Come into the light…

So for the longest time I was always a natural light girl for food photography. But the reality is that I just don’t live in a region that gets much light in the Winter and it was becoming a drag. Plus I keep such odd hours, often baking at one or two in the morning. I don’t want to wait around until the next day to shoot, and sometimes I can’t wait depending what it is.
I had seen a great review over at Steamy Kitchen about Lowel EGO lights. I decided to put those on my Christmas list. Santa was nice and brought them to me. I must say they have changed my life. It’s so wonderful to know that I can bake whenever I want because I can shoot whenever I want.
I got into a discussion on a food photography thread about using the lights. Most people were opposed to using any lights of any sorts. Said it made a huge difference and didn’t look right.
So as a experiment I took pictures of my tarts using both natural light and my EGO lights and if you would like to play along, go ahead and guess which pictures are in natural light and which are in artificial light.
My root canal went really well. I love pill sedation much better than IV I have learned. Plus my Endodontist kicks butt. I still am eating soft foods and so I thought I would make myself a nice treat of mousse. Whenever I want a mousse recipe I always skim through Helen’s site, she is the mousse queen to me. Not a bad thing to be the queen of if you ask me. Anyway, this isn’t really a mousse, it’s a diplomat cream which is basically pastry cream with whipped cream added to it. I liked her use of raspberry jam and dragged out a jar of my mom’s homemade jam. Yum.
For presentation reasons I went ahead and made some tart shells. Top them with raspberries and you have some really lovely tarts.


Raspberry Jam Mousse Tart

Vanilla Bean Tart Shell (recipe follows)
Raspberry Jam Diplomat Cream Mousse (recipe follows)
pint of raspberries

Vanilla Bean Pastry Tart Shell
Makes 1 (10 ½-inch) tart shell

1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, cut in half and all bean scraped out (no vanilla beans? Use 1 tsp vanilla extract)
½ cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes and chilled
½ cup plus 2 TBSP powdered sugar
2 egg yolks
Using a food processor, combine the flour and salt and pulse to mix. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs.
Add sugar, vanilla beans,  and egg yolks and pulse again, just until the mixture comes together and pulls aways from the sides of the bowl.
Transfer dough to a sheet of plastic wrap. Form into a disc ans wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 1 hours or overnight.
Prepare fluted tart pan by buttering pan, getting both the bottom and sides of the pan.
Roll pastry out on a lightly floured surface into a circle. Fit dough into prepared tart pan, pressing evenly over the bottom and up the sides. Line tart shell with parchment paper and fill with dried beans or pie weights.
Bake tart shell for 20 minutes (at 350F), or until edges are very light brown. Remove parchment paper and weights.
Bake tart shell for 5-10 minutes more, or until lightly golden throughout.. Cool on a rack before filling.

Adapted from Taste of the South February/March 2009

Raspberry Jam Diplomat Cream Mousse

1 ½ tsp gelatin
1 TBSP cold water
1 cup whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped (throw the seeds in the pot with the milk)
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
¼  cup sugar
2 TBSP cornstarch
1/3 cup raspberry jam
1 cup heavy cream

In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand until you prepare the cream.
In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar, egg and egg yolk together, add the cornstarch mixing until you get a smooth paste. Set aside.
Meanwhile in a saucepan combine the milk and vanilla bean on medium heat until boiling. Remove from heat and add slowly to egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent curdling, (pour through a strainer if this happens). Remove vanilla bean.
Place the egg mixture back into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until thick, stirring constantly.
Add the jam, cook another 30 seconds and remove from the heat. Immediately add in the gelatin and stir until completely dissolved. Place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the cream so that it does not develop a skin as it cools to room temperature.
Whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form and gently fold it into the pastry cream. Pipe or spoon the mousse immediately in the prepared tart shells. If you have any leftover, spoon into dessert dishes or glasses for quick snack.

Source: Tartelette, the mousse queen


  1. WOW! The color on the raspberries is outstanding! Good luck recovering from the dental work.

  2. “the reality is that I just don’t live in a region that gets much light in the Winter and it was becoming a drag. ”

    Same here!! I actually own those lights now, and LOVE them.

    Great dessert!! Duh ;-)

  3. i usually run out of light because i get home so late. i use artificial light when i absolutely must but i definitely don’t like it as much. i also don’t know what i’m doing with it either though. :) great looking tarts.

  4. I hate the look of flash, but I live in the official “Cloudiest City in the United States.” Glad to see you took matters into your own hands and Made Light!

  5. So which ones did you take with natural light??
    Flash fails 99.9% of the time for me. Almost all of mine are in artificial light.

  6. raspberries mmmm… my husband would be in heaven! I love your pictures.

  7. So, I don’t mind artificial light but currently don’t have any that is GOOD! So, I prefer using natural light…and really don’t like the look of a flash (maybe I should turn it down some…always overexposes). This looks WONDERFUL!!!! I love raspberries.

  8. I must say, all of the pictures look great, and I have no real guess as to which are natural light and which aren’t. All I know is that all of your pictures made me hungry!!

  9. Glad to hear your root canal went well!

    Lovely tarts! The diplomat cream sounds dreamy :)

  10. I have “the lights” on my Christmas list…hopefully I can have Christmas in JUly!!! Great tart!!!

  11. The pictures taken on the black background are done with your lights….and by the way…the picture with only the one raspberry in focus is freaking me out!

    The one on the lavender background is done in natural light.

    I wish I had some of those lights. In the dreary months it would be very helpful.

    So glad that your root canal went well.

  12. I ALSO have almost NO natural light in my apt. The good sun, which isn’t really good since my window faces the sun coming from the north, is blocked by a huge building! I also bake at odd hours, so I BEGGED for a Lowel Ego Light for X-Mas, and got it. However, you need more than one (I take it you have two or three?), so I still don’t have enough light. I bought some Lowel bulbs and put them in lamps which I covered with tracing paper, but ‘eh’. I need the real Lowel again, and again! That said (sorry for rambling) I’m guessing the first photo is the Ego light? All of your photos look amazing, regardless of whether they’re natural or artificial light. Love your site!

  13. yup the lowel ego lights changed my photographing life too. glad you are enjoying them. love these tarts!

  14. i bought some lights a while ago, too – mine are pretty big and the whole setting up a drag… but if i didn’t have them, i would probably take no pics whatsoever in the 6 months of darkness we have around here! actually more than that, seeing how late i get to cook at night.
    definitely worth investing in, i should think.
    your tartlets looks lovely!

  15. Lisa- Yes, I have two lights.

  16. Friends thought I was crazy for stating that a root canal is one of the most wonderful things in the world. But, once you’ve survived the immense pain leading up to one, and then experienced the incredible relief and thrill of getting your life back afterwards, you’ll agree. Glad to hear, and see, that you’re back in the game!

  17. All the photos, as usual, look fabulous. I too have trouble, especially in the winter months, getting natural light since I don’t cook until after 5 or 6. I bought a light box and found that the lights provide a great alternative.

  18. Whew! I’m glad your root canal went well! That was an ordeal getting there (with that one weekend of pain). Glad to hear you are in excellent oral health! :)

    So funny, I’m at work today and two lights just got delivered. Can’t wait to go home and assemble!

  19. The tarts look lovely! Thanks for the recommendation for the Lowel EGO lights – I’m going to forward this to my hubby because he’s working on a light studio so I can improve my photography. I’ve never home when it’s light out either!

  20. I say all photos look great :) This tart looks so nice and colourful. Glad your root canal went well.

  21. the tarts look fantastic…i love berries! i got one light for valentine’s day (i really, really wanted one) and for now it is working out nicely…maybe someday i will get a second.

  22. Glad to have you back Peabody! If winter ever decides to end here in Canada, and we finally get berries, I’ll try this for sure!

  23. Oh wow! This looks delicious! These raspberries look they’re popping out of the page!

  24. When you said you were a natural light girl, I thought you were talking about cheap beer. ha! ha! ha!

    In my completely non-professional opinion, I think the mousse pic with the pink background is natural light and the rest are taken with the EGO lights.

  25. Great post and beautiful tarts! I think artificial light gives it’s own, interesting effects. I also struggle to cook and take pictures before dark, and I’m also quite new to the whole food photography thing, but I’ve definitely been inspired to find out more about Ego lights – thank you!

  26. I hope santa brings me a light too, soon, and not have to wait that much longer for one.
    I adore any recipe that lets me use vanilla bean…yum.
    Another wonderful creation here Ms. Peabody!

  27. Gorgeous pics!

  28. Gorgeous pictures as always! I’m looking into lights myself, and I will probably make the plunge tomorrow, actually. Hopefully I’ll have the same degree of success as you with them!

  29. These look fantastic! I was playing around Tartelette looking for something really similar- a tart with some sort of mousse and then raspberries! Now I can choose between using this “mousse” recipe or one for vanilla mousse… decisions, decisions… :-) Great work!

  30. I treated myself to a set of these lights, too, and love being liberated from having to shoot photos in a two-hour window of natural light during the day. Your raspberries are absolutely seductive.

  31. girl! thanks for shoutout – i’m happy you love the lights!

    i think this is first time I’ve ever read cream mousse and root canal in the same POST!! lol

    xo, j

  32. Every picture looks wonderful to me ~ you are so good at this whatever lighting you use!

  33. I think all of the photos looks great — and that is one delicious-looking, elegant tart!

  34. Love the tarts, glad to hear you are feeling better (and sending virtual chicken soup your way!)
    As for the lights, no idea which is which and your photos are beautiful no matter what light you use.

  35. I can’t tell the difference and therefore need one of these lights…

  36. I haven’t heard of diplomat cream before. It sounds lovely, as is your dessert. So glad that all went well with the root canal.

  37. I bought a pair of these lights after reading Jaden’s post too…and you’re right there’s no going back! They are wonderful. The mousse looks awesome.

  38. What a wonderful mousse recipe. It looks luscious and sweet. I love the tip about the EGO lights. I will have to look into them. I thought I was the only one who based her baking around foot photography worthy lighting!

  39. OMG – I want to jump through the screen and eat this up right now. Great job on the photos.

  40. Pea, I have read and seen a lot about EGO lights and would love to have them – too bad Amazon doesn’t deliver equipment here. EGO lights are not available around and something similar cost an arm and a leg. :(
    That is why I always use natural light.
    Your photos are beautiful and a great source of inspiration.
    I love diplomat cream and to pair it with berries is fantastic.

  41. I live in a sunny place, but that doesn’t always mean I cook when it’s daylight out! Glad to hear your feeling better.

  42. Wow these berries look so delectable, everything you cook is always superb!

  43. Looks beautiful and delicious!

  44. Peabody- thank you so much for posting about this! It’s a whole new world (in terms of photography) for me now!

  45. mmmmmm i want a tart! i think the lowel ego lights create great pics!


  1. […] check out my new lighting! Peabody raved about her new light setup for food photography and since I just moved and the lighting in the […]

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