Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Never trust the recipe

Measuring a cup of flour in a bra

You spotted the deliberate mistake in the recipe, right? Take another look.

Olive Balls
Serves 8–10 as appetizer

1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
¼ cup butter, softened
¼ teaspoon paprika
dash Tabasco or other hot sauce
¾ cup all-purpose flour
36–40 tiny pimento stuffed olives

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, mix together cheese, butter, paprika and hot sauce. Blend in flour. Shape dough into 1½-inch circles. Place olives in center and fold dough around olives to form balls. Refrigerate 10 minutes. Bake on lipped baking sheet for 20 minutes. Serve warm.

So, you spotted the deliberate mistake? No, me neither, at least not till I was happily whizzing cheese, butter and breadcrumbs, and recognized what my subconscious had told me from the start -  these ingredients make a crumb topping not a dough. So, the choice is whether to roll the olives in crumbs (nice idea - note to self, try it another time) or, as the rest of the recipe clearly requires, turn crumbs to dough.

I'm trying to keep to the recipe, as it's for a magazine, so I've added water, squidged the dough (which I consider to be pastry rather than dough but what would I know), and put it to chill.

American cup measures
Mistakes in recipes happen, especially at the pre-publication stage, when you can get typos, printing mistakes or - worst of all - recipes that just don't work.

International differences in measurements drive me crazy and ** Americans look away now and don't read this ** I hate the stupid idea of cup measurements. The attempt to rationalise an inexact measurement based on 19th century crockery, by standardising it in relation to real mathematical units, is like saying a donkey is equivalent to 120kg and then measuring in donkeys. Take a quarter cup of butter; I have actual cup measurements (as opposed to the ones in the top photo) so my cups are in fact standardised, but how much butter I fit into a quarter cup depends on how much I squidge it. If I squidge it lots, I can fit in twice as much. And don't start me on the difference between volume and weight.

You can also get outcomes that taste horrible but as taste is so personal, I just assume that someone will like it, and my job is to make it look appetising. I love to imagine all these people at home looking at my photo and saying, 'Oh my, that looks good! I'm surely going to make that!' And then I imagine it tasting really horrible, and them feeling cheated and never trusting anything or anyone ever again in their life. Maybe there ought to be a stop button on my imagination. Rewind. Back to the 'appetising food photo' bit. Stop.

Rolling stuffed olives in little circles of dough is very therapeutic and reminds me of being 6 years old and discovering playdough. I used to make little playdough cakes and sell them in my pretend shop so I guess I haven't changed. I don't actually have time to make little cheeseballs and I should be doing all kinds of chorse. Sometimes, when you don't have the time, is when it's very important to take time out for making cheeseballs.

Props for the shoot
Amazingly the dough quantities have worked quite well and I have 32 cheeseballs, now in the oven. None of them looks like a 'hero cheeseball', the technical term for an upfront perfect image (at least that's how I understand it). On the other hand, I don't think they'll all have to be out of focus. A food shooter I really admire is TheCrimsonMonkey, whose every food item is a hero, but his images are rocket science and mine are Everycook shots. There is room for many different styles of food shot.I want every human being to think 'That looks good. I can make that.'

Olive balls are in the oven and I'd already set up camera, lights and props. I bought some new tableware for this image and I don't know for sure what will suit. I imagine I'm going to have little brownish balls to shoot, I really liked the green in the tortilla shot and Fernando has that tableware so I looked for something on those lines. Also there's a New Year theme to the magazine so I found some 'papillottes' with no logos on. Papillottes are French chocolates,pralines or sometimes nougat sweets sold for Christmas and New Year, that have jokes, 'dictons' (traditional sayings) or quiz questions in them, a bit like Christmas crackers in the UK. They sometimes have 'crackers' that go bang, but more often not.

Bugger. I forgot and ate the garnish by mistake. Time to check how the cooking's going.

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