Peppermint Caramels (Polkagriskola)
It didn’t take long after moving to Park Slope, Brooklyn, before I noticed the pervasive neighborhood trends. You may have heard about the overbearing mommies or that the locavore movement is standard fare. Though I am grateful for the latter, it is two trends I least expected for which I am the most thankful.
I appreciate the seasonal decorations on almost every stoop. As a holiday lover, and a decoration addict, October surprised me with pumpkins in front of every brownstone. Now, I feel like a kid again with all the houses in December-holiday mode. A nighttime stroll reveals cozy interiors with bedecked halls and a lit tree, or a menorah on the livingroom window sill.
The quirkier Park Slope proclivity is the furniture, books, knickknacks and what-have-you that is left up for grabs. Although the temptation arises to nab what is there for the taking, I have always resisted. But I guess you can only stay on the outside of the group for so long…
Recently, my neighbor left a stack of food magazines outside. Even though Drew and I were headed out on a walk, I couldn’t resist a stack of old Saveur and Food & Wine magazines. I flipped through a few and saw that their previous owner did not have my habit of tearing out pages of interest. I quickly carted the stack back down the block, unlocked the gate, and stashed them inside.
Our walk resumed, and throughout, the memory of my magazine windfall popped into my thoughts a few times. Each time, my heart jumped as I anticipated finding delights within. Although I read these publications’ websites, for me, the experience of flipping through the pages of the magazine and seeing glossy, full-page food photography is unparalleled.
My bonanza totaled 12 issues, and I am still reading my way through the stack. On a recent night I fell for a photo of peppermint caramels in the 2009 Christmas issue from Saveur Magazine, and knew I had to make the tantalizing recipe pictured. The polkagriskola, as these peppermint-topped caramels are known in Sweden, looked delectable.
As a confection-making novice, and someone with an unspoken fear of caramel in general, I was not drawn to the peppermint caramels because I was confident in my skills, or because I knew how to go about it. I simply loved the photograph. I am a sucker for beautiful food styling and food photography. I love natural light, I am drawn to sweets, and I like the food to look as though I’d want to take a bite, if only I could taste the page!
It proves that a little styling and good lighting can go a long way, especially if you’ve gone through the work to make such a gorgeous dish. Check the original photo out here. Even low-budget photographers like me can benefit from advice that an experienced photographer or food stylist uses. Get outside and use natural light. Think about what would make you want to eat the dish. The best way to learn is just practice, practice, practice. If I feel uninspired, I might even try to mimic the shot, to see how those results were achieved.
I’m not likely to leave a tray of these peppermint caramels outside my apartment – the squirrels would scarf them down before any lucky passerby. However, I did turn this batch of polkagriskola into four gifts. Using some old tea tins, I packaged up four portions of these holiday candies and included the recipe on the back of each card. (And don’t worry, I saved some for myself!)