I’ve just returned from a trip up to Charleston, South Carolina (more about that in an impending wander guide), and I’m finally ready to get into the swing of the holidays. I’ve been very resolved to not get swept up into a tornado of obligation so that I can really spend time enjoying the holidays—wreath making, decorating, gift wrapping, and best of all, baking. This light tart is an unexpected holiday treat. It’s lightly spiced, fluffy, and creamy. It’s as good as it looks. When Stonyfield reached out to me about trying their new Petite Crème, it was a no brainer. Organic dairy is a go for me. But I had no idea how addicted to the stuff I’d become. It was all I could do to save a few for recipe development. Since receiving my box in the mail, the Petite Crème has become my go to responsible dessert all by itself (contrary to popular belief, I do not live on cake alone) as well as my middle-of-the-day-can’t-stop snack. I’ve never been a big fan of Greek yogurt, and this stuff really bridges the gap for me. All the protein but milder & creamier. Basically I like it because it’s just as good for you but tastes worse for you, i.e. delicious. And even better, it’s technically cheese. Since I’m a self-proclaimed turophile, this is a categorically good thing. You don’t really need to bake with it, it’s great dolloped on boozy, spice poached fruit. But I’d been dying to try my hand at this riff on an Alsatian cheese tart, so I used this as an opportunity to try it out.
So I’ve been thinking. How do I make time for the activities I want to do, need to do, not just the demands I have to attend to? This year has been a year of me failing in that respect. What I would call a micro-dark-night-of-the-soul prompted me to think about how I’m living my life. I realized I can’t go on this way. My spiritual life and health have been largely put on the back burner while work has been full flame. That’s fine, a season for everything and all that. But as someone interested in the idea of sustainability for the rest of the planet, I think I should probably invest some energy into creating a sustainable life for myself. I used to do yoga 5-6 times a week. I do yoga approximately never and a half times a week now. Morning meditation has fallen to the way side in favor of morning email checking in bed. But this morning I woke up and did something I haven’t given myself permission to do in a long time: I read. Literature. I’ve resolved to give myself permission to take care of myself so that I can enjoy life instead of just letting it bulldoze over me. Mornings henceforth are for meditation & at least 20 minutes of reading from now on. No email until that’s done. So that I can begin my day with the assertion that my mind belongs to me.
I’ve been reading a book my mom gave me, and in this book the author puts forth the idea that you should always say “no” to something unless it’s a clear “hell yes!” for you. I like this idea. It simplifies the items I keep in my home, the people I choose to work with, the people I choose to be friends with, and how I choose to spend my time. All I have to do is ask myself “is this a clear yes?” If it isn’t, it’s a clear no. Simple as that. Saying no isn’t easy. We’re inundated with social pressure. Our phones buzz constantly. Not only that, but what everyone else is doing is always visible. That can create the illusion that you should be doing everything everyone else is doing. Not so. A gracious no will almost always be accepted no matter how much you fear the other party will resent it. The idea that 90% of what flies at you in a day doesn’t actually need your attention is wildly liberating. A quote on one of the pages reads “You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.” This is now my mantra. Things that matter are my health, my relationships, and finding the way in which I can contribute most through my work. Everything else is noise.
Once you internalize that, you start wondering exactly what it means for you to contribute. You wonder what your actual, concrete goals are. Where are you going? For me, right now, it just means continuing the conversation about sustainable food & style in everyday life. I will always believe the mundane moments matter. If I can introduce someone to a recipes, ingredients, goods, or ideas that weaves just a little more beauty, more joy, and more sustenance in the everyday fabric of life, I’m doing my job.
A thanks to Stonyfield for a) making this amazing non-yogurt creamy wonderfulness they call Petite Crème and b) for sponsoring this recipe. I’m grateful for the ability to do what I love for a living. They’re committed to cultured dairy that is toxic pesticide, artificial hormone, antibiotic, and GMO free. To learn more you can visit Stonyfield or find them on Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. All opinions are miiiine. Including how awesome this stuff is. I do not have to say that. I want to say that. I particularly like the vanilla bean one. But I’m boring like that.
My Favorite Pastry Crust adapted from Thomas Keller
2 1/2 cups (313 g) all purpose flour (divided in half)
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup chilled leaf lard (you can substitute all butter or vegetable shortening here)
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp buttermilk (can substitute ice cold water)
Combine 1 1/4 cup (about 156 g) flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of standing mixer. Set aside the other 1 1/4 cup flour. With the mixer on low add the diced cold butter and bits of cold lard a handful at a time. Mix until thoroughly combined.
Add other half of flour. Mix until just combined. Add buttermilk and mix until dough just comes together. Divide dough in half. Place each half on a piece of plastic wrap, form into a disc, and chill at least to two hours (preferably 3) and up to one day. Dough can be frozen, wrapped tightly, up to three months at this point.