On Peanut Butter Cookies and Self-Education

As I have mentioned before, I’m trying to learn how to do food photography and food styling. I’ve been reading tons of books, online guides and going to photography and styling classes and conferences.

It’s been a great diversion from the normal everyday goings-on in my life to be able to take something that I created, arrange it, see it through the lens of a camera and capture that image. This process is therapeutic, in a way, because it forces me to take time out of my day and focus on this one thing that I’m doing, right in the moment.

What I’ve learned so far is that seeing things through the eyes of a camera is certainly a lot different than the naked eye. Things change, move and morph, and you have the ability to control how that all works. It’s very interesting, and really quite fun if you’re into that sort of thing.

Last week when I made these peanut butter cookies, I was faced with the challenge of how to photograph them. They’re not the prettiest thing. Brown, funny-shaped and very imperfect. It was fun playing with them to see in what ways they looked best, and how they changed depending on the light and their placement.

After taking the photos, I went to edit them and became frustrated. The cookies are blurry and unfocused. When I was taking the photos, I adjusted the focus and they looked good to me. It turns out that I really have a crappy camera lens.  Of course, this isn’t my only problem (of which I have many and so much to learn), but it doesn’t help things, either.

I got my camera, a Canon Rebel XSi, a camera I was told was a good one for beginners to learn on. It came with some super low-end lens, but after the purchase of the camera I haven’t been able to quite afford to get the lens I really want, and that Lara Ferroni recommended, a Canon 100mm lens. She let me borrow hers during the food photography and styling class, and wow, what a difference.

I considered not even doing this post, since my photos were so…well, not great.  But I figured, why not.  I know there are other people out there learning, just like me.  No, these photos will not make it to those lovely food collage sites that bring us oh so many visitors.  Nonetheless, thought I’d share because I know it’ll help me grow and learn even more.

I guess until I keep saving my pennies, I’ll have blurry cookies. But one day, friends, the cookies will be blurry no more.

Despite how they may look, these peanut butter cookies were delicious.  The one thing I found was that the dough was a little bit dry and crumbly, thus making it hard to squish the dough balls before breaking.  They tended to fall apart.  This could be the peanut butter I was using, a natural one with not much oil.

Either way, you want some yummy cookies that are easy to make, give these a shot.

Old-Fashioned Peanut Butter Cookies
Courtesy Epicurious

3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup creamy or chunky peanut butter (do not use old-fashioned style or freshly ground)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Mix flour, baking powder and salt in medium bowl.

Using electric mixer, beat butter, peanut butter and vanilla in large bowl until well blended.  Beat in both sugars.  Scrape down sides of bowl. Stir half of dry ingredients into mixture.  Add eggs 1 at a time, stirring well after each addition.  Mix in remaining dry ingredients.

For each cookie, roll 1 heaping tablespoonful of dough into 1 3/4-inch-diameter ball.

Arrange dough balls 2 1/2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.  Using back of fork, flatten dough balls and form crosshatch design on tops. Bake cookies until dry on top and golden brown on bottom, about 14 minutes.

Cool cookies on baking sheets 5 minutes. Using metal spatula, transfer cookies to racks and cool completely.  (Can be prepared up to 3 days ahead.  Store in airtight container at room temperature.)

Author: Adrienne | Categories: Home Cooking + Recipes | Comments: 4


  1. Posted May 14, 2010 at 4:11 AM | Permalink

    Congrats girl — b/c it did make it one of “those lovely food collage sites that bring us oh so many visitors.” Sometimes I feel like my pictures are blah too — and then when it gets rejected by you know who…it makes me feel even more blah! =) But you didn’t give up! I guess the lesson here is – just keep trying! =) Good job & keep it up!

  2. Posted May 14, 2010 at 12:24 PM | Permalink

    Looks good! Keep on practicing the photography! Thanks for stopping by my site!

  3. Posted May 26, 2010 at 2:02 PM | Permalink

    Your pictures are still great–I’m still learning too. I completely understand what you mean about the lens vs the naked eye. It’s been frustrating at times for me too.

    Glad I found your blog.

  4. Posted June 28, 2010 at 1:32 AM | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing your ups and downs in food photography. I badly need to improve my food photo skills – but feel like it is waste of time until I get a better camera. Then, I want to take a class by Lara too. Your blurry cookies still look yummy to me!

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