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Styling: It's all about getting food ready for its close-up

 

Mississippi University for Women senior culinary arts major Anna Dicks of Mandeville, Louisiana, uses rose petals Monday to enhance presentation of her pink macaroons flavored with rose water. Dicks and her classmates used skills they're learning in a food styling class to make a Valentine's feast that was

Mississippi University for Women senior culinary arts major Anna Dicks of Mandeville, Louisiana, uses rose petals Monday to enhance presentation of her pink macaroons flavored with rose water. Dicks and her classmates used skills they're learning in a food styling class to make a Valentine's feast that was "camera ready." Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff

 

Launch Photo Gallery

 

Culinary arts majors Janeki Smith of Canton and Ja'Donnia Ballard of Greenville experiment with rose petals in getting their truffles and chocolate box styled as if it were for a commercial photo shoot. The stenciled box is made of chocolate.

Culinary arts majors Janeki Smith of Canton and Ja'Donnia Ballard of Greenville experiment with rose petals in getting their truffles and chocolate box styled as if it were for a commercial photo shoot. The stenciled box is made of chocolate.
Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff

 

Dishes prepared by food styling students Monday included, from top, a sweetheart strawberry salad with candied pecans, a sweetheart rib-eye steak with balsamic glaze and truffles in a chocolate box.

Dishes prepared by food styling students Monday included, from top, a sweetheart strawberry salad with candied pecans, a sweetheart rib-eye steak with balsamic glaze and truffles in a chocolate box.
Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff

 

Lamon Stapleton of Shelby and Stephanie Miles of Shubuta style a potato tower.

Lamon Stapleton of Shelby and Stephanie Miles of Shubuta style a potato tower.
Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff

 

Alysha McCalpine of Pascagoula and Annyce Ragan of Vicksburg plate white chocolate cheesecakes with raspberry coulis.

Alysha McCalpine of Pascagoula and Annyce Ragan of Vicksburg plate white chocolate cheesecakes with raspberry coulis.
Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff

 

Nathan Ganucheau of Hazelhurst uses a kitchen torch to brown edges of a ribeye butterflied to resemble the shape of a heart.

Nathan Ganucheau of Hazelhurst uses a kitchen torch to brown edges of a ribeye butterflied to resemble the shape of a heart.
Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff

 

 

Jan Swoope

 

 

Open a glossy magazine, a cookbook, a colorful menu or watch almost any food commercial, and you're almost assuredly witnessing the work of food stylists. The art of making food look irresistible for the camera is a learned craft, and students in a food styling course at Mississippi University for Women's Culinary Arts Institute (CAI) Monday had a Valentine's Day feast ready for its close-up.  

 

Using color, shape, texture and food compatibility to artistically create dishes as beautiful as they are appetizing is the goal of the one-semester class being taught by Chef Mary Helen Hawkins. 

 

"The course provides students with valuable experience in learning 'tricks of the trade,' especially if they plan to pursue a career in food styling," said Hawkins. 

 

For culinary arts majors, styling is a critical skill they can use throughout future food industry careers. Some may specialize as stylists, going on to work closely with photographers, magazines, restaurants, catering or media production companies.  

 

"This class is definitely fun, especially since this is what I want to do," said senior Nathan Ganucheau of Hazelhurst Monday as he pampered a 20-ounce ribeye for its final presentation. With a kitchen torch, he added points of browning, then lifted a hot cast iron skillet from the stove and pressed the bottom to the steak he had butterflied to resemble a heart shape for Valentine's.  

 

"The hot skillet is to get a char on top; it has a different effect than the torch itself," Ganucheau said. 

 

Nearby, Alysha McCalpine of Pascagoula and Annyce Ragan of Vicksburg plated white chocolate cheesecakes, painstakingly adding decorative droplets of raspberry coulis.  

 

Lamon Stapleton of Shelby and Stephanie Miles of Shubuta lit flickering votives and fluffed a white tablecloth around their "potato tower" -- a high-end loaded baked potato, with canola oil added to create a glisten. 

 

Janeki Smith of Canton and Ja'Donnia Ballard from Greenville experimented with how best to use rose petals in the presentation of decadently delicious truffles in a heart-shaped chocolate box. 

 

"It's all about how to enhance the food," said Smith, who explained that each student is keeping a food styling blog for the class and posts photographs of all their efforts. 

 

 

 

Illusion 

 

Foods prepared Monday by The W students were edible, but that isn't always the case when it comes to a commercial photo or video shoot. Making it all look mouthwatering for the lens can require some sleight of hand. Hot lights and long production shoots take their toll, so stylists have plenty of ploys to make the product look tasty and fresh. Those can range from simple, like toothpicks or skewers to keep food upright, to replacing pancake syrup with motor oil.  

 

Putty or wax can hold foods in place. Soap can be used to make foods look bubbly. Dyes or paints can add better color. Your favorite cereal might be "floating" in a glue mixture, not milk. "Ice cream" might involve shortening and powdered sugar, or even mashed potatoes. The list goes on. 

 

The class makes use of a food styling kit, but some of the students are already developing their very own. Kits might contain toothpicks, skewers, dental tools, glue, dental floss, a kitchen torch, scissors, cheesecloth, tweezers, twine, paint brushes, Q-tips, tongs, zesters, peelers and more.  

 

"People might be wondering why we would use some of the items in our food styling kit, but you never know what type of challenge you'll encounter," Hawkins said.  

 

Monday's Valentine's spread was valuable training. 

 

"We're doing this like it's their first job, seeing what works and what doesn't work," the chef said. "As the semester progresses they will be challenged with replicating photographs of food to see if they can match the top food stylists in the industry."  

 

The power, as the stylist knows, is in the picture. 

 

 

 

ROSE MACAROONS 

 

Makes 16 

 

 

 

For the shells: 

 

3/4 cup almond flour 

 

1 cup confectioners' sugar 

 

2 large egg whites (room temperature) 

 

1/4 cup superfine sugar* 

 

1/2 teaspoon rosewater 

 

Red food coloring paste (liquid also works, but paste is preferable) 

 

 

 

For the filling: 

 

1 cup powdered sugar 

 

3 tablespoons butter (softened) 

 

1 teaspoon rosewater 

 

1/4 teaspoon water 

 

* Superfine sugar can be made by grinding regular sugar until it is fine, but not yet powdered. 

 

 

 

  • For the shells: Grind almond flour and powdered sugar together in a food processor 15 seconds. Sift mixture into a bowl.  

     

  • Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  

     

  • Place egg whites in a large bowl and whip until holding soft peaks. Gradually beat in the superfine sugar and continue whipping until it holds very stiff peaks and looks glossy.  

     

  • Gently fold in the rose water and desired amount of food coloring. (If using liquid food coloring, avoid using very much, as it might make the meringue too thin.) 

     

  • Using a spatula, gently fold in the almond mixture, one-third at a time. Batter should be thick and shiny. Use the spatula to scoop batter into a piping bag fitted with a No. 10 tip.  

     

  • Pipe 32 equally sized circles onto the lined baking sheets, about 1-inch apart from each other.  

     

  • Tap baking sheet firmly on a work surface two or three times to get air bubbles to rise. Let stand at room temperature for a minimum of 30 minutes to develop a skin, and preheat oven to 325 F. 

     

  • Bake in preheated oven 10-15 minutes. Cool 15 minutes. Carefully peel macaroons off parchment and let them finish cooling. 

     

  • For the filling: Cream butter until light and fluffy. Beat in rose water. Sift in the powdered sugar. If filling is too stiff, add the water. 

     

  • To assemble: Find two shells that match in size. Pipe a circle of filling onto the bottom of one shell and sandwich it together with the matching shell. Repeat with remaining cookies. 

     

  • Optional garnish: Dissolve a little luster dust in some alcohol or clear flavor extract, and lightly brush a swoop on the top side of each macaroon. Alternatively, they can be topped with a curl of dark chocolate or turbinado sugar.  

     

    (SOURCE: "Macaroons, 30 Recipes for Perfect Bite-Sized Treats," 2011.) 

     

     

     

    STRAWBERRY SALAD WITH CANDIED BACON ROSES, PECANS 

     

     

     

    3 tablespoons lemon juice 

     

    2 tablespoons sugar  

     

    1 garlic clove, minced 

     

    1 teaspoon kosher salt 

     

    1/2 cup vegetable oil  

     

    10 ounces fresh spinach & mixed baby greens, washed and dried 

     

    8 strawberries, washed and sliced into hearts 

     

    Feta or blue cheese, if desired 

     

    1/2 cup candied pecans (recipe below) 

     

    Candied bacon roses, if desired  

     

     

     

  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, sugar, garlic and salt; add oil in a slow steady stream while whisking.  

     

  • Toss greens with vinaigrette just to coat the leaves. (You will have leftover vinaigrette, just put in fridge.) Place greens on chilled salad plates and garnish with 1 candied bacon rose, heart strawberries, pecans and cheese if desired. 

     

    (Variation: Add sliced mushrooms, sliced red onions and mandarin oranges.) 

     

     

     

    CANDIED PECANS 

     

     

     

    1 cup white sugar  

     

    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon  

     

    1 teaspoon salt  

     

    1 egg white  

     

    1 tablespoon water  

     

    1 pound pecan halves  

     

     

     

  • Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. 

     

  • Mix sugar, cinnamon, and salt together in a bowl. 

     

  • Whisk egg white and water together in a separate bowl until frothy. Toss pecans in the egg white mixture. Mix sugar mixture into pecan mixture until pecans are evenly coated. Spread coated pecans onto a baking sheet. 

     

  • Bake in the preheated oven, stirring every 15 minutes, until pecans are evenly browned, 1 hour. 

     

    (SOURCE: allrecipes.com) 

     

     

     

    SWEETHEART RIBEYE WITH BALSAMIC GLAZE  

     

     

     

    1 20-ounce ribeye steak 

     

    1 tablespoon olive oil 

     

    Salt 

     

    Pepper 

     

    Balsamic glaze 

     

    1 cup balsamic vinegar 

     

    2 tablespoons brown sugar 

     

     

     

  • To butterfly the steak: Imagine the rib-eye as a half heart shape. Take a sharp knife and cut along the curved side of the steak inward, being careful not to cut through the middle of the "heart." Once cut, the rib-eye should open like a book and lay flat. 

     

  • For the balsamic glaze: Combine the balsamic vinegar and brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until the two combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until reduced by half stirring occasionally. Be careful not to burn on the bottom. Once reduced, cool before serving. 

     

  • For the rib-eye: Salt and pepper both sides. Add oil to cast iron pan on high. Once pan is very hot, carefully lay rib-eye in it. The oil will start to "shimmer." Steak will stick to the pan and release itself when it's ready to flip, creating a crust. Repeat on other side. Depending on how you like your steak, you may want to put it in the oven at 350 F. until desired doneness. Allow 10 minute rest period after cooking is complete. Drizzle balsamic glaze over rib-eye. 

     

     

     

    POTATO TOWERS 

     

    Serves 4 

     

     

     

    4 small russet potatoes (8-10 ounces each) 

     

    2 tablespoons canola oil 

     

    3 tablespoons whole milk 

     

    1 tablespoon unsalted butter 

     

    3/4 cup grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese (3 ounces), divided 

     

    2 tablespoons sour cream 

     

    1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh chives 

     

    Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste 

     

    1 tablespoon finely-grated Parmesan cheese 

     

     

     

  • Preheat oven to 400 F. Wash and dry potatoes. Place on a baking sheet and brush lightly with oil. Bake until potatoes are just tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 50-60 minutes. 

     

  • Remove from oven and let cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, cut a small slice off one of the narrow ends of the potato (this will be the bottom of the potato). 

     

  • Cut a 1-inch slice from the top (other end) of potato. Working from the top of each potato, use a spoon or large melon baller to carefully scoop out the flesh, taking great care not to break the skin. Transfer potato pulp to a medium mixing bowl; reserve hollowed-out skins. 

     

  • Use a potato masher to mash potato pulp, then mix in the milk, butter, 1/2 cup of the grated cheddar cheese, sour cream and chives. Season potato mixture to taste with salt and pepper. 

     

  • Stand hollowed-out potato skins upright in a small baking dish and spoon or pipe potato mixture back into the skins. Sprinkle Parmesan and remaining cheddar over the tops. Return to oven and bake until potatoes are piping hot and the cheese is golden brown, about 10-15 minutes. 

     

     

     

    CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES  

     

     

     

    6 ounces semisweet baking chocolate or white baking bars (white chocolate), chopped  

     

    2 tablespoons butter or margarine  

     

    1/4 cup whipping (heavy) cream  

     

    1 tablespoon shortening  

     

    1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet or milk chocolate chips or white baking chips  

     

    Finely chopped nuts or candy decorations, if desired  

     

     

     

  • Cover cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Melt baking chocolate in heavy 2-quart saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly; remove from heat. Stir in butter until melted; stir in whipping cream. Refrigerate 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently, just until thick enough to hold a shape.  

     

  • Drop mixture by teaspoonful's onto cookie sheet. Shape into balls. (If mixture is too sticky, refrigerate until firm enough to shape.) Freeze 30 minutes.  

     

  • Heat shortening and chocolate chips over low heat, stirring constantly, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth; remove from heat. Dip truffles, one at a time, into chocolate. Place on aluminum foil-covered cookie sheet. Immediately sprinkle some of the truffles with finely chopped nuts or decorating candies.  

     

  • Refrigerate truffles about 10 minutes or until coating is set. Drizzle some of the truffles with mixture of 1/4 cup powdered sugar and 1/2 teaspoon milk. Refrigerate just until set. Serve at room temperature. Store in airtight container.  

     

    (SOURCE: bettycrocker.com) 

     

     

     

     

     

    WHITE CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE WITH RASPBERRY COULIS 

     

     

     

    For the crust: 

     

    7 ounces Oreo cookies 

     

    4 tablespoons butter, melted 

     

    4 ounces toasted almonds 

     

     

     

    For raspberry coulis: 

     

    1 1/2 cups raspberries, fresh or frozen 

     

    1/4 cup sugar 

     

    1 tablespoon lemon juice 

     

    1 teaspoon cornstarch 

     

     

     

    For cream cheese filling: 

     

    7 ounces white chocolate, small pieces 

     

    4 tablespoons whipping cream 

     

    1 pound cream cheese, room temperature 

     

    1/3 cup powdered sugar 

     

    1/2 teaspoon almond extract 

     

    2 teaspoons vanilla extract 

     

    1 cup whipping cream (35 percent fat), chilled 

     

     

     

  • Prepare the raspberry coulis. In a small saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Add raspberries and bring to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Simmer 5 minutes and remove from heat. Sieve sauce to remove seeds and set aside to cool down until ready to use. 

     

  • Prepare the crust. Place Oreo cookies into the bowl of a food processor and crush until crumbs form. Add melted butter and process until evenly moistened. 

     

  • Press mixture into bottom of a greased 8 inch springform pan using the back of a spoon. Refrigerate until filling is prepared. 

     

  • Prepare the filling. Place white chocolate and the 4 tablespoons of cream into a heatproof bowl and place over a pan with simmering water. Melt over low heat. 

     

  • In a large bowl mix cream cheese until smooth. Add powdered sugar, lemon zest and vanilla extract and mix to combine. Mix in melted chocolate and set aside. 

     

  • In another bowl mix whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Gently fold whipped cream into the white chocolate and cream cheese mixture. 

     

  • Pour filling over prepared crust, use an offset spatula to spread evenly. 

     

  • Place raspberry coulis into a piping bag fitted with a plain small tip and pipe small circles in a swirl pattern on the top of the cheesecake. 

     

  • Use a toothpick and run it into the center of each circle to create heart shapes. 

     

  • Cover and refrigerate cheesecake for at least 4 hours or overnight. 

     

  • Serve with more raspberry coulis alongside.  

     

    (SOURCE: Adapted from homecookingadventure.com)

     

  • Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

     

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