Thank you to everyone who has inquired about the workshop in Charleston. Yes, it is sold out but we do have a waitlist if you are interested. You can send me an email at helenedujardinphoto[at]gmail[dot com]. It’s been a busy May with family here and a busy June but I am ready for summer cooking and summer playing!
The heat is on for sure! We’ve been grilling a lot and making big salads chock full of all the vegetables we can get at the market. The oven is currently not an option I want to have. Gets the house too hot, takes forever to cool off and with longer days and more light, we just want to sit on the patio and enjoy the refreshing evenings as much as possible.
I have not done much baking, and usually it’s been on early weekend mornings before it got too warm. Desserts have been lots and lots of fresh fruits and the occasional cookies and ice cream. Not tremendously exciting (well, except for the couple of new ice cream flavors I have been trying to nail), but when summer rolls around, there are always three desserts I tend to put on rotations at the house. Panna Cotta, clafoutis and riz au lait (rice pudding).
Riz au lait is my comfort food. My grandmother used to make it all the time whenever we needed a little TLC. For me it screams "I love you", "Let me comfort you", "make yourself a bowl and come unload what troubles you" or just "hey, things are wonderful, let’s celebrate!" It’s all that. A gentle hug, a reminder to slow down. The scent of vanilla infused milk just wafting through the house. Something that requires you to pause and stir. Inhale and exhale. To me it is the essence of cooking and sharing. As soon as I make Riz Au Lait, I want to give a bowl to someone.
Granted, it’s usually a dessert I make more often in the fall and winter months but chilled rice pudding adds a nice bite and cold creamy smooth feel. I cook the rice with milk and a bit of vanilla, just to the point of the milk being completely absorbed. I let the rice continue soaking in all that lovely goodness until it is cool. It’s soft and unctuous without being liquid. The creaminess will reveal itself in the bite, not the look. Once cooled, I top it off with fruit poached in a citrus and honey syrup. Right now, peaches are ripe and gorgeous, but it could well be rhubarb or strawberries, a mix of different berries, etc…
My extra bit of love comes from a couple of lemon verbena stems I add to the syrup. Vanilla, citrus, honey, lemon verbena. My favorites, all surrounding a comforting bowl of rice pudding. Maybe not like Grandma used to make but she would approve nonetheless. I’m pretty sure of that…
I sort of took last week off from blogging, writing, commenting, etc… It does not mean I took the week off from cooking or shooting but I had to focus on prepping the coming months. We celebrated a friend’s birthday, enjoyed the fireworks for the 4th of July while I already started shooting Fall and Thanksgiving features for a couple of magazines.
I thought shooting pumpkin pies and plump turkeys would make me crave the cooler weather of Fall but nope…did not happen. At the hand of a day spent in the heat of a covered porch or a well lit studio, all I wanted was to dive in some ice cream, grill a little and just put my feet up while sipping a gin & tonic.
I also made a commitment to be gentle of myself last week. A way to protect my time with friends and family before the chaos of the next few months. When I going over my schedule with my mother-in-law, she exclaimed in the sweetest Southern drawl "Da’lin…you made my head spin. Let me fix you some iced tea". Iced tea fixes everything. I am about 95% convinced of this by now.
Starting this week, it will be a few months of "crayzeeeee" until the Christmas holidays. Kicking things off when I head out to Alabama today for a real tasty two day shoot. Then it’s Scotland and Ireland, Washington D.C, Seattle, Canada, New Hampshire, more Canada and home for more shoots. There is time enough in between two planes for an anniversary, his birthday, a load of laundry and a few good meals with friends.
A good mix of workshops and photo shoots. I was asked to submit a couple of bids for photography on cookbooks (which got accepted) and while I must wait a little longer to give you all the deeds on them, I am very grateful for the opportunities they provide. One takes me out of the country while the other lets me create a team with stylist and assistants I am friends with but also trust with my eyes closed. And the fun part? I won’t have to pay them in lollipops! All legit!! Ahahah!! Feels stupendous to be able to spread the love and create a team that inspires you and has the same need to create.
If only I did not have to have to crunch numbers, prepare bids and tally invoices. Always feel like it’s taking me away from creating, heading in the kitchen on a whim and just unplug and bake and write and blog. It’s a balancing act I am still trying to figure out. Everything I have done so far was to lead me to what I am doing now so it’s my responsibility to find the balance, the happy medium.
And thank goodness for pies! Galettes, tarts, tartelettes… you name it. Where there is a crust and a filling, there is me, generally baking one or trailing not too far behind a piping hot generously filled pie.
They bring balance into my life. Or more precisely, the act of making a galette or tart forces me to stop. The action of rubbing flour and butter together gives me those five crucial minutes I needed to just take a moment. Rolling pie crust is incredibly good for stress relief. The moment you take a pie out of the oven. That wonderful "ahhhh…" that follows a sigh. Happy sigh.
Then comes the wait. The ever so long twenty minutes to let that wonderful pie cool so you can go right ahead, grab a fork and dig in. If it’s for dinner with friends, it’s even harder to wait. But the rewards are well worth it. The smiles on other people’s face as you hand out a slice of pie. As long as I have served pies, I haven’t seen any furrowed brows yet…
Right in the middle of Summer, it would be criminal not to fill such a galette with all the stone fruits well abundant around at the market. Apricot, velvet apricots, peaches, cherries, nectarines, etc…Stupendously delicious. My new favorite word combination.
I love the simplicity of free formed galettes once in a while. It’s relaxing not to have walls and edges, trims and pie shells. Make dough, roll a rectangle, a square or a circle and fill. Pull the edges together and bake. Then dig in.
I am leaving some of that stone fruit galette in the fridge as I head out of town but you can be sure I am fixing myself a little slice for the plane ride. Or breakfast. It’s all about finding balance.
I hope the months ahead provide you with the same feelings of exhilaration, accomplishment, necessary adrenaline rush and relaxation. Hopefully with pie…
2 peaches, skinned, pitted and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 apricots, skinned, pitted and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 velvet apricots (or 2 large plums), skinned, pitted and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 Saturn peaches, skinned, pitted and cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 cup cherries, pitted and halved
juice and zest of one lemon
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Your favorite pie crust. Or this one which I love.
Preheat the oven to 350F.
In a large bowl, toss all the prepared fruits with the lemon zest, juice and the honey. Mix well with a wooden spoon.
On a silpat or piece of parchment paper, roll the dough into a 10×15 rectangle (approximate). spoon the fruits right in the center, leaving about a 2-inch border on all edges. Fold the edges of the two short edges over the fruit, do the same for the long edges as if you were closing up a package but not quite closed all the way in the middle.
Brush the milk over the crust with a pastry brush. Sprinkle with the sugar and bake for about 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown.
The first days of the Summer here in the South always bring back memories of my youth spent in Provence and Les Grandes Vacances (Summer vacations) spent in the Alps. The scent of lavender, rosemary, thyme. Juicy cut cantaloupe and proscuito salad. Fresh sardines and trouts over a makeshift barbecue pit dug in the earth. Scrumptious fingerling potatoes cooked in the ashes afterwards. That smoky taste was unbelievable.
Summers then and Summer now, wherever I find myself, are synonymous with the same scents and flavors. Lots and lots of peaches, cherries, apricots, plums, ice creams, sorbets, fresh and juicy pies. Days were filled with bike rides, hikes, swimming in the river, building tree house and fortresses. No toys necessary. Just friends.
The anticipation of going back to the same summer vacation spot and see who was coming that year again. Even today, I have my brother to tell me who is still stopping by. Yes, thirty something years after their first falls and sometimes first kisses, now that children have become parents of their own, they find themselves continuing the traditions. It’s good. It’s actually awesome.
The beauty of being in the present is that I can look up from my work table, cut open a peach and be transported right where I need to be. The look, feel and smell are all I need to create the photo story that calms or inspires me. I am easy. If anything, this past year has taught me to be in the moment. To let it unravel what I need to see.
I did not want to let the season pass by without making some time for peaches and ice cream. And why not combining both if I could…
Stone fruits always make me reach for a complimentary fragrance. Lavender, rosemary, thyme, cumin. Grilled peaches and a few cumin seeds are just incredible together. It changes with my mood but as a Provencal, I think my instinct is to reach for the jar of lavender buds. It almost makes me hear the cicadas in the background. Almost… That and a glass of rose and well, I am just about set!
This ice cream is really the best of all worlds right now. Juicy peaches, lavender, plenty of creamy goodness. I served it with easy lemon zested shortbread cookies topped with a little sprinkle of lemon salt I brought back from Portland last year. The contrast was perfect. A nice balance of flavors, sweet, salty and creamy.
Roasted Peach and Lavender Ice Cream With Lemon Salt Shortbread Cookies:
I went for white peaches for no other reason that they were the most ripe ones at the market one morning and I did not want to wait any longer to make ice cream. Use any stone fruit you like best. Do not worry if you can remove the pits before you put them in the oven, both skins and pits will yield under your fingers once the fruits are roasted. Cook, peel, mash and throw in with the ice cream base which is nothing more complicated than milk and cream and a little sugar or honey.
Best is to prepare the fruit and ice cream base the day before you plan on churning it.
For the ice cream:
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon dried edible lavender buds
1 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 cup whole coconut milk
1/3 cup honey
For the shortbread cookies (makes about twenty 2-inch round cookies)
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
2 egg yolks
1 cup millet flour
1/2 cup sweet rice flour
2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup milk (optional)
Lemon salt (optional)(or make your own by added lemon zest to coarse sea salt)
Prepare the ice cream:
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Cut the peaches in half and remove the pits.
Place in large roasting pan, cut side up. Drizzle with the honey and lavender. Roast until golden brown and soft, about 30 minutes. Let cool completely and peel the skins off the peaches (you can roast them the day before if you want). Reserve.
In a large saucepan set over medium heat, cook together the cream, milk coconut milk and honey until they barely come to a boil. Remove from the heat and let cool completely. Refrigerate until cold.
When both fruit and ice cream based are chilled sufficiently, mash the peaches with a potato masher or a fork (no need to puree fine), add them to the base and process the ice cream according to your ice cream maker manufacturer’s instruction.
Freeze until set.
Prepare the cookies:
In the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the butter, sugar and egg yolks together on medium speed until creamy looking. Split the vanilla bean in half and scrape the seeds with the back of a knife and add to the butter and sugar mixture. Mix for 10 seconds. Add the millet and sweet rice flour with the mixer still on low speed. If the mixture feels too crumbly add a little bit of milk to obtain a smooth but not too wet dough. Start with one tablespoon at a time.
Gather the dough into a bowl and refrigerate for about 2 hours.
When ready to bake, turn the oven to 350F and position a rack in the middle.
Roll the dough in between 2 sheets of parchment paper and roll to about 1/4 to 1/8-inch thick. Cut cookies out in the dough and place them on a parchment lined baing sheet. Sprinkle with lemon salt.
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden.
Serve with the ice cream.
Leave it up to me to pick one hot evening to churn a fresh batch of ice cream thinking we were nicely gearing up for Summer early as usual only to get up to a little-big drop in temperatures. Intriguing. I like that last attempt of a crisp morning trying to wrap us up with a little breeze and a soft chill.
While taking the pups outside that morning, I was not thinking ice cream at all. More something like a hot cup of coffee and a warm piece of toast. But I instantly busted "this feels so nice! Like a juicy fresh peach on a warm Summer day!"I went back inside with that odd feeling that the weather had misplaced a chip somewhere. The pieces did not quite fit.
The season was going so well that in fact I had gotten the juiciest tiniest yellow cling peaches at the market a few days before. Dubious, I only got three. Once home and after the first bite, I wished I had gotten three more. As good as candy, albeit two months early in the season. Wacky. Yet good enough to make my toes curl so I wanted to do them justice and use them in a dessert somehow.
Yes. My measuring scale to things, foods, life, love, is how much something will make my toes curl. When I fall in love with people, my toes curl. When there is a dish that makes my brain circuits implode from intense pleasure, my toes curl also. For some it’s just an expression. For me, it’s a true manifestation that I am completely in tune with the moment, the person, the taste. I often put a piece of music on and realize 20 minutes into it that my toes are indeed curled from appreciation.
That morning, in the cheer satisfaction of the present moment, a clemency in the weather, a few minutes of calm all to myself, my mind wandering about and around ice cream and peaches, my toes started to curl. Immensely. And as I am sitting here taking a break from packing, my toes are curling once more over a bowl of Lemon Verbena Ice Cream and Poached Peaches. Fragrant, refreshing and the perfect thing to break for.
I am heading to Sante Fe, New Mexico to teach a 2-day workshop organized by Angela Richie of the world renowned Richie Camp workshops. I’m heading out a bit early to get a chance to see the town before I immersed 12 people in an intense food photography and styling adventure. When I look at the list of instructors and hear feedback from attendees, my toes curl at the honor to be part of such a group!
There are a couple of other things that make me enjoy a little serving of ice cream this evening. I realized I put the news on Twitter last month but never made a formal announcement here. Back in April, I got contacted by Chris from Primary Reps Photo Agency who expressed the wish to add me to his roster of photographers. My goal for 2011 was to get photography representation, a mutual partnership of work and more work and someone other than me futzing over contracts and quotes.
I liked Chris. I liked his honesty and clear approach to work. I liked him and he represents my dear friend Matt Armendariz too. My toes curled. Yes. Well, I am thrilled to announce that I am now represented by Primary Reps for anything and everything photography related and you can view my galleries here and here.
And here is announcement number 2. Things happen outside of my comprehension but I trust my soul that they happen when right. Things at work are fast and furious and I am loving every part of it. Contracts, clauses, presenting my work the best way possible while juggling everything else can get a bit crazy. When Amy Hughes, literary agent from McCormick & Williams in New York got in touch and asked if I had considered getting a book agent, I looked up to the clouds and uttered a quiet "Thank you!".
We met. We chatted. We asked questions. And my toes curled up again. Today I am psyched to announce that Amy is indeed my book agent. She is my sounding board and best advocate for current projects as well as others I have been asked to consider and work on. I am passionate about my work and when my toes kept curling more and more in the last few months, that’s when I knew it was time to team with people who knew how and where to best focus my energy.
I am extremely grateful and can’t wait to get to work every morning! But now that it is almost midnight and my ice cream bowl is just about empty, I must go and finish packing my gear for Sante Fe. I doubt I’ll have time to post while I am there but I will try to post updates and phone pictures on Twitter (@SweetTartelette) and Facebook (page is here) and share info and tips as we workshop!
Have a wonderful rest of the week and gorgeous weekend!
Lemon Verbena Ice Cream And Poached Peaches:
For the lemon verbena ice cream:
4 egg yolks
1 cup (100gr) sugar
1 cup (250ml) heavy cream
1 cup (250ml) whole milk
1 small handful lemon verbena leaves.
In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and one cup of sugar until pale and thick. In a saucepan set over medium heat, bring the cream, milk, and lemon verbena to a simmer, without letting it come to a full boil. Slowly pour the hot cream over the egg yolks mixture while whisking to temper the egg yolks. Pour the whole mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the cream coats the back of spoon. It should register 170F on a candy thermometer. At this point you have made a custard sauce, also known as "creme anglaise". Let cool completely, and refrigerate until cold.
Once the custard is cold, strain and process according to your ice cream maker manufacturer’s instructions.
For the poached peaches:
1 vanilla bean split in half
juice of one lemon
Prepare the peaches:
Place the peaches, vanilla bean, lemon juice and enough water to cover them in a tall saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Lower the heat and let them simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the peaches are just soft (poke with a toothpick to check).
Remove from the water using a slotted spoon and allow to cool on paper towel or baking rack.
To plate: cut each peach into thin slices and serve with a generous scoop of ice cream. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios if desired.