Take the Cake

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Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt personally victimized by carrot cake.

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Carrot cakes are (generally) overly sweet and fatty.
Cloying sugar covers up the rich earthy undertones of the carrots.
Oil is added until the batter is slick and shiny, and when baked, greasy.

On top of this, a thick, sugared crust of cream cheese frosting, which is literally just fat and pounds of icing sugar.

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Too much sugar and too much fat—not that anyone is really under the impression that traditional carrot cake is intended to be healthy, but there is such a thing as too much of a yummy thing.

Carrot cakes have all the potential in the world, and too often they fall painfully short of delicious.

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Carrots, after sugar beets, have the most natural sugar of any vegetable.  As root vegetables, this sweetness is accompanied by a rich, round earthiness and, when cooked, a pleasant chewiness.

A whole pound of them form the base of this cake, shredded into tiny threads that all but disappear, leaving a moist, coarse crumb.

Carrots are accompanied by nutty rye flour, sweet, buttery pecans, round coconut oil and peppery olive oil, and shredded coconut that melts into the finished cake.

I reduced the sugar and oil in this recipe, replacing the standard canola oil with olive and coconut and taking the sugar down by 1/4.
Both are supplanted by a mashed up banana, which gives body and sweetness in a more wholesome way.

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This adds up to a carrot cake full of textures and flavors, without the slick of oil and heaps of sugar.
It’s carrot cake, but better.
It’s a touch more healthy, but that’s not the point—the point is to make this cake more respectable, more complex.

Take back carrot cake, people.

IMG_1375_01After reducing the amount of sugar and fat in the cake itself, I made a batch of cream cheese frosting that was on the smaller side, and much less sweet than the standard.
In order to be able to not add 1 1/4 POUNDS of powdered sugar to the frosting, I add in powdered milk, which adds body and extra flavor without the cloying sweetness.

This gets spread in a thin layer all over the cake, making it look a little naked but still pretty, IMHO.  Most of the frosting is saved for the top, and it doesn’t crust over with sugar, but remains creamy.

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Words have escaped me when I sit down to write, lately.
I don’t have much to complain about say.
I suppose I don’t feel much inspired by my life of late—not that it’s boring, but it is rather relaxed and quiet—and it leads me to be quite quiet on the blog.
I realize that many of you don’t come for the words, so I am deciding that whether they flow or not, I shall share the recipes and photos that I have in my (long) backlog.

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Maybe my next post will have more words.  Maybe not.
xx

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Rye Carrot Cake
adapted from Dorie Greenspan
makes 1 4×8 or 3×9 inch layer cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup rye flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 scant pound carrots
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup desiccated coconut (sub shredded coconut)
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 medium banana, mashed
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons maple syrup

for the cream cheese frosting:
12 ounces (1 1/2 packages) cream cheese, softened
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks, 12 tablespoons) butter, softened
pinch kosher salt
1 cup dry milk powder
1 1/2-2 cups confectioner’s sugar

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 4 8-inch round baking pans.
Stir flours, baking powder and baking soda together.
In a food processor with the finest shredder attachment disk or with a cheese grater, shred the carrots as finely as you can; set aside.
Whisk sugar, salt, oils, and banana together very briskly, until completely combined and smooth.
Beat in each of the eggs and the maple syrup; whisk until completely smooth.
Add in the dry ingredients and stir to combine; when almost combined, add in the pecans, coconut, and raisins.
Scoop even amounts of the batter into the pans and smooth out with a spatula or butter knife.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a tester comes out clean and the tops of the cakes are springy to the touch.
Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes; turn out of pans and allow to cool completely.
Make the frosting: beat butter on high speed until softened and almost white, about 5 minutes.
Add in the cream cheese and salt and beat for 3 more minutes, until completely homogeneous.
Sift the powdered milk and powdered sugar over the mixture in 4 parts, beating on high speed for 1 minute between each addition.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and beat for another minute; taste for sweetness.
To assemble the cake, spread 1/3 cup frosting between each layer and thinly frost the sides; use the remaining frosting to coat the top in a thick layer.
Serve at room temperature.

More Better

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 Hello, hello, hello!  Long time no post, I know, I know.

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I was in Chicago visiting N since last Friday–it was a lovely, restorative, relaxing, and much needed weekend with him.
Today, it’s back to the real world.
Oh, just kidding, because today marks the beginning of Grassroots!
(I know, I’m leading quite the lazy, cushy life over here.  Don’t judge me too much; it’s Summer, after all.)

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I am working, albeit at a turtle’s pace, on furnishing and decorating my apartment in Chicago. (À la IKEA.)
I put together a sweet little white wicker chair and painted a TARVA dresser a beautiful pale celadon-y grey.
It needs some gold knobs and it will be done.

I’m totally excited to build a little home with my best friends.
Feelin’ all grown-up and shit, ya know.
I will undoubtedly share photos here. (Exciting, I know: a college student’s apartment!  Don’t hold your breath!!!!!!)

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Anyways, it’s Summer full-swing in the Northern Hemisphere.
Summer = fresh fruit, BBQ, red white and blue, yadda yadda yadda.
Summer really = S’MORES.

Today, I have a flat s’mores tart for you.
It’s got a relatively even ratio of crust:filling, making it super rich and decadent.

All the flavors and textures are here: lovely graham crust made from real graham crackers, with a hint of cinnamon and a slight crunch, sweet, creamy milk chocolate ganache with a hint of deep cocoa, and puffy, browned marshmallows to round it out.

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This tart is like a giant s’more, upgraded a bit with some extra butter and cream (of course).

Okay, I am late and S is waiting for me in the driveway to head to Trumansburg to start the grassroots festivities, so I’m signing off.

I’ll be back soon with a no-bake treat and another tart.
Xx

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{Happy Grassroots to all my Ithacan readers!
Have a safe, fun, and enjoyable weekend!}

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Flat S’mores Tart
makes 1 9-inch tart

ingredients:
for the crust:
2 sleeves (18 whole) graham crackers
1/2 cup flour
10 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 egg yolk
scant teaspoon kosher salt
pinch cinnamon

for the milk chocolate ganache:
5 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
pinch of kosher salt
1 tablespoon corn syrup, optional
1 cup heavy cream

to finish:
mini marshmallows, or large marshmallows torn into pieces, or meringue, etc. etc.

directions:
Make the crust: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and ready a 9- or 10- inch springform pan.
Blitz the graham crackers into fine crumbs in a food processor; they should be the texture of fine flour (this may take a while).
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat with the paddle attachment for 3 minutes to soften.
While beating on high speed, slowly stream in the sugar; beat for 4 minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add the egg yolk, kosher salt, and cinnamon.
Beat for 3 more minutes, then scrape the bowl once more.
Add in the flour and stir until combined; scrape the bowl.
Start adding the graham cracker flour 1/2 cup at a time, while mixing on low speed.
You will likely need all of the graham crackers, but keep an eye on the dough; when finished, it should clump together easily but not be so dry that it cracks when you press it together.
Press the dough into the bottom of your springform, keeping it mostly flat with a small rim to prevent the ganache from leaking out.
Prick all over with a fork and bake for 20 minutes, until firm and golden–the crust should be very fragrant.
Remove from oven and let cool while you prepare the ganache.
Place the chopped chocolate, kosher salt, and corn syrup in a bowl and heat gently until 1/3 of the chocolate is melted—do this in short bursts in a microwave or over a double boiler.
Remove the chocolate from heat.
Heat up the cream until boiling; pour over chocolate and let sit for 3 minutes, undisturbed.
Begin to whisk the chocolate mixture slowly at first, then speeding up until the ganache comes together and is shiny and smooth.
Pour over the cooling crust and place in the fridge until set, about 4 hours (you can leave it in there overnight).
To assemble, place marshmallows all over the tart and place under a broiler for 2 minutes, keeping a careful eye to ensure that the marshmallows don’t burn.
Enjoy in fat wedges on a summer night!

How To

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How to make a peach pie.

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Start this pie in the middle of a hectic week, a week when nothing seems to go right, and most things seem to go to shit.
Wish for some therapy or someone who can write code, write your blog, write your to-do lists, your journal even, who can get inside your head and do some serious junk organization.

Find yourself peeking in the fridge instead. (Always.)

Start this pie with Butter.
Everything truly therapeutic starts with butter.
One big fat pound of butter. (Made from 2 and a half gallons of milk, churned and shaken and agitated into creamy gold.)
Maybe life just shakes shakes shakes the shit out of you until you’re sweet, fat butter, too.
Contemplate this thought as you slice up the cold cold butter into neat cubes.  Decide you are not wholly against such a philosophy.

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Butter and flour and a spoonful of sugar.  Two pinches of salt.  Add a few extra grains because you’ve been forgetting the salt lately.
How can you forget the salt?  That most important seasoning, the holy grail of sharpening and fine-tuning sweet flavors.

Forgetting salt because salt is lost on you, as is fiery curry powder and lashings of sweet maple syrup and bright fresh basil.
Forgetting salt because you’re walking around in a foggy world.
Not being able to taste or smell anything becomes tiresome.
How can a head cold possibly last this long?
How can I possibly not taste the goodness of Nutella?
Something is seriously wrong here.

Your body needs healing, needs a full night’s rest, a cup of hot tea, and, at this point, probably a miracle from a Shaman.
But you need to stop whining about being sick.
Choose to focus on pie instead.  Pie dreams.

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Find yourself elbow deep in dough.  Pat, fold, repeat.  Marvel at the layers of butter which, when place in a hot hot hot oven will melt and evaporate, forming the flaky crusts of dreams.

Grab a whole bunch of plump peaches.  Count them out onetwothree … eight nine ten.
Hold one up to your nose, so close that its soft fuzz tickles.
Breathe in the scent of summer, of warm days in the sun, of trees heavy with promises.  That much you can smell.

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Slice them up, neat eighths halved again, tossed in sugar and tapioca for body, a touch of nutmeg and lemon juice to coax out profundity—and salt, just a pinch or two to temper the sweetness.

Spread the peaches thin over vast expanses of dough.
Cut long strips of the remaining dough.  Realize how wonky they are–this one too long, this one way too short—but carry on anyway.  Decide on the spot that anyone who complains about the way this damn pie looks shan’t have any pie.
Weave a very bendy lattice, cursing the heat the whole while (who in their right mind chooses an 80+ degree day to deal with finicky pastry?  Me.).  Over, under, over, over… shit. Under, over…
Crimp the edges, throw it in the oven.
Get the f out of the nine million degree kitchen.

Come back only when the scent of peach and butter and caramel has filled your home, enough to penetrate even your nose’s rhinovirus ether.
Admire the pink that has bled out from the skin, turning the yellow fruit into a veritable rainbow of magenta, orange, and yellow.

Swat away hungry passerby.  Promise them a slice, after photos only.  Paws off.

IMG_0900Make the executive decision to take this pie over the top.
Whisk, whisk, whisk cream, a touch of sugar, an entire vanilla bean, and egg yolk after egg yolk together.
Cook until your pinky leaves a trail on your spatula.  Test multiple times, with multiple fingers.  This is important.
Chill, chill, churn—the creamiest vanilla bean ice cream emerges, yellow with yolks and flecked and fragrant with vanilla seeds.

Test it straight out of the ice cream machine, with multiple spoons.
This is also important.

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This slab pie serves an army, or at least a small village.
A couple of teenage boys, a group of good friends.

Bring it to a party, and be the star.
Easy to eat because the filling to crust ratio is just right for portability, even when cut into generous sizes—no skimpy hand pies—large enough for a crowd, and delicious, which is obviously the most important part.

Or, eat it at home, on a plate, in your kitchen, with a hot cup of tea and a scoop of cold vanilla ice cream.
The simple pleasure of fresh peach pie with homemade ice cream is difficult to surpass.

It is quintessentially summer.
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Peach Slab Pie
makes 1 17×12 inch pie

ingredients:
for the crust:
450 grams (1 pound) butter, cold and diced
630 grams (5 cups) flour
50 grams (1/4 cup) sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
ice water, as needed (at least 120 mL—1/2 cup)

for the filling:
10 large peaches
1 cup turbinado sugar
5 tablespoons quick cooking tapioca
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
juice of 1/2 small lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
nutmeg, to taste (perhaps 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon)

directions:
Make the crust: whisk flour, sugar, and salt together.
Add in the butter chunks and toss them with your hands to coat all of them in flour.
Begin to smash each chunk between your fingers, so that all of them are sheets rather than cubes.
Rub some of the mixture between your palms so that the butter breaks up into even smaller chunks and the mixture looks like coarse sand.
Leave about 1/3 of the butter in small, thin sheets; you want sizes to vary from about the size of a chickpea to sandy textured pieces.
Drizzle in ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, as you stir with a wooden spoon.
Stop adding water when the clumps stick to your spoon; gather up all the pieces and mold them together—the dough should not be dry or crumbly.
Pat the dough out into a long, thin rectangle about 1/2 inch thick.
Fold each of the ends over the center like you’re folding a letter.
Pat out the dough again into a rectangle and repeat the folding twice more.
Divide the dough into two pieces and wrap in saran wrap; refrigerate for at least 45 minutes and up to 1 night.
Meanwhile, make the filling: slice up peaches into thin pieces—cut the peach into eighths and then cut each eighth in two or three.
Place the turbinado sugar and tapioca into a food processor and process until the tapioca has been ground down a bit.
Mix half of this with the sliced peaches and place in a colander or sieve over a bowl to drain for at least 30 minutes.
After chilling, roll out half of the dough (it will be quite thin) and fit into a greased 17×12 inch sheet pan.  Leave the edges hanging over slightly; return to the fridge or, better yet, place in the freezer.
Finish the filling: remove the peaches from the colander and discard the collected juice.
Toss the peaches with the remaining sugar mixture, the salt, the nutmeg, and the lemon juice.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Roll out the other half of the dough and cut into thin strips (measure them: some should be 18 inches and some 13, to ensure they make it all the way across the pie).
Remove the bottom crust from the freezer and spread the peaches thinly over it; try to get them in an even layer.
Working quickly, weave your lattice over the peaches—I found the easiest way to do so was not by folding the strips back on themselves, as is commonly done, but actually weaving the short strips under the long strips, since they were so long.
Using a fork, crimp the edges to seal the lattice strips to the bottom crust.
Pop it in the oven (you may want to place another sheet pan underneath it to prevent drips) and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling.
Remove from oven and let cool.

Creamiest Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
adapted from the NYT
makes a generous pint

ingredients:
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup half and half
1/4 cup low-fat milk (I had 1%; if you drink whole, use 1/2 cup and leave out the half and half)
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup (optional, can sub honey or maple syrup if you don’t mind flavoring)
pinch kosher salt
3 egg yolks
scrapings of a vanilla bean

directions:
Whisk together all of the ingredients very well.
Place in a small sauce pot over medium heat and add the vanilla bean pod.
Whisking constantly, cook until the mixture is a bit thicker than heavy cream—a finger dragged across the back of a spatula should leave a trail.
Remove from heat, remove vanilla pod, and cool completely.
Chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour and up to 1 night well-wrapped.
Churn according to manufacturer’s instructions.

American Pie

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I know that you’re in love with him
’cause I saw you dancin’ in the gym
You both kicked off your shoes,
man I dig those rhythm and blues
I was a lonely teenage broncin’ buck,
with a pink carnation and a pick-up truck,
but I knew I was out of luck
the day the music died.

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Happy Fourth of July!!
AKA happy birthday America!

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What do y’all think of the new blog?
It took me forever to update, and now I have a snazzy new sidebar where you can access archives, subscribe, search, and click through to important (read: pretty) posts.
Let me know if you have any problems, or if things seem glitchy.
I’ll try to get them worked out ASAP.
Note: to click through to see or make comments, click on the top of the post in the meta tag (date posted/comments) or just click on the post and scroll to the bottom.
Also note: blank spaces will soon be filled.  Please ignore the giant gaping holes… I am trying to iron things out.
(I am quite bad at it.)

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Y’all. There is a reason 4th of July rhymes with PIE.
(No, it’s not a coincidence. You hush.)
It is our god-given right to eat pie while celebrating the US of A.
We have lots and lots of traditional pies that originate here in America—thick shoofly, key lime, pecan, etc.
I had my heart set on a red, white, and blue pie—a true American Pie—for the 4th of July.
(Although now, I am realizing… shoofly, Ju-ly… that might have to happen too!  Oh well, more pie to eat..)

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American Pie.  American Flag Pie.
Wild blueberries make up the upper quadrant, with dark sweet cherries comprising the rest; the entire thing is encased in and carefully decorated with flaky, buttery pastry; rich, creamy vanilla bean custard adds a touch of white!
This pie is so dang cute, and delicious to boot. That vanilla bean custard, man. I could put that on cardboard and eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
I love the combination of cherry blueberry, and if you’re not looking to American-ize your pie, just chuck everything in and top it with a lattice or even a full crust.

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I hope all of you have a safe, sunny, and fun Fourth of July! May you eat BBQ and patriotic desserts and break out the bathing suits and have a great time celebrating our country.
America!!

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Pee Ess:
I know some of my readers like to connect with me via instagram (and Pinterest). Click on the little instagram icon in the About the Author section and it will direct you to my profile. Same for Pinterest!
(Picture below is from my instagram, taken with iPhone and edited with Afterlight.)

iphone pie


American Pie with Vanilla Bean Custard

makes 1 10-inch pie
ingredients:
for the crust: 2 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
16 tablespoons butter, cubed and cold
ice water, as needed
for the filling:
2 1/2 cups frozen wild blueberries (or about 2 cups big fresh blueberries)
5 cups halved cherries (about 1 1/2 pounds frozen or 1 3/4 pounds fresh)
juice of 1 lemon
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
pinch of salt
for the vanilla bean custard:
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup lowfat milk
3 egg yolks
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sugar
scrapings of 1/2 a vanilla bean
directions:
Make the crust: place flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.
Dump all the cold cubed butter into the bowl and begin to smash all of the cubes to sheets.
Rub some of the mixture between your hands so that it’s sandy—you’re going for a crumbly, sandy mixture wherein the largest pieces of butter are about the size of a marble and flattened into a sheet.
Begin to stir in the cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time; you will likely need 4-6 tablespoons, but it all depends on kitchen environment, so go slow.
You want the dough to come together into a ball but not be sticky at all.
Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and pat it into a long rectangle about 1/2 inch thick.
Fold over the edges like you’re folding a letter, then pat the folded dough out into another rectangle; repeat twice more for a total of 3 folds.
Divide the dough in two and pat into disks; wrap each in saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, roll one out of the disks to a 14 inch diameter—it should be about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick.
Fit the dough into a pie pan and loosely fold excess edges over temporarily; place in the fridge while you make the fillings.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees before making the fillings.
Place the cherries in a large bowl with the juice of half a lemon.
Place the blueberries in another bowl with a little less than the juice of half a lemon.
Stir the cornstarch, sugar, and salt together and divide it roughly into thirds: toss blueberries with 1/3 and the cherries with 2/3 of the mixture.
Roll out the other pie crust and cut into stripes and stars.
Spoon the blueberry filling into 1/4 of the pie (unfold the edges so they hang over the pan), and the cherry into the other 3/4.
Lay on the stripes and stars, then fold up the overhanging crust and crimp.
Bake for 50 minutes to an hour, until the crust is golden and the fillings are bubbling.
Meanwhile, make the custard: whisk all ingredients together and place them in a small sauce pot over medium-low heat.
Cook, stirring nearly constantly, until the mixture thickens up slightly—it should still be liquid, but when you drag your finger across the spatula, a trail should remain (like the texture of quite cold heavy cream).
Pass through a strainer and chill until ready to eat.
Serve the pie warm with cold custard sauce!

Stars & Stripes

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USA!  USA!

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Happy July, people!
Fitting that the 1st of July is scorching hot hot hot–temperatures are forecast to hit 90+ F here in Ithaca.

I plan on spending some time sunning my pale withered skin before watching the Belgium/U.S.A. futbol match with an ice-cold glass of white wine lemonade.
Basically, I don’t intend to move much, except to lumber to the freezer for an ice pack for my sweaty neck.

I heard some freak-o reports that it might hail due to the temperature shifts and all… Here’s hoping it doesn’t.
I am hoping it will cool off just a bit for the Fourth, though.
(Speaking of which, I have more patriotic deliciousness coming your way, so get ready.)

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These adorable Pinwheel-Flag cookies are perfect for munching on during today’s game or for the Fourth of July!

They start with an amazing red velvet roll out cookie base, which keeps its shape perfectly and stays soft over multiple days.
I decorated my cookies using 1 batch of Bridget’s royal icing tinted ivory, red, and blue.
The trick for getting antique-y colors for me was using vanilla extract and a touch of cocoa powder.
The blue, if you would believe it, started out as neon blue but a drop of red and plenty of cocoa powder got it to just the right shade of almost-navy, which contrasted perfectly with the off-white “stars.”

These are fun, patriotic cookies that are delicious and pretty and purrrrfect for this time of year.
Give ‘em a try, and

GO USA!!!

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Red Velvet Roll-Out Cookies
makes approximately 28 3-inch cookies

ingredients:
2 3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 sticks (16 tablespoons) butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 scant teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon chocolate extract (optional)
1 teaspoon “butter” flavoring (optional)
1 teaspoon red gel food coloring

directions:
Whisk flour and cocoa together.
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat for 3 full minutes; add the sugar and scrape the bowl, then beat for 3 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl, add the egg, salt, and extracts, and beat for 3 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl once more, then add in the flour and cocoa powder.
Stir on low speed until the dough comes together.
Form into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to a day.
Once chilled, remove the dough from the fridge and place on a well floured surface.
Roll out to 1/4 inch thickness and cut out shapes as desired; re-roll scraps.
Place on parchment lined sheets and freeze for at least 15 minutes and up to 8 hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake cookies for 10-11 minutes, until fragrant and the centers are just set.
Allow to cool completely before frosting with royal icing or buttercream.

Tårta

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O, Pivoine

From verdant buds they did erupt;
from tight globes came flowers flush.
O, the peonies blossomed,
fat and full,
on a day that promised rain.
A hundred thousand petals unfurled
as a misty dawn hid the moon away.
Their silken scent clung to the breeze;
the honeyed air wound in my hair
and the sultry day perfumed.
Now they droop under heat and sun
and wish they were not troubled so.
But I still love their burdened blooms
and kneel to smell them all.

–6/9/2014

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A poem shared for spring, for summer, as the seasons transition like sand slipping twixt our fingers.

Flowers have bloomed and trees have greened; buds become fruits slowly but surely.
The bounty of summer prostrates itself beneath our greedy, hungry fingers as a fat, juicy, sprawling spread.
I mean, have you seen the peaches coming in right now?

To market, to market, to pick the reddest fruits.
To market, to market, for armfuls of darkest greens.
Here’s to fresh produce and to the beginning of a fruitful (vegetal?) summer.

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Yes! The summer solstice has come and gone.  It’s officially summer!
It’s sunny and hot and green!
(Can I be tanned yet?!)

I have no real responsibilities (Scary that I’m feeling a little… bored?) and am able to spend the day daydreaming about pastries and makeup and shoes and big salads.
I can get my nails done, oh luxury of luxuries, and–soon–my hair cut.

It will be my first time getting a real haircut in so so long.  I’m scared to cut off too much!  I recently took off an inch and half (thanks to my mama), so I’ll probably take off another inch and a half and call it quits.
My mermaid hair is definitely my security blanket– anyone else feel this way?

I’ve also been watching the World Cup and really enjoying it.
This is my first time seriously following along.
Fuuuutbol, y’all.

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This luscious tart was inspired by a great trio of flavors: strawberry, lemon, and black pepper.

I originally wanted to garnish with candied celery leaves, but decided against it when they came out a little wonky and far too sugar-coated.  Celery+strawberry+black pepper is a bomb-ass combination though, so keep it in mind.

I also played with the idea of a lemon-ricotta filling, which would be marvelous if you want to give it a try, but I didn’t want to bake twice–it’s summer, after all, and my kitchen is hot as hell as is.

One tip that I wish I had foreseen: add a few extra grinds of black pepper to your crust than you think are necessary.
That way, you ensure that you’ll get a burst of gentle heat in each bite.
It’s a perfect foil to the sweet strawbs and tart lemon.

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In the end, the tart is made up of a black pepper crust, buttery and a hint spicy, filled with a rich, round lemon curd filling and topped with as many of the season’s reddest, juiciest strawberries as can possibly fit. 

The whole thing is utterly divine, each mouthful embodying the fresh, bold flavors of summer.
Tart, sweet, spicy, buttery, crisp, lush, juicy.
(Adjective addict.)

This tart is, quite possibly, my ideal.
You know I prefer fruit over chocolate, and citrus is arguably my favorite.
While it’s often showcased in the winter, with the addition of summer-sweet strawberries, lemon launches fully into the appropriate season.
It lasted <24 hours in my household– always a good sign!

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“In case you ever foolishly forget, I am never not thinking of you.”

–Virginia Woolf

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Strawberry, Lemon, and Black Pepper Tart
makes 1 14×4 inch tart

ingredients:
for the black pepper shell:
8 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8-1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 egg yolk
1 cup flour

for the lemon curd filling:
2 lemons
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
pinch kosher salt
1 teaspoon corn starch
4 tablespoons butter

to assemble:
27 small to medium strawberries
lemon marmalade, optional

directions:
Make the tart crust: beat butter on high speed in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 2 minutes.
Stream in the sugar and salt slowly, then beat for another 2 minutes.
Add in the black pepper and egg yolk, scrape the sides of the bowl, and beat for 2 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl, add in the flour, and mix on low until the dough forms– it should be clumpy but not 1 cohesive mass.
Press clumps evenly into tart pan; prick all over with a fork.
Freeze for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line the tart shell with aluminum foil, then fill it with pie weights or beans.
Bake for 15 minutes, until set, then remove the foil and pie weights carefully.
Return to oven for 5-7 minutes, until lightly golden.
Remove tart shell from oven and let cool.
Meanwhile, make the filling: zest 1 of the lemons and set the zest aside.
Juice both of the lemons to obtain 1/4 cup juice.
Place juice, eggs, sugar, salt, and cornstarch in a sauce pot.
Whisk vigorously to combine, then cook over low heat for 15 minutes, or until thickened enough that a finger dragged along a spatula leaves a trail.
Remove from heat and whisk in butter and zest.
Place hot curd in a food processor and pulse for 30-45 seconds, until lightened in color and slightly cooler.
Pour warm curd into warm tart shell, smoothing the top.
Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to one night.
To assemble the tart, hull the strawberries.
Line them up next to the tart shell to judge how they will fit.
Cut off small slices from the strawberries on the side if they will not fit, then snuggle them into the center strawberry.
Heat up a few tablespoons of lemon marmalade, then brush over strawberries if desired.
Best if enjoyed the day it is made, but it will save reasonably well overnight in the fridge.

Maccha

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Do you have doubts about life? Are you unsure if it’s worth the trouble?
Look at the sky: that is for you. Look at each person’s face as you pass on the street: those faces are for you. And the street itself, and the ground under the street and the ball of fire underneath the ground: all these things are for you.
They are as much for you as they are for other people.
Remember this when you wake up in the morning and think you have nothing.
Stand up and face the east. Now praise the sky and praise the light within each person under the sky.
It’s okay to be unsure. But praise, praise, praise.

Miranda July, No one belongs here more than you.

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Home.

I am praising Home.
I am praising the ground beneath my feet, so familiar, worn and slick with rain.
Praising the sounds of fighting cats crickets that resonate through my bedroom window, flung open to let the sweet night breeze in.  (Apparently, during my absence, a troupe of kitties has been adopted in the neighborhood.  Occasionally, as they are like to do, they fight.  And yowl.  Thank god Ginger is deaf.)
The peaches.  The juiciest watermelon.  The hot sun.  The night storms.
The trees never seemed so green.

Today, while on a walk, I smelled–not for the first time, but the first in a long time–the smell of upstate woods.
It’s damp.  The smell of soil and sweet decaying trees.  It smells like dirt and swimming holes and home.
The scent that the wind picks up as it sweeps through the forest.

Home.

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This is my first time returning home in six months.

I’m unsure.  Far from feeling foreign, it feels too familiar.
It feels stagnant.  Is this right?
Should I be here, spending my whole summer in my hometown?
Am I wasting time in this precious life, returning over and over and expecting things to be miraculously different?
Do I wish them to be?

I have doubts.  I am unsure.  I am scared and small.
And yet I am praising.

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This is the last confection I made at college, in that godforsaken dormitory kitchen.

A matcha deco roll!  My second, actually, and third deco roll.  Here’s the first and the second.

I’m still working on perfecting the decor paste, but I’m getting closer.

Here, a simple vanilla sponge is decorated with a matcha chevron pattern, rolled up with billowy cream studded with marzipan, and topped with little marzipan balls à la uber fab Molly of My Name is Yeh

So stinkin’ cute. I just love it.
Matcha and almond pair beautifully, and I love the lightness of this cake.
Not too rich nor heavy.  It practically melts on your tongue.

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Are you asking yourself, Is that cake on a book?
Yes.  That cake is on a book.
Is this a little weird?  Yes.

Being the broke college blogger that I am, I quickly realized the conundrum I was in when I pulled this cake from the oven.
I didn’t have a single plate among my, like, 10 plate-large collection on which the roll would fit.
Here at home, it’s not an issue.  We have lots of discarded and mismatched dishware.
Oh well. I made do.

It also happens to be an amazing book, one that matches my favorite spoons, one that contains dragons and delights and murders and monarchs.  I love Game of Thrones so, so dearly.
Notice how I’m not letting a whisper of the finale pass through my lips.
Oh! Oh my god. GUYS the finale!!!!!

No spoilers.  Go read the books.  And watch the show.
And eat cake.

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Deco Roll (Part III)
sponge portion adapted from Junko via Cakelets and Doilies

ingredients:
for the sponge cake:
for part I (yolk portion):
4 egg yolks
40 grams (3 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon) sugar
80 grams (1/3 cup) milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
52 grams (3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon) vegetable oil
105 grams (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) flour
1 pinch sea salt

for part II (meringue portion):
3 egg whites
30 grams (2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons) sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch

for the matcha decor paste:
1 egg white
30 grams (2 tablespoons) of the yolk mixture
20 grams (1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon) vegetable oil
5 grams (1 heaping teaspoon) matcha
35 grams (heaping 1/4 cup) flour
30 grams (2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons) granulated sugar
15 grams (1 tablespoon) water

for the filling:
240 grams (1 cup) heavy cream, cold
1 cup (approximately 3/4 of a tube) marzipan, kneaded with 1 to 2 teaspoons matcha

directions:
Line a 15×11 inch jelly roll pan with parchment paper.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Make the sponge cake:
In a large bowl, whisk yolks and sugar together very well.
Whisk in milk, vanilla extract, and oil.
Remove 30 grams (2 tablespoons) and place in a small bowl.
Into the main yolk mixture, add the flour and sea salt and whisk very well– mixture will be thick.
Into the small yolk portion, whisk all of the matcha decor paste ingredients: egg white, oil, matcha, flour, sugar, and water.
The decor paste should not be too thick nor too thin, but just about pipeable: it shouldn’t pour off your spoon nor should it glob to your spoon.
Fill a piping bag with the matcha decor paste and pipe whatever pattern you so desire onto the parchment paper lined baking sheet.
Place into the freezer for 5 minutes, then bake for 3 minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool while you make the meringue.
Place 3 egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer and begin to whip.
Stir the sugar and cornstarch together.
When the egg whites become foamy, start very slowly adding the sugar mixture, 1 teaspoon at a time.
Continue to whip and add sugar until the meringue is at stiff peaks.
Remove 1/3 of the meringue and whisk it vigorously into the yolk portion to lighten up the batter.
Gently fold the remaining 2/3 of the meringue into the batter, making sure there are no meringue pockets.
Spread the batter gently over the baked decor paste.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, until golden and springy to the touch.
Meanwhile, place a sheet of parchment large enough to fit the cake on a clean counter and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Place a second one nearby, and have a sharp knife at the ready.
When the cake comes out of the oven, carefully but deftly flip it onto the first, powdered sugar-sprinkled parchment sheet.
Trim the edges so that they’re squared off.
Now, take the (hot! Careful!) cake and flip it back onto the second piece of parchment, so that the pattern is face-down on the counter.
Carefully and firmly roll up the cake from one short end to the other.
Store it seam side down while you prepare the filling and topping.
Make the filling: use your marzipan like play-dough!
Form 6 spheres out of about half of your marzipan, and set them aside.
Rip/crumble the rest of the marzipan into small pieces.
Whip the cream to stiff peaks.
Once the cake is completely cool, unroll it and slather whipped cream all over; sprinkle all of your marzipan bits (it will mostly cover the cream) on top.
Roll up the cake, pipe some extra whipped cream on top, and finish with your marzipan balls!
Enjoy!

Just Pie

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Just pie.  Jest pie.  Jess pie?  Chess pie?!

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The origins of the name of the (unquestionably Southern) chess pie are shrouded in mystery.

Some believe that it’s called chess pie owing to a transformation/translation of “Just Pie” by Southerners’ drawls.
“Just Pie” comes from the pie’s similarity to pecan pie, minus the pecans.
The filling is gooey, sweet, and dense, but free of distracting additions.
It’s really just pie.

Alternately, some think that the name is derived from the fact that this pie saves very well– there is no fruit to mould, or uncooked dairy or eggs to go rotten– so it could be saved for a very long time in a pie chest.
A pie chest is a piece of furniture used to store pies and other food and keep them safe from vermin (and greedy children!).
Pie in chest= chest pie = chess pie.

I guess we’ll never know the true beginnings of the name, but honestly, who cares?! It’s pie.
It’s goooood pie.

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There is something so nostalgic and sweet about Southern desserts.
I thought I’d share a few recent ones from other blogs to get you inspired.
I know I’m crazy inspired and impressed by all these other talented bloggers.

Joy’s Bourbon Pecan Pie with Dark Chocolate blew my socks right off.
It reminds me of my pie that I deemed “the best ever.”
(Which, for the record, is still a stance that I am adamant about.  Go make it.  NOW.)

Beth’s amazing Beet and Goat Cheese Red Velvet cake for Valentine’s day is, without question, the most beautiful bundt/tube cake I have ever laid eyes on/drooled over.
I am continually awed by Beth.
She and her photographs make me want to pack up, move to Tennessee, and start wearing raw denim and drying herbs.
A true marvel of talent, this lady.  Honest and truly.

Speaking of red velvet, did you see this article?
It caught my attention in the Dining section of the NYT and hooked me.
It’s always intriguing to know the origins of your food (chess pie, I’m lookin’ atchu.)

Less on the sweet side, but just as delicious and homey: Tim’s dense Cornbread from Josey Baker Bread is being bookmarked for next Thanksgiving.
And by next Thanksgiving, I mean next week.
Or whenever I can get my grubby paws on some kamut flour.

Laura’s Lattice Top Strawberry Pie… No. Words.
Those photos! Simply breathtaking.  This is by far the most beautiful post I’ve seen in a long time.
I’m so glad she’s back from her short reprieve! Fabulous, fabulous work.

And how about Cindy’s Triple Chocolate Buttermilk Bread?!
Anything with buttermilk immediately connotes comfort cooking (read: Southern cooking) to me.
Buttermilk + butter + chocolate + chocolate + chocolate= comfort.  It’s a tried and true combo.
So dark and dreamy.

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This chess pie starts out with a perfect, flaky flaky all-butter crust.
I like to make my pie crusts by hand, smashing each little frozen butter cube into a sheet, rubbing the flour and sugar between my palms, getting a feel for the dough and all.
It’s folded a few times, rolled out thin, crimped and docked and weighted down, baked for a few minutes just until golden, then filled to the brim with custard.

The coconut custard (chess) filling is based on cream of coconut– you know, the thick, sugary glop they put in piña coladas?
I accidentally purchased some (ah, the perils of breezing over labels) and discovered that it is akin to sweetened condensed milk: thick, creamy, sweet.
I had a few tablespoons of desiccated coconut left in my pantry, and a cup or so of buttermilk.

Thus, this too-sweet cream of coconut mistake was elevated with brown sugar, cornmeal, buttermilk, coconut shreds, butter and coconut oil, and plenty of eggs.

The resultant pie is creamy and sweet, with the perfect amount of egginess and coconut flavor.
The smooth custard is a good foil for the buttery crust, and when topped with powdered sugar and extra toasted coconut, it’s a real treat.  You don’t need much else.
I suppose you could add a dollop of whipped cream, or a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and no one would object.
But this pie is a-ok with being eaten on its own.

Just pie is just fine.

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Also, pie, previously:
(Pie highlights? Pie-lights?)

This kickass-crazy-mumba-wumba-hubba-hubba-gimme-more-still-the-best-pie-I’ve-ever-made Pumpkin Spice Brown Butter Chocolate Pecan Pie.
MAKE THIS PIE.  It is all the good things, mushed into one.

This lime and honey apple pie with the cutest little crust decorations!

This arguably perfect but prissy peach pie, adapted from the arguably perfect but prissy Cook’s Illustrated.
SUMMER.  I’M COMING.

This healthy, homemade coconut-key lime pie which I almost lost a finger for.
The things we do for pie.

And there are others too, but they are deep in the archives and I don’t want to scare you off with bad photography.

Expect more pie this summer.  I am declaring this summer the summer of pie.
(…and ice cream, and tarts, and donuts, and pastry, and semifreddo, and cake…)

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Coconut Buttermilk Chess Pie

filling heavily adapted from Food & Wine
makes 1 9-inch pie

ingredients:
for the crust:
140 grams (10 tablespoons) butter, diced and very cold
210 grams (1 3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon) flour
1 spoonful (approximately 1 tablespoon) sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
55 grams (3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons) ice water, or as needed

for the filling:
120 grams (1/2 cup) cream of coconut
100 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
100 grams (1/2 cup) brown sugar
heaping 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 eggs
2 egg yolks
30 grams (2 tablespoons) coconut oil
85 grams (6 tablespoons) butter
2 tablespoons desiccated coconut
1 tablespoon cornmeal
scant cup (approximately 225 mL, or 7/8 cup) buttermilk, well-shaken

directions:
Make the crust: whisk flour, sugar, and salt together in a large bowl.
Dump all of the butter chunks into the flour mixture and toss to coat.
Gently smash and rub the butter into the flour until all chunks are either flattened or the consistency of cornmeal; you want a variety of shapes, the largest being somewhere near pea sized.
Pour in the water and gently stir until dough comes together; add up to another tablespoon of water if need be.
Form the dough into a small rectangle and fold into rough thirds.
Pat the dough into another rough rectangle and fold into thirds again.
Repeat, patting into a rectangle and folding, then pat the dough into a disk.
Wrap in saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 days.
Remove dough from fridge and roll out to 1/4 inch thickness; place into 9-inch pie pan and fold the excess edges over and crimp as desired.
Dock all over with a fork and line with aluminum foil.
Freeze for at least an hour and up to 10 days very well wrapped in foil and plastic wrap.
Preheat oven to 350.
Fill foil-lined pie shell with pie weights or dried beans.
Bake for 25 minutes, until lightly golden and set, then remove pie weights, dock in a few more places, and bake for 15 more minutes, until golden.
Meanwhile, make filling: whisk cream of coconut, sugars, salt, eggs, and egg yolks together very well.
Melt the butter and coconut oil together and quickly whisk into egg mixture.
Whisk coconut and cornmeal into the mix, then whisk in the buttermilk.
Pour filling into hot crust and place back in oven.
Bake for 40-50 minutes, until center only slightly jiggles when shaken.
Allow to cool, then freeze for at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours.
Allow to come back to room temperature before serving; dust with powdered sugar and serve with toasted unsweetened coconut, if desired.

A Donut A Day

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Happy national doughnut (donut?) day!

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Here.  Go make these ridiculous beignets from Mandy of Lady and Pups.
I’m coughing my lungs up (don’t ask me how I’ve managed to get so freaking sick right before exams…), and don’t feel like rewriting her thorough instructions.

Next time, I’m cutting mine into rounds and filling them with custard and jam.
This batch didn’t puff up nearly as much as I wanted, which only motivates me to retest and perfect.
In fact, I might do that tomorrow.  Just another reason to save your frying oil!!
Because doughnuts.

Also, if you have to ask whether that obnoxious amount of powdered sugar is really necessary, then I’m afraid you don’t deserve a beignet.  Visit Café Du Monde and you’ll see what I mean.

Back soon with pie. Xx

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Deuxième

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“Great cooking is not for the faint of heart.
You must be imaginative.  Strong hearted.
You must try things that may not work.
And you must not let anyone define your limits because of where you come from.
What I say is true: anyone can cook, but only the fearless can be great.”

–Disney’s “Ratatouille

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Has it been this long, really?

How could it possibly have been this long?

Two years?

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Such a funny, dual-sided feeling, this one.
I have been writing this blog for my whole life, and, at the same time, have been writing for all of two days.
How can this be?

I have stumbled and stubbed toes, sliced fingers and scrubbed dishes; I have burned wrists and knuckles and cookies countless, have made nine thousand messes and used an entire herd of cows’ butter; I have dropped cakes and dropped things on cakes, have cried and sworn and studied and laughed on the kitchen floor.

I have planned meticulously and tasted liberally and danced in sheer delight; I have spat out failures and hoarded successes.

I have moved and survived, have mourned and celebrated, have resisted and adapted, have failed and succeeded.
I have given in and given up.
I have poured my heart and soul and dozens of cups of cream into La Pêche Fraîche.

I have closed my eyes and stuck the pan in the oven and then, terrified, let go.

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And yet here I am, still standing knee neck-deep in flour and sugar and butter.
Here I am, crying as I write this post, laughing at myself and at this silly, silly little space.

For I may have doubted this blog, doubted my writing, my work, my thoughts, myself,
but oh, oh, I have loved, loved, loved.

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188 posts prior to this one.
65 about chocolate, 55 about cake (32 about “cakes”), 50 for cookies.
43 posts in which I whine, 7 rants, 22 “stupid,” 13 diva moments.

25 brown butter, 25 holidays.
19 winter posts, but only 11 each of spring and autumn, and a sad 7 spring.

7 starry-eyed dreams, 7 cases of the blues.

39 love and 38 crazy.  Coincidence?  I think not.

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I always talk whine about this, but the growth and development on this blog is remarkable to me.
Look through the archives, and the most tangible improvement– photography– is undeniable.
I won’t lie, some of the photos on this blog are downright scary.
Out of focus, underexposed, unappetizing coloring, terrible angles, lack of styling… Good grief.

However, I remind myself as I cringe, the bad photography is only a testament to my willingness to learn, to try new things, to start from nothing and improve myself.
I am proud of this blog, damn it.
I am proud of how much I have learned, both on the pâtisserie and photographic sides.

I am beyond happy to celebrate the start of a third year.
I have no intentions of stopping or slowing down.
I don’t know where this blog is leading me.  I don’t know where my life is leading me.
I don’t even know where this post is leading me, for Pete’s sake.
Right now is a volatile and dynamic time in my life, and I’m doing my best to ride the waves, blind and fearful as I am.
Nevertheless, onwards I press, keys tapping and oven creaking.
I have faith that I shall better understand where I’m headed in the future.

I have faith that one day, I’ll figure my shit out.
And I have a strong suspicion that La Pêche Fraîche will be a part of it.

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It’s true that there have been times when I have been scared or reluctant to press “Publish.”
There have been posts so raw with emotion that I worry what my readership will think of me.

But you have stuck with me, through all the painful changes and exciting developments.
You’ve borne all my typos and rants and sappiness.
You’ve continued on with me during the slowed down times– I can see you clicking around, probably hungry for fresh material, tired of stale old crumbs.  I see you.  And I appreciate you.
You’ve read through too-long and too-short posts, through my geek-outs and freak-outs.

So sometimes, goes the moral of this story, you have to let go of the pan and let the oven work its magic.

Thank you, readers, for being my oven.
Thank you for demonstrating, with your clicks and searches and comments, that it is fine for me to press publish, to let go of the pan, to reveal insecurities and intimacies to an invisible audience.
It is for you that I write LPF, and it is thanks to you that it continues to grow.

Thank you for supporting this blog, replete with sugar and silliness.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.  From La Pêche Fraîche– from me.

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A birthday–blog birthdays included– demands cake.
Cupcakes, cookies, pavlovas, pudding and custards, ice creams, etc., will simply not do.
It must be cake.  I assure you, it must. be. cake.

Last blogiversary (May 2013) I made a brown-sugar/chocolate marble cake, filled with passionfruit curd and covered in fluffy, shiny clouds of vanilla bean Italian meringue buttercream.

The flavors were amazing– some of my absolute favorites– but I think the cake was left in the oven 3 minutes too long.
It wasn’t (ohhhh God, here it comes…) *moist* enough, in my opinion.

So though there have been many cakes in the last year, today’s cake demonstrates one way to keep your cakes from being dry and crumbly, in honor of last year’s semi-dry cake.

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This year’s is a 1 bowl cake.  (The frosting requires an additional pot, but whatever.)
This is a virtually fool-proof cake.

(ATTN: nerd alert. Skip to the recipe at the bottom if you don’t want to have to listen to me geek out.)

All is due to the FP FFP scheme that I have deployed here.
Fool Proof Fat Flour Paste.  Sound disgusting?  Well, yeah.

The idea here is that by creating a paste of the flour and fat, you coat essentially of the fat particles with starch particles.
Following this observation, then, it becomes clear that all of the starch particles are associated with fat particles, which prevents them from forming too much gluten when moistened.
Adding sugar in the form of cane sugar and milk sugar (lactose) further inhibits gluten formation.
Since all of the ingredients are thoroughly beaten together, the batter is completely homogeneous and the dry ingredients are very evenly distributed, preventing pockets of dryness or bitterness where flour or baking soda didn’t fully incorporate, and making over-beating cake batter a thing of the past.

Once moisture is added, some gluten forms, which maintains the structure of the cake.
Plenty of egg whites are added, since they contain albumen, a structural protein, that help enhance the gluten structure, ensuring the cake is sturdy, not crumbly.

Basically, by preventing too much gluten from forming, we ensure the cake is very tender and fine-crumbed, and since the fat particles have been evenly suspended in starch, as they melt, they create a very moist, soft cake.

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In sum total: this cake is a tall, four-layer beauty, with a base of malted milk cake, redolent of nutty malt and laced with a hint of salt, butter, and buttermilk.  The crumb is fine, tender, and soft.

The frosting is sweet and salty vanilla Italian meringue buttercream, glossy and fluffy, swaddling the cake in buttery goodness.

Finally, and most importantly, 39 ( and exactly 39) handfuls of sprinkles are thrown, haphazardly, at the cake.
The pattern that results is organic in shape but very much artificially dyed and flavored.

Sprinkles are just so happy and fun and bright and colorful and they, along with the pink frosting, make this cake so damn twee.
Once I pull out that 1 pound jar (no, I am not kidding), there’s no stopping me.
The soles of my shoes have been tracking sprinkles everywhere since I made this cake.
I may have gotten a tad bit out-of-control.  Just a tad, though.
{Send help.}

Joyeuse anniversaire, La Pêche Fraîche!

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“I did then what I knew how to do.
Now that I know better, I do better.”

–Maya Angelou 

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Malted Milk Birthday Cake
makes a 4 layer 6-inch cake or a 2 layer 8- or 9-inch cake

ingredients:
for the malted milk cake:
340 grams (2 3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon) all purpose flour
50 grams (5 tablespoons) cornstarch
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
scant 1 teaspoon kosher salt
113 grams (8 tablespoons) butter, softened
100 grams (8 tablespoons) shortening
350 grams (1 3/4 cups) granulated sugar
60 grams (heaping 1/2 cup) malted milk powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
3 egg whites
120 grams (120mL, 1/2 cup) buttermilk, cold
240 grams (240mL, 1 cup) water, cold

for the vanilla Italian meringue buttercream:
6 egg whites
3 drops (1/8 teaspoon) white vinegar
350 grams (1 1/2 cups) sugar
big pinch kosher salt
90 grams (6 tablespoons) water
660 grams (6 sticks, 1 1/2 pounds, 3 cups) butter, diced
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
drop red gel food coloring, if desired

to assemble:
sprinkles!

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 4 6-inch pans or 2 8- or 9-inch pans.
Place flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer and stir to combine.
Add in the softened butter and shortening a few tablespoons at a time, mixing until a flour-fat paste forms– it will be thick like cookie dough.
Stir together the sugar and malted milk powder, then add to the flour paste, stirring slowly at first, then beating until fluffy.
Whisk together the vanilla, egg, egg whites, buttermilk, and water, then add to the batter, stirring very very slowly at first, then increasing speed to beat at high speed for 30 seconds.
Batter should be thick and creamy; if it is a tiny bit curdled, don’t worry about it.
Pour into prepared pans and bake for 35-38 minutes, until springy in the center and a tester comes out clean.
Allow to cool completely, then trim and level as needed.

Meanwhile, make the frosting: place egg whites and vinegar in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Place sugar, salt, and water in a small pot.
Begin to heat the sugar mixture on high as you whip the whites on medium speed.
When the syrup reaches 245 degrees F, your egg whites should be at firm soft peaks (almost hard peaks, but not dry).
Drizzle the syrup into the meringue with the mixer running; whip on high until cooled to body temperature.
Beat in butter one or two tablespoons at a time.
Beat buttercream on high speed until thick, glossy, and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
If buttercream is too soft, refrigerate for 20 minutes.

To assemble the cake, stack layers with 1/2-2/3 cup frosting between them.
Use about 1 cup of frosting to crumb coat and level out the cake; freeze for at least 30 minutes.
Finish the cake with the remaining frosting as desired, and add sprinkles to your heart’s content!