Lemon Ricotta Bars

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I went on a baking/food styling spree 4th of July weekend (see my mini blueberry pie post) and finally got around to making these lemon ricotta bars I had been eyeing from Food52.  If you don’t already follow them (via email, Facebook, instagram, etc.) I highly recommend you do!  They have tons of fantastic, but simple, recipes as well as beautiful photos and a wonderful selection of kitchen goods/accessories.

I love lemon bars and I love ricotta cheese so it only seemed natural to put them together.  The ricotta cheese gave the lemon bars a lighter and fluffier texture than normal lemon bars and made for a tangy yet refreshing summer treat.  I brought them into the hospital for my hardworking team and they ate them up pretty quickly!

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I’ve been practicing my food styling from my food photography class with Betty Liu and Cottage Farm so I got a little creative with the photo set ups for this recipe.  Some of the tips I employed for this shoot was styling using remnants of ingredients (like the juiced lemon rinds and egg shells) and using cheese cloth to add simple texture to the backdrop.  One of my favorite things about these photos is the oyster shaped ceramic plate made by Ae ceramics in Maine that I picked up the the Portland Trading Co. in Portland, Maine.  I am a little obsessed with this plate which may look familiar to you if you have ever dined at Eventide Oyster Co., also in Portland, Maine.  I am planning to add to my collection next time I am in Portland!

Lemon Ricotta Bars (from Food52)

  For the Crust

  • 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 1-inch pieces, slightly softened plus extra for greasing pan
For Lemon-Ricotta Filling

  • 8oz (1 cup) fresh whole milk Ricotta, drained
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/3cups granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 2/3 cup lemon juice from 3 to 4 large lemons, strained
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

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  1. To make the crust: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Using a pastry brush, lightly butter a 13-by-9-inch baking dish and line with one sheet parchment paper. Butter paper, then lay second sheet crosswise over it.
  3. Pulse flour, confectioner’s sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest and salt in food processor.
  4. Add butter and process to blend; then pulse until mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse meal.
  5. Sprinkle mixture into lined pan and, press firmly with fingers into even layer over entire pan bottom and about 1/2-inch up sides.
  6. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, and then bake until light golden brown, about 20 minutes.
  7. To make the filling: Whisk ricotta, eggs, sugar, and flour in medium bowl, then stir in lemon zest, juice, and salt to blend well.
  8. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.
  9. Stir filling mixture before pouring into warm crust.
  10. Bake until filling feels firm when touched lightly, about 30 minutes.
  11. Transfer pan to wire rack; cool to room temperature, at least 2 hours.
  12. Transfer to cutting board, fold paper down, and cut into bars, wiping knife or pizza cutter clean between cuts.
  13. Dust with confectioner’s sugar.

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Food Photography Workshop with Cottage Farm and Betty Liu

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Last month I FINALLY got to take a food photography workshop with my favorite food blogger, Betty Liu!!!!  She was a guest host with Krissy O’Shea from Cottage Farm for a one day workshop in Boston.  I was re-entering surgical residency the next day but decided to spring for one more day of fun before going back!  The workshop started with a private dinner at Loyal Nine the night before where we were served a special menu of savory pea pancakes, reminiscent of scallion pancakes, topped with grilled freshly harvested peas and, baked cheese with rhubarb and homemade crackers, delicious roasted chicken paired with balsamic glazed onion and fresh peas, and finally to end the night, strawberry rhubarb pie…all of course washed down by a refreshingly crisp French white wine.

The next morning we were off to an early start at Warehouse XI in Union Square.  Luckily we had some coffee from No Six Depot along with buttery croissants from Forge Bakery and fresh berries, yogurt, and homemade granola by Betty to get us caffeinated and started.  And of course we snagged a few photos of the breakfast set up :).

After breakfast, we quickly got to work learning camera and composition basics with a brief lecture from Betty and Krissy before starting to learn the basics of food styling.  We used natural light and they really pushed us to take advantage of different lighting scenarios like using darker lighting for some moodier shots while using bright spaces near the window for sunny breakfast shots.  The first scene we shot was mostly from a top down approach- actually setting up the scene on the ground! Genius for anyone who is short with back problems- sure beats balancing on a high chair to lean over and photograph!  Krissy set up the scene with breakfast remnants, demonstrating how to add in little touches (like crumbs) but at the same time not making it look overstyled.

Next we practiced some action shots from the side of Betty and Krissy pouring coffee (we maybe drank a little more too).

From coffee we moved on to my favorite…cheese!!!! We had sooooo much cheese donated by Vermont Creamery but I was tortured momentarily when I had to wait to dive in so we could practice some food styling!  Betty and Krissy set up a beautiful table spread of cheese, honey, bread, flowers, and little utensils.  Then we all took turns photographing the scene from the side and up top on a ladder…and then finally it was time to dig in!!!!!

Of course after cheese there was more eating with some delicious salads prepared by Krissy for lunch.  Check out the beautiful rye berry salad recipe by Krissy on her blog.

Following lunch we were all in a food coma but there was no time for rest…it was time to practice what we learned!  We broke off into groups to create our own food setups to photograph.  I think we did a great job (and had great teachers!)!

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After all our hard work, it was time for some relaxation and cocktails made by Nic Korn, a local mixologist.  He made delicious aperol spritzes and cocktails with mint and gin.  I couldn’t resist snapping a few photos of the beautiful drinks!

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We finished with a brief tutorial on post-production editing in Lightroom and I picked up a few tips from Betty- including how to add my own filter which you see featured here!   Thank you to Krissy and Betty for an incredible and educational workshop!  I left the workshop with a new arsenal of photography, food styling, and editing skills and met some great people I home to stay in touch with!

 

Mini Cardamom Blueberry Pies

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Last week I re-entered surgical residency full time after a 2 year “research break”.  It was an abrupt transition going from ~40 hours a week, mostly at a desk, to over 80 hours at the hospital last week running around and operating.  By the end of the week I was exhausted!!!  But luckily I had the whole 4th of July weekend off to relax so I decided to recharge with a little baking and food photography.

Several weeks ago I took a one day food photography workshop with my food blog idol, Betty Liu, and Krissy O’Shea from Cottage Farm.  The workshop was amazing and I learned so many new tips and techniques for food styling-who knew crumbs were such a great styling prop?  Here are a few of my favorites from the workshop:

I was eager to test out my new food styling skills on my own so after a quick trip to Home Goods for some new props, I got down to work this weekend.  And what else to make for the 4th of July than pie???  Correction…mini pies??? (I think I have previously confessed my love for all foods that are miniature.)  I decided to go with blueberry pie and mixed it up a touch by adding cardamom and cinnamon…and then I got super patriotic by cutting out stars and stripes to decorate the pies.  The results were adorable and delicious!  Hope you all had a great 4th of July.  Feel free to comment below and tell me what you made!

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Mini Cardamom Blueberry Pies

Crust:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 tablespoons (about) ice water

Cardamom Blueberry filling:

3 cups blueberries
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp lemon zest
2 1/2 tablespoon water (divided)
10 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
1 1/2 tablespoon corn starch

1 egg, beaten
Sugar for sprinkling

For the crust: Mix flour, sugar,  and salt in processor. Add butter; pulse until coarse meal forms. Gradually blend in enough ice water to form moist clumps. Gather dough into ball; divide in half. Form dough into 2 balls; flatten into disks. Wrap each in plastic; chill 2 hours or overnight.

For the filling: Add blueberries, sugar, lemon, 1 Tbs water, cardamom pods (make sure to count how many you add so you know how many to retrieve later!), and cinnamon stick to a medium saucepan. Alternatively, you can place cardamom and cinnamon stick in cheesecloth for easier retrieval. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally until mixture breaks down and starts to liquefy, about 7-10 minutes. Carefully remove and discard all 10 cardamom pods and cinnamon stick- you may want to use a utensil so you don’t burn yourself!.  Mix corn starch and remaining 1.5 Tbs water together and then add to the blueberry mixture. Cook until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and cool completely (may be done in the refrigerator).

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Assembly: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Roll out one ball of dough to 1/4 inch thickness on a well floured surface. Use a 2.5-3 inch cookie cutter to cut out circles for the pie. You should have about 10 circles depending on the size of the cookie cutter. Place these, evenly spaced, on 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Spoon some of the blueberry mixture into the center of the circle. Be careful not to place too much blueberry filling or the pies will overflow when the top is placed.

Brush the beaten egg around the edges. Roll out the second ball of dough and cut out the same number of pie circles. Cut a hole (or other shape!) in the middle and then make several slits in the pie circle to vent the pie while cooking. Place this circle of dough over the blueberry filling and use a fork to crimp the pie edges together. Brush the tops with the beaten egg. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 15-20 minutes until tops are golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on baking racks. Enjoy!

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