Naughty To Nice

Holiday Cookie Platter | La Pêche Fraîche

Where do you stand with Mr. S. Claus?

Chocolate, sour cherry, and coconut cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Worry not, my friend.
Though I have been a bad blogger and neglected to share any holly-day recipes around here (Oreo cupcakes?! In December? Ugh!), I am now swooping in clutching everything you need to go from the Naughty list to the Nice.

Say farewell to Santa’s shit list.
These cookies are a guaranteed hit.

Grapefruit Butter Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

These cookies (and the caramels pictured, too) were bundled up and gifted to friends, all a jumble of holiday cheer and spirit sugar.

The first are grapefruit butter cookies, crinkled and cracked and crisp in their sugary coating.  They’re ever so slightly fragrant thanks to grapefruit zest and juice, which cuts gently through their buttery richness.

Holiday Cookie Platter | La Pêche Fraîche

Next come soft and chewy dark and white chocolate, coconut, and sour cherry cookies.  They’re full of brown sugar and stay soft for days (the trick is the cornstarch!).  They strike a perfect balance between salty and sweet, and are chockfull of bits and pieces without being overwhelmed by additions.

Finally, my favorite, and arguably the most interesting cookies I’ve made in a while: dark chocolate pecan snowcaps.
These cookies are made without butter or flour or any fat or grains—choose your chocolate correctly, and these are gluten and dairy free.
They’re dead simple: powdered sugar and dark cocoa powder, salt, pecans, chopped chocolate, egg whites.
The batter looks like thick black sludge, but once each peice of dough is rolled in Swedish peal sugar, it looks like a little snow ball.
Once baked, they’re crispy and ethereally light on the exterior, but soft and chewy on the inside.  The chopped milk chocolate is sweet and a good contrast to the deeply chocolaty exterior; the pecans add a wonderful toasty flavor, and the sugar-coated, crackled outside is tempered by a pinch of salt in the cookie itself.
This is cookie perfection, guys.
Simple and surprising!

Holiday Cookie Platter | La Pêche Fraîche
Here’s to cookie-filled holidays!
Stay posted for more giftable treats…

Holiday Cookie Platter | La Pêche Fraîche

Chocolate, Sour Cherry, and Coconut Cookies
adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction
makes 24 cookies

ingredients:
2 1/4 cups (280 grams) flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
3/4 cup (170 grams) butter, melted
3/4 cup (135 grams) brown sugar
1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup sour cherries
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
1/3 cup white chocolate chips

directions:
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Whisk melted butter, sugars, and salt together.
Vigorously whisk in egg and egg yolk, then whisk in the vanilla.
Batter should be light colored and smooth.
Place flour, baking soda, and cornstarch on top of batter and stir to combine.
Stir in coconut, cherries, and chocolates until mixture is homogeneous.
Scoop out 2 tablespoon size balls and roll to uniform size.
Place on baking sheets and chill/freeze for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake each sheet straight from the freezer for 12 minutes.
Remove and let cool for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Grapefruit Butter Cookies
adapted from Cooking Classy
makes 30 cookies

ingredients:
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
10 tablespoons butter, soft
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
zest of 1 grapefruit
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
juice of 1/2 grapefruit (1 1/2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
granulated sugar, for rolling

directions:
Place butter, sugar, salt, and the grapefruit zest in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Beat on high for 5 full minutes, until very light and fluffy and not gritty.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in the egg and egg yolk; beat for 5 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add the grapefruit juice and vanilla extract; mix briefly to combine.
Add in the flour and baking powder and stir until homogeneous.
Scoop out 2 tablespoon portions and roll to uniform size; gently roll in granulated sugar to coat.
Chill for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and bake straight from the fridge or freezer for 12 minutes.
Move to wire rack immediately to cool.

Dark Chocolate Pecan Snowcaps
adapted from Kim Severson
makes 30 cookies

ingredients:
3 cups (300 grams) confectioner’s sugar
3/4 cup (90 grams) dark cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
5 ounces (135 grams) chocolate, chopped (she suggests dark, I used what I had—milk—and they turned out fabulously)
1 1/2 cups (135 grams) chopped pecans
4 large egg whites
granulated and Swedish pearl sugar, for rolling

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Whisk confectioner’s sugar, cocoa powder, and salt together.
Stir in the chopped chocolate and chopped pecans.
Using a wooden spoon, stir in the egg whites—keep stirring until the batter comes together in a very thick, shiny mass (this is an arm workout!).
Scoop out 2 tablespoon portions and roll in a 1/2 and 1/2 mixture of pearl and granulated sugar; shape into a uniform ball once the sticky dough has been rolled in sugar and is easier to handle.
Bake the cookies from room temperature for 12 minutes.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes on the sheet pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

A Little Party

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A little party may not, but you know what? a few finals definitely hurt me.

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 Luckily for my sore, sorry self, I am done.

I turned off all my alarms this morning.  I got 10 hours of sleep.
I am home, and now the holiday fun begins.

Before I came home, I sent off some gifts to my person and his family, theirs snuggled in his suitcase, his meticulously packaged in thick wrapping paper and gold ribbon and carefully nested into a big fedex box.

I have lists of presents to collect and wrap and place under the tree.  Then I have to wait, breathlessly, for them to be opened.
For that matter, we have a Christmas tree to search for—we must find a properly plump one that won’t leave green trails scraping across my mother’s white ceilings (it always does).
I have cookies and caramels to make and citrus begging to be transformed into an olive oil cake.

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I actually remembered to bring my camera home with me, this time, so expect plenty of new posts coming through (so much free time for baking and blogging!!!!!).

These cupcakes are relics from before finals began.
I barely had time to shower during finals, people, let alone make sprinkly, happy Oreo cupcakes.

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I saw some birthday cake Oreos in the store the other day, and they were practically begging to be made into extra special, sprinkled cookies and cream cupcakes.

These are simple, but very fun, and perfect for birthday parties and the like.
Simple dark chocolate cupcakes with Oreos baked right in are topped with crumb- and sprinkle-flecked American buttercream icing with a heavy dose of salt.
They’re topped with half an Oreo and, of course, more sprinkles.

Easy, quick, cute—exactly what I want out of a cupcake.

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It’s winter break!!  Plenty of reason to celebrate with cupcakes!
(Also, happy 12/13/14!)

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Birthday Cake Oreo Cupcakes
makes 12 cupcakes
cupcake portion adapted from Sweetapolita

ingredients:
for the cupcakes:
3/4 cup (95 grams) flour
3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
1/4 cup (30 grams) cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon plus a small pinch kosher salt (~5/8 teaspoon)
1/3 cup (80 mL) low-fat milk
1/4 cup (60 mL) coffee, hot
3 tablespoons (45 mL) oil
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 birthday cake Oreos, cut up into pieces
1 teaspoon flour

for the oreo frosting:
1 cup (230 grams) unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups (230 grams) powdered sugar
3 tablespoons (45 mL) half and half
6 smashed birthday cake Oreos (1/4 cup crumbs)
2 tablespoons sprinkles
6 birthday cake Oreos, halved, for decorating
extra sprinkles

directions:
Make the cupcakes: preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line 12 cupcake tins with liners.
Whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, corn starch, and salt.
Whisk together milk, coffee, oil, egg, and vanilla extract.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry while whisking vigorously; batter will be a little thin.
Toss chopped Oreos with flour, then stir into batter.
Portion out batter into cupcake tins.
Bake for 15 minutes, until springy to the touch.
Allow to cool completely.
To make frosting, place butter and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high for 5 minutes.
Scrape the bowl and beat for 2 more minutes.
Add in the powdered sugar very slowly, while mixing on low speed.
Drizzle in half and half once all the powdered sugar is incorporated, and beat on high speed for 2 more minutes.
Add in the Oreo crumbs and some sprinkles and stir to combine.
Pipe onto cooled cupcakes, nestle half an Oreo on top, then top with more sprinkles!

Fizz!

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File this one under: Anything But Vegetables.

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A certain blonde with whom I live is going to be very happy to see this post be published—

that’s right, friends, this is Alexa’s birthday cake.

Remember last year?  Of course you do, I link back to that post ALL the time.  Lauren Conrad pinned it, for God’s sake.

It’s been a bit more than a year, now, that Alexa and I have been friends.  Miraculously, we are both still alive and have, for the most part, all of our limbs (Grandma, I’m kidding).

Who knew that the gals I met on the first day of O-week would be my roomies, my #1 wingwomen, my comfort blankets and tissue fetchers and popcorn sharers and best friends?

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Spoiler: Alexa definitely didn’t.  She was fairly certain I hated her…
(She still hasn’t gotten the hint, guys. I think she’s following me.)

Anyways, it’s been quite an eventful year+ and I couldn’t be more grateful to have spent it with such good people.

I couldn’t have asked for a better house-mate, better roommate, and better friend.  Alexa is such a giver and can ALWAYS put a smile on my face or at least a blanket round my shoulders.
She knows what to say, who to hate, how to make popcorn the best, and how to be the most loyal, loving friend out there.
Ugh. So much love.

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To celebrate her birthday, I made an over-the-top cake, obviously.

Alexa loves diet coke, as a sorority girl should.
Alexa loves chocolate and vanilla bean, like normal people do.
Alexa thinks that salted caramel is the stuff of gods (she is right).

Alexa is looking over my shoulder and drooling wishing for another cake right now—
“Please? I ate this for all three meals.”

Alexa is going to kill me for putting that up on the internetz but it’s ok friends I will survive because I am holding birthday cake oreo cupcakes hostage right now.
(Look for those here in the coming weeks!!!)

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I knew I had to make a chocolate coca cola cake, and I wanted to incorporate a fat vanilla bean and some gold and sparkly caramel in there somewhere as well.

The end result is a rich, moist chocolate cola cake with vanilla bean buttercream swirled with heaps of salted caramel glammed up with gold luster dust and chocolate sprinkles.

It’s sparkly and gooey and sweet and salty and I think it was just about a perfect way to celebrate my BFF’s birthday.

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Some notes on the cake:
you can make the cake portion and the caramel ahead, but make the frosting right before you are going to decorate the cake; the finished cake can be stored in a cool place at room temperature overnight.
The luster dust is optional, but a very nice glam touch to the caramel on top of the cake.
This caramel recipe is good for pouring, so if you don’t want to smudge it on the sides, just pour it over the top and let it drip down!

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Happy belated birthday, darling girl.
You’re wonderful.

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Alexa’s Birthday Cake
Coca cola + chocolate + caramel + vanilla bean
makes 1 3-layer 6-inch cake
cake portion adapted from Confessions of a Cookbook Queen

ingredients:
for the cake:
1 cup (240 mL) Coca cola
1/2 cup (120 mL) vegetable oil
1/2 cup (113 grams) butter
1/4 cup (30 grams) dark cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup (120 mL) buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups (240 grams) flour
1 teaspoon baking soda

for the salted caramel:
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
30 grams (2 tablespoons) water
1 tablespoon corn syrup
90 grams (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon gold luster dust, if desired

for the vanilla bean frosting:
1 1/2 cups (350 grams) butter, soft
1 whole vanilla bean, scraped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup (30 mL to 60mL) half-and-half

directions:
Make the cake: grease and flour 3 6-inch round pans and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Place butter, oil, coca cola, cocoa powder, and salt in a large pot.
Heat over medium heat, whisking, until it comes to a boil.
Pour the hot mixture over the sugar and whisk to combine.
Whisk in the eggs vigorously.
Stir in the buttermilk and vanilla extract.
Whisk flour and baking soda together, then stir into the batter.
Portion batter out into the prepared pans and bake for 20-25 minutes, until springy to the touch and a tester comes out clean.

Make the caramel: heat the sugar, water, corn syrup, and salt together, whisking at the beginning until they dissolve.
Stop stirring and allow to caramelize into an amber color, then remove from heat and quickly whisk in butter and cream, being careful of the splattering.
Whisk until completely smooth, adding luster dust if desired, then allow to cool before using.

Make the frosting: place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high for 6 full minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add the vanilla bean and powdered sugar; stir on low speed until powdered sugar is incorporated, then beat on high while slowly drizzling in 2 tablespoons of half and half.
If the frosting is too thick, add more half and half until the proper consistency is reached.
Beat on high speed for 2 minutes, then use immediately to frost the cake as desired.

Bring It

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T-minus 2.

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My favorite holiday is in two (2!) days, and I’m headed home this evening.  Boy, am I excited.
(This is definitely me.  My dad sent me this link; no explanation needed.)

I’ve got my menu ready and my cooking pants on (never mind that I have a lab report and a paper due Wednesday…), and I’m so excited to see my kitties and puppy and family.
Unfortunately, I have a ton of work over this break (which is technically not a break for UChicago students), because my professors are really f@&#*%g pretty jerky this quarter.
Yay for my school. Yay for uni. Yay.

{Wait but also, guys, I’m officially a sister of the Epsilon Phi chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta at UChicago.  TLAM!}

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I made this crepe cake for a sisterhood event earlier in the fall, but have been too busy to share it.
Luckily, I’ve gotten my shit together in time for Thanksgiving, because this would be a perfect holiday dessert.

You can make it ahead; it’s no bake and doesn’t take up the all important oven; it’s pumpkin and cream cheese and very impressive with its many, many layers; most importantly, it’s delicious and popular with all.

The cake is made up of spicy pumpkin crepes, lacy thin and crispy on the edges, layered with thick, creamy cream cheese frosting, salty and sweet all at once.  The top is dusted with a tiny bit of gold luster dust (Black and Gold, duh), which makes it all the more elegant.

This is a showstopper dessert, and so easy to make ahead.  It’s the best parts of a pumpkin cake, but much more refined and no-bake to boot.  If you want big bang for your effort and a pumpkin dessert that’s not pumpkin pie, this is the cake for you.

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Pumpkin Cream Cheese Crepe Cake
makes 1 8-inch round cake
crepe portion adapted from Take a Megabite

ingredients:
for the crepes:
4 cups milk
4 tablespoons butter, melted
4 eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

for the cream cheese frosting:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, soft
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, room temp
4 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1-2 tablespoons cream or half and half
Gold luster dust, if desired

directions:
Make the crepes: place milk, melted butter, eggs, pumpkin, and vanilla in a large bowl or a large blender canister.
Use an immersion blender or vigorous whisking to completely combine the wet ingredients; they should be homogeneous.
Add in the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices.
Whisk or blend on high until completely smooth.
Allow batter to rest for 20 minutes.
When ready to cook, swipe a small amount of butter onto a nonstick 8-inch skillet.
Pour 2-3 tablespoons of batter into the pan, swirling to evenly and thinly coat.
Peek under crepe after 45 seconds-1 minute; if it’s lightly browned, use a thin spatula and your fingers to flip the crepe.
Allow both sides to cook to a light brown, then remove from heat to a cooling rack.
Repeat until all the batter is gone; you should get somewhere around 18-24 crepes.
The crepes can be stored, completely cooled, wrapped in plastic wrap for up to 1 day.
To make the cream cheese frosting, place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Beat on high speed for 3 full minutes until light and fluffy.
Add in the cream cheese and beat for 2 more minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in the powdered sugar and salt.
Mix slowly until the sugar is combined; add half and half 1 tablespoon at a time until the frosting is think and smooth but still spreadable; use right away.
Spread each crepe with 1 1/2 tablespoons of frosting; stack them all up on a cake stand or other serving platter.
For the top crepe, place the remaining frosting in a piping bag fitted with a star tip.
Pipe concentric circles all over the top of the cake, and dust with gold luster dust if desired.
Chill for 30 minutes in the fridge; serve slightly chilled.

Better Late

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“Your problem is you are too busy holding onto your unworthiness.”

Ram Dass

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It must seem as if I’ve fallen off the face of the earth, or dived to the depths of the sweet, cold ocean only to resurface, gurgling and apologetic, every fortnight.

Autumn has blown right past this blog.
Thanksgiving is right around the corner, WHAT!?
It’s not that I don’t have things to complain about, good lord you know it’s not, but that I don’t have time to type up my complaints.

Far easier to light a few million candles and wallow about when given a moment of free time.
Actually, most of my free time is spent doing more work. (Note: this definition of “free time” only applies to UChicago students.)
Yes. Yes indeed, I’m ready for Thanksgiving, people.

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Sometimes I feel guilty for setting certain things aside while my life continues on its hectic hurricane path.
Plenty of people juggle it all, balancing this or that on all ten fingers and their nose, too. (see: This poor puppy.)

But I’m not them. And for me, trying to stay on top of things in one part of my life means sacrificing in other places.
I promise this space will never be my sacrificial lamb.
I will always come back.
I promise to bring good food and real talk and always, always love.

As life changes, so does my relationship with my family, my friends, my readership.
But they are always constants.  I know that.

Big hugs and kisses!  Thank you for reading my blog.  Thank you for your appreciation for this space.

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Big bundt!
I’m jumping back on the pumpkin bandwagon.
It’s been far too long, and I’ve been eating pumpkin pancakes too often to not share a treat here of the same nature.

This is a great cake for the hollydaze.
It’s easy easy easy, and saves marvelously.
It’s chockfull of spices, reminiscent of gingerbread, with a punchy lemon glaze to awaken your tastebuds from the sugar- and fat-overload that is soon to come.

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The cake itself is moist, spicy, and perfect for nibbling on with a cup of tea.
Lemon and gingerbread are one of my favorite combinations.
Lemon and anything, but you know that already!

P.S. it has been snowing here.
Winter is coming.

(What, that’s not an appropriately cheery way to sign off?)

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Dairy Free Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Lemon Glaze
cake portion adapted from Taste of Home
makes 1 10-cup bundt plus 3-4 muffins

ingredients:
for the cake:
170 grams (1 1/2 sticks, 6 ounces) Earth Balance butter
60 grams (1/4 cup) coconut oil
500 grams (2 1/2 cups) sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons molasses
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3 eggs
420 grams (15 ounces,1 standard can) pureed pumpkin
360 grams (3 cups) flour
2 teaspoons baking soda

for the glaze:
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon (~3 tablespoons of juice)
tiny pinch salt (1/16 of a teaspoon)
1-2 cups confectioner’s sugar, or as needed

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour a 10-cup bundt pan very well (you may want to have some muffin liners in a muffin tin as well, for extra batter).
Place Earth Balance and coconut oil in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on high for 3 minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add sugar, salt, molasses, and spices.
Beat for a full 5 minutes on high speed.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the eggs.
Beat for 3 more minutes, until very fluffy, light colored, and smooth and shiny.
Stir in the pumpkin part-way (leave some unmixed).
Place the flour on top of the batter, then the baking soda on top of the flour; mix on low speed to combine.
Scrape the sides of the bowl to ensure the batter is homogeneous, then mix for 1 more minute.
Pour into prepared pan, scooping extra batter into the muffin tin.
Bake for 60-70 minutes, until a tester comes out completely clean (the muffins will be done in 18-20 minutes, so check on them early).
Allow cake to cool for 10 minutes, then turn out of its pan onto a cooling rack.
Meanwhile, make the glaze.
Zest a lemon into a bowl, then get all the juice out of it that you can.
Add the salt and begin adding the powdered sugar 1/4 cup at a time, while whisking to prevent lumps.
The glaze should have a thick consistency, similar to honey or molasses.
Add powdered sugar as necessary to reach this consistency (if you go too far, add 1 tablespoon very hot water and whisk), then use a spoon to pour over the barely-warm cake.
Allow cake to fully cool and glaze to set.
Serve at room temperature.

Wait For Me

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Wait for me and I’ll come back,
Dodging every fate!
What a bit of luck! they’ll say,
Those that would not  wait.
They will never understand
How amidst the strife,
By your waiting for me, dear,
You had saved my life.
Only you and I will know
How you got me through.
Simply—you knew how to wait—
No one else but you.

—Konstantin Simonov, 1941, to Valentina Serova

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I refuse to accept the fact that it is nearly November.
I mean, if it is, then
where are the Halloween spooks haunting my blog?
And where are the many festive fall recipes that surely I’ve shared on this page?

And why aren’t there cakes like this (bloody amazing, if I do say so myself) one or this (OCD-tic-inducing) one, or non-pumpkin treats like these cookies or even pumpkin treats, for God’s sake, because even a cliché is better than utter silence and the cold shoulder, isn’t it?!

Where in the world have I been?
Well, this last week I had 2 p-sets, a double lab report, 2 midterms, and a paper due.
Twice this week I have gotten 3 hours of sleep because there is simply too much organic chemistry and cell biology to learn.
Far, far too much. 

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I’m humbled by this year.

I haven’t quite bitten off more than I can chew, but my mouth is certainly full.

I know the blog has been sadly neglected, but it’s not just because I’m busy.  I promise I haven’t forgotten, either.
The developer I hired has fixed the Pinterest issue, I think, and if that’s true, I’ll be unreasonably happy and grateful.
I have a bunch of new, delicious cakes to share with you, and one of them is (ya, Alexa, this is your shoutout) this gal’s birthday cake.

For now, I’ve brought something comforting and cozy and warm.
Something buttery, full of warm spice, and covered in crackling glaze.  Brown butter and banana and speculoos.

This is a classic banana cake, made with a combination of butter and coconut oil along with greek yogurt to keep it moist and tender, with four wizened old bananas to give it the most concentrated banana flavor.
It’s a go-to.

The glaze is bananas… Unbelievably addicting.
You will spoon it straight into your mouth, unless you have a remarkably ascetic type of willpower.  Ahem.
Butter is browned until it’s fragrant, then showered with lots of fat flaky sea salt shards.  A few spoonfuls of cookie butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon are whisked in; next comes milk (or cream, you minx) and a pile of powdered sugar.
The whole shebang is glossy, shiny, and sexy.
It’s thick and pourable and cools into a shattering glaze that perfectly complements the soft banana cake underneath.
You must use all of it.  It seems like a lot.
You must persevere, friends.

Happy Halloween! Let’s eat some cake.

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Classic Banana Cake with Speculoos Glaze
cake portion adapted from Hummingbird High

makes 1 bundt cake
ingredients:
for the cake:
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
4 ounces (8 tablespoons) butter
4 ounces coconut oil
2 cups sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 blackened bananas
1 cup greek yogurt

for the glaze:
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt (Maldon)
3 tablespoons cookie butter (speculoos, biscoff)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup milk
~1 cup powdered sugar, or as needed

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter and flour a bundt or tube pan very well.
Place butter and coconut oil in the bowl of a stand mixer; beat for 3 full minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl, add the sugar and salt and beat for 3 more minutes.
Add in the eggs and beat for 5 full minutes, until mixture is fluffy, shiny, and pale white—it shouldn’t be gritty.
Mash the bananas with the yogurt and vanilla extract, then add them into the bowl (don’t mix yet).
Place the flour and baking soda on top of the bananas, then gently stir to combine everything, making sure to scrape the sides of the bowl.
Pour batter into pan and bake for 60-70 minutes, until a toothpick comes out completely clean; allow to cool.
Meanwhile, make the glaze: brown the butter in a sauce pot, then add in the salt and speculoos and whisk vigorously to melt the speculoos.
Remove from heat and stir in cinnamon and milk; whisk in powdered sugar until no lumps remain (you may want to sift it in).
While cake is just barely warm, pour the warm glaze all over it.
Allow to cool to room temperature, then cut into fat wedges and serve with milk and tea.

Busy Bee

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It’s past time we talk, isn’t it?

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Let’s talk about busyness.  Let’s talk about crazy sleep-deprived weeks and times when there just isn’t enough time.

Talk about my new coffee-free lifestyle and how damn hard it is to keep your eyes open in a darkened lecture room.

About blog malfunctions (WHy, Pinterest, wHyyyYYyy) that seemingly can’t be fixed, about being so frustrated that you don’t even want to try anymore.
Talk about sophomore year and living with best friends and becoming a Theta girl and bumps and ruts in the road.
Talk about all the millions of things that I’ve wanted to say here that I haven’t had time to put down in a post.

Can we talk about how just the other day I saw a man and his young son sitting in the autumn sun, basking with eyes shut, hands folded, peaceful as can be, and it warmed my heart for one brief moment, almost as much as it warmed theirs, before bio lecture called and demanded that I rush onwards?

Time is cruel.  My schedule is punishing.
But I’m still here, and I know you are all here, waiting, too.

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I’ve hired a web developer to try to solve my Pinterest woes, but that still hangs heavy in my heart.
I put so much work into this blog, and all I want is for it to work and run smoothly like a well oiled machine.

I have some fabulous things to share here, but I’m reluctant since I know a big part of the meat of my blog (Pinterest traffic/interest) is missing in action!

Life is crazy busy; second year is hard; my roomies are busy and my boyfriend is busy and I don’t sleep anymore.
But it’s good.  This life of perpetual motion and grinding work is one I chose; in the end, it’s fun and rewarding and there’s something deeply satisfying about being so exhausted that you fall asleep even before you’ve sunken all the way down into your fluffy, white, cloud bed.

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These brownies are for Betsy.
She’s a Starbucks addict, and her favorite is a soy peppermint mocha (or an iced vanilla soy latte).
I was looking for an excuse to use my mini tartlette pans (remember these cute cakes?!), so I got to mixing up some quick brownie batter.
This batter takes the typical melted chocolate that’s added to brownies and replaces it with cocoa powder and butter—chocolate is just cocoa butter and cocoa powder, so why not replace the relatively flavorless cocoa butter with flavorful dairy butter?
Thank you Alice Medrich, for this impeccable logic.
Everyone else. Dooo it.

These brownies are fudgy, with shiny, crackly tops and the most satisfyingly chewy edges; the peppermint, salt, and espresso powder cut the richness and provide depth.
The ganache is—literally—the icing on top, finishing the thick, rich brownie with a perfectly smooth counterpart.
PLUS they’re whole wheat, and no one had any idea.

My roommates’ verdicts?
“Christmas in a cupcake.”
“I think I’ve had thousands of peppermint mochas in my life, and this passes the test.” (Guess who said that…)
“Thin mint. Thin mint. Thin mint.”

I don’t like Starbucks (I HATE Starbucks tbh) but this flavor combo is a straight up killaaaaa.
It’s a must make for fall/winter bakers!

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Whole Wheat Peppermint Mocha Brownies
makes ~30 brownie bites, or 1 8×8 inch pan
adapted from Alice Medrich

ingredients:
for the brownies:
275 grams (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons espresso powder
250 grams (1 1/4 cup) sugar
70 grams (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4-1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 eggs
80 grams (~1/2 cup) white whole wheat flour

for the ganache:
70 grams (~2.5 ounces) dark chocolate
pinch salt
28 grams (2 tablespoons) butter
50 grams (~3 tablespoons) half-and-half, room temp

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour whatever pans or tins you are using.
Melt unsalted butter in a pan or in the microwave; stir in espresso powder and sugar.
Whisking vigorously, whisk in cocoa powder, salt, and extracts.
Whisk in eggs and then gently stir in flour until the batter is homogeneous.
Scoop or spread the batter into the greased tin and bake for 20 minutes.
Allow to cool completely, then place in freezer for at least 45 minutes.
While the brownies are chilling, make ganache: place chocolate, salt, and butter in a microwave safe bowl.
Melt in 30 second increments until 3/4 of the way melted; remove from microwave and whisk the half-and-half in very vigorously.
Whisk until ganache comes together and is shiny.
Pour hot ganache over the frozen brownies (it should set on contact), then allow it to set and the brownies to thaw.
Serve at room temperature with a big glass of milk or a hot cup of coffee!

The Long and Short

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misty blue + white rose too.
eleven moons above me and you.
golden rose color of the dream I had, this timeless day,
you stole my heart away.

—from a tatine tisane candle wrapper

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My new room is filled with candles.
The gleaming gold bookshelf is teeming with flickering flames,
dispersing their sweet burnt smell and comforting yellow light.

This house is starting to feel like home; there are paintings on the walls and placemats on the dining room table; china in the built-in, keys hanging on hooks, and clothes in closets.
There’s Latin translations and Foucault readings and all manners of chemistry problems strewn about our study area.
The sound of keys tapping and voices mingling fills our apartment at night, as we share bowls of popcorn and commiserate about the trials of second year at UChicago.

Has it really only been a week of classes?
Lord almighty.

It feels like it’s been forever and yet, paradoxically, it feels like it’s been 2 seconds.
How how how how how.

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This is the first thing I baked in my apartment.
As soon as we had gas, I was lighting that baby up to bake some shortbread. I had been dreaming of it.

(Our oven doesn’t have numbers on the dial, doesn’t indicate when it’s heated, and is generally a scary health hazard. Oh well.)

We brought some of this shortbread to our upstairs neighbor-friends as a reverse housewarming gift.
Easy way to make friends: bring cookies.

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This shortbread is so good, it was gone in a day.

Slightly crumbly, melt-in-your-mouth buttery, faintly sweet with a hit of flaky sea salt.  Savory, smoky pine nuts accentuate the richness of the butter, and a whole vanilla bean adds the sweetest perfume to the cookies.
They’re addicting, to say the least.

The recipe produces something quite similar in texture to Walker’s, but with a more complex flavor profile.
You must serve it with hot tea with cream, and definitely share it with new (and old) friends.

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Pine Nut and Vanilla Bean Shortbread
makes 1 12-inch round, or 2 thicker 6- or 8-inch rounds

ingredients:
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
scrapings of a vanilla bean
heaping 1 1/2 teaspoons flaky sea salt, or a slightly heaped teaspoon of kosher salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup pine nuts, roughly chopped

directions:
Grease and flour a 12-inch round pan.
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Beat on high speed for 3 minutes, until fluffy and light.
Add in the slat and vanilla bean and beat for 2 more minutes to further aerate it.
Scrape the bowl and add in the confectioner’s sugar and cornstarch.
Stir on low speed until combined.
Scrape the bowl and add in the flour; again, stir on low speed until fully combined.
Add in the chopped pine nuts.
Scrape the dough into the prepared pan and gently press it into an even layer (dough will be slightly sticky and very soft).
Place in the fridge to chill for at least 1 hour and up to 1 night.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Score chilled dough and prick all over with a fork.
Bake for 50 minutes-1 hour, until toasted and fragrant and a toothpick comes out clean.
Remove from oven and rescore lines with a sharp knife.
Allow to cool, then remove from the pan with a very sharp knife and a cake server (some will inevitably crumble).
Serve with cream tea.

Pas de Cadeaux

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Ceci n’est pas un cadeau.

Oh, the treachery of cake.

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I must tell you, at once, of a miracle that has been flying well under anyone’s radar for some time:
my petite Korean grandmother has ceased aging.

People! Pay attention!
It seems the antidote for age is simply refusing, in a classic Chang woman manner, to acknowledge your birthday.
Like so:
when anyone asks you what you want for said day, explain, only mildly peeved, that material goods are, in so many words, worthless and, additionally, take up too much space, do not buy me anything I do not want it;
when anyone asks you what kind of cake you want, respond, as if it is the most logical answer in the world, that you want whatever cake they want to make (bonus points if your granddaughter is a food blogger, because then you can reason that you want her to be able to document the cake).
An elegant and difficult solution—yes, that seems about right.

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My mama urged me to write a blog post for September 8th.
I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish the photos for this post by then, but I didn’t expect it to be SO LATE coming.

If you’re shaking your head at the screen because of my ridiculously long absence, I understand.

But don’t leave just yet. I have cake, fwiendz. I have cake.

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Sitting down to finish writing this post has been one of my very first moments of leisure in the last few crazy weeks.

I have officially moved to Chicago, into a very large and very beautiful apartment with three of my very best and very closest friends.
I have built an outrageous amount of Ikea furniture and scrubbed and mopped and organized until I can do no more.
As of right now, we have 3 bookshelves that need 1 more coat of paint, and we’re fiiiinally done done done.
It’s a great feeling to finally begin to make a place your home.
(Of course, as soon as I feel settled and cozy here, classes will start and then living in the library will start and I will be thrown into the real world at an uncomfortably high speed.)

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I don’t have gas in my apartment yet (tomorrow is the big day!), so I haven’t been able to bake or cook while here.
Alexa (of popcorn cake fame) is not happy about the lack of cake being produced in the apartment; she asks once a day (even though she is also living sans cooking gas) when the heck I’m going to start feeding her yummy things again.
*eye roll*
People have even come up to me and asked me to please please post again, which is a bad sign for me.
Bad blogger, bad.

This is one of the last posts I have photographed from while I was still at home, but don’t worry. The lighting in our apartment is fab and a half and as soon as we get cooking gas, I’ll bake something yummy and share it with you (and Alexa, I suppose…) promptly.

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This was the cake I made for September 8th, a completely innocuous and otherwise boring day.

I knew it couldn’t be too sweet, and something with an intriguing flavor or texture, even better.
It couldn’t be too fancy, but couldn’t be jejune either.
A bundt cake seemed to fit the bill, and the jar of green tea powder was calling my name.
(As it often does… I do adore matcha!)

The end result is a half matcha, half chocolate bundt cake, hiding a bright green surprise within it’s simple exterior; the cake is made with sweet rice (glutinous rice) flour, so it benefits from the same thick, chewy texture of traditional mochi.
It’s not too sweet, rather allowing the two flavors to really sing; the chocolate is dark and a touch fruity, while the matcha is bitter and a tiny bit floral.
The texture is something special; super dense and chewy, just right for taking tiny slivers of all day. (I do believe this is called noshing, according to the lovely Molly.)

It’s an extra-special everyday cake; it doesn’t take a lot of effort or time but produces quite the stunner.
And that’s exactly the type of recipe I can get behind after making this crazy cake.

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Anyways, happy birth— September 8th, Grandma.
I love you, and I hope your day was special.

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Chocolate and Matcha Mochi Bundt
adapted from Sara Yoo
makes 1 bundt

ingredients:
1 cup (16 tablespoons) butter, melted
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 box (16 ounces, 1 pound) sweet (glutinous) rice flour (Mochiko brand comes in 16 ounce boxes)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup extra dark cocoa powder
1/4 cup matcha powder

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour a bundt pan very well.
Whisk together butter, sugar, salt, evaporated milk, and vanilla until homogeneous.
Whisk in the eggs one at a time, making sure each is fully incorporated before adding the next.
Add in the rice flour and baking powder and whisk to combine.
Add half of the batter into another bowl and stir in the cocoa powder.
Stir the matcha into the other half of the batter.
Pour the chocolate batter into the pan, evenly covering the bottom.
Gently pour/scoop the matcha batter on top, smoothing the top.
Bake for 45-55 minutes; a toothpick should come out completely clean.
Allow to cool slightly in the pan; turn it out onto a serving platter or cooling rack while still warm to prevent sticking.
Serve with powdered sugar.

Serendipitous

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Hey there, Autumn.

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I thought I’d share some things that I’m loving and coveting right now.  Some hover on the edge of the seasons, some I share with autumnal intent, and some for plain old adoration.

First off, I cannot stop listening to “I’m Not the Only One.”
It’s been on repeat for 2 full days.
Sam Smith gets me and my current life mood, and this song is soothing but oh-so-sad.
It’s incredibly refreshing to hear his beautiful Adele-man-voice singing something other than “Stay With Me” or “Latch.”

I finally (!) read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Oh!!!!
It was utterly fantastic. I picked it up and didn’t put it down until I finished, 24 hours later.
The attention she pays to details, her nuanced plot implications, and realistic emotional touch add up to quite an addictive read.
And OMG I can’t wait for the movie.

I reallyreallyreallyreallyreally want to read The Hedge Knight (AKA the tales of Dunk and Egg) by GRRM to bide my time until the next GoT book (2015?!?! REALLY?!) but have discovered that it costs $100+ dollars to buy a new copy.
I may have to settle for the kindle version, which is inferior in my humble opinion. Give me a crackling spine and sweet, faintly musty paper pages any day.

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I love the Hunter “Iconic Red” collection, but I really have my eye on some tall black wellingtons.  I have the olive green ones and absolutely adore them, and I think black can only be more versatile!
(Although since I intend to buy these gorgeous black boots in the next few weeks, red wellingtons could be just the ticket to keep my boot collection from looking too monotonous…)

I bought a pair of Lululemon 4-way stretch running shorts about a month ago, and I am about ready to throw out all my “norts” and invest in 4 more pairs of these babies.
They’re fitted without being clingy, so they don’t ride up or stick to you in weird places; they’re stretchy and comfortable, lightweight, and don’t cut in at all at the hips.
I hate having to adjust my clothing in the middle of a workout, which is the main reason why I fell for lulu leggings.  Now, I fear also been converted to their sport shorts…

This bag shall be mine, as soon as it goes back on sale (as Jessica pointed out, Rebecca Minkoff is always on sale).
I have a similar bag (white python, gold hardware) but it’s irritatingly large and due to its poor quality, stained from my blue jeans.  Can’t wait to get rid of it and replace it with a mini Mac!

In the realm of bags, I am coveting this Céline.
Sigh. One day.

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I have more links to share, but I don’t want my varied obsessions to be too long-winded, so I’ll save them for another link love post.
(Although by then I’ll inevitably have racked up another impressive list of randoms…)

Let’s chat about this here cake, y’all.

It started out as a spiced applesauce cake with a heaping ton of streusel on top, but in the heat of the oven, the top of the cake buckled in and ate much of the streusel—when I pulled out the loaf, the top sported an eighth of the original amount of streusel.
I figured it would mostly just melt into the batter, no big deal.

However, something far, far better happened:
a pocket of molten streusel, basically a little river of caramelized sugar and butter with a heavy hit of salt, aka the stuff of dreams aka pinch-me-am-I-dreaming-deliciousness, formed right in the center of the cake.

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The parts of the cake that retained their streuseled top (mostly the edges) were, just as expected, pleasantly moist with a lovely crunch on top.
So, if your streusel doesn’t sink through the cake, don’t worry.  Either way produces a gently spiced, super moist cake that offers a faint suggestion of apples and fall.
Either way, however, you neeeeed to add this glaze.
It’s my go-to: maple syrup, brown butter, salt, a touch of cream. UGH. Could eat with a spoon.

I snuck one two pieces of this cake before I wrapped it up and gave it to my bestfriendinthewholeworld, Gwen.
It’s perfectly comforting, well-suited for stressed out students!
Like a hug in cake form.
It’s a bomb way to start off fall baking—warm and spicy, but decidedly not pumpkin.

(I’m so not ready for that yet.)

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Brown Butter Applesauce Cake
cake portion adapted from Averie
streusel portion adapted from Smitten Kitchen
makes 1 9×5 loaf

ingredients:
for the streusel:
5 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

for the cake:
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground coriander (optional)
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup sour cream
1 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

for the brown butter maple glaze:
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 – 3/4 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
Make the streusel: combine all of the ingredients and pinch with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, set aside.
Make the cake: place the sugars, salt, and spices in a large bowl. Brown the butter in a skillet, then pour it over the sugar mixture.
While whisking, add in the eggs and vanilla extract; whisk until combined, then stir in the applesauce and sour cream.
Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and baking powder, then stir into the batter until homogeneous.
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan, then sprinkle the streusel on top.
Bake for 55-65 minutes, until a toothpick comes out completely clean (you can tent it with foil if the top browns too quickly).
Remove from the oven; while the cake is cooling, make the glaze.
Place butter in a small skillet and brown; remove from the heat and add stir in the salt and maple syrup.
While whisking, add in the powdered sugar, then add heavy cream to thin it to a pouring consistency (if you add too much cream, you can add in a little more sugar to balance it out).
Pour/drizzle the warm glaze over the slightly warm cake, then leave to cool completely.
Serve in thick slices with strong coffee.