Whenever people ask me how I got into food photography, I often talk about traveling abroad, experiencing other food cultures, and attempting to recreate the flavors of my childhood when home felt far away. With a camera always by my side, food became the natural subject for my photos. Or I mention my start in journalism, how I loved creating things for people to enjoy and - hopefully - inspire or inform them in some small way. And how that love for creating led me to capturing others who create with a fierce passion, in the world of food.
However, that story omits one of the subtle, but key influences: my sister Brenna. She started to fall in love with food at about the same time, inspired by her incredible garden and courses at cooking school. Even though we lived on opposite sides of the world, we talked frequently. Not daily, but pretty close. She was usually making breakfast in Portland at about the same time I returned from work in Amsterdam and began making dinner. We'd both be cooking 'together' via Skype.
She shared her expertise and recipes with me, as well as book and cookbook suggestions. Her knowledge grew quickly and today she knows a LOT about food: how to create it, expand on flavors, make ingredients look amazing, and feed the masses without breaking a sweat. I, on the other hand, have learned a lot about how to photograph food and appreciate those who have mastered the art of creating it.
After returning to Portland and ever-so-slowly building my photography business, more opportunities arose where we could collaborate, each of us bringing our separate, but complementary talents to the table. We work together with that flowing ease of people who have known each other 100% of their life (or 95.37% in her case). It's easy. We know what we have to do and we communicate without reserve and with a huge dose of love. Plus, Brenna is queen of the playlists on set of a photo shoot.
Looking for more excuses to bring our talents together, we decided during a project this summer to get together once a month to work on something just for fun.
These walnut maple rolls are the result of the first collaboration. I wanted to work on something sweet. I love pastries of any kind, always. Brenna had the idea for rolls that were kind of similar to a holiday wreath bread she makes every Christmas morning. The dough would have looked great in a wreath-like circle or twisted, but we liked how the rolling and twisting of the dough created a layered pastry, rather than a straight-up roll. An extra drizzle of maple syrup once the rolls have cooled, and these make for the perfect breakfast roll. You can find the recipe at the end of the post. Enjoy!
Maple Walnut Fan Rolls
Makes approx 12 rolls
Recipe by Brenna Wilson
¼ cup butter, room temp
½ cup plus 2 tbsp. whole milk
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
3 ½ cups bread flour
2 tsp. instant dry yeast
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. sea salt
Filling and toppings:
1 ½ cups toasted walnuts, chopped
1 tsp. cardamom
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. sugar
¼ cup maple syrup
9 oz. cream cheese, room temp
Warm milk and butter in small pan on low heat. Once the butter is melted, remove from heat. Let cool slightly. Then whisk eggs and maple syrup into butter and milk mixture.
In the bowl for kitchen mixer, mix all dry ingredients together. Using the dough hook, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients while mixing until it comes together as a dough. Let the dough sit for 10 minutes. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead bread. Sprinkle with additional flour if dough becomes sticky. Keep kneading for five or more minutes until the dough is smooth and bounces back. Put dough in oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap until dough doubles in size (approx. an hour or so).
In a food processor, add the walnuts, cardamom, cinnamon, vanilla, maple syrup, and sugar. Pulse until walnuts are finely chopped. Add maple syrup and mix well. Put mixture in a small bowl and set aside.
Add additional flour to board and turn out the risen dough onto the board. Then roll out dough into a 10x12 rectangle. Spread the room temperature cream cheese onto the rolled out dough to the edge. Spread the walnut and maple syrup mixture over the cream cheese and then tightly roll up the dough starting from the longer side. Roll out the rolled up dough until it’s 3-4 inches longer then slice down the center of the dough from end to end. Wrap the two sliced dough around each other with the layered interior facing up multiple times until completed wrapped around each other. Slice the twisted dough into 10-12 slices.
Grease a muffin pan with butter, including the edges. Place each sliced roll in the muffin tin with sliced side up then cover with oiled plastic wrap. Let it rise for 35 minutes in a warm area.
Preheat oven to 400°. Bake rolls for 10 minutes and then turn down oven to 350° for another 10-15 minutes or until the rolls are golden brown. After the rolls have cooled slightly, remove them from the muffin tin. Brush the rolls with maple syrup and enjoy!