Bobbie Blog has moved,Please visit the new blog site at

Monday, September 27, 2010

How Baking composed My Journey through Photography and learning HTML code

 I love creating new recipes, trying them out (on family members first). When my husband came to Sydney and I with the idea of a food blog and website I thought it was a grand concept. I still do, but I must admit I went into this internet "thing" blind. I am not the most computer savvy user (that is an understatement), in fact when my husband and I ventured on The Culinary Calculator, our Iphone application, we both were ready to throw pie at each other. He is culinary challenged (expect for eating) and as I explained am computer challenged.
It is a pretty neat application

Sorry I think I have gone off center, back to the blog at hand. As I was saying I just jumped out of the plane without a parachute. It didn't occur to me I would have to learn digital photography in order to have pictures of my goodies displayed on the blog. I arrogantly believed because I knew how to take portraits of my daughter and landscaping with a medium format camera (in which I let Colorado Camera develop my FLIM)  I would be fine. WRONG, I learned fast, I definitely have heightened respect for the digital photographer. Besides learning the digital camera I needed a clear understanding of photoshop and aperture. 

Using a point and shoot
This was the first picture with my new camera!

I very quickly learned the photos I shot outside in the daylight were better than the ones I tried in my home at night or during the day.
Macaron Cerise VanilleVanilla Bean Cupcakes
In my kitchen at night In my kitchen during daytime

I began to read all the materials I could find and get my "hot little hands on." Each time I figured one problem a new would rear up. I would change my depth of field, but then the light source became an issue.
Photographed at 10:00 pm in my kitchen

I actually really like this photo, but the colors are a little dark and I needed to use aperture to erase the shadows, believe me it was a long night. 
Framboises à la Vanille 
Photographed after the Macarons above

The color is true, but the shadows are a problem visually, it takes away from the presentation. I almost put all the wonderful camera equipment, my husband purchased for me, on E-bay. Reality, as always, poked it's ugly annoying head in.
In my most frustrated moment I remembered one of my favorite books A Road Less Traveled and began to re read it. I became energized and more determine to figure out my photography dilemma. If I wanted to have a blog that was visual stimulating and interesting I needed to be able to take better photos. 
This photo was taken inside during the early afternoon

I actually began thinking I might be making progress, not enough to celebrate over, but enough to want to take more risks. I started having fun using different tabletop set-ups. I have always been a perfectionist; I suppose I could be viewed as a conundrum. I continually preach to Sydney mistakes are critical (it is how one learns), but I don't allow myself to have mistakes. Writing an entire blog about my mistakes and showing these mistakes is excruciating, nevertheless it is essential.

Photo taken outside, but with higher ISO and depth of field

Still I was inconsistent, some of my photos were exactly as I pictured they would be, yet some were not. The LCD monitor is not an accurate view of the photo, it is not until I remove the SIM card from the camera, place it in the SIM card reader of the computer, and bring the photos into photoshop and aperture can I see the true picture. Now I realize I cannot expect that every photograph I shoot will be awesome, but since photography is a skill I should know how to achieve a finer end result! 

The more knowledge I obtain the more I find I enjoy learning and trying different techniques. I am grateful to Lou Manna'a blog and book Digital Food Photography, both have plethora of valuable information. 

Both of these photographs were take in my home during the later half of evening, the sun had set, I created a tabletop set with natural daytime lights surrounding the tabletop. I did need to set the macarons in the perfect position prior to turning on all the lights or my macarons would began sliding due to the heat.

I knew earlier that day I would not be able to work with my camera till the evening, so I put about 15  Macarons à la Vanille Fig in the freezer, which gave some extra time before the macarons became unmanageable.  I realize many food stylists alter the food for a photo (especially if the the photo shoot is going to be long), but I am not able to do that at this time, in which case I use food in its normal state.

As I write this blog I need to change the layout of some pictures and the words under each picture are playing on my nerves; I quickly change from compose to the dreaded HTML after spending all of my valuable time removing right lem; left lem; I find I need to put a "table" in the code...THIS IS WHEN I RAISE MY VOICE AND YELL FOR MY HUSBAND. I am lucky enough to be married to a computer guru! He is also a workaholic so I try to write the code myself. "Try" being the key word, I don't pester him until I am beyond sanity!

Fig Macarons à la Vanille avec une Crème au Beurre Crème Anglaise ares, a favorite of mine. Both flavors, vanilla and fig are compatible and compliment one another yet subtle, from your first bite your palate awakens and becomes happy.

I have made great strides in my photography, but
still have much to learn!
This picture a preview to the next blog to come!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

My Michelle's Tea Party

The Thursday prior to labor weekend snuck up upon Sydney and myself. Sydney looked like "a deer in head lights" the entire adventure. Yes this is a major life changing event that we discussed all summer long, but reality and actuality are 3000 miles apart (which is the miles between us).

Anyone who has ever been blessed with the opportunity to help their child move into the next step of their child's staircase knows mirage of conflicting feelings that creep in and grab hold of you. I was proud, yet my heart was breaking, I was excited for her, but selfishly lonely for myself. As my mind and emotions were running the gamete of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, my attention was again on my daughter's gentle, sweet face (the same face for over 18 years that I have taken for granted of seeing daily). I realized she was petrified. I tucked my feelings away and asked her how she was doing. I needn't ask because knowing Sydney as well as I do I already knew how she was, but she needed to voice her feelings herself. She wanted to turn around and go home, back to the familiarity of home, our kitchen, and just the Colorado life. Normal Freshman jitters, but heighten due to how close we are. My mother's instinct wanted to pack up all of the boxes and take her back with me, but I stood strong, told her it would be wonderful in just a few short weeks, bear hugged goodbye, and left. Fast forward one week later; she is still melancholy and begging to come home, bake with me, and to take a shower in her own shower. I must admit it took all my fiber to say no, the guilt is staggering and I have an unanswered question of whether I am doing the right thing.
I haven't seen this smile in two weeks.
Sydney had the fore thought to leave an eloquent letter, worrying about my feelings, on top of my magimix, so I wouldn't miss seeing it.

I of course had that empty nest feeling, trying with every conversation to sound as if nothing was wrong, it was strange being in the kitchen with out her. To tell the truth I wasn't sure I wanted to bake without her, but my thoughts went back to the ardent letter and I knew I had to just grab some egg whites, sugar, almonds, and vanilla beans.

 Looking at all my ingredients I knew exactly what I needed to create; I want to have a cyber tea party with Sydney.  When Sydney was a little girl we would have tea partys at least twice a week. The second I figured out what I was engaging on the empty feeling lessen a bit.

This cute little set was purchased in 1997 at
the Molly Brown house.

Sydney had fallen in love with the movie "Titanic" and that particular time in history. When I saw the tiny tea pot set in the gift shop I knew she would cherish the set for her entire life.

Since her favorite flavors are strawberry and chocolate I baked two batches of macarons; Strawberry and Triple Macarons au Chocolat avec Ganache au Chocolat/ Macarons au Chocolat Triple avec Mousse à la Fraise. I must admit I cut time by using the same filling for all the macarons.

 The aged egg whites leave the refrigerator so
they may warm to room temperature.

I begin grabbing all my ingredients and measuring them to the precise gram. Taking all the equipment needed for the macaron, creating my work space.

It amazes me how cathartic baking is for me, I was dispirited with a sense of loss, but with each step of preparing these macarons my spirits are lifted. I almost feel as if Sydney was with me folding, whipping, and piping.

Time to grind almond, icing sugar, and flavor.
Sifting will come next.

As I sift my Tant Pour Tant, a job Sydney has always worked on. I begin to wonder what she is doing. I know she is not baking, she most likely is in class and networking a group of life long friends. Without realizing it I am smiling. I must reiterate baking is keeping me connected to Sydney.

I best start my sugar syrup and turn the mixer on to whip up the egg whites, the timing is important at this point. I wouldn't want the sugar syrup to reach a temperature above 140 degrees F./ 60 degrees C. It looks like both the syrup sugar and egg whites are ready.

Nice bird's beak peak.

I like to fold the meringue into the Tant Pour Tant in three batches, generally I am little more vigorous with my first 1/3 of meringue, the last 2/3 I gently and quickly fold into the Tant Pour Tant.

As I begin to scoop the macaron batter into a piping bag my thoughts again drift back to Sydney, what is she doing? Is she enjoying her first day of classes? I believe I am feeling a little lonesome, this would be the time Sydney would "clear the decks" for the baking sheets. I of course am capable of this myself, but for the past 18 years we have had routine and timing. 

      Batter Triple Macaron au chocolat                                        Batter Macaron aux fraises
Just hanging around, waiting to start baking in a preheated oven at 138 degrees C.

While the macarons idle for a good amount of time I'll prepare the Strawberry Mousse Crème. As I mentioned in the beginning I am taking a short cut and using the same filling for both sets of macarons.

Finally after baking 8 trays of macarons, letting them cool, and piping the macarons, it is time for my tribute tea party with Sydney. I actually am skyping her so we may have our pseudo tea party. Sydney is surprised and touched with my cyber gift to her (she did mention it would be nicer if she could actually have some macarons).

Would you like cream with your tea?

I am grateful for the bond we share, a bond that has been strengthen through baking. Have a great week at school!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Vanilla Bean

Vanilla Pods I just adore those almost black, tacky, fragrant, delicious and "O" so versatile pod. The minute I take one out of it's glass holder the vanilla pod becomes an irresistible aromatic party for my senses: the look, the smell (of course), and the taste. The enticement to gently squeeze the pod and bring it close enough to my nose to capture it's bouquet is over whelming.
When Sydney and I bake or cook the entire pod is used, nothing goes to waste. The skins are steeped or roasted in the oven and those little jewels, the seeds, are integrated with what ever we are creating or designing. The extract  of pure vanilla is nice, but there is just something bewitching about seeing those seeds in your ice cream, marshmallows, meringues, macarons, and crème anglaise; just to name a few.

Marshmallow Vanille Fraise
My second favorite flavor
The beautiful fragrant vanilla bean aided me not only these beautiful Baba au Fragoli, but Macaron aux Bleuets, and White Chocolate Mousse Crème in which the pod and seeds were used on the outside and inside of both pastries. 
Vanilla is amazing in the way these little black gems help chocolate magically become richer, bringing out the"POP" in lemon and lime, with out any doubt vanilla flavored anything is always a party pleaser.

Macarons au Chocolat Triple avec Mousse à la Fraise

A few days prior to packing Sydney and taking her to college, we prepared Guimauves Framboises à la Vanille (Vanilla Raspberry Marshmallows) I have prepared guimauves without the vanilla bean and the taste difference is dramatically superior with the delectable vanilla pod , it always surprises me how a few little black seeds can turn an average fun dessert into a pastry.

I than had a "lightbulb"moment to create a banana split macaron with strawberry mousse and a little chocolate surprise. Each part from shell, mousse, and melted chocolate had vanilla seeds inside (besides steeping the skin). My husband declared Banana Split Macaron has become his new favorite! (Can not become to excited, each time Sydney and I create a new flavor it becomes my husband's favorite)

I absolutely cherish the vanilla bean, pod, and it's remarkable qualities. As I conclude my tribute to the vanilla bean and it's distinguished place in the culinary baking world I cannot surmise a more adaptable ingredient, except for the egg, but that might be another blog. I bow my head and am deeply appreciative to the pliable, fragrant, mouthwatering treasure the Vanilla Bean!

Vanilla Beans!