St. Louis summer can be brutal. Oppressive humidity, days where it’s as hot as the desert, spiders. Sometimes I wonder why anyone decided to settle here.
On the other hand, we have some amazing summertime produce. Tomatoes, sweet corn, blackberries. I crush farmer’s markets all summer. And, when I’m feeling particularly outdoorsy, I’ll head over to Eckert’s in Belleville and pick my own.
The Eckert’s family has been growing peaches in the greater St. Louis area since 1837. They’ve got it down. They know what they’re doing. I picked one the other day that was literally the size of a softball. And by picked, I mean Chris Eckert handed it to me when we were out in the field.
“Pick Your Own Peach” season is in full swing, which is great news if you’ve got kids or you and your boo are looking for an out-of-the-box date. If you’re not so into picking fruit but you are into eating it, a day trip to the farm is still nice. They’ve got the country store, which is more like Eckert’s own Whole Foods, chock full of their amazing fruits and vegetables, local meat, wine, and a million jarred goods using their fruit. Peach butter? Strawberry salsa? HELLO.
I am not a pastry chef. In fact, I’m pretty terrible at making even the simplest of desserts. Ashley Rouch, however, is the exact opposite of me. She’s the pastry chef of Reeds American Table, and she’s created a dessert that is so good, it makes me feel guilty for all the mean things I’ve ever said about panna cotta. It’s a bit of work, but it’s going to blow you away.
Yields roughly 10 small panna cottas
Chamomile Poached Peaches
2 cups white wine
2 cups sugar
¼ cup chamomile
¼ vanilla bean
1 strip lemon zest
9 small slightly unripe peaches, pitted and quartered
Cut and make a cheesecloth sack (or buy from Amazon). Add the loose chamomile and tie shut. You don’t want to pick loose chamomile flowers from the poaching liquid, do you?
In a pot, combine the wine, 2 cups of water, sugar, chamomile, ¼ vanilla bean, and lemon zest. Bring to a boil.
Add the peaches to the pot, taking care not to crowd the pot. Reduce the heat to barely a simmer. Cut out a round piece of parchment paper (once again, Amazon to the rescue) and place it over the surface of the poaching liquid. Simmer until the peaches feel tender to the touch and are bright orange in color, about 7-10 minutes. (Remember: use slightly unripe peaches so they don’t turn to mush!)
Pour them into a container and put the container in an ice bath to cool. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Chamomile Honey Panna Cotta
4 cups cream
40 g chamomile
2 cup milk
10.5 g powdered gelatin
½ cup honey
1 t vanilla extract
Pinch of Salt
Grease and prepare your ramekins.
Heat the cream in a pot until simmering. Add the chamomile, turn off the heat, and let steep for 20 minutes. Strain the cream through a sieve, or cheesecloth, into a clean bowl, and set aside.
Pour the milk into a pot and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the top, but do not stir. Let the gelatin soften until the grains look wet and like they are beginning to dissolve (see the photo of the pot below—the top has developed a skin), about 10 minutes. After the gelatin has bloomed, warm the milk and gelatin over very low heat, whisking occasionally, until the gelatin dissolves, 3-5 minutes. Be careful not to let the mixture boil. Once the gelatin is dissolved turn off the heat.
Whisk in the honey, vanilla, and salt. Add the chamomile infused cream and whisk to combine. Put in an ice bath (or your fridge) until completely cool.
Spray the bottom of your ramekins with cooking spray. Portion into your ramekins.
Putting it all together
If you want to go for the full Reeds experience, reduce the peach poaching liquid down until it’s a thick syrup, almost like honey.
Run a pastry spatula down the sides, then turn the panna cottas over onto serving plates. Drizzle with the reduced syrup, toss some pistachios on top, then add the peaches.
This post is sponsored by Eckert’s.