La Vie En Rose

Princess Layer Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

When you kiss me heaven sighs
And though I close my eyes I see la vie en rose
When you press me to your heart
I’m in a world apart
A world where roses bloom
And when you speak, angels sing from above
Everyday words seem to turn into love songs
Give your heart and soul to me
And life will always be la vie en rose

—Louis Armstrong, La Vie En Rose

Princess Layer Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy Valentine’s Day!

My hope for today is that it serves as a reminder for all of us to be more open and loving every day, to everyone. I love the badass, irrepressible origins of V-day, but I don’t really buy into the modernized and commercialized part of it (ha, get it?!).
Hug and kiss your loved ones extra today, if you can, but also remember tomorrow how nice it can be when a stranger flashes a smile at you, or pays a coffee forward, etc. etc.
Now that I contemplate that, is it too late to add to my 2017 resolutions?!

I never turn down an opportunity to bake something whimsical and fun, however, so here we are with pink everywhere for the last three posts and I regret nothing. Pink is awesome.

As an aside: microbes are also f*&#ing awesome. Check out this adorable (OK, maybe only adorable to me) piece in the NYT about the microbiome, perfect for Valentine’s Day. I maintain my stance that it is one of the last great frontiers left to us as the human race.

Also, shoutout to my wonderful roommate Alexa, whose adorable pink polaroid camera is featured in these photos. How cute, right?!

Princess Layer Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

For this cake, I really wanted to play on the Swedish Princesstårta, or princess cake, which consists of a sponge, whipped cream, (sometimes) pastry cream, jam, and marzipan.
I made mini ones two years ago (gag, how is that possible), as you might have spied on my Instagram just a few weeks ago.

I bought this cookie cutter a while back, which purports to be the “easiest rose” in the world. I started dreaming of making roses out of marzipan, which I love with a burning, fiery passion, because I am somewhat turned off by fondant and gum paste.
So I hunkered down with a half-pound of marzipan last Friday and got to work; you will need a roller set and a foam board to properly create the roses. I also got through an entire movie and two hour-long shows before I was completely satisfied. I’m sure it could be done in less time—there is a slight learning curve, however! If you want to make your own roses, I suggest two things.
First, google “FMM easiest rose cutter how-to” or something along those lines in order to find a video that you can watch and learn from!
Second, if you want perfect, lifelike roses, do NOT use marzipan—use half fondant, half gum paste, or some other similar mix, because this will allow you to get thinner, non-ragged petals. Marzipan requires a slightly thicker petal, which obviously looks less true to life. You also may want to pick up some powdered colors, to dust on the edges of the petals—this makes it look very realistic.
All in all, my experience with the easiest rose cutter in the world was very positive, and I will be experimenting more with a sturdier mix of medium to make more realistic roses in the future!

If you do decide to use marzipan, rest assured that no matter how the roses look, they will be delicious: an advantage of marzipan is that it maintains its delightful chew even if prepared ahead, and it actually tastes good, unlike gum paste.

Princess Layer Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

The base of the cake is a simple milky white cake. It’s not too eggy, which is my main problem with many sponge cakes. It has a soft, fine crumb and doesn’t overwhelm the other flavors.
An almond simple syrup is amply brushed over the cake, in order to retain moisture: another problem I have with many traditional white/yellow/sponge cakes is that they tend towards dryness.
Over that, I spread a thin layer of all-fruit apricot preserves—I use an all-fruit, no-sugar version because 1) it’s what I always have on hand and 2) there is a lot of sugar going on in this cake, so it provides a nice, slightly tart contrast.
The frosting is an incredibly fluffy salted mascarpone buttercream, which is creamy just like the traditional whipped cream and which provides another type of contrast to the sweetness. I really wanted a big ruffly cake, so I laid an extremely thin crumb coat down and then piped big shells with a star tip to create a thick layer of frosting without overloading the cake itself. (Pro tip: fill in any small spots with a mini star tip and leftover frosting. The cake is very busy, so no one will notice any little patchwork you do.)
Finally, the chewy, sweet, and fragrant marzipan roses adorn the cake as the perfect accompaniment.

This cake takes all the classic flavors present in princess cake and updates the components. I’m thoroughly pleased with the results. It makes a stunning centerpiece to any celebration. I think this would be SO cute for a tea party or Galentine’s day or any princess’s party.

Sending love to all of you! xx

Princess Layer Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Valentine’s Day, previously:

2017:
Thick, soft M&M cookies
Mocha cupcakes topped with fluffy swirls of vanilla bean Italian meringue buttercream

2016:
Ginger, Malted Vanilla, and Hibiscus layer cake
Baby pink XO salty sugar cookies
Raspberry white chocolate and Nutella éclairs
Brown butter and vanilla bean teacakes

2015:
Fluffy, buttery copycat Lofthouse cookies
Chocolate covered strawberry cake with goat cheese frosting
Dolled-up red velvet cake
Mini pink princesstårta

2014:
Pink grapefruit possets with Ritz crunch and pistachios
Dark and white chocolate French mendiants
Strawberry pocky cake
Salty dark chocolate tarts

Princess Layer Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Princess Layer Cake
makes 1 3×6-inch layer cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
225 grams (2 sticks, 1 cup) unsalted butter, soft
1/2 teaspoon salt
400 grams (2 cups) sugar
2 eggs
35 grams (1/3 cup) milk powder
300 grams (1 1/4 cups) buttermilk
360 grams (3 cups) AP flour
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

for the frosting:
225 grams (2 sticks, 1 cup) unsalted butter, soft
400 grams (3 1/4 cups) powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
225 grams (8 ounces, 1 cup) mascarpone, room temperature
60 to 80 grams (1/4 to 1/3 cup) heavy cream, room temperature

100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
drop almond extract
80 grams (1/3 cup) water
apricot or raspberry or strawberry preserves
8 ounces marzipan, tinted and rolled as desired

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 3 6-inch baking pans.
Make the cake: cream butter, salt, and sugar together until light and fluffy; add in each of the eggs and beat on high until doubled in volume.
Add in the milk powder and buttermilk and stir until batter is homogeneous; it will thin out.
Add in the flour and baking powder and stir to combine.
Portion out into prepared pans and bake for 15-17 minutes, or until a tester comes out with a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the frosting: cream butter on high speed for 5 full minutes.
Add in the powdered sugar and stir slowly until combined; it will be very thick.
Add in the salt and mascarpone cheese and beat until homogenous.
Add in the heavy cream 1 tablespoon at a time, beating on high speed in between each addition, until frosting is thin enough to be pipeable but thick enough to hold a peak,
Make the syrup: place sugar and water in a small bowl and microwave on high for 30-45 seconds, or until the sugar is completely dissolved.
Stir in the almond extract and set aside.
Trim the cake as needed to level it; brush each side with ample sugar syrup.
Layer the cake, placing plenty of syrup on each layer; spread 2 tablespoons of apricot preserves on top of each layer, then 1/4 cup of frosting on top of the preserves.
After adding the final layer, add a very thin crumb coat of frosting all over the cake and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.
Using the rest of the frosting, pipe ruffles or flowers as desired.
Decorate with marzipan shapes!

Sajeonogi

Apricot Peach Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Sajeonogi, or, knocked down four times, rising up five.

Apricot Peach Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

La Pêche Fraîche, or, disappearing four times, reappearing five.

Happy September! I hope you all have enjoyed a glorious summer and have had a relaxing Labor Day weekend.

N’s parents were in town for the weekend—they rented a sweet boat and we spent Saturday out on Lake Michigan.
It was beautiful! Chicago is going through a bit of a heatwave right now, so it definitely doesn’t feel like summer is gone just yet.

Apricot Peach Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

I really can’t believe it’s September. This month, I will turn 21 (whoa) and go back to school as a senior!

Who knows what this school year will bring. Hopefully success, clarity about the future, and…fun. *heavy breathing*

Apricot Peach Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

It’s crazy to me that people are already posting apple cakes and pumpkin bread and fall flavored lattes and candles alike are popping up.
I mean, there are still late season peaches to be had! There are still fragrant, ripe tomatoes to eat and sweet corn galore.
I do not intend to jump the gun on autumn because after comes winter (!) and that will inevitably be plenty long enough.  No doubt about that.

So this peach and apricot pie is one of my last huzzahs for summer.
There is nothing quite like a perfect stone fruit pie—crunchy, buttery crust meets sweet jammy filling to make, inarguably, one of the most classic and delicious desserts ever.

This recipe keeps it very simple, using sweet and tart apricots and ripe peaches to create a well-rounded filling inside of a crisp, flaky pastry. Instead of a lattice, I cut out daisies using a cookie cutter set and use them to decorate the pie.

Apricot Peach Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

I’m so glad to be back in this space—I’m slowly finding my way back to the kitchen, too, so I can have some fresh new material to share with you all!

Apricot Peach Pie | La Pêche Fraîche
Apricot and Peach Pie
makes 1 10-inch pie

ingredients:
for the crust:
2 1/2 cups AP flour
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
14 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
6-8 tablespoons ice water, or as needed

for the filling:
8-10 apricots, sliced
2-4 peaches, sliced (you should have approximately 3-3.5 pounds of fruit)
1 cup sugar (if fruit is very sweet, reduce to 3/4 cup)
juice from 1/2 lemon
5 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch

to assemble:
1 egg beaten with 2 teaspoons water
sanding or raw sugar, optional

directions:
Make the crust: cut butter into small pieces and place in freezer for at least 15 minutes.
Whisk flour, sugar, and salt together in a large bowl.
Add in the butter cubes and cut and rub using your fingers until the largest pieces are about the size of peas.
Slowly add in the ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together in a shaggy but cohesive ball.
Divide dough into two disks, wrap well in plastic, and refrigerate for  15 minutes.
Take the dough disks out and roll one out to a 14-inch diameter circle.
Carefully place into a pie dish, then place in fridge.
Roll out the other disk and cut into desired shapes (or strips, for lattice); place the shapes onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and place in the fridge.
Prepare the filling: slice fruits into 1/2 inch thick slices, then place into large bowl with juice of 1/2 lemon.
Whisk sugar, flour, and cornstarch together, then pour over the fruit.
Stir filling together and let sit for 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Remove pie dish from fridge and scoop fruit into the shell, leaving the excess juice from the fruit in the bowl.
Decorate with the chilled shapes, then brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees F, until top is beginning to brown; reduce temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for 45 minutes, until juices are bubbling and top is golden brown (if crust begins to brown too quickly, cover with aluminum foil for the remainder of the baking time).
Allow to cool completely before cutting.
Enjoy with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Droopy Drupes

Seriously Easy Stone Fruit Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

They had been elegant in the tree, tiny coquettes
blushing more and more until I picked them,
then they were minimalist and matte-colored
in wooden bowls, so barely furred one couldn’t
help but clothe them, enclose them with your hand,
caress each one thoroughly before taking a bite,
exploring the handsome freckles left
from some minor blight.

—Jennifer Grotz, Apricots

Seriously Easy Stone Fruit Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

This is an interruption of the berry desserts that have smartly marched across your screen for what must feel like ages.
(Chocolate, long forgotten, is making an appearance soon.  Promise.  And then at least one more berry post. Oops.)
But this post...This post is devoted to stone fruits.

Peaches and drupes (stone fruits) are some of my most favorite fruits… of course, La Pêche Fraîche is a dead giveaway.

There haven’t been an overwhelming number of peach/apricot/plum posts, however.
(The last I mean to remedy when plums charge in in all their autumnal glory.)

Seriously Easy Stone Fruit Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

There was this (pin-happy) celebration of 100 posts, an ombréed, OCD tart filled with all of the sweetest, ripest stone fruits I could find.
Or this giant slab pie, perfect for feeding a crowd, complete with an utterly absorbing, fun-to-make lattice and homemade vanilla ice cream (le duh).
This simple peach tart, made and shot quickly.  Very much a throw-together tart, skin-on, that comes out as a whole much greater than the sum of its parts.
This old (old!) rendition of Cook’s Illustrated’s perfect peach pie.  It was delicious, but still didn’t manage to convince me that peeling peaches for pie is utterly necessary (such a headache!).

So… This is not very many posts, seeing as I’ve racked up nearly 250 over the lifespan of the blog.  Eeep!

Seriously Easy Stone Fruit Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

I don’t quite have enough of my own links to really devote a link-love post to stone fruit, but fear not!
I have compiled a few absolutely mouthwatering peachy bits and bobs from around the blogosphere.

Let’s start with the unfairness that is Laura’s glut of peaches, no?
*Pouts* whyyyyyy don’t I have such beautiful peach trees bursting with life around me?!  Add to those ripe peaches her maple coconut granola and that right there is a proper summer breakfast.

More elegant simplicity with the seasonal fruits: Kristin’s olive oil pound cake, tinged with citrus and served simply with fresh peaches and coconut whipped cream is a dream come true.

Uggghhh. Slay me, Michelle.
Bourbon + brown sugar + peach pie.  Give me the pie and 5 minutes and you will regret giving me the pie at all.
That thang is a work of beauty right there.

More bourbon + peaches, with brown butter and maple and melty vanilla ice cream, too.
Alanna always has the best photographs.
These in particular left me salivating and wondering why in the heck I haven’t made a thousand crisps and eaten them all hot with cold ice cream.  This must change.

Be still my beating heart.
Custard cakes have been on my mind (read: pinboards) lately.
Then Sam went and added ripe, custardy in their own right apricots and my world turned upside down.
OMG. That vanilla bean custard layer…
(P.S. Can’t wait for that prune cake.  I looove prunes.)

Seriously Easy Stone Fruit Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

Today, I’m sharing a cheater’s simple stone fruit tart with you without a modicum of shame.
Yep, I used purchased puff pastry for the first time.  And its convenience and dependability were awesome.
No fuss, stupid fast, beautiful, tasty, and simple.

5 ingredients, if you count the egg wash and pistachio garnish.
If you thaw your puff pastry the night before, you can have this beauty on your table in 25 minutes flat.
This really lets the fruit shine—there’s virtually no added sugar or other ingredients to distract.

For this reason, it’s vital to choose ripe fruits—a little bruise or droopy skin here or there is a-OK.
It will intensify the flavors of the tart.

If you find yourself in a situation where you need a quick, sweet and fruity fix, or you want a fool-proof yet impressive dessert to serve to friends, or you have some droopy, slightly sad little drupes that are a day away from necessitating jam, this is the recipe to reach for.

Infinitely adaptable.  Unendingly forgiving.

Seriously Easy Stone Fruit Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

You can use any stone fruit or sliceable fruit that you wish, really: plums, apples, dry pears, peaches, apricots, nectarines, pluots, cherries… all fair game.
Nothing too juicy or acidic, and you’re pretty much set.

The (store-bought!) puff pastry rises up, golden and shiny, in the oven; the weight of the fruit prevents it from getting too airy, which allows for a sturdy crust that can be eaten by hand.
The fruit becomes syrupy in the hot oven, bathing itself in sweet, sticky juice.
A smattering of pistachios provides crunch, and a cool, creamy dollop of crème fraîche ties this simple summer treat together.

The tart comes out looking quite beautiful for the minimum amount of effort put in, with the bright, warm colors of the fruit foiled by green pistachios and pure, snow-white cream.

This, I think, is the definition of keeping it simple (stupid).
Don’t mess too much with perfectly ripe/slightly overripe summer fruit.
Let it pop against the backdrop of buttery pastry.
Highlight it only with a conservative touch of sugar and a few crunchy pistachios.
Indulge in a spoonful of cream to add richness and I think anyone would agree that this is a far more exciting use for droopy, tired fruits than jam…

Seriously Easy Stone Fruit Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

Seriously Easy Stone Fruit Tart
makes 1 10×10 tart

ingredients:
1 sheet all-butter puff pastry, thawed overnight in the fridge
4-6 pieces of very ripe stone fruit, of your choice, sliced thinly
1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water
3 tablespoons of sugar
2 tablespoons chopped pistachios
crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream or sour cream, for serving

directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
On a very lightly floured surface, gently roll out the puff pastry until it is approximately 11×11 inches.
Trim the edges carefully , being sure not to rock the blade, to make an even square of 10×10.
Carefully transfer the puff to a baking sheet lined with parchment.
Brush an inch border with the egg wash, and lightly sprinkle 1 tablespoon over the center part of the pastry.
Carefully arrange your sliced fruit over the pastry.
Choose any design you like, but avoid layering one slice completely on top of another.
Sprinkle the tart with 1-2 more tablespoons of sugar, depending on how sweet your fruit is.
Pop in the oven for 25 minutes, until the crust is puffed and golden and the fruit is slumped and juicy.
Remove from oven and sprinkle with pistachios; serve warm with cold crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream.

Grey Matter

Apricot Pistachio Lemon-Chamomile Scones | La Pêche Fraîche

All we have to decide
is what to do
with the time that is given to us.

—Gandalf the Grey

Apricot Pistachio Lemon-Chamomile Scones | La Pêche Fraîche

Nary a single complaint nor excuse will I launch about how long I’ve been away from this space.
It’s been ages. Epochs.  I know.
But I’m not going to harp on the time that has passed.
Know that I wanted to be here and know that I was thinking of it constantly.
OK, I can’t resist: I just got wifi back, friends. I wasn’t just being neglectful.

I fear my mind is wasting away, lately.
The part of my brain that is fed by my own explorations, that is fattened by a good story or a poignant quote or a resonating piece of music, is greying at the edges, fading in a most unpleasant and quiet manner, so that I barely even notice it.
The encyclopedic filing cabinet of my mind that is more full up with facts that I love, rather than mandated ones, is seeming barren as a field left to fallow.
That part.  That wild, soulful, curious part.
I worry.

I need a good book to soothe my soul; I need more classical music and less coffee in the mornings.
I mean, good Lord, I sit in front of a screen all day.  I know this isn’t ideal.
I think that in order to return to balance and some sort of an even keel, some serious non-screen time is necessary.
I took a nap outside on Sunday, which was heavenly even if I was laying on the hardest lounge chair of all eternity.
Next weekend I intend to do the same, with a book thrown in the mix.
And sometime between now and then I’m going to get in the kitchen and make a wonderful mess.

Apricot Pistachio Lemon-Chamomile Scones | La Pêche Fraîche

I have things I want to share with you—photos, too.
I have willful thoughts and questions that I am trying to coax out of my brain by smashing words together, head-on.

Today, I’m hopping on the scone wagon.
I actually made these scones a while ago, and now would you just look at THAT everyone and their mother posted a scone recipe last week.  Fantastic timing on my part.
And everyone else’s are so beautiful and delicious and photogenic.
Mine are a bit craggier and are up to their necks in a pool of glaze, but trust me—flavor-wise, they’re well up to snuff.

Apricot Pistachio Lemon-Chamomile Scones | La Pêche Fraîche

These have the most ridiculously long name (even longer than the kingly titles of Game of Thrones…) but they need it because they are a little self-conscious of their cracked, flaky tops, okay??!!

Whole-wheat apricot pistachio lemon-chamomile scones.
Whole wheat pastry flour, soft-milled and nutty, meets butter in the best way possible, becoming a flaky, sweet, slightly-crumbly base.
Each bite is studded with chopped pistachios, the grassiness of which offsets the pieces of sweet Turkish apricots that are strewn throughout the dough.
A generous coat of egg wash and even more generous sprinkling of sparkly sugar and the scones are ready to meet an extremely hot oven, which puffs them up proudly and creates the craters and canyons that will secret away rivers of glaze until bitten into.
The glaze itself, poured over the cooled pastries generously, is made of delicate floral chamomile tea and tart lemon juice.  A pinch of salt tempers the sugar, as always.

Persian flavors are very subtly melded into these scones, which last for days and make for a fantastic breakfast or tea.
You can make the scones ahead and freeze them like you would cookies.  When you want a hot, buttery scone with a cup of tea, you can simply pop a few in the oven straight from the freezer.

Apricot Pistachio Lemon-Chamomile Scones | La Pêche Fraîche

Whole-Wheat Apricot, Pistachio, Lemon-Chamomile Scones
scone portion adapted from Food.com
Makes 8 large scones

ingredients:
for the scones:
2 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt
8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) butter, cubed
1/3 cup granulated sugar, plus more for topping
2/3 cup milk (I used almond milk)
1 egg plus 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
10 dried apricots, chopped
1/4 – 1/3 cup pistachios, chopped

for the glaze:
1 tablespoon hot water
chamomile tea
juice of 1/2 lemon
3/4 cup powdered sugar, or as needed
pinch or two coarse sea salt or kosher salt

directions:
Make the scones: preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Put flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and add the cubed butter.
Using a pastry blender or your fingers, smash the butter into small pieces until the largest bits are the size of a pea.
Add the sugar and stir gently.
While stirring, pour in the milk of your choice.
Before the milk is completely incorporated, add in the apricots and pistachios and gently fold to incorporate.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently pat into a circle.
Cut the dough into 8 wedges and place on the baking sheet.
Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, or freeze for up to a month, well-wrapped.
When ready to bake, whisk the egg and water together and brush over the tops of the scones.
Generously sprinkle sugar all over the scones, and bake for 12-14 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.
Allow to cool.
To make the glaze, brew a very strong (and tiny) amount of chamomile tea—I used about a tablespoon of hot water and a tea bag that I allowed to steep for 10 minutes.
To the tea, add in the lemon juice and the salt.
While whisking, add in the powdered sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, until the glaze reaches a pourable but thick and opaque consistency.
Drizzle or pour the glaze over the scones and allow to set completely before serving.
Scones keep for up to 4 days, tightly sealed.

Holidazed

IMG_6621_01

All the cookies!

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‘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.

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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.

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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.

I Do My Best

 … to keep it 100.
 
Guys!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
^100 exclamation marks.
 
^100 slices of stone fruit.
(Okay, it’s 97.  But I’m the only one crazy enough to count.)
 
100 posts.
That’s right! This little blog isn’t so little anymore.
*sniff*
 
It’s hard for me to believe that “Caramel Craze and Memorial Daze” was 100 posts ago!
 
We’ve covered cakes, pies, tarts, ice cream, molecular experiments, cupcakes, candy, heartbreaks, birthdays, celebrations, and goodbyes.
But what better way to celebrate this milestone than with peaches and pastry, two of my greatest loves.
In case it has escaped you, this blog is named after a peach.
Why?  I dunno.  It rhymes.
Just kidding.  It’s because I love stone fruits.
Plums, apricots, cherries, peaches, and all the variations.
The appearance of local stone fruits is always an indicator of summer, one that leaves me with drool juice dripping down my chin and a big smile perched right above.
 
I eat summer fruit like it’s my job.  It pretty much is my job.
The other day, I had a bowl of yogurt with a maple-nutmeg-strawberry-rhubarb compote, an apricot, a plum, and a peach.
I could eat our entire farmer’s market. 
Remember how I said that those patriotic shortcakes were devastatingly summery?
Well this tart goes above and beyond those lil biscuits.  
Just looking at it wraps me up in summer like a towel warmed by the sun after a bracingly cold dip in the lake.
 
A truly simple summer dessert, the star here is the fruit, so be sure to choose ripe, fragrant ones.
You can use any combination of stone fruits here; use whatever looks, smells, and feels best in your area.
A ripe stone fruit should be very fragrant- floral and a touch almond-y- should yield slightly to gentle pressure, and should separate from its pit quite effortlessly.  
If you struggle to pull the pit from your first peach while making this recipe, put it off for a few days.  
Put your fruit in a brown bag with a banana, which gives off copious amounts of ethylene, the fruit ripening hormone.
The crust will wait patiently in the freezer (wrap it well in aluminum foil) for the leading lords and ladies to take the stage.
I chose plums, peaches, and apricots because I wanted to showcase as many stone fruits as I possibly could, and I love the way their juices bleed colors into one another.
They all bring a certain flavor to the party: peaches are floral and fresh, plums are tart and crisp, and apricots are sweet and velvety.
In addition, all three work marvelously with almond, thanks to the noyaux in their pits.
I refurbished my favorite pâte sucrée to include plenty of almond meal; enough that you can taste it in the crust.
I also added a fine dusting of a buttery crumb with sugar and almond; it coaxes more flavor out of the fruit without overpowering the tart.
 
A note about the crust and the weather: in humid weather, tart crusts absorb moisture quickly.  
They will be no less delicious, but markedly softer after a few hours in a humid and hot environment.  If this is an issue, I suspect that storing the tarts in a refrigerator would help to diminish the softening.
Serve this tart with the simplest vanilla ice cream (recipe below).
Seriously, simplest ever!
Make it with cold half and half and it literally takes 3 minutes to put together, plus the 20 minutes for churning.
No eggs, no cooking, just cold, creamy, vanilla goodness.
It’s homemade ice cream for us impatient folks with a warm tart that needs accompaniment! 
So, in conclusion, this peach grows!
And may it continue.
Once again, a shout out to you, my readers.
You rock.
 
P.S. I typed this with 9 fingers, which is surprisingly difficult as a touch typer who is accustomed to going a mile a minute.
RIP finger.
*sniff*

Simplest Stone Fruit Tart
Makes 1 11-inch plus 2 4-inch tarts
ingredients:
16 tablespoons (8 ounces, 2 sticks) butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1/4 cup white whole wheat flour (sub AP or whole wheat)
1/2 cup almond flour/meal
2 egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons almond flour
pinch salt
1 tablespoon softened butter
thinly sliced peaches, plums, and apricots (I used 3 yellow plums, 2 apricots, and 3 peaches)
directions:
Cream butter, sugar, and salt together on high for 5 minutes (if butter is softened, cream for 3 minutes; if it’s cold, 5), until fluffy, pale, and shiny.
Scrape the sides of the bowl.
Add in the flours and mix until almost entirely combined.
Add the egg yolks and mix until completely homogeneous.
Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 20 minutes and up to a day.
Roll out your dough to a 1/4 inch thickness and place in pan.
Alternately, press dough into pan.
Prick all over with a fork and freeze for at least 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine 3 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons almond flour, and a pinch of salt.  
Using the back of a spoon, smush the tablespoon of softened butter into the dry mix until it resembles coarse crumbs.
Remove your crusts from the freezer and arrange your fruit.
Sprinkle the fruit with the sugar mixture, sparingly if you want your design to show through.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the fruit is juicy and the crust is golden. 
Serve with the simplest vanilla ice cream, below.
 
Simplest Vanilla Ice Cream
ingredients:
1 3/4 cup half and half, cold
1/4 plus 2 tablespoons sugar
pinch sea salt
1/2 a vanilla bean
directions:
In a blender or with an immersion blender (shudder), blend all ingredients together until the vanilla bean is in tiny chunks.
Churn in an ice cream maker.

Raisin in the Sun

Or does it explode?
It’s hot, hot, hot.
Summer is coming.
The other day, it was about 90 degrees here in Ithaca, which translates to approximately 110 degrees on the inside of a certain little red Volvo.
Obviously, I raced home and did the one thing any sane person would do in the heat:
I turned on my oven.
My pup has never faired well in the heat, but as she ages, it becomes even more difficult for her.
Her lethargy is taken to a whole new level.
The other day, I took her on a walk (it was cool, but the sun was very strong), and, right in the middle of it, she sat down.
And refused to move.
She is no lightweight, either.  When a 95-100 lb chocolate lab makes up her mind to sit, your walking plans better change, pronto.
What ensued must have looked hilarious to passerby, but was most certainly not amusing for me.
We had stopped at the bottom of a shallow hill.
When Ginger decided she could take no more and wanted to go back, I realized her mortal mistake, but it would take her a few more minutes to come to the same realization.
We had to turn around and go UP the hill.  In the sun.  
Actually, she didn’t go up the hill.  She sat.
I pulled.  I pushed.  I wanted to carry her, but that would have been a feat perhaps to great for me.
I was sweating.
She was panting.
I was mad.
She sat.
When we got home, the poor old dear was panting so heavily, she sounded the way I do when I’m having a panic attack.
She slumped down on the cool stone floor of our porch.
I set a bowl of ice water near her and strategically placed a fan aimed at her belly.  
So lazy was she that she could not even get up to drink the water.
I had to push it closer so that she could half drink it by flopping over on her side.  
I mean, really?
Alright, ready for me to bring this back around to rugelach?
Ready?
We got Ginger when I was 7- my mom likes to say that we were puppies together.  
At that point in my life, I was still a good little devout Catholic and my family attended church every Sunday, without fail.
Um… Best part about church?  You always got doughnuts or cookies afterwards at the faith group that met on Sundays.
Ithaca Bakery, here in town, makes killer rugelach.
Rugelach that we often indulged in on Sundays.
(I know, Jewish cookies for Catholics.  Cookie love unites all!!)
Ithaca Bakery makes their rugelach in scrolls, like those shown, rather than the more traditional crescent shape.
When I first saw the rugelach in Dorie Greenspan’s book, I was very confused.
Those were not rugelach.
I did not trust these strange moon shaped cookies.
Surely they were not those that I knew and loved.
Turns out, they are.  Egads!
 
 
I find that the scroll shape holds the innards in far better than do the crescents, and it’s the shape I like, so I stuck with it.  
Feel free to shape the cookies into crescents if you so desire.
I slicked my dough with a thin layer of apricot jam, then a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar, and finally, a thin topping of walnuts and raisins.
You could do raspberry jam, or orange marmalade- or anything- run with it!
Same goes for the nuts.  Use whatever floats your boat.
I’m also thinking of some rugelach with sour cherries or golden raisins.  Yum.
The key to your filling not spilling out and burning the bottoms of your cookies to kingdom come is to be frugal with it.  Trust me.
 
With rugelach, it’s all about the shatteringly flaky pastry.  This pastry is seriously flaky, people.  Like, crumbs everywhere-unless-you-eat-it-in-one-go type flaky.
If that doesn’t convince you to make these, then I don’t know what will.
 
Anyways, me and Ginge enjoyed a few of these cookies together, just like the good old days.
She approves.  

Rugelach
for the dough:
from Dorie Greenspan
ingredients:
4 ounces cream cheese, cut into 1/2 ounce pieces
8 tablespoons butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
1 cup all purpose flour
3/8 teaspoon kosher salt (she calls for 1/4 teaspoon of regular salt; I always prefer to use kosher or sea salt and I generally use pinches rather than measurements; here, a good, hearty 2 pinches will do.)
directions:
Place flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine.  Sprinkle the chunks of cream cheese and butter over the top of the flour and pulse until a rough dough forms.  
Gently form dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap.  
Flatten slightly and refrigerate. 
to assemble:
ingredients:
apricot or raspberry jam
3/4 cup sugar mixed with 2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 handfuls of raisins
chopped walnuts
1 egg mixed very well with 1 half egg-shell full of water
directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Roll out your dough into a rectangle that is 1/8-1/4 inch thick.
Spread a thin, thin, thin layer of jam all over the dough.
Sparsely sprinkle a thin layer of cinnamon sugar all over the dough, then press a handful of raisins and walnuts over the sugar.  
Do not fill your dough too full with the fillings, because they will leak out and burn in the oven.
Roll up your dough rectangle tightly (roll starting with the long end of the rectangle, NOT the short, unless you want gigantic rugelach).
Cut into 1-inch wide pieces, and place 1 inch apart on a baking sheet.
Brush lightly with egg wash, and sprinkle more cinnamon sugar on top.
Bake for 10-12 minutes, until puffed, golden, and crispy.

Ex Uno Plures

Out of one, many.
 
I’ve posted about butter cookies a few times now, but somehow I have managed to not share my personal recipe.
Upon request (sorry that it took so long!) I made some cookies to share with y’all.
Here’s the thing: this dough is so forgiving, so easy to work with and to remember, that it’s a real shame it’s taken me so long to post about.
 
It’s incredibly versatile and can be shaped into many different cookies 
(though one must be aware of baking times… My little meltaways that you see here were over baked and accordingly crunchy, which is not the most unpleasant thing in the world, but certainly not what I was going for… sigh.)
All of the ingredients are probably in your pantry, and if you have an oven and some sort of mixer and can count to 3 forwards and back, you can make some lovely cookies for yourself.
 
This recipe is my go-to when I’m making decorated cookies; it’s a great roll-out dough, but it can also be shaped into thumbprints or really whatever you’d like.
 
Flour, butter, sugar, egg, sea salt, vanilla.
3 cups, 2 sticks, 1 cup, 1 egg, 2 teaspoons, 3 splashes.
3-2-1-1-2-3
!!!
The cookies with the bicycles are just roll-out cookies with a stamped marshmallow fondant round affixed to them with royal icing.  (If you’d like to try these, I really recommend working with store bought fondant first, just to get the feel and texture of it right.  It can be a bit hard to work with, and making your own only adds to the difficulty.)
 
The streusel-topped cookies were inspired by Dorie Greenspan’s “jammers,” cookies of which I had only heard word and for which I had not seen a recipe.  
I improvised, and was rewarded with lovely little cookies-dressed-in-tarts’-clothing.  
(By improvise, I mean I made small depressions in the center of each cookie, filled them with jam, and topped them with this brown butter crumb.)
 
The meltaways are simply small balls of dough tossed in powdered sugar before and after baking.
 
The little stars sandwich a firm bittersweet chocolate ganache (3 parts bittersweet chocolate to 2 parts cream, with a pinch of salt, microwaved until 2/3 of the way melted, then stirred together until shiny and smooth.)
 
The thumbprints house a dollop of slow-cooked, sweet and salty confiture de lait: dulce de leche’s sultry French cousin.
I’m in love with these little green bicycles. They’re so… springy!
They make me so happy. 
 La la la loveee!
1-2-3 Cookies
ingredients:
3 cups of flour
2 sticks of butter
1 cup of sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons kosher or other coarse salt
3 splashes vanilla extract
directions:
Beat butter and sugar together until softened and pale yellow.  
Add in the egg and beat until super fluffy and shiny and not gritty, about 3 minutes.
Add in the salt and vanilla extract and beat for 20 seconds.
Add in all the flour and stir slowly, mixing until a homogeneous dough forms.  
It should not be overly sticky, nor should it be very crumbly.
You can now form it into small balls to make into thumbprints or meltaways, or roll it out to 1/4 inch thickness and cut it into shapes.
Refrigerate or, even better, freeze, for at least 30 minutes while you preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes, until golden and easily lifted from the sheet. Bake the thumbprints and meltaways for only 7 minutes. Better that they’re a little soft than super crunchy. Wah.
Decorate and/or fill as desired! (See above for some suggestions)

Googolplexian

 
A googolplexian is 
 
1010100 .
 
For a rough estimate, just count the number of layers in this cake. 
I mean, really.
I’m an exaggerator.  It’s true.  Always have been, always will be.
 
Now, my family calls it being a drama queen, diva, prima donna, etc.
 
They’re exaggerating.
Just who do you think I got it from?!
 
But seriously, guys.  
When I make crêpes, I feel like I’ve made a hundred thousand million and I look at the stack and there’s like six sitting there, plus the one in my mouth.
Talk about disheartening.
 
I’ve tried to make crêpe cakes before.
 
I must will myself not to eat them fresh and hot from the pan and I must will myself to stay at the stove making stupid pancake after pancake until I can take no more.
(And/or have had my fill of fresh, hot crêpes.)
 
Then, after hours and hours of tending to a flaming hot stove, I, ever stoical and composed goddess of patience, must wait for them to cool.
HA!  Fooled you, didn’t I?
Like heck I’m waiting for crêpes to cool… I’ve got things to do and places to see.
 
Ain’t nobody got time for dat.
 
I slap those suckers together with some filling, then stand back to admire what I expect to be a lovely little French pastry.
I’m never happy with what I behold.
 
It’s like getting a hairless cat instead of that damn poodle I was promised at the beginning of this whole ordeal.
 
They never stand above two inches tall, and they’re always droopy instead of ruffly and prim.  They’re not flavorful enough.
They’re boring AND ugly.  
A real winning combination…
 
So why are you staring at a haphazard, not very ruffly, somewhat off-kilter crêpe cake right now?
Because I couldn’t stop thinking about layered crêpes.
Because I couldn’t get the flavor combination of banana and vanilla and apricot out of my head.
Because I wanted cake for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and linner that day.
Because I wanted said cake to be a semblance of something healthy.  Ya know.
This cake is whole-wheat, has very, very little sugar in it, less than a teaspoon of butter, and is chock full of protein and healthy fats, thanks to the greek yogurt, ricotta, hazelnuts, and coconut oil; most of the sweetness comes from the bananas, vanilla seeds, and tart California apricots.

This cake is thus approved for every meal of the day. 
 It’s not the shiniest spoon in the drawer, to be sure, but it tastes good.  It tastes real good.
 
(I can’t describe how much the asymmetry of that one darned hazelnut bothers me. 
Whyyyyy didn’t I fix it while the cake was still in existence?  
It will haunt me for the rest of my life.)


Banana Apricot Crêpe Cake
for the banana crêpes:
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
ingredients:
4 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1 6 ounce banana, peeled
1 cup almond milk
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons white whole wheat flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
4 eggs
2 tablespoons natural sugar
splash vanilla
big pinch sea salt
pinch each cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg
directions:
Whir all ingredients together in a food processor.  
Let batter rest for at least 20 minutes.
To make the crêpes, heat a 6 inch skillet up on medium high heat.
Brush with coconut oil- you should only have a thin film.
Pour about 2 tablespoons of batter into the pan and immediately swirl to coat the bottom of the pan.
Cook for 1 to 2 minutes until the top is cooked and the bottom is golden brown.  
To flip, use a spatula to pick up the edge, then gently use your fingers to pick up and flip the crêpe.  (Don’t be a baby.  It’s not that hot.)
Continue until all batter is used up.

for the Greek yogurt and ricotta filling:
ingredients:
1/3 -1/2 cup Greek yogurt, depending on how loose you want your filling and/or how thick you want the filling layers to be.  I used closer to 1/2 a cup.
1/3 cup part skim ricotta
1/3 cup powdered sugar
splash vanilla
pinch salt
directions:
Whisk all ingredients together.  Set aside and let thicken slightly.

for the apricot-vanilla compote:
ingredients:
15 dried California apricots
1 vanilla bean or 2-3 already used pods (I fished some used ones out of my sugar)
boiling water
directions:
Roughly chop the apricots.  
Place in a heat safe bowl with the vanilla pod (cut the pod up into 2 1/2 inch chunks if it is whole).  
Pour boiling water over to cover completely.  
Allow to sit for 15 minutes, until the apricots are softened and there are vanilla seeds floating in the water.
Drain most of the water, reserving 2-3 tablespoons.  
Scrape the insides of the vanilla beans out and place in a food processor along with the reserved water and the apricots.  
Pulse until a slightly chunky paste forms.  Set aside.

for the caramel sauce:
adapted from the NYT
ingredients:
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons light cream
1/2 tablespoons butter
big pinch of sea salt (around 3/4 teaspoon)
directions:
Add the sugar and water to a heavy bottomed saucepan and cook on medium heat until light amber, 5-7 minutes.  
Remove from heat and immediately stir in cream.  
Mixture will bubble and steam, so beware.  
Whisk in butter and salt; use before completely cooled.  
To loosen it up again before use, microwave it for a few seconds until it is liquid.

to assemble:
Cut up a large banana into thin slices.  
Begin layering the crepes, spreading each with yogurt filling, then either banana slices or apricot filling.  
Alternate the banana and apricot.  
Once your last crêpe is on the cake, pour the caramel over top.  
If desired, you can stack some toasted hazelnuts on top before pouring the caramel.  
Allow the caramel to set slightly, then serve.