Fit For A Queen

Mini Raspberry Princess Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Love, whose month is ever May,
Spied a blossom passing fair,
Playing in the wanton air:
Through the velvet leaves the wind,
All unseen can passage find;
That the lover, sick to death,
Wish’d himself the heaven’s breath.

–Shakespeare, Love’s Labour Lost, Act IV, scene 3

Mini Raspberry Princess Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Oh, I know, this month is never May.
It’s snowy and windy and cold instead.
(It’s not even snowing that much here in Chicago.  For you poor folks on the east coast, I’ll keep quiet.
My advice—find a good movie or book and a cup of hot cocoa or soup and curl up for the day.
Snow storm or not, that’s what I wish I was doing…)

Mini Raspberry Princess Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

These cute little cakes are miniature prinsesstårta.
For those of you who aren’t familiar, princess cakes are Swedish pastries, traditionally favored by princesses.

These are like traditional prinsesstårta, only mini: a simple round of soft vanilla sponge is spread with a layer of tart raspberry jam and then a heaping dome of barely sweetened whipped cream hides away a single raspberry in the center.
The creamy little snowball is topped with pink marzipan, sweet and fragrant with almonds, and a dusting of powdered sugar atop another perfect berry.

They’re really, really delightful.
Light and not too sweet (and thus a very European dessert), with the floral almond contrasting wonderfully to the raspberry, with vanilla and cream playing (very important) supporting roles.
They taste very much like shortbread or shortcake to me, with the combination of fruit and cream.

I definitely recommend giving these a try—the assembly is really not difficult, and the final product looks like it came out of the pastry case of a little Swedish pâtisserie.

Mini Raspberry Princess Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Mini pink prinsesstårta with ruby red raspberries would be perfect for a light Valentine’s day dessert.
If you are really, really kind and love your S.O. very much, you might be able to split one cake.
But you should really each plan on having two one.
Trust me.

There will be more sweets for your sweetie gracing this page soon, because once I’m out of the weeds of 4th week (Two science midterms in 4 days. Ouch.), I fully intend on getting lost in some butter, flour, and sugar to soothe my ego, which will most certainly be aching.

For more inspiration, check out some of last year’s V-day treats:

strawberry pocky cake
grapefruit possets
mendiants

Pee. Ess. check out Molly’s gorgeous mini princess cakes!
(How can anyone not just adore her and her blog? Ugh so much mooshy blog love.)

Mini Raspberry Princess Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Mini Raspberry Prinsesstårta (Princess Cakes)
sponge portion adapted from Poires au Chocolat

ingredients:
for the sponge:
80 grams flour
30 grams cornstarch
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of fine sea salt
3 eggs
25 mL cold water
120 grams sugar

to assemble:
480 mL (2 cups) heavy (double) cream, cold
1/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 cup raspberry jam
15 raspberries
200 grams marzipan, tinted however you like
powdered sugar

directions:
Make the sponge: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease, line with parchment paper, and lightly flour an 11×15 inch jelly roll pan.
Whisk flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and sea salt together.
Separate eggs and place whites in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Whisk the egg yolks with the cold water and sugar for 4 minutes (until pale and fluffier), then sprinkle the flour mixture over and gently fold in until mostly combined (some pockets of flour should be present).
Begin to whip the egg whites with the whisk attachment; whip until they reach stiff peaks.
Fold the egg whites in, gently, to the egg yolk mixture.
Fold until the flour pockets are gone and the egg whites are all incorporated homogeneously.
Do not over-fold.
Spread the batter all over the jelly-roll pan.
Bake for 12 minutes, until golden and springy in the middle.
Remove from the oven and sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar.
Cut 2-3 inch rounds while still somewhat warm; discard/snack on scraps.
Allow the rounds to cool before assembling.
To assemble, first roll the marzipan out very thinly and cut rounds that are approximately 2 inches larger in diameter than the sponge cake rounds.
Spread a small amount of raspberry jam onto the cakes, then place a raspberry in the center.
Heap up whipped cream on the cake, shaping it with a mini offset spatula into a dome shape.
Drape marzipan over the cake and smooth, folding wrinkles to look uniform.
Repeat with all the rounds.
Top each with a second raspberry and a dusting of powder sugar.
Serve slightly chilled, with strong tea.

Crunchy

Granola | La Pêche Fraîche

“We’ve got this gift of love, but love is like a precious plant.
You can’t just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it’s going to get on by itself.
You’ve got to keep watering it. You’ve got to really look after it and nurture it.”

—John Lennon

Granola | La Pêche Fraîche

Welcome, brand new baby year, fresh and bright white and snow covered.
Welcome, welcome 2015!!

(I’m back in Chicago, and it’s snowing a fair amount.
Class starts tomorrow.
It’s going to be below 0 deg F on Wednesday.
Le sigh.)

Granola | La Pêche Fraîche

My mama loves granola.  She eats it for breakfast almost every day.
My mama is *ahem* particular about her granola.  She likes maybe one out of every 5 she tries.

So before I left to come back to school, I made a whole bunch of simple, healthy granola for my mom.
Heaps of oats, plenty of maple syrup, rich and buttery coconut oil, a hint of spice.

This batch fills up an entire large canister of rolled oats, and it uses about half of one, so it’s a perfect way to finish off the jar floating around your pantry.

It’s utterly delicious with cold milk—cow’s or otherwise (I recently tried hazelnut-almond-cashew and fell in love)—and fresh raspberries or strawberries, difficult as they are to source in the depths of winter.

Granola | La Pêche Fraîche

This granola is crunchy, sweet, with a whisper of salt.
It’s toasty and full of almonds and coconut.
It’s simple—a hint of cinnamon, maple syrup to sweeten, and that’s pretty much it.
It’s vegan and gluten-free if you want it to be—just make sure all your ingredients are certified vegan or GF either way.

It’s super easy to customize: add a tablespoon of vanilla extract or replace the almonds with hazelnuts or pecans, use coconut chunks or chips instead of flakes, toss in dried mango or raisins or cranberries or banana chips.

Anyways, this is meant to be a nourishing first post of 2015 (!) but also a short one, as I have to unpack and settle into our little home here in Chiberia.

Granola | La Pêche Fraîche

Almond Coconut Granola
gluten-free, vegan
makes ~6 cups of granola

ingredients:
5 cups of rolled oats (certified GF if necessary)
1 cup of sliced almonds
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut (or use unsweetened)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup melted coconut oil (or ghee)

directions:
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Stir oats, almonds, and coconut together.
Stir salt, maple syrup, and coconut oil together, then pour wet ingredients over and stir with a spoon until all is coated.
Spread oats out onto baking sheets and tamp down lightly to pack.
Bake for 15 minutes, then lightly stir with a spatula and rotate sheets.
Bake for 15 more minutes, then stir and rotate again.
Bake for 10-15 more minutes, until evenly and lightly browned and toasted.
Remove from oven and let cool completely on sheets.
Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Une Souche de Noël

Une Souche de Noël | La Pêche Fraîche

 Mais non, mes chéris, pas une bûche!  Vraiment une souche!

That’s right, we just upended the Yule log—literally.
Took the classic bûche de Noël and made it into a souche de Noël.
A stump!  A stump de Noël.

 This cake is an endeavor.  It’s intricate; it’s large.
But while detailed, it’s also charmingly rustic.
It doesn’t have to be perfectly made—rough scratches around the bark make it all the more realistic.
Fallen moss and dirt add character to the forest floor.
Crooked mushrooms—perfect.  They don’t pop out of the ground white and symmetrical, after all.

Basically, this cake can be a little rough around the edges and still sparkle and shine.
The whole is much greater than the sum of the parts.

The first component of the cake is a buttery, yolk-rich eggnog cake, redolent with nutmeg and whiskey (traditionally rum, but peruse your own liquor cabinets for anything boozy).
It comes out of the oven as fragrant as can be.

Brushing with maple-whiskey syrup adds more flavor and ensures that the cake stays moist.
It also adds a nice kick, hey-o!

The whipped ganache that covers the cake is rich and thick, with a touch of salt and deep, dark bittersweet chocolate.
The cream keeps it light and fluffy, so that you don’t have a big brick of solid ganache bark.

The dirt is made from chocolate cookie crumbs and the moss from chopped pistachios.  Both add a little crunch and texture and a realistic touch.
Also, both are good to snack on.  Just saying.

The final touches are the mushrooms and the holly branches.
The mushrooms are made of Italian meringue, dried in the oven until super crunchy and crispy.
They’re sweet and soft on the inside, like marshmallows, but have a crisp shell which is brushed lightly with cocoa powder to mimic real mushrooms.
I got the idea from the wonderful, brilliant Stella of Bravetart.
They’re pretty damn cute, I must say.

The holly branches are made of marzipan, colored with a touch of cocoa for depth and plenty of food coloring.
I’m addicted to marzipan—the sweet almond taste is so good!  When you add a hint of cocoa, it only gets better.
Adding a tiny bit of cocoa is a great way to deepen the color of food coloring and make it seem more realistic.

The end result is five layers of golden cake, wrapped in dark chocolate ganache and garnished with magical little touches of the forest.
A sprinkling of snow brings the whole thing to life—it’s an enchanted cake, really.

It’s also a showstopper.  Definitely worthy of Christmas dinner, the necessary showpiece dessert that sparkles and shines and captures all eyes.
It may be a bit of work, but not much more than any regular layer cake.  And in my humble opinion, it’s worth it.
It’s a cake to show off and take many pictures with; it’s a cake of which to be very, very proud.

“‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads…”

A Visit from Saint Nicholas, Clement Clarke Moore

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!
Love, your resident holiday-crazed blogger.

Souche (Stump) de Noël
cake portion adapted from Joy of Baking
makes 1 large 8-inch cake

for the eggnog cake (you’ll need 1.5 times this recipe, to make 5 8-inch layers and 4 cupcakes):
2 2/3 cup (260 grams) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (40 grams) cornstarch
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup (170 grams) butter, soft
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/3 cups (265 grams) sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
6 large egg yolks (110 grams)
2 tablespoons (30 mL) rum or whiskey
1 tablespoon (15 mL) vanilla extract
1 cup (240 mL) milk

for the maple soak:
1/3 cup (80 mL) maple syrup
2 tablespoons (30 mL) whiskey or rum

for the whipped ganache (may need to double; a reader found she needed approximately twice as much frosting):
18 ounces (500 grams) bittersweet chocolate
2 pinches kosher salt
2 cups (500 mL) heavy cream

for the meringue mushrooms:
3 egg whites
small pinch cream of tartar
3/4 cup (300 grams) sugar
pinch of salt
1/4 cup (60 mL) water
cocoa powder, for dusting

to assemble:
marzipan holly branches
chopped skinned pistachios
crushed chocolate cookies
powdered sugar, for dusting

directions:
Make the cake: grease and flour 4 8-inch round pans and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Beat the butter for 3 full minutes, until light and fluffy.
Scrape the sides of the bowl, add the sugar, nutmeg, and salt and beat for 3 more minutes.
Add in the eggs and beat for 5 full minutes, until mixture is fluffy, shiny, and pale white—it shouldn’t be gritty.
Whisk vanilla extract, milk, and whiskey then beat slowly until partway combined.
Place the flour, cornstarch and baking powder on top of the batter, then gently stir to combine everything, making sure to scrape the sides of the bowl.
Portion batter out into the prepared pans and bake for 20-25 minutes, until springy to the touch and a tester comes out clean.
Allow cakes to cool completely. (You’ll need to make another half-batch of batter, baking 1 8-inch round and 4 cupcakes.)
Meanwhile, bring maple syrup and whiskey to a boil, then immediately remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Brush cooled cakes with the whiskey syrup.
Make the chocolate ganache: chop chocolate finely and place in a bowl with the salt.
Heat cream to boiling, then pour over the chocolate and let sit for 4 minutes.
Whisk the chocolate and cream together, starting slowly, speeding up until the ganache is smooth and shiny.
Allow to cool until room temperature, then whip with a mixer until fluffy.
Frost two cupcakes into a tower to make the small stump; put 1/3 cup frosting between each layer and also place a crumb coat on the cake.
Using the rest of the frosting generously, to frost the cake roughly.
Use a fork to scrape the sides to look like bark, and swirl the top to look like the top of a stump.
To make the meringue mushrooms, preheat oven to 225 degrees F.
Place egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.
Place sugar, water, and salt in a small pot over medium heat.
Start to whisk the egg whites.
By the time the egg whites are at stiff peaks, the syrup should be at 240-245 degrees F.
Pour the hot syrup into the meringue while whisking at high speed.
Pipe the meringue into stem and cap shapes on parchment paper-lined sheets.
Bake for 2 hours, turning the oven to 175 degrees F after 90 minutes.
Allow to dry in the oven until mushrooms peel off the parchment paper.
Dust the caps with cocoa powder and rub in with your fingers.
Use your cocoa-y hands to lightly rub the stems to make them slightly colored too.
Decorate the stump with chocolate cookie crumbs around the bottom, pressing some into the sides of the cake.
Place mushrooms and holly branches around the cake, and press some chopped pistachios into the bark to be “moss.”
Dust a little powdered sugar over the top, and then impress all your friends and family with your very own stump de Noël!

Zap!

IMG_1761_01

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

IMG_1731_01IMG_1773_01

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.)

IMG_1741_01 IMG_1752_01

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.

IMG_1756_01

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!

IMG_1769_01IMG_1765_01

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.

Doubtful

IMG_1951_02

“Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.”

–Karim Seddiki

IMG_1962_01

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.

IMG_1947_01
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.

IMG_1893_01

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.

IMG_1939_01

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.

Maccha

IMG_9933_01

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.

IMG_9901_01

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.

IMG_9982_01

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.

IMG_9892_01

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.

IMG_9931_01

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.

IMG_9963_01

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!

Mercurial

IMG_8291_01

“I have been ten days in this temple
and my heart is restless.
The scarlet thread of lust at my feet
has reached up long.
If someday you come looking for me,
I will be in a shop that sells fine seafood,
a good drinking place,
or a brothel.”

-Ikkyu,
fifthteenth-century Zen Buddhist high priest

IMG_8284_01

Mercury is no longer in retrograde, and I could not be more grateful.
I welcome March and spring and this change of heavenly bodies with a smile and a sigh.

It has been a long and harsh winter, both emotionally and weather-wise.
I am weary.  My soul, my mind, my third eye, are weary.
Three more weeks, and I have the chance to rebalance, reignite, refocus, relax.  

As I urge myself onward, through ninth, tenth, and finals week, I am comforted by the knowledge that it will all be over soon.  Thank god.  I am ready for this quarter to be over.

Mercury being in retrograde (I know it’s all hokey, but…) has seriously funked with me.
Mercury rules clear thinking, communication, and truth, and is supposedly closely linked with Virgos (das meee).
Needless to say, I don’t fully believe in astrology, but honest-to-Pete, this Mercurial retrograde has affected my life.
Things inexplicably going wrong, brain feeling fuzzy, tired, worn-out; life feeling stagnant and shallow, a shell of what it should be.
A veritable smorgasbord of bad things, a series of unfortunate events.
But it’s over!  Now Mars is in retrograde.  Hallelujer.

(I have been ten weeks in this college
and my heart is restless.)

IMG_8279_01

This is a recipe for those of you who are weary, too.
Those of you who want dessert with minimal effort and maximal results.
Who want to be reassured of Mercury’s reappearance with a perfect tart, an almost foolproof recipe.
This tart is so so simple, fast, and easy, yet manages to be show-stopping and jaw-dropping all the same.

A brown sugar tart shell, crisp and buttery, encases chewy, decadent and heavily-salted caramel studded with a mélange of crunchy, toasty nuts, served with softly whipped cream.

Crisp, chewy, crunchy, sweet.  Buttery, sticky, salty, satisfying.

It’s a finer mixed bag than the past month has been, and much tastier to boot.

Welcome back, Mercury.  Glad to have you.  Now please stop fucking with my life. xx

IMG_8296_01

Caramel Nut Tart
makes 1 6-inch tart; easily doubled for a 10-inch

ingredients:
for the brown sugar tart crust:
115 grams (8 tablespoons, 4 ounces) butter
50 grams (1/4 cup packed) brown sugar
scant 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg yolk
120 grams (1 cup) flour

for the caramel:
125 grams (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) sugar
30 mL (2 tablespoons) maple syrup
30 grams (2 tablespoons) water
40 mL (2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons) heavy cream
generous pinch sea salt

to assemble:
generous 1 cup mixed nuts

to serve:
freshly whipped unsweetened whipped cream

directions:
Make the shell: in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter for 2 minutes, until softened.
Add the brown sugar and salt and cream for 3 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl, add in the egg yolk, and beat for 2 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add in the flour; mix on low speed until the dough comes together.
Lightly grease a 6-inch springform or tart pan, and press the dough in evenly and firmly (the dough will be cohesive, but will spread easily when pressed).
Prick all over with a fork, and freeze for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line the frozen tart shell with aluminum foil, then place pie weights, dried beans or rice inside to weigh it down.
Bake for 20 minutes, until golden, then remove foil and bake for approximately 15 more minutes, until shell is deeply tanned and golden.
Remove from oven and allow to cool while you make the filling.
First, toast your nuts in your warm oven: place the nuts on a heavy baking sheet and toast for 7-10 minute, shaking the pan quite often to prevent burning.
Allow to cool completely, then place them in your tart shell (do not overfill!) and save some for pressing into the top.
Make the caramel: Place all ingredients except heavy cream in a small pot, and heat until golden and bubbling, about 7-10 minutes.
Quickly remove from heat and whisk in heavy cream; mixture will splatter and bubble, so be careful.
Pour caramel over nuts in tart shell and shake the pan very well to allow the caramel to seep down through the nuts.
Press the reserved nuts into the still-warm top.
Allow to cool completely.
Serve with freshly whipped, unsweetened cream.

Ingots

IMG_7983_01

As if every cake weren’t worth its weight in gold.

IMG_7992_02

The story about financiers goes something like this:

A French boulanger named Lasne noted that the businessmen who frequented his shop, which was located near the Bourse (financial district of Paris) were in need of a sweet snack that could be eaten on the go, sans fourchette.

The rich little cakes named for the rich financiers of the Bourse were baked in rectangular molds, so as to shape them like bars of gold.

Little ingots of cake.  The only true currency in my world.

IMG_7980_01

Financiers, classically, are a simple almond cake base, made with egg whites, almond flour, and heaps of beurre noisette.
The high proportion of browned butter gives these little guys crisp edges, while the almond flour keeps the interior soft and pillowy.
The absence of leavening creates pleasantly dense cakes, packing tons of flavor into each little bite, yet keeping the pastries from feeling heavy or weighty.
They’re actually quite light, and not sweet at all.  Very French.

Other nuts can be used, and fruits or jam are often dolloped into the batter.
Here you can check out various pastry chefs’ takes on the financier.

It should be noted that financiers are essentially the same as friands from Australia, though they are shaped a little differently.

IMG_7995_02

Here, the classic almond base is updated with brown sugar,
a tablespoon of crushed jasmine tea, fragrant and fruity, with delicate floral overtones,
a couple of tart blackberries, pressed deep into the batter where they become jammy and sweet,
and is baked in adorable little tart molds.

They can be baked in mini muffin tins, friand molds, cupcake liners, tart molds, etc.
I could even see the batter becoming a sort of torte, baked in a larger pan.

I can’t emphasize how transcendent these would be with a cup of good, strong, milky black tea and a dollop of clotted cream.
The cakes aren’t too sweet, and are equally appropriate for breakfast (ahem) as for tea, as for an evening nibble.

They keep supremely well, so you can dole them out as payment for favors.
That is, if they last long enough.
Mine didn’t…

IMG_7976_02

Jasmine and Blackberry Financiers
adapted from Kristen Kish via Food and Wine
makes around 18 small financiers

ingredients:
3.5 ounces (7 tablespoons) butter, browned
2 egg whites
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
pinch of sea salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup almond flour
1 tablespoon finely crushed jasmine tea
30 or so blackberries

directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Grease and flour 18 small molds very well, or spray liberally with baking spray with flour.
Whisk egg whites with granulated sugar just until foamy; add in brown sugar and sea salt.
Dump dry ingredients over the egg white mixture; as you gently fold them in, add the brown butter all at once and fold until batter is homogeneous.
Spread the batter into the tins and press a few blackberries into each financier.
Bake for 15 minutes, until the edges are golden and the centers are risen but still slightly soft.
Remove from oven and let cool completely; dust liberally with powdered sugar and serve with extra blackberries and tea.

Holidazed

IMG_6621_01

All the cookies!

IMG_6574_02

‘Tis the season for cookies.
We alllll know it.
And you know, I ain’t mad at it.  Cookies and I get along very well.

Anyways, this year we’re stepping up our cookie game.  Right?
Let’s give away cookies that take the lackluster cookie platter to the next level.

We started with nutmeg, maple, and rye sugar cookies.
Now, we’re doing traditional, but we’re doing it a better way.

IMG_6581_01

Linzer cookies are totally a staple on holiday cookie platters.
Butter cookies with a cut out, filled with jam.  You’ve seen ’em.  You’ve enjoyed eaten them.

Here’s the problem: too often they are dry and crumbly, sucking the moisture right out of your mouth and leaving a telltale trail of crumbs down the front of your ugly sweater. (What?! We all do it.)

Or, they’re utterly boring.  Not enough punch; plain Jane fillings and plain Jane casings.
Not so with these Linzer cookies!  They’ve got a hefty pinch of salt, a touch of spice, and fillings with body.

IMG_6537_01_01_01

These cookies are made with almond flour and minimal sugar, which means the flavors stay clean and un-muddled on your tongue.
To ensure that they have a good bite, not too crumbly nor too firm, we use a technique most often utilized in making fluffy cakes with tight crumbs: reverse creaming.

Reverse creaming involves whisking all the dry ingredients together, then beating in soft butter followed by the wet ingredients.  It creates a dough with minimal air pockets, meaning your cookies will be nice and flat and less prone to crumbling.

We’ve got a good base going: lightly spiced and sweetened, with hints of almond and a firm, crisp bite.

Don’t mess it up with the fillings!  Use good quality jams.
My favorite was the D’arbo sour cherry jam, which went well with the almond undertones (almonds+stone fruit=magic), and also offset the butteriness of the cookies masterfully, what with its tart, fruity self.
I highly recommend choosing fillings with a little kick.
In the future, I’d add a pinch of cayenne to the Bonne Maman strawberry jam, and a sprinkle of salt to the Nutella.  I’m partial to apricot as is, but I bet an extra touch of nutmeg would work wonders.

IMG_6591_01

Sorry that my posts haven’t been very wordy.  It’s the holidays, and my brain is fried.
Holidazed and confused…

More cookies coming your way in a day or so.
Hint: there’s peppermint involved.  Get excited.

IMG_6604_01

Linzer Cookies
adapted from Martha Stewart
makes approximately 20 large sandwich cookies
ingredients:
5 ounces (1 cup and 3 tablespoons) almond flour or finely ground almonds
3.6 ounces (1/2 cup) sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder
big pinch kosher salt
9 ounces (2 cups plus 2 tablespoons) flour
8 ounces (16 tablespoons) butter, softened and cut into small chunks
1 egg
splash vanilla extract
confectioner’s sugar, for dusting
fruit jams or Nutella, as desired

directions:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, add the almond flour, sugar, spices, baking powder, salt, and flour and mix to combine.
Add in the softened butter and paddle until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
Add in the egg and vanilla and mix until a dough forms.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to 1/4 inch thickness.
Cut out circles, and cut a small shape out of half of the circles.
Place onto parchment lined baking sheets and freeze or chill for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake the frozen/chilled cookies for 9-11 minutes, until set and lightly golden.
Allow to cool completely.
Spread 1 1/2 teaspoons of filling of choice onto the cookies without cut outs.
Dust the cookies with the cutouts with plenty of confectioners sugar, then sandwich them on top of the filling and uncut cookies.