Whenever I need to remove myself from the world, for whatever reason, I either pick up a camera, or immerse myself in the kitchen. Either choice is better than my natural instinct, which is to pick up my dog, get in my truck and drive until the road ends (in other words, run away).
There is an odd similarity between photography and cooking or baking. They both require you to give yourself over to them completely. Multi-tasking doesn’t work (at least not for this pea sized brain) unless you’re prepared for less than stellar results. Chopping, dicing, whisking… they soothe. Focusing, framing, adjusting light…they focus your mind. It’s better than therapy, I swear.
My brain had Kitchen Therapy stamped all over it last Saturday. I needed to be in the kitchen. I just didn’t have a clue what I needed to be making. I spent an hour going through Donna Hay, Dorie Greenspan, Betty Crocker, The Happy Baker with nothing speaking to me at all. Or at least nothing I had the ingredients for.
So I went to the BC Blueberry Council’s website in search of a recipe and decided on the recipe for Blueberry-Coconut Tartlets. Except I decided to change it all. Because…
- I don’t make pastry… and even though this looked easy, I didn’t have little tart pans
- there was no lemon or chocolate anywhere to be found in this recipe. What’s up with that??
I immediately ran into issues when I discovered I didn’t have enough coconut to toast. So I added in a bunch of ground almonds to make up the difference. Then… all my condensed milk in the cupboard expired in 2007. That’s right… 2007. Um so obviously I don’t use condensed milk very often… And then I found I didn’t have any lemons in the fridge. Honestly… how do I even function on a day to day basis??
So not having ingredients really wasn’t a problem for all those other recipes that did pique my interest because I wound up having to make an emergency grocery shop stop mid-recipe anyway.
Verdict… pretty damn good! However, they made way more than I expected and one of the hazards of Kitchen Therapy is, while it can soothe your soul, it can add inches to your waistline. And that doesn’t fit in with my current “fat restructuring plan”. So a whole bunch of the tarts got put into packages and were distributed to worthy individuals, all of whom reported back that they were very tasty.
- 2 dozen small tart shells
- ¾ cup of coconut
- ¼ cup of ground almonds
- 1 14oz can of condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk)
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- juice of half a lemon
- zest from one lemon
- 2 cups of blueberries, fresh or frozen
- 3 squares of high quality dark chocolate (squares should be the size of baking chocolate squares), grated
- preheat oven to 275F and spread coconut and almonds evenly on a baking sheet.
- toast in oven for approximately 5 minutes or until golden, constantly stirring and checking - they can burn in a matter of seconds
- remove from oven and raise oven temp to 400F
- prick the bottom insides of tart shells and bake for about 10 minutes - remove from oven and let cool.
- in a large bowl, combine condensed milk, eggs, lemon juice and zest and the coconut/almond mixture. Stir well
- Add the two cups of blueberries and combine - set mixture aside
- use 2 squares of grated chocolate and sprinkle enough in each tart shell to cover the bottom
- spoon in blueberry/milk mixture
- bake until the filling sets, about 20-25 minutes
- remove from oven and let cool. once cooled sprinkle with remaining 1 square of grated chocolate. You could also sprinkle with extra toasted coconut or grated lemon zest in the last few minutes of cooking
Food Photography Notes
A few quick notes:
- toasted coconut is one of my favourite things to not only bake with but also photograph. I’m not sure why – perhaps the textures and contrast and it is remarkably easy to light. I recommend you take a few minutes and give it a whirl next time you need whip some up.
- The first and last image were photographed at about 7pm in the evening on my south facing patio with the patio umbrella up. This is one of my favourite times of day to photograph anything – not just food. The light has a golden quality to it and it’s at a lower angle in the sky – not as harsh as early morning light. It makes for some lovely images but, it can also wreak havoc with shadows, as you can see in the both images (and I did a little work in Lightroom to lessen the effect)