Dec 24, 2010

Doughnuts with Lara Ferroni

I’ve got the perfect book for your list to Santa and for gift giving this year — Doughnuts by Lara Ferroni. Last year, I bid on several items in the Menu for Hope raffle to raise money for the World Food Program. Bloggers from all over the world offer prizes to raise money for the hungry. I was incredibly lucky to win a one-on-one day of coaching and cooking with Seattle food stylist and photographer Lara Ferroni. My husband and I already had a trip planned to Seattle and Vancouver — and this proved to be the highlight of the trip.

Lara had just finished her book on doughnuts, but it hadn’t come out yet. We spent the day in her brand new Seattle photo studio talking about photography and making doughnuts. I had long admired Lara’s photography. Her photos making udon noodles are some of my all-time favorite food photos. The thing I’ve always admired about Lara’s work is how natural and sensual her photos are.

photos: Lara Ferroni

Doughnuts is the first (of many, hopefully) cookbook Lara has written, but her food photography has appeared in:

Tacos: Authentic, Festive and Flavorful
The Asian Grandmother’s Cookbook
Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef
Seattle Magazine
Portland Monthly Magazine
• Chronicle Books, and many more.

Lara was kind enough to ask beforehand if I preferred cake doughnuts or raised (yeast) doughnuts. Having been seduced by the flashing red Krispy Kreme “hot” sign at an early age, I had to go with raised. And let me just say that Lara’s doughnuts were hands down, the best I’ve ever had. I’m not saying that to be polite. They were soft and yeasty and elevated even further into little pillows of perfection by her chocolate and vanilla glazes. I have dreamed of them ever since.

Her book was released recently and has been so popular that it's already had to be reprinted. She has recipes for a whole range of doughnuts from the basic raised and cake doughnuts, to old fashioned sour cream, apple cider, chocolate, even vegan and gluten-free doughnuts. And the flavors! Apple pie, orange cranberry, margarita, red velvet, cocoa nib, chocolate peanut butter, pb&j, chai, maple bacon and more. And that’s not all, there are even variations on glazes in the book: brown butter, maple, honey, citrus, bourbon, caramel… Is your mouth watering yet?

And before you go thinking you can’t make these if you don’t have a deep fryer, think again. Lara uses a La Creuset enameled cast iron pan in her kitchen.

First, I’d like to share with you some of the photo and styling tips I picked up that day. She uses a Canon 5D MkII, with a 100mm 2.8 macro or 90mm 2.8 tilt shift. She also uses Manfrotto tripod legs with an RRS ballhead with a quick release and Strobist Pro 2 light set.


• use everyday items like a large piece of Styrofoam for fill/light bounce in shadows
• use a dark background to make fast changing foods like melting ice cream or steamy tea show up
• try Yolo oversized paint sample posters for backgrounds
• let natural light come in from one direction
• use a black bounce to pull light out as needed
• shoot overhead for a more graphic image
• shoot portrait (vertical) shots to give more depth
• make your images real; for instance, props like linens can show creases and have relaxed folds like you just set them down
• give a sense of things running off to give context
• use sidelight and backlight
• shoot messy foods tighter to make them look more sensual
• on a big, busy salad platter: use a wider lens to get closer and show detail in some areas and softer focus in others
• for dappling, use a crocheted piece in bright light
• for front shadows, use lights at 10 and 2 positions, to keep from flattening
• show action when possible — stretchy cheese, a spoon lifting
• look at the individual components of a dish and think about what makes them visually interesting (the purple tips on lettuce, for instance)

I brought one of my favorite Austin treats to share with Lara, Kakawa chocolate-covered cocoa bean candies. She used them as one of our photo subjects that day. This is one of her shots.

This is a process shot I took of one of her earlier Kakawa set ups.

Lara also shared with me some cookbooks and photographers that she has been inspired by:
• the cookbook Lucid Food by Louisa Shafia
The Complete Mushroom Book by Antonio Carluccio
• food photographer Christopher Hirsheimer
• food blogger and photographer Heidi Swanson

I wish I lived in Seattle so I could take advantage of some of Lara's other workshop offerings. Coming up in January, she's offering several food photography workshops. She also has a 3-day farm-to-table photo workshop planned for June that looks spectacular. Find more info on her workshops on her studio blog, Spare Room.

• Lara Ferroni's site
• if you want to get right to the doughnuts, here's a direct link to that section of her site
• photo tips (check out the great post on smoothing chocolate chips)
objects and props

Next up, I'll post the recipe for traditional yeast raised doughnuts that Lara made for me that day.

Thanks again so much, Lara, for a great day, valuable instruction and tips, and, of course, the amazing doughnuts!

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