With dimly-lit imagery of recipes like truffled pumpkin papardelle, hearty apple galettes and spicy roasted chicken with hot sauce, perusing food blog Harvest & Honey almost makes us feel as though we’re peering into a cozy kitchen from a bygone era.
Food writer and blogger Lauren McDuffie started the site in 2009 as a way to chronicle her adventures in culinary homeschooling. We were introduced to her work earlier this year when Harvest & Honey was nominated for a 2016 Saveur food blog award and were completely drawn into her moody styling and photography — her site is one to check out for any fans of swoony provincial cooking scenes! Below, Lauren tells us more about her upbringing in the Appalachian Mountains, journey as a self-taught cook and her recipe for puff pastry apple and lemon rosettes.
NAME: Lauren McDuffie
PROFESSION: Freelance writer and food blogger
A LITTLE ABOUT THE RECIPE YOU’RE SHARING WITH US? These apple and lemon rose tarts are just fun. They’re lovely to look at and make for a great holiday sweet treat. I love it when a recipe looks much harder than it really is. With these tarts, you get to hear a lot of, “Oh you’ve really gone and outdone yourself!” and also, “This must have taken you forever!”, when really, that couldn’t be further from the truth. These babies are a total win-win.
COOKING MAKES ME FEEL… Inspired. Creative. Nostalgic.
BRIEFLY, HOW YOU CAME TO DO WHAT YOU DO: I’ve worked as a freelance writer for several years now and a couple of years ago, I found myself really struggling to find inspiration and fulfillment in what I was doing. I was a new mother and really seeking something to help me sort of find myself again, if that makes sense. I started my food blog as a creative outlet and a way to explore a new type of writing – one that I really love – and it has been more fulfilling and satisfying to me than I could have ever imagined, in so many different ways.
ESSENTIAL KITCHEN TOOL? A well-seasoned cast iron pan. That’s the Southern girl in me talking. Mine is always out on my stove and it makes me happy just seeing it there. The food tastes better every time you see it — that’s the magic in a great cast iron pan. They get better with time.
THREE INGREDIENTS YOU COULDN’T LIVE WITHOUT? Olive oil. Honey. SALT.
QUIRKY FOOD HABITS? People say that you should never try new recipes on company, and that you should cook things you know — recipes you’re comfortable with and that you’ve given a dress rehearsal or two. I literally never do this. I almost always try new things on guests and company and I don’t know why. It usually goes fine, but I always find myself wondering why I do it. I typically chalk it up to being a food blogger and the need to constantly test recipes and people usually buy it, finding it entertaining. Or at least that’s what I tell myself…
BIGGEST SINGLE INFLUENCE ON YOUR COOKING STYLE? Where and who I’m from. I grew up in the mountains of Appalachia with a mother who learned to cook from her own Kentucky-raised mama, and there is just a lot of influence going on there. I cook all kinds of foods and am a very curious cook in general, wanting to try everything all the time. But I almost always get back to my roots at some point, managing to infuse a little Southern flavor into whatever I make. I can’t help it, I suppose.
SOUNDTRACK IN YOUR KITCHEN? My house is never quiet — I’ve got music playing at all times. Music is my second love, right after food and cooking. I’ve been listening to a lot of ’70s singer-songwriters lately because my mom just gave me all of her old records, and I’ve been working my way through. It’s pretty amazing.
MIDNIGHT SNACK? Potato chips. It’s a problem.
BEST SOURCE FOR FOOD AND RECIPE INSPIRATION? I’ve been a Food Network and Cooking Channel-obsessed person since I was little, and I can’t seem to shake it. I get a lot of inspiration from shows, and it’s probably my biggest source, but I get plenty of cooking mags and my cookbook collection is growing all the time. So, I’ll happily take my inspiration where I can get it.
I CAN NEVER RESIST… French fries. Do you see a fried potato theme going on here?
THE RECIPE OR MEAL YOU ARE KNOWN FOR? My chocolate cake and my chicken and sausage étouffée.
THEY SAY YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT — WHAT ARE YOU? A little quirky, usually healthy…sometimes not, a little bit Southern, usually fairly consistent but sometimes totally unpredictable, and always evolving. And peanut butter. I am also peanut butter.
QUICK TIP LEARNED FROM CULINARY HOMESCHOOLING? Make a recipe just as it is written the first time around and then add in your own tweaks the next time. I don’t follow recipes all that often, as it’s my tendency to want to just wing it and do my own thing. But I’ve started following them a lot more recently, even though I develop my own recipes constantly. As a self-taught cook, you can learn so much by just following someone else’s recipe and seeing how they get to their final product — even if it’s different than what you would do. Then I’ll go in and make my own tweaks to get it just how I like it.
YOUR CULINARY AESTHETIC IN THREE WORDS? Rustic. Moody. Romantic.
TRIED-AND-TRUE ENTERTAINING TIP? Don’t make everything yourself! take some help from the store or a great local market where you can. For examples, I usually just assemble, rather than cook, a really good-looking appetizer spread and tell people that I might not have made it, but I made it possible. And then everyone laughs and you win points for also having a funny party joke. Never gets old…
WHAT’S ON THE HORIZON FOR HARVEST & HONEY? My blog is growing a lot right now and I’m enjoying the new opportunities I’m being presented with, as well as some of the chances to grow my blog and expand my work. I’m currently writing a cookbook proposal and am so excited about it. So, we shall see…
Puff Pastry Apple & Lemon Rosettes
Harvest & Honey's Lauren McDuffie
- This recipe is deceptively simple and people absolutely go crazy for these little apple and lemon rose tarts. The apples and lemons sort of bridge the gap between fall and winter and this recipe makes a fantastic addition to a holiday breakfast, brunch or dessert table. Because they’re less sweet than other tarts, I love to serve them with a dusting of powdered sugar, a drizzle of salted caramel and some vanilla ice cream. I used pink Mountain Rose apples for this because the color is hard to resist, but I also love them with either Honeycrisp or Red Delicious as well. This recipe makes 6 large roses.
- 2 large red apples, cored and sliced as thin as you can get them
- squeeze of lemon juice (about a tablespoon)
- flour, for dusting
- 1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed
- 4 tablespoons lemon curd
- confectioner’s sugar, for dusting
- caramel sauce
- vanilla ice cream
- Lightly butter/spray a muffin tin and preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
- Place the apple slices in a microwave-safe bowl with a squeeze of lemon juice and cover with water. Microwave until the slices are slightly softened, about three minutes. This allows you to roll them.
- Lightly flour your workspace and roll out the puff pastry as thin as you can, maintaining the rectangular shape. Working longways, trim the pastry into 6 evenly-sized strips.
- Brush the lemon curd onto one side of each strip.
- Place the apple slices on the strips, starting about halfway down and overlapping each slice. You want the rounded edge of each slice to be facing out, as opposed to the pointy edges. Starting at the apple end of each strip and gently working your way to the other side, carefully roll up each strip, but not too tight. Place them into the prepared tins when you’re done.
- Bake until the pastry is golden brown and cooked through, about 40 minutes. If your apples begin to brown too quickly, you can cover them loosely with foil to prevent them from cooking too fast.
- Remove the tarts from their tins, cool slightly and dust with confectioner’s sugar (if desired) and a drizzle of caramel sauce.
- Serve with vanilla ice cream.