Monday, August 2, 2010

Peach and Pecan Parfait

Jhan and I had quite a conversation about what to do with the organic peaches we bought at the Chico farmer's market. In the end we decided that a nice cold dessert would be appropriate given the spate of hot summer weather we've been having.

Peach and Pecan Parfait

We've also decided that we want this blog to focus not just on food and photography, but to focus on local foods. We live in one of the most bountiful agricultural regions in the world, producing hundreds of different crops, and we both feel that highlighting local crops and local farms is a great way to make this blog a bit more challenging and more relevant to where we live.

In this post we highlight organic frost peaches from Berryluscious Farm in Gridley and SunWest California pecans (SunWest is based is Davis and produces rice and nuts).

The Food (Jhan)

These peaches were so pretty, but the weather was so hot that I decided I didn't want to bake a pie, so we decided on a peach parfait with a cinnamon-vanilla sauce, candied pecans and French vanilla ice cream. This recipe was inspired by one that I saw for grilled peaches; I've dressed it up a bit and changed the cooking method. This dessert provides great peach flavor, a sweet, crunchy, praline layer blended with the cool creaminess of a good French vanilla ice cream - definitely summer in a bowl.

For the peaches:
  • 4-5 peaches peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 lemon ( juiced)
  • 1/2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar (packed)
  • 1 tsp water
  • 1tsp Vanilla
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/8 (scant) tsp Saigon Cinnamon (Saigon Cinnamon really adds to the fragrance and spiciness of this recipe)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Mix peach slices and lemon juice in a glass ovenware casserole dish.
In small bowl mix together: water, brown sugar,vanilla, salt, Saigon cinnamon. Dissolve brown sugar and make sure all are well combined.
Pour mixture over peach slices and gently mix to cover all slices.
Bake covered for approx 10-15 min or until peach slices are fragrant and just tender. (Syrup may be a little thin. Remove peaches and cook sauce down if a thicker syrup is desired.)
Cool peaches until just warm.

Candied Pecans
  • 1/3 cup pecans shelled and broken into halves or quarters
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp margarine
  • 1/2 tsp canola oil
  • 1/2 tbsp flour
  • dash salt
  • dash cinnamon
Mix all ingredients except nuts to form a soft paste. Add in nuts and stir to coat each nut with mixture. Spread nut mix on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes. Watch the nuts - they can burn easily. Take nuts out of oven, leave on paper and cool. (These will harden up as they cool.)

Parfait assembly

Place a layer of peach slices in the bottom of dish/bowl, spoon some syrup over them. Next, break up the candied nuts and place in a layer over the peach slices. Now, add another layer of peaches, a scoop of ice cream and a couple spoonfuls of sauce over the ice cream. Add a few more candied pecans or a sprinkle of brown sugar over the top for added crunch. Enjoy!

Peach and Pecan Parfait

The Plating

I bought a couple of glass bowls at the Salvation Army store quite a ways back, when I first started this blog. I thought they were very cool looking, but until now, I've never used them. When we were talking about how to use the peaches and pecans, Jhan suggested a layered dessert and these were the perfect dishes for that.

This dessert is a simple, friendly comfort food, so I wanted the images to be bright, open and colorful. So there was no black background in this shoot. Because peaches are such a bright orange color, I decided to go with a complementary color for the background. The light blue of the place mat really frames and sets off the color of the peaches, without being too strong or overwhelming. I added the yellow napkin to give a bit more dimension to the color relationships. Overall, it's colorful without distracting from the dish.

Peach and Pecan Parfait

The Lighting and Photography

Peach and Pecan Parfait LightingI wanted simple lighting for this shot; no dramatic shadows or severe lighting. I wanted the lighting to be open, bright, open and friendly. To accomplish that, I shot the key light high to the left through a reflector to soften the shadows. I also placed the fill light high and to the rear to provide some highlights. Finally, I added a piece of white foam core to the right of the dish to fill in some of the shadows on the right side.

I had a bit of trouble with the lighting ratios on this shot for some reason, and ended up shooting the key light 4 stops brighter than the fill in order to get the ratio I wanted. With the ice cream quickly melting, I didn't have a lot of time to play with the lighting, so though I might have been able to get better lighting with more fiddling, given the time I had to work in, this is good enough.

Lessons Learned

Lighting is still a bit of a mystery at times, but I have a much better set of tools now (read: experience) to be able to problem solve with, particularly in a limited amount of time. And if I didn't already know it, melting ice cream waits for no man.


  1. Looks delicious! I'm amazed at how you can capture such a great shot after seeing your set up. It looks like you placed the cup, fork, and napkin on a white counter on a nice day. Beautiful!

  2. Sherry, I have to admit, getting good lighting is very difficult. I wish I had a nice window with good indirect light, but I don't, so I work very hard to create good lighting in the studio.

    Thanks for reading!