Lovers’ Eyes

Raspberry White Chocolate and Nutella Éclairs | La Pêche Fraîche

Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme;
But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone besmear’d with sluttish time.
When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
And broils root out the work of masonry,
Nor Mars his sword nor war’s quick fire shall burn
The living record of your memory.
‘Gainst death and all-oblivious enmity
Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room
Even in the eyes of all posterity
That wear this world out to the ending doom.
So, till the judgment that yourself arise,
You live in this, and dwell in lovers’ eyes.

—Shakespeare, Sonnet 55

Raspberry White Chocolate and Nutella Éclairs | La Pêche Fraîche

If ever there was a time for overly fancy desserts, it would most certainly be Valentine’s day.
If ever there was a time for edible gold leaf, it would also accordingly be this holiday.

I can think of little else as fussily indulgent as a delicate french pastry crowned with little sheets of glittering gold.

Raspberry White Chocolate and Nutella Éclairs | La Pêche Fraîche

I’m trying very hard to squeeze in the ideas I’ve been amassing for this holiday, but I’ve had little opportunity to get into the kitchen.  Still, I haven’t lost hope, and if all goes as planned you will see some cookies and a cake by the time the fourteenth of February rolls around.

By the way, I have been trying to figure out how in the dickens it is already Janu February 9th.  Anyone with more insight into where the first 1/12 of 2016 went is welcome to drop a line in my inbox with details about the January that I apparently missed.

Raspberry White Chocolate and Nutella Éclairs | La Pêche Fraîche

I’ve made éclairs before (along with choux puffs), but they tend to come out a bit misshapen and lumpy.
This makes them slightly less evenly pretty, but does nothing in terms of taste.  Still—for fancy ones, I needed perfect shells!
I found Iron Whisk’s in-depth perfected recipe and knew it was the one I had to use.

It’s very easy and the shells that come out are much closer to bakery type status than any others that I’ve seen!
Click here to jump to her blog and get the recipe.  Honestly, she put so much effort into her tutorial that there’s little point in me rewriting it.  Just go check hers out!

Once I had my shells on lock, I piped them full of rich chocolate Nutella, and then I just needed to figure out what pretty pink things I wanted to go on top.

I chose an indulgent white chocolate and raspberry buttercream, silky and milky-sweet; dotted in the open space are ruby red raspberries, gently pulled apart into little fruity morsels; little pieces of 24K gold foil finish the top, making them wink and blink in the most beautiful way.

The whole effect is utterly gorgeous and quite delicious; the pastry strikes a perfect mix between white chocolate, raspberry, and Nutella; the shells are crisp and light but strong enough to hold in your hand while eating the éclair.

The pink and red and gold color scheme alone is enough to make me swoon; the chocolate and hazelnut center is a divine and decadent surprise!

Raspberry White Chocolate and Nutella Éclairs | La Pêche Fraîche

Valentine’s Day, previously (I will leave these links at the bottom of all my coming V Day posts):

2016:
Brown butter and vanilla bean teacakes.  Fragrant and light—the perfect accompaniment to tea!

2015:
Fluffy, buttery copycat Lofthouse cookies, with swirls of pink buttercream and handfuls of sprinkles!
Chocolate covered strawberry cake—sinfully dark chocolate layer cake with goat cheese buttercream and chocolate covered strawberries on top.
A dolled-up red velvet cake: with cream cheese meringue buttercream and malted milk candies.
Perfectly pink princesstårta—sponge cake with whipped cream and marzipan.

2014:
The cutest, most pin-able pink grapefruit possets, with salty and buttery Ritz crunch and pistachios.  One of my favorite recipes ever!
Dark and white chocolate French mendiants, quick and healthy and pretty.
Strawberry pocky cake—love this idea, didn’t love the red velvet recipe I used.  Would recommend the link above for dolled-up red velvet if recreating this idea!
Salty dark chocolate tarts—the perfect balance between flaky salt and dark, fruity chocolate.

Raspberry White Chocolate and Nutella Éclairs | La Pêche Fraîche

Raspberry White Chocolate and Nutella Éclairs
makes 10 large éclairs

ingredients:
10 éclair shells (1 batch of Iron Whisk’s choux batter, baked)

for the white chocolate buttercream:
112 grams (4 ounces) white chocolate
112 grams (4 ounces, 1 stick) butter
pinch salt
2-3 tablespoons powdered freeze-dried strawberries or raspberries

to decorate:
1 cup Nutella
raspberries
gold foil

directions:
Poke a few holes into the bottom of your cooled shells.
Fill a pastry bag with Nutella and fill the shells.  Set aside.
Melt the white chocolate and butter together; whisk in the salt and sift in the freeze-dried berry powder.
Allow to cool until solid but scoopable, then whisk on high until fluffy and shiny.
Fill a piping bag with the buttercream and pipe a few star shapes onto each éclair.
Carefully separate the raspberries into 2-3 pieces and fill up the negative space on the éclairs with raspberries.
Finally, using tweezers, place small pieces of gold foil on top of the éclairs.
Serve the day they are filled!

Venus

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

That’s Venus, September thought.
She was the goddess of love.
It’s nice that love comes on first thing in the evening, and goes out last in the morning.
Love keeps the light on all night.

—Catherynne M. Valente

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy February!
Here in Chicago, the month eased in with uncharacteristic rainy, warm days, leaving us wondering what Winter had left with which to rattle our bones.

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

February will start out with two exams and my little’s birthday, for which she demands cake but I have promised bran muffins.  Can’t spoil them too much, right?!

Later, there is Valentine’s day and my big’s birthday—she’s in France, and I’m going to have to figure out how to ship presents, edible and not, across the ocean.

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

I truly love Valentine’s Day, and so I am beginning to post appropriately adorable, twee, and chocolaty things here—we only have two weeks left, after all!
I’ve made, precisely, a ton of treats geared for this holiday.  There is a ridiculously long list that I’ve linked to below.

To start out this year’s desserts, I chose these brown butter and vanilla bean teacakes, decorated with dark chocolate and sparkly almond sanding sugar.
They’re light and airy, with crispy edges and nibbly insides; they’re mildly flavored with a whole vanilla bean and brown butter; the dark chocolate on the top adds a sweet contrast and the almond sanding sugar is the perfect crunch! (Plus, just look at those vanilla flecks inside!)

These are impossibly fast to pull together, and they store fairly well in an airtight container (up to 3 days, but by day 2, they’ll be crying out for a cup of tea to dunk in).
I actually had a few for breakfast with my morning tea—they are very light, a bit like madeleines.
Buttery, a little crumbly, and a very sweet little treat.

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Valentine’s Day, previously (I will leave these links at the bottom of all my coming V Day posts):

2015:
Fluffy, buttery copycat Lofthouse cookies, with swirls of pink buttercream and handfuls of sprinkles!
Chocolate covered strawberry cake—sinfully dark chocolate layer cake with goat cheese buttercream and chocolate covered strawberries on top.
A dolled-up red velvet cake: with cream cheese meringue buttercream and malted milk candies.
Perfectly pink princesstårta—sponge cake with whipped cream and marzipan.

2014:
The cutest, most pin-able pink grapefruit possets, with salty and buttery Ritz crunch and pistachios.  One of my favorite recipes ever!
Dark and white chocolate French mendiants, quick and healthy and pretty.
Strawberry pocky cake—love this idea, didn’t love the red velvet recipe I used.  Would recommend the link above for dolled-up red velvet if recreating this idea!
Salty dark chocolate tarts—the perfect balance between flaky salt and dark, fruity chocolate.

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Brown Butter and Vanilla Bean Teacakes
makes 12 small cakes; easily doubled

ingredients:
85 grams (3 ounces, 3/4 stick) butter
3 eggs
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
scrapings of 1 vanilla bean
pinch sea salt
70 grams (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) flour
melted dark chocolate for decorating, if desired
almond sanding sugar for decorating, if desired

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour (I use baking spray) 12-15 little tins, whether they are mini muffin or mini tart pans.
Place butter in a saucepan over medium heat and cook until browned and fragrant, about 6 minutes.
Remove from heat and let cool.
Meanwhile, place the eggs, sugar, vanilla bean, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Beat on high for 10 minutes, until extremely light and meringue-like; mixture should be airy and glossy and no longer gritty.
Carefully fold in the flour; once it is half incorporated, pour the brown butter over top and once again carefully fold in.
Batter will fall; be sure to be gentle but completely incorporate all of the butter (this make take a little while).
Portion out into the prepared pans and bake for 10 minutes, until the center springs back and a tester comes out with only a few moist crumbs.
Turn out from pans and allow to cool completely before decorating with melted dark chocolate and sanding sugar.
Serve with tea (of course)!

Stand Up

Roasted Banana and Salted Chocolate Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

WE CAN BE but partially acquainted even with events which actually influence our course through life, and our final destiny.
There are innumerable other events, if such they may be called, which come close upon us, yet pass away without actual results, or even betraying their near approach, by the reflection of any light or shadow across our minds.
Could we know all the vicissitudes of our fortunes, life would be too full of hope and fear, exultation or disappointment,
to afford us a single hour of true serenity.

—Nathaniel Hawthorne, David Swan

Roasted Banana and Salted Chocolate Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

LPF isn’t a whole digital diary.
I don’t come here to grouse about my own personal failures and hardships often.
This is not to say that these words are misleading or untrue or that this space is not filled with intimate parts of my thoughts.
(Or that I don’t whine about things…)

But who likes to describe their own missteps, shortcomings, their own defeats, to the black void of the internet?
How often do I share “flop” recipes or tell you about a royal Fuck Up in my relationship?
It is difficult to allow yourself to be seen as a loser to your readers, even for an instant.
This is Social Media 101 in 2016: share what’s picture perfect and keep the little bits of your soul that have shriveled in disappointment off the screen, for God’s sake.

Roasted Banana and Salted Chocolate Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

And in reality, I practice this careful shielding of the things that make me cry in my daily routines, too.
You wouldn’t have known Friday that I had been at the library until 3:30am the night before; that I had been informed of my falling short in a big way that morning.
No. I washed my face with cold water and put on my sturdiest pair of corduroys with which to pull myself up by the pant loops (as my boots have no straps).
I went back to the library and started what had been a very long, endurance-heavy process again.

It’s hard to talk about failures.
I don’t like to talk about them with anyone.  The worst is being probed in your sensitive spot by caring friends who couldn’t possibly know better because you haven’t told them!
When it is fresh, I allow myself the comfort of vagueness, giving myself room to breathe and recenter.

Really, you don’t have to know the details of someone’s stumbles to at least understand their willingness to try again; the number of times someone falls down only matters in the face of how many times they stood up.

Roasted Banana and Salted Chocolate Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

 But OK.  Rant over.  Now let’s talk about something that was a smashing success.
Namely, these cupcakes.

What do you do when you have a craving for banana cake but you have no old, brown, wizened bananas on hand?
We all know green around the edges or even perfectly blemish free bananas are more starchy than sweet and don’t make the best banana baked goods.

These cupcakes have the answer: roast the living heck out of peeled, bland bananas and they will make the fruitiest, sweetest dessert of your dreams.

Roasting is minimal effort: 30 minutes, tops.
The now flavorful bananas are mashed and then combined into a moist buttermilk batter that bakes up into dense, sweet and fruity little cakes.
Topped with a generous swirl of salted chocolate frosting, these cupcakes make for the perfect four bites of chocolate plus banana!

Roasted Banana and Salted Chocolate Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

P.S. #Banana, previously.

Roasted Banana and Salted Chocolate Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Roasted Banana and Salted Chocolate Cupcakes
makes 18 cupcakes
cake portion adapted from Epicurious

ingredients:
for the roasted banana cupcakes:
3 bananas, peeled
150 grams (1 1/4 cup) flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
113 grams (1/2 cup) butter
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
150 grams (3/4 cup) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1 egg yolk
120 grams (1/2 cup) buttermilk or sour cream

for the chocolate buttercream:
175 grams (1 cup chopped or chips) bittersweet chocolate
225 grams (2 sticks, 1 cup) butter
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, to taste
500-625 grams (4-5 cups) powdered sugar, as needed
30-60 grams (2-4 tablespoons) cream, as needed

directions:
Make the cakes: preheat oven to 375 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment.
Place the peeled bananas on the sheet and roast for 30 minutes, until slightly brown around the edges and very fragrant.
Remove from oven; mash and let cool.
Turn the oven to 350 degrees F and line 20 muffin cups with liners.
Beat butter on high speed until very light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add the salt, sugar and vanilla; beat for 3 more minutes.
Once again scrape the bowl and add the egg and yolk; beat for a full 5 minutes.
Stir in the buttermilk or sour cream until half incorporated; add the mashed bananas and stir a few times.
Stir the flour and leavenings together; then add into the mixture slowly as you stir together.
Once the dry ingredients have been mostly incorporated, beat on high speed for 30 seconds to structure the batter.
Portion into the 20 prepared cups (you will use 2 of the cupcakes to decorate the others).
Bake for 15-18 minutes, until a tester comes out just clean.
Allow to cool.
Make the frosting: place the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high for 4 minutes.
Add the cocoa powder and beat for 30 seconds.
Add in the chocolate in a slow stream while beating on high.
Scrape the bowl and add the 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt; while mixing on medium speed, add in the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time.
Taste and adjust the salt as you like.
If the frosting is too thick, add in up to 4 tablespoons of cream while whipping on high.
If it is too thin, add up to another cup of powdered sugar to thicken.
Decorate cupcakes as desired; if you want, you can cut up 2 of the cupcakes roughly to make little pieces to stick on top.

Fallen

Fallen Pear Torte | La Pêche Fraîche

I’ve fallen out of favor, fallen from grace.
Fallen out of trees and I’ve fallen on my face.
Fallen out of taxis, out of windows too.
Fell in your opinion when I fell in love with you.

Falling, Florence and the Machine

Fallen Pear Torte | La Pêche Fraîche

When I arrived home over the holidays, I was pleasantly surprised by a glut of gorgeous Harry and David d’anjou pears, a generous gift from my Uncle John!

My parents had been pretty faithfully eating them, but as empty nesters, it can be hard to eat an entire basket of fruit.
Thus, there were 3 or 4 softening pears who looked pretty sad and were just begging to be put to good use.

Fallen Pear Torte | La Pêche Fraîche

Much googling followed, as I searched for recipes that would use overripe pears other than pear sauce.
You see, baking with pears, in spite of some of their similarities with apples, is a whole different game.
Generally one chooses underripe pears that are still hard with some bite, because otherwise they all too easily turn to mush and release a wash of juice.

I stumbled upon a Chowhound discussion post that had a bunch of suggestions, including one for a cake that is apparently famous, as it has spawned many threads just devoted to it.

It’s an eggy, buttery cake with as many soft pear slices as you can fit crammed in.  The edges are slightly crispy, like a traditional cake, but in the middle, where the pear juices were absorbed and the cake has fallen into itself is soft and sumptuous, more like a torte than a cake.
It’s brilliant served in wedges with a dusting of powdered sugar or a little unsweetened whipped cream.

This pear torte is ultra easy, delicious, and useful—definitely deserving of its “fame”!

Fallen Pear Torte | La Pêche Fraîche

“Fallen” Pear Torte
makes 1 8- or 9-inch cake
adapted from galleygirl

ingredients:
113 grams (8 tablespoons) butter, softened
150 grams (3/4 cup) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
120 grams (1 cup) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 very ripe pears, peeled, cored, and cut into 8ths

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease an 8- or 9-inch springform pan (8-inch is better but work with what you have).
Cream butter for 3 minutes on high speed until very light and fluffy; add in the sugar and vanilla and beat for another 3 minutes, until mixture is no longer gritty.
Add in the eggs and beat for 4 full minutes; mixture should be very pale and homogeneous.
Scrape the bowl and sprinkle the flour, baking powder, and salt on top.
Stir until completely incorporated.
Pour batter into prepared pan and arrange the peeled pears around the cake (this won’t matter much in the end); really cram them in to fit all of them.
Bake for 45-55 minutes, until a skewer comes out just barely clean with a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool completely, then release from pan.
Serve with powdered sugar and tea.
Gets better with age!

Sim Sala Bim

Fluffy Overnight Cinnamon Rolls | La Pêche Fraîche

Then the Earth shook, that was all that it took for the dream to break
All the loose ends would surround me again in the shape of your face

What makes me love you despite the reservations?
What do I see in your eyes
Besides my reflection hanging high?

Are you off somewhere reciting incantations?
Sim sala bim on your tongue…

—Fleet Foxes

Fluffy Overnight Cinnamon Rolls | La Pêche Fraîche

Ever since I was little, there have been certain thought streams that help me settle down and fall asleep.

Particularly in the winter, I imagine myself in the deep arctic, in a little pure white snow cave dug into the side of a hill while a storm howls around the landscape.
I think of each warm piece of clothing I’d don (long johns, leggings, two pairs of my warmest, softest wool socks, gloves and mittens and a cuddly sweater, etc…) and imagine myself, warm and cozy despite the cold.
At that point, sleep drapes itself over my drowsy body, yet another blanket of comfort.

Fluffy Overnight Cinnamon Rolls | La Pêche Fraîche

I’d be hard-pressed to imagine anything more cozy than a pan of fresh-baked, fragrant cinnamon buns.
Just look—! at them.  They’re snuggled up against their brethren, their nakedness revealing bewitching spirals that hypnotize almost as much as their scent does.

I made these for Christmas morning, because that’s really the time to break out your most indulgent breakfast recipes.  Served still-warm with a cup of hot coffee or tea makes for a morning treat that’s impossible to top.

Fluffy Overnight Cinnamon Rolls | La Pêche Fraîche

If you want to pull off the magic of warm cinnamon buns on a busy holiday morning, it’s definitely imperative to have a reliable and easy recipe.

My requirements for such a recipe:
it must require minimal effort in the AM, because you’re going to be preoccupied with other things and no one wants to fuss around in the kitchen for half of the morning

it must be quick in the morning, because if your family is anything like mine, they will be breathing down your neck and threatening to turn to cold cereal by 11am

it must be consistently worth the calories and evening effort; it needs must prep and taste like a dream every time.

Fluffy Overnight Cinnamon Rolls | La Pêche Fraîche

These cinnamon buns fulfill all of my stipulations.
They’re easy, fast, and taste like a cloud of sugary, buttery, spicy goodness.
The night before, you make and knead the dough—15 minutes in a stand mixer/3 dishes (1 measuring cup + 2 bowls) dirtied.  Done and done.
The dough, which has similarities to a brioche in its milk- and butter-rich proportions, rises quickly and is smooth, shiny, and supple, making it easy to roll out once risen.
A heap of softened butter and brown sugar and cinnamon gets spread generously over the dough, further enriching the rolls with all-around deliciousness.
Rolled up tight and cut with kitchen string (or floss), they are tucked into a buttered pan and set in the fridge to develop flavor and relax overnight.
In the morning, it’s just a matter of taking them out of the refrigerator and preheating your oven; once again, they rise quickly and bake in less than 30 minutes.
A classic cream cheesy glaze is lathered on top, making the already fluffy, buttery buns even more luxuriously sweet and sticky and creating rivals to even Cinnabon buns.

Pinky promise these will make whomever you live with happy.  They are irresistible!

Fluffy Overnight Cinnamon Rolls | La Pêche Fraîche

Fluffy Overnight Cinnamon Rolls 
makes 15 large buns
adapted from KAF

ingredients:
for the dough:
240 grams (1 cup) low-fat milk, 110 degrees F
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 eggs, room temperature
75 grams (1/3 cup) butter, soft and cut up
530 grams (4 1/2 cups) flour
1 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar

for the filling:
75 grams (1/3 cup) butter, soft
210 grams (1 cup) packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons cinnamon

for the glaze:
3 tablespoons cream cheese
1 teaspoon cream
170 grams (1 1/2 cups) powdered sugar
splash vanilla extract

directions:
Make the dough: bloom the yeast in the lukewarm water; set aside to become frothy.
Place flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment.
Add in the frothy yeast mixture and stir on low; add in the eggs one at a time and knead until a rough dough comes together; add in the butter one piece at a time, waiting until each is fully incorporated before adding the next.
Knead on medium speed for 10 minutes, or until the dough isn’t too tacky and has created a “tornado” shape on the bottom of the bowl.
Dough should not be sticking to the sides of the bowl, but rather, be smooth and even and soft.
Remove from stand mixer bowl and form into a ball; place into a well-greased bowl and oil the top of the dough just a little.
Place in a warm, draft-free place with plastic wrap fitted snugly on top of the bowl.
Once doubled in size (about an hour), punch dough down.
Flour a surface lightly and grease a 9×13 or similar size pan.
Turn the dough out and roll out firmly into a 16″x21″ rectangle; dough should be fairly thin.
It will snap back as you roll it out, so be patient.
Once rolled out, spread the softened butter out all over the dough, leaving a small edge on one long side.
Sprinkle the brown sugar and cinnamon all over the butter.
Starting from the long side opposite the little empty lip, roll up the dough into a snug spiral.
Using a piece of string or flavorless floss or a serrated knife, cut the roll into 12 2″ buns.
Arrange them snugly into the greased pan.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
In the morning, remove from fridge and place in a warm, draft-free place.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
When buns have doubled in size, remove plastic wrap and place in oven for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown and fragrant and a tester doesn’t stick in the center.
Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly while you prepare the frosting.
Whisk cream cheese and cream together with vanilla extract; sift in the powdered sugar and stir until a thick frosting comes together.
Spread over the still-warm buns in a thick layer.
Allow frosting to set, about 15 minutes, before serving with hot coffee.

Auspicium

Chocolate and Candied Kumquat Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

And now we welcome the new year.
Full of things that have never been.

—Rainer Maria Rilke

Chocolate and Candied Kumquat Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy 2016!
I’m a cool seven days late, but no worries—that means we only have 51 weeks left of this year.
That’s not me being eagerly pessimistic, people.

It’s just a f-a-c-t.

Chocolate and Candied Kumquat Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Impossibly, it seems, I’m back at school.
Finishing up my first week of classes, actually.
From the outset—and let’s pray for the sake of my sanity and the number of delicious things I manage to make and photograph for the blog—it seems like this quarter will be less busy.

Of course, as I have probably stipulated before, this often has no correlation with how relaxed I feel.
The brain is a wondrous thing, isn’t it?!
…says the neuro major…

Chocolate and Candied Kumquat Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Starting the year off with chocolate all but guarantees a pleasant January, which can be an altogether bleak and dreary month (it’s already abnormally slushy here in Chicago).

Today, I’m sharing a dark, moist sour cream chocolate bundt cake: it’s one bowl, it comes out of the pan looking simply magnificent and just as tender as a steamed pudding.
It stays soft and has a tight crumb, even over the course of a few days.
A few light lashings of vanilla cream glaze offset the chocolate nicely, although I could definitely see this paired with an equally chocolaty ganache.
Finally, the cake is topped with a golden crown of candied kumquat flowers, an auspicious, chewy, bitter, sweet, sour, and traditional treat for the Lunar New Year, which I have appropriated for this (Western) New Year cake.
Kumquat trees are a sign of prosperity and good luck in Chinese and Vietnamese New Year celebrations, and it couldn’t hurt to have some more of that in 2016, right?
Find more in depth (and a very detailed recipe) at the Kitchn.  I halved the recipe (I only made a couple handfuls of kumquats) and followed the instructions to a T and they were delightful.

Chocolate and Candied Kumquat Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Stars when you shine, you know how I feel
Scent of the pine, you know how I feel
Yeah, freedom is mine, and I know how I feel..
It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me
And I’m feelin’ good.

—Nina Simone

Chocolate and Candied Kumquat Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Chocolate Sour Cream Cake
cake portion adapted from Food52; kumquats from the Kitchn
makes 1 10-cup bundt

ingredients:
for the cake:
400 grams (2 cups) sugar
210 grams (1 3/4 cups) flour
90 grams (3/4 cup) cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
240 grams (1 cup) sour cream
240 grams (1 cup) black coffee
112 grams (1/2 cup) vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

for the glaze:
2 tablespoons cream
225 grams (2 cups) powdered sugar
pinch salt
drop of vanilla extract

directions:
Make the cake: spray a 10-cup bundt pan with baker’s spray and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Place sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine.
Make a well in the center and add in the eggs, the coffee, the sour cream, the vegetable oil, and the vanilla extract.
Carefully stir to incorporate the wet ingredients, then whisk vigorously a few times to ensure homogeneity.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until a tester comes out with a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool 10 minutes in the pan before turning out and allowing to cool completely.
To make the glaze, whisk all ingredients together until no lumps remain and pour over the cooled cake.
Decorate with candied kumquats or orange rind.

My Dog

Ginger | La Pêche Fraîche

If Weenie hadn’t died he’d be purring beside her, his ears flattened against his skull and his tail curled like a hook around her bare ankle, his eyes slitted across the dark lawn at the restless, echo-ranging world of night creatures that was invisible to her: snail-trails and cobwebs, glassy-winged flies, beetles, and field mice and all the little wordless things struggling in squeaks or chirps or silence.  Their small world, she felt, was her true home, the secret dark of speechlessness and frantic heartbeats.

— Donna Tartt, The Little Friend

Lemon Cream | La Pêche FraîcheGinger and Rach

You weren’t really a Great Lover or, for that matter, listener.
And that used to frustrate me to no end when I still believed I could influence and control you and have you wear a tutu and jump through hula hoops (literally).
I mean, I was six.  Still a puppy, too, and ever the dog-idealist, despite your clear departure from Normal Doghood.

Gingey, you weren’t like Bambi, Mama’s childhood dog.
Try as I might have to show you my tears and demonstrate how you ought to have sat by me and comforted me, or to hug you close and attempt to teach you how to snuggle, any discomfort or indeed, all-too-discernable display of emotion made you awkward and unbearably antsy.
(But darn it all if I don’t often feel like your nervous younger self now, enduring wild-eyed bouts of panic over minutiae, over things that have negligible impact on my life as a whole.
A leaf blowing in the street; a forgotten homework, etc. etc.)

ginger as a puppyLemon Cream | La Pêche Fraîche

No, you were very much you.
Uniquely neurotic and uncomfortable around humans and other dogs, and cats, and spooks, of course.
Always, you were a lemon.
You loved us in a very non-obvious, difficult to discern manner.  Ever the lemon.  But always my girl.

Anyways, as I have oft-declared, lemon is the best flavor.
I wouldn’t want you to be any other dog or have any other type of manners.
As weird as you were, you fit perfectly into our dysfunction.  You were our dog and we loved you no less for your dislike of affection and attention.  You were different but sweet.

Lemon Cream | La Pêche Fraîcheginger as a puppy and rach

My dog was born on January 6th or 8th (we could never remember) in 2002, somewhere obscure in North Carolina.
She didn’t come to us until she was 8 weeks old, a terrified, lanky little bundle of sable fur with a uniquely unbecoming patch of orange hair splashed between her soft little ears (think: Bozo the clown).
She would have been 14 this coming January.
Some part of me wanted to wait until her birthday, but that’s the selfish human in me talking, so I could qualify just how old my pup was when it was her time.  So that the length of the years we spent together could, in a meager way, demonstrate how important she has been to my childhood and my family to anyone, even those who don’t know.
Dogs don’t have a sense of future time.  Ginger certainly never understood the fuss over her birthday and she couldn’t see her own grey hair spreading across her snout.
She knew, though, that she was old.  She felt the aches and pains, even through the medication.
We could all see that she was weary and uncomfortable.

Yet it is so hard to say goodbye.
She will be greatly missed.

ginger rach first communionLemon Cream | La Pêche Fraîcheginger and rach pigtails

Thank you for being my unwilling and willful companion and our family’s scaredy-cat guard dog.
I am sorry for being stubborn and impatient and altogether too cuddly of a playmate.
And I’m sorry that everyone was so sorrowfully ignorant of your pains as you grew older.  We tried to understand.
And always, we loved you.

On her last morning, Ginger had steak for breakfast, and she got to have some peanut butter as her last snack.
And so it goes that this afternoon, my big, fat, goofy chocolate lab passed into the infinite and left us mortals here feeling very terribly, awfully small.
But Ginger, if even a single iota of your complicated happiness could be attributed to me and my love for you, I am content.

ginger on the porch

Rest easy, good girl.  I love you.

rachel walking ginger

Lemon Cream
adapted from Tartine Bakery
makes 1 1/2 cups

ingredients:
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 grams) lemon juice
3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
pinch salt
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup (113 grams) butter, cut up

directions:
Place lemon juice, sugar, salt, eggs, and egg yolk in a small pot.
Whisk vigorously over medium-low heat until combined; whisk every 30 seconds or so to prevent lumps from forming.
Cook for 7-10 minutes, until thickened and at a low boil.
Remove from heat and pour into a blender canister or another bowl if you have an immersion blender.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then add the pieces of butter in and blend on high speed until light in color and thick.
Pour into desired vessels and chill.
Serve with blueberries and powdered sugar.

Oh Deer

Red Velvet Woodland Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Calvin: This whole Santa Claus thing just doesn’t make sense. Why all the secrecy? Why all the mystery?
If the guy exists why doesn’t he ever show himself and prove it?
And if he doesn’t exist what’s the meaning of all this?

Hobbes: I dunno. Isn’t this a religious holiday?

Calvin: Yeah, but actually, I’ve got the same questions about God.

—Bill Watterson

Red Velvet Woodland Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Merry Christmas Eve!

I hope you all had a wonderful Festivus and Christmas Eve Eve, and are now prepared for Christmas itself.

Red Velvet Woodland Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

We have not even a single lick of snow around my hometown; it’s been 60s and sunny and utterly autumnal, despite the fact that it’s the end of December.

So today, instead of a winter wonderland cake, I’m sharing a woodland wonderland cake.
Seems legit.
(It’s actually just an excuse to use my adorable new Schleich deer figurines.)

Red Velvet Woodland Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

This cake is a dressed-up red velvet.

It’s a foolproof recipe, with a touch of cocoa and a generous amount of buttermilk; the batter remains moist with a tight crumb and the distinctive “red” velvet flavor.

The frosting is white chocolate cream cheese, my new go-to when it comes to a tangy frosting.
Adding a good measure of melted white chocolate to your standard cream cheese frosting gives extra body and allows the frosting to set better when chilled—it doesn’t run and become a drippy mess.
The white chocolate is subtle—the frosting remains tangy and creamy and rich, just thicker and more luscious on the tongue.

The cake is decorated with all sorts of “woodland” goodies: blackberries, kumquats, and sugared cranberries, little bundles of cinnamon and rosemary, pinecones, and that stinkin’ adorable mama deer and her fawn.
A dusting of powdered sugar finishes the cake off nicely.

Red Velvet Woodland Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Normally, I wouldn’t put anything inedible on top of a cake, but I really was vibing on the woodland aesthetic.
This cake comes together very quickly, and can be decorated in any number of ways.

Whatever you’re baking for the holiday, I hope it comes out wonderfully and that you get the chance to share it with loved ones—that’s what I’ll be doing with my treats.
I’ll be back after the holiday.

Merry Christmas!

Red Velvet Woodland Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

For one last and final time for the year, a quick Christmas post rundown (with treats easy and fast and long and arduous, too).

This year: eggnog sugar cookies
chocolate peppermint cloud cake
chocolate peppermint shortbread, 5-spice snickerdoodles, Russian teacakes, and cinnamon cereal marshmallow treats
festive marshmallow ropes

1 year ago: honey spice and dark chocolate roll-out cookies
chocolate, sour cherry, and coconut cookies, grapefruit butter cookies, and dark chocolate pecan snowcaps.
peppermint and chocolate cupcakes
souche de Noël (eggnog layer cake with ganache)

2 years ago: pepparkakor
candy cane and chocolate macarons,
Nutella and various fruity jam Linzer cookies,
maple, nutmeg, and rye roll-out cookies
gingerbread layer cake

Red Velvet Woodland Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“One can never have enough socks,” said Dumbledore. “Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn’t get a single pair.
People will insist on giving me books.”

—J.K. Rowling

Red Velvet Woodland Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Red Velvet Woodland Cake
makes 1 3-layer 6-inch cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
113 grams (8 tablespoons) butter, softened
30 grams cocoa powder
333 grams (1 1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup) sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs
2 teaspoons red gel food coloring
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
240 grams (1 3/4 cups) flour
240 mL (1 cup) buttermilk
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda

for the frosting:
175 grams (12 tablespoons) butter, soft
225 grams (8 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
115 grams (4 ounces) white chocolate, melted and cooled
450 grams (4 cups) powdered sugar

for decorating:
mini (sanitary) pine cones
kumquats
cinnamon stick bundle
mini animal figurines
sugared cranberries
berries
rosemary bundles

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 3 6-inch pans.
Beat butter until soft and light, about 3 minutes if already softened.
Add in the cocoa powder, salt, and sugar and beat for 3 full minutes; the mixture should be glossy and very fluffy.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in the eggs, food coloring, and vanilla extract.
Beat for 5 full minutes; the mixture should have tripled in size.
Scrape the bowl and dump the flour on top of the butter.
Place the baking soda over the flour.
Mix the buttermilk and vinegar together.
Start mixing the flour into the batter at a very low speed; simultaneously, start drizzling in the buttermilk.
Once all is incorporated, beat on high speed for 20 seconds to ensure homogeneity.
Portion out the batter equally into your 3 pans and bake for 20-22 minutes, until springy to the touch and a tester comes out nearly clean.
Allow to cool completely.
Make the frosting: place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat for 5 full minutes at medium speed.
Add the cream cheese and salt and beat for 2 more minutes; add the melted and cooled white chocolate and beat at high speed until  combined.
Sift in the powdered sugar and stir until combined, then beat at high speed for 2 minutes, until light and fluffy.
Stack and crumb coat the cakes, then refrigerate the cake for at least 30 minutes (leave the frosting at room temperature).
Finish icing the cake.
To decorate, tie the rosemary bundles and cinnamon bundle together with some string.
Arrange the rosemary and figurines first, then add the cinnamon and fill in with berries, kumquats, and cranberries.
Dust with powdered sugar to finish.

Snog

Eggnog Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

“Mistletoe,” said Luna dreamily, pointing at a large clump of white berries placed almost over Harry’s head.
He jumped out from under it.
“Good thinking,” said Luna seriously.
“It’s often infested with nargles.”

—Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
J.K. Rowling

Eggnog Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

I told you I had many holiday posts to share, even in the short time we have before Christmas day.

There’s lots I’ve been trying to fit in during my break; it feels quite truncated because when compared to my friends who are on the semester system, it’s 3 weeks shorter!
I reread one of my favorite series (the Inheritance cycle), chewed through a mystery book (Girl on the Train), and have watched 3, count ’em, 3 of the Star Wars movies.
(Not to mention catching up on Top Chef and RHOBH.
P.S. Just watched this week’s episode, Lisa Rinna is definitely my favorite housewife this season.
Okay I’m zipping it shut now; I purposefully never ever discuss reality T.V. on this here website.)

Eggnog Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Anything else I must get to over break during my luxurious free and empty afternoons and evenings?
I am intending on reading Sellout by Paul Beatty next; I’m seeing Star Wars VII on Christmas Eve, I think.

Eggnog Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Virtually all of my cut-out cookies are based on the most simple recipe since pound cake.
If you can count to 3, you can make this recipe.
And if you can make this recipe, you can adapt it in an infinite number of ways to create whatever cookie your heart so desires.

3 cups of flour, 2 sticks of butter, 1 cup of sugar. 1 egg, 2 teaspoons coarse salt (to taste), 3 teaspoons vanilla.
So simple.  Swap out some of the butter for coconut oil; some of the flour for cocoa; brown sugar for white, etc.
Make it your own; change it to suit your tastes.

Eggnog Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Today, I’m sharing eggnog sugar cookies.
To make these, I swapped out the egg for 3 yolks, added brown sugar and a heap of fragrant, freshly ground nutmeg.
If I had some on hand, I would have swapped a couple of the teaspoons of vanilla for something boozier.
I guess these are virgin eggnog sugar cookies, as it were.  But methinks that’s unnecessarily wordy.

These are crisp but not too crunchy; the brown sugar keeps them slightly softer than some other cut-out cookies.
The extra egg yolks make them a lovely golden color, as well as making them even butterier than usual (if possible…!).
The nutmeg is fragrant even days later, post-icing; it really makes these taste like eggnog in a cookie form.

Eggnog Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

I save the whites from these cookies in order to make the royal icing necessary for decorating.
More often than not, I use raw egg whites for making my decorated cookies; if this gives you the creeps, feel free to use meringue powder instead.

The recipe I use for raw egg whites is from Joy of Baking; it’s simple and effective.
The recipe I use for meringue powder is from Bake at 350; I use whatever brand of powder I have on hand.

Be patient and go slowly while tinting your icing and decorating your cookies!
This is definitely not a process to rush.
One of my best tips (which I did not actually use this year) is to add a tiny pinch of cocoa powder to colors to make them a little more realistic.
I prefer gel colors for tinting royal icing, but liquid works too (just don’t add as much water as you go).

Finally, have fun.
We all learned this as little kids decorating cookies by slopping icing and candies and sprinkles everywhere, but the ugly cookies in a batch taste just as good as the pretty ones.  And so it goes.
Except if you like to add red hots.  Those are gross, seriously… What’s wrong with you?!

Eggnog Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

I’ve linked back to all my other Christmas posts in my last two posts, so I’ll just copy and paste in case you’ve only found your way here.

This year: chocolate peppermint cloud cake
chocolate peppermint shortbread, 5-spice snickerdoodles, Russian teacakes, and cinnamon cereal marshmallow treats
festive marshmallow ropes

1 year ago: honey spice and dark chocolate roll-out cookies
chocolate, sour cherry, and coconut cookies, grapefruit butter cookies, and dark chocolate pecan snowcaps.
peppermint and chocolate cupcakes
souche de Noël (eggnog layer cake with ganache)

2 years ago: pepparkakor
candy cane and chocolate macarons,
Nutella and various fruity jam Linzer cookies,
maple, nutmeg, and rye roll-out cookies
gingerbread layer cake

Eggnog Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Eggnog Sugar Cookies
makes 36 2-inch cookies

ingredients:
225 grams (1 cup) butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
3 egg yolks (save the whites for icing)
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
360 grams (3 cups) flour

royal icing for decorating, if desired

directions:
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place butter in bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment and beat on high for 2 minutes.
Add in the salt and sugar and beat for 3 full minutes.
Add in the egg yolks, nutmeg, and vanilla and beat for another 3 full minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add in the flour; stir until dough comes together.
Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness.
Cut into shapes as desired and place 1/2 inch apart on the baking sheets.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, until just golden on the edges.
Allow to cool completely before icing.

Cloud Nine

Chocolate Peppermint Cloud Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.”

—Rabindranath Tagore

Chocolate Peppermint Cloud Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I always used to dream about sleeping in the clouds, with a giant white pillow on which to rest my head.
When I was younger, I would daydream out loud about it to my nanny.  Just thinking about it still calms me.
Clouds don’t always mean rain.

(Bob Ross’ happy little clouds are arguably the best example of how relaxing clouds can be…)

Chocolate Peppermint Cloud Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Today, I’m sharing the cake equivalent of a cloud.

My go-to dark chocolate cake, not-too-sweet and rich with fruity cocoa flavor, studded with peppermint bark chips is covered in the fluffiest dang frosting I have ever tasted.
It’s a vintage icing—colonnade frosting—it’s similar to a meringue, but with a greater amount of sugar syrup and a hit of powdered sugar added in at the end.
The result is a very stable frosting that is as light as a meringue but has as much body as a marshmallow; it develops a very slight crust after setting, but remains soft on the inside.
It’s quite sweet, so it is the perfect offset to the dark chocolate cake.
The cake is topped with a few spare pieces of peppermint bark.  The whole thing ends up being a very sophisticated, non-toothpastey version of a Junior Mint.

It feeds a crowd and it’s quite festive.
Little slivers with a cup of hot tea are a brilliant way to finish off a wintry night.

Chocolate Peppermint Cloud Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

A word on this (fantastic) frosting: it sets up rather quickly, and when it does, it becomes sticky and somewhat of a pain to work with—similar to marshmallows.
Thus, make the frosting only when you’re totally ready to finish the cake; this will decrease the likelihood of this irritation.
That being said, it’s still spreadable when it’s sticky, but it will not be smooth and shiny (see my photos—mine set up before I started with the swoops, so they look a little rough).

Chocolate Peppermint Cloud Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Peppermint not your thing?
Other Christmas/holiday posts as follows.

This year: chocolate peppermint shortbread, 5-spice snickerdoodles, Russian teacakes, and cinnamon cereal marshmallow treats
festive marshmallow ropes

1 year ago: honey spice and dark chocolate roll-out cookies
chocolate, sour cherry, and coconut cookies, grapefruit butter cookies, and dark chocolate pecan snowcaps.
peppermint and chocolate cupcakes
souche de Noël (eggnog layer cake with ganache)

2 years ago: pepparkakor
candy cane and chocolate macarons,
Nutella and various fruity jam Linzer cookies,
maple, nutmeg, and rye roll-out cookies
gingerbread layer cake

Chocolate Peppermint Cloud Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Chocolate Peppermint Cloud Cake
makes 1 3-layer 8-inch cake
cake portion adapted from Sweetapolita
frosting adapted from Joe Pastry

ingredients:
for the cake:
220 grams (1 3/4 cup) flour
400 grams (2 cups) sugar
90 grams (3/4 cup) cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs
240 grams (1 cup) hot coffee
240 grams (1 cup) buttermilk
112 grams (1/2 cup) vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup peppermint bark chunks or chips, plus extra for decorating

for the frosting:
600 grams (3 cups) sugar
155 grams (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) water
80 grams (4 tablespoons) corn syrup
4 egg whites
pinch cream of tartar
22 grams (7 tablespoons) powdered sugar

directions:
Make the cake: preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 3 8-inch round cake pans.
Place flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and baking powder, and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine.
Make 2 wells in the flour and pour the eggs, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla in one well; place the hot coffee in the other.
Whisk vigorously to combine the batter; it will be liquidy.
Stir in the peppermint bark chips.
Portion into the 3 pans and bake for 25 minutes, until a tester comes out with only a few crumbs.
Allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the frosting: place sugar, water, and corn syrup in a pot over medium heat.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer with the cream of tartar and whip on medium speed; whites should be at stiff peaks when the syrup reaches 240 degrees F, so increase or decrease speed as necessary.
Once the syrup reaches temperature, carefully pour into the egg whites while whipping at high speed.
Whip the meringue until cooled a little, then carefully add in the powdered sugar a little at a time.
Whip until fully incorporated, then stack and frost the cakes.
Move quickly, because the frosting sets fairly quickly.
Decorate with a few more chopped pieces of peppermint bark.