Forêt Noire

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Lost in the forest, I broke off a dark twig
and lifted its whisper to my thirsty lips:
maybe it was the voice of the rain crying,
a cracked bell, or a torn heart.

Something from far off it seemed
deep and secret to me, hidden by the earth,
a shout muffled by huge autumns,
by the moist half-open darkness of the leaves.

–Pablo Neruda, Lost in the Forest

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I can’t write the introduction to this post.
I have tried, deleted, tried again.  And again.

It was my dad’s birthday that prompted this cake.
So, I guess I’ll start with that: happy birthday, again, Daddy.

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I was going to begin by talking about how all news seems like bad news these days;
how this blog is not meant to discuss politics but rather butter and sugar;
and yet how stiflingly hard it is to read the paper,
to come to the realization of just how many things are going so very wrong on our planet;
how such current events leave me, as far as writing goes, speechless—wordless—frozen.

This opening, as you can probably intuit from the summary, was wholly incongruous with the happy, cheery, pink cake I’m currently shoving in your face.

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It’s like the New York Times—and Bill Hayes—read my mind.
If you’re a usual reader, you know that I’ve been struggling of late to put the pen to the page.
So much white space between photographs.

I’m practicing non-writing, I suppose, but I’m still in the stages of denial.
I want to write, I can and should write, but I feel I have little to say.
My life is just so goddamn monotonous these days (which, if I’m being truthful, I love. That’s what summer is for) and I mostly spend my time, apart from baking, which you already hear about, reading Game of Thrones or working out or or pining after N, and life around the world, as I have just mentioned, is terrifyingly depressing—death and doom seem inescapable.

These things do not a lively blog post make, friends.

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This space begs to be filled and yet frustratingly sucks up the feeble, meager lines that I proffer up.
It demands real writing, real words, and even when I concede to “non-writing”, a few snippets here and there, nothing serious, it whispers in my ear, sending shivers and doubt up my spine… don’t you think they’ll get bored without words?

For what is this blog without words?
Confessions of Confection.

It’s an empty shell of what I envision it to be; La Pêche Fraîche started because I had so much to complain about say, and because people generally only respond favorably to such whining when it is accompanied by dessert.
(I’m kidding, of course—in reality, the whining came after the desserts.)

Most of the posts of which I am proudest (oh, say, here, here, here, or here, if you want to hear me toot my horn tout my writing. Toot toot) came pouring out with a tumble of emotions and little in the way of the forceful tugging I now must do.

Fo now, each paragraph is another stubborn tooth to be pulled from the bleeding gums of my mind, and rather than satisfying as it is laid on the page, it leaves a gaping hole of limp disappointment.
(My recent experience with wisdom teeth has given me an exquisitely clear understanding of such pain.)

Ugh stop looking at me like that.
I knew I shouldn’t have used that analogy.

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And look here, now, somehow I have managed to produce more volume of self-indulgent grousing than literally everything else I have written lately combined.
How very me.

But there is cake, people!
Not just cake, there is a great feat of sugar that demands to be spoken about, a great big fat pink elephant in the room post.

This is a cake for crazy people.

I’m serious.  But let me explain.

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Before I even try to explain the ridiculousness of this cake, scroll way, way, way down to the recipe/ingredient list.
That should give you a head start on shaking your head.

I think I have carpal tunnel just from typing that monstrosity.

7 main components, here:
mocha mayonnaise cake
quark whipped cream filling
cherries marinated in kirsch
chocolate cherry macarons, filled with
whipped ganache
cherry italian meringue buttercream
ganache glaze

Yaaaaaagh.

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If you’re anything like my brothers, hearing the word mayonnaise in the same sentence as cake will cause you to wrinkle your nose, put your fork down, and push your plate away à la Calvin and Hobbes.

But!
Mayo is just emulsified eggs, oil, salt, and vinegar (I should know, I just made a huge batch with my immersion blender for my dad’s birthday dinner.  I added black truffle oil.  Divine!), which are already in a cake.
The addition of mayo makes this cake super tender and soft, with a light, tight crumb.  Perfect for sky-high layers.
Adding strong coffee makes the cake deeply chocolaty, with a bitterness that offsets the rest of the sugar marvelously.

The quark whipped cream filling tastes like a lightened up cheesecake, slightly tangy and quite fluffy.
It’s far more interesting than the classic whipped cream, which is a bit one note.
(Quark is like a cross between a farmer’s cheese and crème fraiche, and you could sub half as much cream cheese without the need to press the moisture out.)

In Germany, it’s illegal to call a cake Black Forest (Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte) if it doesn’t contain kirsch (kirschwasser).
With that in mind, fat, fresh cherries, pitted and halved and seeping sweet red juice are gently cooked in kirsch and sugar, until they have soaked up all the flavor and released their juice.
The resultant boozy cherries are drained of their juice and nestled in the whipped cream along with chocolate macaron shells; the juice is gently brushed over the cakes to add extra moisture.

Then, the juice is reduced to a sticky, bright red kirsch syrup, which is poured into a whipped, glossy Italian meringue buttercream, adding a blush of color and delicate kirsch/cherry flavor.

Chocolate macarons, crisp on the outside, yield to reveal fudgy whipped bittersweet chocolate ganache and a rubied center of tart cherry jam, which is a fruity suprise.

Fresh cherries, bittersweet chocolate glaze, more whipped quark, and the macs top this cake; the decoration reminds me of a banana split or an ice cream cake—cute and whimsical!

You can make it in steps: up to a week before assembling, make the cake layers.  Wrap them in a double layer of plastic wrap and a layer of aluminum foil and freeze them; take them out of the freezer and put them in the fridge the day before you assemble the cake.
Make the cherries in kirsch up to 3 days before; just store them in the juice, then drain them the day you assemble the cake to brush the layers and reduce to syrup.
Make the macaron shells up to a week before; store them in an airtight container and assemble a few cookie sandwiches for decorating the day before you put the cake before, so they can age and mingle with the fillings.
Make the ganache the day before you assemble the cake; to whip it for the macaron filling, simply let it come completely to room temperature before beating; for the glaze, gently warm it in 5 second bursts in the microwave until it is melted and shiny again.
The day of, drain the cherries and brush the cake layers with the unreduced juice.  Reduce it to syrup and make the cherry Italian meringue buttercream.
Whip up your super quick quark filling (say that 10 times fast), and build your cake.

If you plan ahead, you can do it.
Or, pick and choose which components you want to use!
For a simpler cake, use the chocolate layers, the filling, and the cherries: dust the top layer with powdered sugar and you still have quite an impressive cake.

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I expect there are a fair amount of people who have closed the tab and are now wondering whether it is ethical to continue reading, thereby encouraging the continuation of, a blog run by a mentally unstable individual.

This cake is an undertaking.  But dare I say it’s worth it?
My family—especially my dad, who made a quiet, simple request for black forest or German chocolate and received this enormous pink confection in answer—loved it.

It’s a project, and it will leave your kitchen dusted with a fine layer of cocoa powder and flour and splattered with enough cherry juice to look like a murder scene.
But it also leaves you with a boozy, chocolaty, pink cake, surrounded by happy, contented people, and that, my friends, is reason enough alone.

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Gâteau de Forêt Noire
cake portion adapted from Sweetapolita
macaron portion adapted from Annie’s Eats
cherries in kirsch adapted from Call me Cupcake
makes 1 8-inch 3-layer cake

ingredients:
for the chocolate cherry macarons:
100 grams confectioner’s sugar
100 grams almond flour
12 grams cocoa powder
170 grams egg whites, divided into two 85 gram portions
120 grams sugar
80 grams water
pinch salt
whipped ganache, recipe below
good quality cherry jam

for the chocolate ganache (whipped and glaze portions):
100 grams (3.5 ounces) dark chocolate, chopped
100 grams (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons) heavy cream
1 tablespoon corn syrup (optional)
pinch salt

for the mocha mayonnaise cake:
170 grams (3/4 cup, 1 1/2 sticks) butter, soft
460 grams (2 cups packed) brown sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
2 egg yolks
2 eggs
220 grams (1 3/4 cups) flour
90 grams (3/4 cup) cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
180 mL (3/4 cup) milk
180 mL (3/4 cup) coffee
60 mL (1/4 cup) mayonnaise

for the cherries in kirsch:
275 grams cherries, weighed pits and all
1/4 cup kirsch
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

for the cherry Italian meringue buttercream:
reserved (reduced) cherry kirsch juice, recipe above
2 egg whites
115 grams (a smidge more than 1/2 cup) sugar
big pinch kosher salt
30 grams (2 tablespoons) water
220 grams (2 sticks, 1 cup) butter, diced and cool
1 drop red food coloring, optional

for the whipped quark filling:
227 grams (8 ounces) quark
360 mL (1 1/2) cups heavy cream
100 grams (3/4 cup) powdered sugar

to assemble:
fresh cherries

directions:
First, make the macarons (can/should be done 1 day ahead): sift confectioner’s sugar, almond flour, and cocoa powder together.
Discard the large pieces of almond flour that don’t fit through the sieve.
Add one 85 gram portion of egg whites to the sifted ingredients and stir very well until a thick, uniform paste forms; set aside.
Prepare 2 baking sheets with parchment and a pastry bag with a large round tip; preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Place the other 85 gram portion of egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment with a pinch of cream of tartar or a drop of vinegar.
Place the sugar, water, and a pinch of salt into a small pot; fit the mixture with a candy thermometer.
Begin to heat the syrup on medium heat; when the temperature reaches 180 degrees, begin to whip the egg whites; when it reaches 220, the egg whites should be approaching soft peaks; at 240, they should be at soft peaks.
Remove the syrup from the heat when it reaches 245 degrees F; pour it, carefully, into the whipping egg whites, being careful not to splatter the whisk attachment with hot syrup (aim for the side of the bowl).
Allow the meringue to whip until it is glossy and stiff-peaked, about 3 minutes.
Take 1/4 of the meringue and stir it vigorously into the almond paste, to lighten the stiff paste somewhat.
Add the rest of the meringue and carefully begin to fold the mixture together.
Stop the macaronage when the mixture flows like lava/makes a ribbon/reabsorbs a blob after 10 seconds.
Fill the prepared pastry bag and pipe out small macarons on both of the sheets.
Place the first sheet in the oven and reduce the temperature to 325 degrees F.
Bake until a cookie lifts off of the sheet cleanly, about 12-15 minutes.
Raise the oven temperature once more and place the second sheet in the oven; reduce the oven temp and bake as before.
Allow the cookies to cool completely.
Make the ganache: place the chocolate, corn syrup, and salt in a bowl and heat the cream to just before boiling, either in the microwave or on the stovetop.
Once the cream is hot, pour it over the chopped chocolate and leave it to sit for 2 minutes.
Gently begin to whisk; continue until the mixture comes together in a glossy, shiny glaze.
Place half of the ganache aside for glazing the finished cake and the other half in the fridge to cool.
Once the chilled portion is significantly thickened and cool to touch (but not solid!), whip it with a hand or stand mixer until it is fluffy and lightened in color, about 2 minutes.
Set aside 1/2 of the shells to layer inside the cake; pair up all the other shells.
To fill the cookies, place a heaping teaspoon of ganache on one shell; gently scoop out a tiny divot in the center and fill it with 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of cherry jam.
Sandwich the cookies and refrigerate overnight before eating or using in the cake.
Make the mocha mayonnaise cake: grease and flour 3 8-inch round pans and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Place soft butter, kosher salt, and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on high for 5 minutes, until very light and shiny.
Add in the egg yolks and eggs and beat for another 3 minutes; scrape the sides of the bowl.
Whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and baking powder together.
Whisk coffee, milk, and apple cider vinegar together.
With the mixer running on medium, add in the wet and dry ingredients, alternating and beginning with dry.
Beat for 30 seconds after everything is added to ensure homogeneity.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in the mayonnaise; mix on low speed for 30 seconds until the mixture is homogeneous once more.
Portion out the batter into the pans and bake for 22-25 minutes, until a tester comes out with only a few crumbs and the tops are springy.
Remove from oven and let cool 10 minutes in the pans, then turn out of the pans and cool completely.
Make the cherries in kirsch: halve and pit cherries and place in a sauce pot with kirsch, vinegar, and sugar.
Cook on medium heat for 15 minutes until the cherries have released their juice and are soft but not mushy.
Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.
Once cool, drain the cherries from the juice (save the juice!!).
Poke holes all over the bottoms of the cakes (these will become the tops) with a toothpick, then gently brush with a little of the cherry juice—you want to flavor the cake, but not soak it.
Place the remaining cherry juice back into the pot and heat over low heat until simmering; allow to reduce to 3 tablespoons of liquid, about 2/3 of the original volume; reserve this syrup.
Make the cherry Italian meringue buttercream: place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Place water, salt, and sugar in a small pot over medium heat fitted with a candy thermometer.
When the temperature reaches 180 degrees, begin to whip the egg whites; when it reaches 220, the egg whites should be approaching soft peaks; at 240, they should be at soft peaks.
Remove the syrup from the heat when it reaches 245 degrees F; pour it, carefully, into the whipping egg whites, being careful not to splatter the whisk attachment with hot syrup (aim for the side of the bowl).
Allow the meringue to whip until it is glossy and stiff-peaked and cooler, about 4 minutes.
Add in the cool butter a tablespoon at a time, whipping on high speed the entire time.
Whip until the mixture becomes fluffy and shiny and homogeneous (keep whipping if it appears to curdle—you simply haven’t beaten it long enough, don’t worry!), about 4 minutes.
Drizzle in the reduced cherry syrup and (optionally) add 1 drop of red food coloring if you want the frosting more pink than purple.
Make the quark whipped cream filling: On a bed of paper towels (use 3 on the bottom and two on top) scrape 3/4 of the quark and press down lightly; the towels will absorb the excess moisture.
Meanwhile, begin to whip the heavy cream and powdered sugar, with a whisk attachment or an immersion blender.
Once the whipped cream reaches stiff peaks, gently mix in the thickened quark.
Place in the fridge to cool and thicken before assembling the cake; reserve 1/3 cup for piping on top of the cake.
To assemble, place the first cake layer (juice soaked side up) on a cake stand.
Add half of the remaining quark filling , spreading so that the center is depressed; arrange half of the drained cherries in a single layer on the cake.
Top with the next layer; spread the rest of the whipped cream but reserve 1/4 cup.
Top with the rest of the cherries and a layer of the reserved macaron shells.
Spread the reserved 1/4 cup of whipped cream over the macaron shells and top with the last cake layer.
Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes before crumb coating.
Spread on a thin crumb coat of the cherry frosting, being careful to seal in the whipped cream between the layers.
Refrigerate for at least 20 more minutes.
Frost the cake with the rest of the cherry frosting, then place back in the fridge.
Gently heat the reserved ganache, either in a double boiler or in the microwave in 5 second bursts.
Heat until it has loosened up again, whisk until it is shiny and glossy.
Remove the cake from the fridge and carefully drizzle the ganache around the edges.
Place the reserved quark whipped cream in a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and pipe 8 stars evenly around the cake.
Place 4 fresh cherries on 4 of the stars and 4 assembled macarons on the others.
Enjoy your hard earned cake!

Zap!

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Un éclair… puis la nuit! — Fugitive beauté
Dont le regard m’a fait soudainement renaître,
Ne te verrai-je plus que dans l’éternité?

Ailleurs, bien loin d’ici! trop tard! jamais peut-être!
Car j’ignore où tu fuis, tu ne sais où je vais,
Ô toi que j’eusse aimée, ô toi qui le savais!

— Charles Baudelaire

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un éclair = a bolt of lightning
or
a delicious pastry…?

Named for the speed with which they are eaten, apparently. As soon as they’re made, they disappear.  Zap!

choux = cabbage
or
sweetheart

Choux à la crème, named not for its ingredients (no Brassica here, people.  Calm yourselves.), but because the dainty little puffs, with their cracked tops, look like cabbages. (?)

And this concludes our French lesson of the week.
(Bonus points if you can read the Baudelaire at the top of this post.)

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How could I claim to be a lover of French pastry, a pâtissière at heart, if I had never tried my hand at the ever classic pâte à choux?
This I realized sheepishly some morning a few weeks back.
I promptly busied myself with a batch of éclairs, ready to tackle the simple dough: water, salt, milk, butter, flour, eggs.
Supremely (and elegantly) simple!

I knew choux pastry to be relatively easy to make, but I must admit I was surprised at how easy and quick it was!

20 minutes after deciding to make éclairs, I had 2 sheets of teeny tiny little piped pastries waiting to go into the oven.

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While they were baking, I whisked together a simple pastry cream; I wanted to flavor it with almond, but had no almond essence in my pantry, so I used one of my favorite ingredients (almond paste!!! I can eat it plain with a spoon!) for a rich, fragrant, extra thick, and creamy filling.
Just a few tablespoons are needed—save the rest of the can for a batch of marzipan or almond cookies!

Dark chocolate, shiny and finger-licking good, finishes the éclairs.  The profiteroles need only a shower of powdered sugar.

These were so easy and satisfying—as they puffed in the oven, I could feel my pride swelling.
Thank goodness this blog (not to mention my tummy) is no longer lacking for choux pastry!

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Almond Cream Éclairs (and Cream Puffs)
adapted from the lovely Zoe of Zoe Bakes
makes 20-25 mini pastries

ingredients:
for the pâte à choux:
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs, room temperature

for the almond pastry cream:
1 1/3 cups milk
4 egg yolks
5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
pinch kosher salt
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons butter (~3 tablespoons)
3 rounded tablespoons almond paste

for the chocolate ganache:
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup cream or half-and-half
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon corn syrup
pinch kosher salt

directions:
Make the pastry shells: preheat oven to 375 degrees F and line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper.
Prepare a pastry bag with a large plain tip.
Place milk, water, butter, sugar and salt in a saucepot and bring to a simmer (the butter will be all melted by then).
Lower the heat to low, dump in all the flour at once and stir until the dough forms a cohesive ball and there is a slight film of dough on the bottom of the pot (click through to Zoe’s sight for great step-by-step photos!).
Remove the dough and place in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
While beating on medium speed, add in the eggs one at a time.
Scrape the bowl after adding all the eggs and beat until a smooth, thick but pipeable paste forms.
Fill your pastry bag and pipe desired shapes and sizes; make cream puffs by simply dolloping the dough, and make éclairs by piping a steady, thick line of dough.
To fix the peaks that stick up after piping, wet a finger slightly and gently tap them down.
Place the sheets in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
Rotate the sheets and switch them top-to-bottom, then bake for 7-10 more minutes, until golden.
Prop the oven open with a wooden spoon and bake for 5 minutes more.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before filling.
Make the pastry cream: place milk, egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a saucepot and whisk very well to remove any lumps.
Cook, stirring constantly, over low heat until it comes to a boil and is thick; remove from heat and place in a blender or in a bowl with which an immersion blender can be used.
Add the butter and almond paste in pieces to the mixture and blend briefly to incorporate and eliminate any lumps; don’t blend for more than 20 seconds.
Place plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the cream and place in the fridge to cool completely.
To fill the éclairs, cut three small Xs in the top, then stick a pastry bag fitted with a thin star tip into them and fill.
To fill the cream puffs, just stick the tip into the bottom, pressing firmly in order to push through the surface.
To make the ganache, chop chocolate and microwave in 15 second bursts until it is 1/2 melted.
Gently stir in the rest of the ingredients and continue to microwave in bursts until the chocolate is 2/3 of the way melted.
Remove from the microwave and allow to sit for 3 minutes; whisk briskly until the ganache comes together; it should be nice and glossy.
Allow it to cool slightly before dipping the tops of the éclairs in.
Refrigerate the pastries to set the ganache and allow the flavors to meld.
Eat cold or room temperature, dusted with powdered sugar.

Mango Tango

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 Current mood: pain.

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I just got my wisdom teeth out.
Boy, was I glad that there were a few of these popsicles in reserve.
I am so doped out on Vicodin that I don’t have the energy to type up a whole post.
I’m pretty much utterly miserable, eating popsicles and mashed sweet potatoes and yogurt and hating life.

All I want is a good crunchy kale salad. URgh.

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Mango lassi popsicles, however, are a sunshiney way to nurse my poor, poor teeth back to health.

Sweet mangoes and thick, creamy skyr—Icelandic yogurt—are blitzed to the high heavens with a touch of honey and tumeric (both good for anti-inflammation) adding, respectively, a floral roundness and a spicy, mustardy complexity.  Salt and sugar to balance out all the flavors, and a touch of cream to keep the pops from being too icy.

These are so refreshing and perfect for a summer afternoon, even for the non-chipmunk people among us.

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Mango Lassi Popsicles
makes 6-8 popsicles

ingredients:
2 cups frozen mango
3/4 cup nonfat yogurt
1/3 cup sugar (depends on how sweet your mangoes are)
2 tablespoons honey
heaping teaspoon tumeric
2 pinches kosher salt
1/3 cup cream or half-and-half

directions:
Place all ingredients in a blender in the order listed and process on high until completely smooth, about 5 minutes.
The mixture will be thick but pourable; pour it into a popsicle mold and freeze for 15 minutes, then stick popsicle sticks in and freeze completely, at least 2 hours.
Run the mold under hot water to unmold the popsicles.

Doubtful

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“Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.”

–Karim Seddiki

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You know what kills macarons?
No, you don’t.
No one does, because these stupid fucking cookies have minds of their own.

For me, macs go hand and hand with failure.
Do I doubt them? Perhaps—just a touch—as I slide each fated sheet into the oven.

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Ah, I know there are explanations and even better explanations, there are complete lists of problems and solutions.

But sometimes, y’all, the problem cannot be explained by even the most exhaustive list of troubleshooting suggestions.

Take these macs.  I’ve never turned out a sheet as perfect as the first that was pulled from the oven.
Great feet, solid insides (beware the hollows!), crack-free.
Hallelujer.

The second and third sheets, however, looked like the San Andreas fault personified in a cookie.
Feet, yes.  Gigantic, canyon-like crevasses?  Yep.

Why?!?!?! I don’t know.
Same batter.  Same oven temp and technique… It’s a mystery.

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So this round of macaron mania resulted in 1) the single most perfect sheet of macs to come out of my oven and 2) the most delicious macs to come out of my kitchen.
The super chocolaty shells (thank you extra dark brown cocoa!) are filled with rich bittersweet chocolate ganache and a spoonful of tart, bright red currant, blackberry, and raspberry jam.

This jam is something of note, guys.  Like seriously.  It’s bursting with the flavors of summer and it is outrageously fruity.

The end result of the cookie sandwich is something that tastes like a rich brownie with a crackling shell, with a dab of jam right in the fudgiest part.

Hello, heaven.  Come to mama.

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For the macaron shells, I’m directing you to Annie.  To make them chocolate, sub 24 grams of extra dark cocoa powder for 12 grams of the almond flour and the confectioner’s sugar.

Pipeable Chocolate Ganache
ingredients:
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup cream or half-and-half
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon corn syrup
pinch kosher salt
1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar

directions:
Melt and briskly whisk the chocolate, half-and-half, butter, corn syrup, and salt together.
Whisk until the mixture is shiny and viscous.
Allow to cool until solid but still scoopable.
Whip with the confectioner’s sugar using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Whip until fluffy and lightened in color.
If it starts to melt while piping, stick it in the fridge and rewhip as needed.

Red Currant and Berry (Fridge) Jam
makes approximately 2 cups
ingredients:
1 heaping cup red currants, destemmed
heaping 1/3 cup blackberries
1 heaping cup raspberries
generous 2/3 cup sugar

directions:
Press the currants and blackberries through a fine sieve with the back of a spoon; process them for a long time so that you get the most puree possible and leave behind relatively dry seeds.
Place into a deep pot with the sugar and raspberries and place over medium heat.
Smash the raspberries with a spatula or spoon as you stir the jam.
Reduce the heat to low and cook for 20 minutes, until the jam is thick (use the freezer test: place a small amount of jam on a plate and put it in the freezer until it cools to room temp: it should be thick and spreadable).
Allow to cool slightly, then transfer to a clean jar and then to the fridge.

Rouge

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 You will hear thunder and remember me,
And think: she wanted storms. The rim
of the sky will be the colour of hard crimson,
And your heart, as it was then, will be on fire.

–Anna Akhmatova

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Color of passion, anger, love, luck. Of seduction and danger and courage. Of fire and blood and the book on my bedside table.
(A Feast for Crows, obviously.)

Color of summer—raspberries, strawberries, cherries, red currants, tomatoes.
Just take a peek over on the right sidebar for proof.
(This post will soon be added to my little collection of summer’s bounty.)

Walking through the farmer’s market last weekend, ruby jewels in two forms caught my eye: lovely tart little red currants and fat, sweet cherry tomatoes in a veritable rainbow of shades.
This weekend, I’m hoping to get my grubby paws on some of the local corn that’s just now bursting onto the scene.

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Lots of photographs today.
I simply couldn’t bear to cut any more from the hundreds I took; I was taken with the drama of the scene.

I took these photos during a fortuitous break in the rain on a grey day; it started drizzling again right as I packed up and came inside.
I stepped on a snotty, slimy slug while shooting.  Panic and terror-stricken screaming ensued.
Still, I persevered, and I’m quite smug pleased with the outcome.

I just love how striking les fruits rouges are, both under the snowy blanket of powdered sugar and unadorned, in all their ripe, natural, juicy glory. (I do not love, however, how crooked my favorite cake stand is.  I am realizing why all my photos with this thing seem so off-kilter.  Sigh.)

I’ve been struggling to write lately.  I have photos, recipes, ideas to share and the words refuse to come.
So I’ll let these photos, of which I am so proud, speak for themselves.
I’m doing my best to be patient with this temporary frustration.
These things always come to pass.

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Victoria sponge cake—a classic for a proper English tea.
Layers of fluffy sponge, filled with jam and whipped cream.

Here, the typical sponge cake is kept dead simple: eggs, sugar, butter, flour, salt, baking powder.
Tangy and rich goat cheese cream fills the center, accented with strawberry preserves and fresh strawbs.
Finally, the cake is piled high with des fruits rouges and showered with plenty of powdered sugar.

The cake gets better as it ages, as it soaks up the flavors and moisture and everything softens and melds together.
I won’t lie, this kind of sponge cake is not as moist as, say, a nice devil’s food cake, but then again, it’s not supposed to be.
It’s supposed to be eaten with a nice spot of tea, little chickens.  Serve it with good, hot, black tea (this tea from Taylors of Harrogate is my absolute, unequivocal favorite) with cream and a touch of sugar.

Cheers, loves.

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Victoria Sponge Cake
cake portion adapted from Leite’s Culinaria
makes 2 6-inch layers

ingredients:
for the cake:
6 ounces (12 tablespoons) butter, very soft
6 ounces (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) sugar
pinch of kosher salt
3 eggs, room temperature
6 ounces (1 1/3 cup) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

for the goat cheese cream:
3 ounces goat cheese, soft
5 ounces (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) sour cream
3 ounces (3/4 cup) powdered sugar
2 ounces (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) powdered milk

to assemble:
1/4 cup good quality strawberry preserves
strawberries, cherries, redcurrants, etc.
powdered sugar

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and liberally grease and flour 2 6-inch round pans.
Beat butter, salt, and sugar together until very fluffy and nearly white, about 4 minutes.
Add in the eggs one at a time and beat for 5 more minutes on high speed, until the mixture is totally smooth (it will be somewhat runny).
Sift the flour and baking powder over the mixture and gently fold in; mix until the batter is homogeneous.
Divide the batter into the two pans and smooth the top.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until the golden and the center is springy—a tester should come out clean.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pans; once partially cooled, flip onto racks and allow to cool completely.
Once your cakes are cooled, make the goat cheese cream: beat goat cheese and sour cream together until smooth and soft, about 3 minutes.
Sift the sugar and powdered milk over the mixture and stir together until homogeneous.
Level the cakes if need be, then spread the bottom layer with strawberry jam.
Spread the cream over (be generous, it will spill over but its moisture is needed in the cake) top and layer with some sliced strawberries.
Place the top layer on and decorate with fruits as desired; finish with a heavy handed sprinkle of powdered sugar.
Eat as part of a proper tea!

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 carrots 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.