the recipe, but for magazine or a book, that I will have time to understand it.

Laura said...

Simone, thank you, I had fun despite the recipe challenge ;0)

I have found a handful or recipes published in books that didn't work, you would be surprised.

Magda said...

Well done Laura. I gave up on the assignment, but it is nice to see that there are people who have power to fight with evil recipes :)
I like colours of your props, you got almost exact match. And wow, you even got tiny apples!
So congratulations :)

Jenn said...

I love your rendition, congrats!! And those tiny apples are so cute! This was definitely a tough challenge for sure - in several ways - dont' beat yourself up too much, remember we are all always our own toughest critic... I think this one was a learning experience for all of us :)


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