One of the benefits of my job is, I have a lot of creative clients. This makes me ridiculously happy for many reasons. But, here’s one of the best reasons:
I get to do totally fun stuff with them that I wouldn’t get to do if I still worked in a corporate office. My first experience with this was a couple of years ago, when I met a client for coffee to go over a few last details on her new site and she asked me if I wanted to go boot shopping with her on Robson Street afterwards. Ummmm… YEAH!
Since then I’ve had the opportunity to go geocaching, visit art galleries, go on photography jaunts, go canoeing, tromp through dense forests taking photos of 80 year old basketball courts, eat in wonderful restaurants, visit gardens, among a lot of other cool stuff. Not to mention meeting and working with some wonderful people. All in the name of earning a living. Pretty cool, eh?
So, a few weeks back when I went out for lunch with Louisa from lulidesigns (she makes the most lovely jewellery) I was so happy when she had no problem at all stopping in Williams-Sonoma so I could by a new citrus zester (can you believe I did not own one of these little gadgets?? Shocking!).
So of course, I’ve been waiting for the right moment to use the thing in a photo. Enter strawberry lemon bars!
Strawberry season has finally arrived here on the west coast (or wet coast, however you want to refer to it). Spring and early summer so far have been miserable and as I mentioned in my last post, everything is behind. But the strawberries are finally ready and they are gorgeous!
It’s so easy to forget that real strawberries are red all the way through when most of the year we get the California ones that are only red on the outside. Or that they are so sweet. Or that they last forever, even when they’re ripe! And, most importantly, the hulls just pop right out!
I had a big bag of lemons and I wanted something a little more “grown up” and less sweet than the S’More Mars Bars from last weekend.
The recipe is one I adapted by using two recipes. This one from Marc at No Recipes and then the Perfect Lemon Bars from Baking Bites. I just used regular lemons, I didn’t have a vanilla bean and I wanted more strawberries in my tarts so I juggled a few quantities and ingredients around.
These are quite tart bars, mainly because that’s my preference. I don’t like lemon to be overly sweet. The crust was lovely and along with the powdered sugar topping, added enough sweetness for my liking.
- 1½ cups flour
- ½ cup of oats
- ½ cup of powdered sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 1½ sticks (3/4 cup) of cold, unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp lemon zest
- 1¼ cup sliced fresh strawberries
- ¼ cup sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1⅓ cups of sugar (add more if you want a bit more sweetness)
- 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 3 tbsp flour
- 1 tbsp lemon zest
- Line a 9x13 pan with parchment paper. Leave enough paper on the sides so that you can use it to lift the bars out of the pan after cooking.
- In a large bowl whisk together flour, oats, powdered sugar, and salt.
- Cut in butter in small chunks and add vanilla and lemon zest.
- Using your hands, work the butter into the dry mixture until it looks like loose dirt. You can use a food processor for this step (see No Recipes) but I prefer to use my hands.
- Spread the base mixture evenly in the pan and press it down with your hands until you have a firm base and the put it in the freezer for 30 minutes
- While the base chills, mix the strawberries with the ¼ cup of sugar and let stand.
- Preheat oven to 350F
- Whisk together eggs and then add 1⅓ cups sugar, flour, and lemon zest and continue to whisk.
- When well combined, add the lemon juice and continue to mix.
- Remove base from the freezer and bake for 25 minutes or until golden.
- When done, remove from oven and immediately spread the sliced strawberries over the surface, reserving the juice/sugar mixture.
- Add the remaining juice and sugar to the lemon mixture and stir. Pour over the base and strawberries.
- Lower the oven temperature to 325F and return the pan to the oven and bake until the center of the lemon bars doesn't jiggle anymore. This took almost 30 minutes with my oven and the other recipes called for about 20 minutes so keep an eye on it once you hit the 20 minute mark.
- Remove from oven and let completely cool. Slice and sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving. I made 24 small bars but you could easily make 12-16 large bars.
Food Photography Tips
This was one of those very rare days where things were just on. I had about 50 photos from this recipe and had a very hard time deciding which ones to use. Like I said, it was rare.
I photographed everything in manual with natural light. I used a reflector and daylight white balance for all the shots except for the bowl of strawberries and the lemons. The strawberry and the lemon shots were done differently because I wanted a very specific look for those two so those are the two I’m going to talk about here.
Bowl of Strawberries: f3.5, 1/40th, ISO640, 100mm, no exposure compensation.
Bowl of Lemons: exactly the same as the strawberries.
Normally, I photograph on my dining room table or the floor next to it because I have a bank of windows there that afford great light. But these were shot on my kitchen counter, next to my sink, where I have a much smaller window. Generally, it’s not a great spot, but every now and then, it surprises me.
I noticed the light pouring in and loved the way it backlit the strawberries and had to stop what I was doing to go pull out my camera. I was so pleased with it, that I had to add in the lemons as well for the next photo. They’re both backlit, and some would argue too dark and could have used a warmer white balance but, this is how it looked at the moment, how I saw it. And that’s what I wanted to capture. It just said something to me. So I went with it. Sometimes you need to do that, even if it’s not what the masses might like.