Food styling and presentation have never been a strong suit of mine. The family was lucky to get dinner on one plate, and hopefully the ingredients somehow worked together. Making it look pretty? Who has time for that?
Passing Liv Life's two year anniversary just yesterday, I took a moment to look back at my early photos and posts and, well... I've gotten better. New camera equipment most definitely makes a difference, but presentation is what it's all about.
Presentation need not be fancy to be pretty, nor does it need expensive props or serving dishes. Simplicity works well for me, but now I take a moment before setting the plate on the table to perhaps add a sprig of cilantro, to slice the avocado and then fan it out on top of the salad, or spoon the mango salsa nicely on the pork tenderloin rather than just dumping a spoonful on the side.
Hence, I've become somewhat protective of my kitchen creations before they have been photographed for the blog. The family is now accustomed to asking, "Can I have some of this or do you still need to take a picture?" before diving into a plate of brownies or cookies. They even occasionally offer suggestions for styling, and Liv has become quite adept at placing the perfect dollop of whipped cream atop nearly anything sweet.
With my protectiveness, you can imagine my surprise upon entering the kitchen where Liv and her girlfriend were working on their broadcasting claymation project. There, I found one of my perfectly shaped, freshly baked and most importantly, non photographed Chocolate Bread Loaves had been turned into nothing less than a volcano complete with a peanut butter cream cheese lava in the middle of a candy world. A slight miscommunication of "use whatever you need" had them indeed, using whatever they needed.
While I was lucky to have 2 remaining loaves pristine and waiting for their moment in the spotlight, I do have to admit that this delectable chocolate bread inspired by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito's Double Chocolate version from their awe inspiring book, Baked Explorations, did indeed make an ideal volcano.
Chocolate at its best, we "heathified" our version with the addition of spelt flour and the replacement of some of the oil with a nice, tangy yogurt. Intense without being too sweet, it was the peanut butter/cream cheese spread that had me gushing and reaching for another slice. While the spread also made a beautiful lava flow on the girls' volcano, I prefer mine spread ever so lightly across a nice warm piece of the chocolate chunk studded bread.
adapted from Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented, page 50
Treating myself to a copy of the book Baked Explorations last Christmas, this is one of those books that you can't put down until you finish. Recipe after recipe received the comment, "Oooh!! I must make that!", and every recipe I've tried has been an instant hit.
The Double Chocolate Loaf was no exception, though I did make a few changes to better work it into my car pool of dance girls' pre-dance (it's supposed to be healthy) snack.
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup spelt flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 large egg white
3/4 cup rice milk (the original recipe calls for buttermilk - Liv is somewhat lactose sensitive, hence we subbed the rice milk)
1/2 cup yogurt (Liv's lactose sensitivity can tolerate yogurt)
2 Tbs vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 ounces good-quality dark chocolate, chopped
Preheat oven to 350º F. Spray 3 small loaf pans with cooking spray and set aside.
Place the brown sugar into a large mixing bowl, pressing out lumps with the back of a spoon. Add the cocoa, flours, granulated sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Whisk ingredients to combine.
In a medium mixing bowl whisk the eggs and egg white until blended, then add the rice milk (or buttermilk if desired), yogurt, oil and vanilla, again whisking until combined.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, stirring just 5 or 6 times. Add the chocolate chunks and stir 5 to 10 times more, just until the flour is incorporated.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans and sprinkle with raw sugar if desired (Liv sprinkles all of her breads with raw sugar).
Bake for 20-30 minutes (time will vary depending on the size of your pans), or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.
Liv Life Note - Actually, a Baked Explorations Note: In place of mini loaf pans, pour the batter into a prepared 9x5 inch loaf pan and bake 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes.
Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Spread
5 ounces light cream cheese (we used a whipped version)
3 Tbs creamy peanut butter
Place ingredients into a small bowl and blend with a fork or a whisk until blended.