Mêlé

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“One of the mixed blessings of being twenty and twenty-one and even twenty-three is the conviction that nothing like this, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, has ever happened before.”

Joan Didion

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

New York, New York.
The city that never sleeps: a proud acclamation even while most of its inhabitants are miserably dead tired.
Overgrown concrete jungle, deliciously bloated with opportunity, built of contradictions and false starts and dreams achieved.

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I live-work-eat-sleep-breathe-watch New York.
As I settle in deeper, scenes swirl around me—little pieces of other people—dull and unremarkable, yet somehow thought-provoking.
There are soft, overripened edges amongst the city’s constitution.
I catch glimpses of them everywhere, curious (or nosy) as I am.

The subway is a microcosm of New York; ridership spans all walks of life. We all know this: we’ve seen the pictures of Meryl Streep, riding the train home after a failed audition (Meryl! Streep!); we have seen the dancers for whom riding the train is the audition.
A crowded subway full of diverse people is a great equalizer.
None of us can make it go faster and none of us can make it any less unpleasant.
Neither the man in the pressed suit and tie, nor the harried mother and her invariably crying baby, nor the bored looking model, and so on and so forth.
So I bide my time and I observe. Might as well.

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

There is something disappointing and vaguely optimistic about the young, fashionable professional fishing a cigarette out from her bag while drinking a green juice at 9AM.
Something repellent and electrifying about the heady smell of freshly ground coffee, paint thinner, and body odor on the A train late on Sunday night.
Something disturbing and cutesy about the girl with an expensive-looking black and white calfskin bag that exactly coordinates with the pattern of her little pomeranian’s fur.
Something comforting and unsettling, no matter how bold you’re feeling, about accidentally meeting the same stranger’s gaze more than once, or, agonizingly, more than twice, as both your eyes dart around the car, tracing similar paths (ending at a woman and her bike, atop the handlebars of which perches a man’s bulky gym bag and, more precarious still, another woman’s very large Amazon Prime box).

I wonder what contradictions people see and feel when they look at me.
Is that terribly narcissistic or just some permutation of theory of mind?

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I am aware that there are, in theory, seven universal emotions.
I am convinced that body language and etiquette on an extremely crowded subway in the summer is equally well understood.

We all try desperately not to touch each other, (particularly when one enters with a stroller, or suitcase, or child in tow) carefully shifting bags, shuffling feet, and averting eyes.
Every overheated, uncomfortable body moves in unison as the subway shudders and accelerates or grinds to a halt, waving together like so many ungainly stalks of grass.
We attempt to keep polite social space between us.
When one stumbles, bumping all their neighbors while grasping with sweaty hand for the pole, mumbling apologies and righting themselves, smoothing wrinkles and reinserting headphones, we imperceptibly nod with tightly pressed lips hinting at a familiar camaraderie. We’ve been there. 
Though we are all trying to willfully ignore everyone else, we are embarrassed for the person, just for a moment.
But by the time the doors open and hot, sticky air pours into the car, we have long forgotten and returned to our bubbles lit with a ubiquitous, faint blue glow.
Newcomers load in, and we make room and begin the sweaty shuffle anew without ever even looking up.

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Alright, now for an important soapbox-y aside.

I titled this post “mêlé”—mixed—for the decoration of this cake, and I started composing it long before nightmares unfolded in Charlottesville and Barcelona and Cambrils and Alcanar.
Let me be clear as day: there is no room for mixed reactions to these events.
There is no excuse for mixed reactions to these attacks. Our president’s inability to condemn hatred and bigotry, his choice of wavering and mixed reactions, is astounding, even at this point when we thought he could sink no lower.
You cannot morally equivocate hate-filled terrorist groups with non-terrorist ones.
Murder and violence, while both reprehensible, are not equivalent.
I will not make space for Nazi-sympathizers or ISIS-sympathizers in my life or on my web page. It is a disappointment every day of my damn life that America put an incompetent white-supremacist-apologist in the White House.
By the way, if you think there is a difference between a White Christian group that wants annihilation of all others and a Muslim group that wants the same—that the former can have good people as its members and the latter cannot—your racism is showing.
(And for the record, I don’t think either has good people: there are no “good” Nazis. There are no good terrorists, period.)

My heart breaks. Over and over, into a million pieces, even as my resolve strengthens.
I am begging the universe to manifest a peaceful world.
In the meantime, be nice to everyone. Condemn hate, loudly, and often.
Count the days to 2018. Count the days to 2020.

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Miguel-Anxo Murado wrote a mournful piece called “When Terror Came to Barcelona” in the NYT and quoted George Orwell:

“If you can feel that staying human is worth while, even when it can’t have any result whatever, you’ve beaten them.”

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Here’s a cake best shared with friends, a cake that is good to the earth and kind to all living beings.
Especially kind to the living beings who get a taste…!
No animal products whatsoever, and they’re not missed in the least.

I’ve been baking quite a bit of vegan deliciousness up in my kitchen, because I don’t eat dairy and eggs day-to-day and therefore often don’t have them on hand. AKA I am lazy.
But hey, my laziness is forcing me to be innovative, so it is a good lazy. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.
Uh huh.

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

This vegan coconut cake is wonderfully moreish, with a texture that is dense and rich and studded with lots of shredded coconut.
Coconut oil provides the luxurious mouthfeel, and coconut milk keeps the whole cake extremely moist.
It is soft in the center, with a light, springy crumb. By baking it in a tart pan, I was able to get more slightly crisped edges, which are addictive and a perfect place for the glaze to well up!

The glaze is super simple: just coconut milk with a pinch of salt and powdered sugar, poured over the cake and allowed to drip down the edges. It doesn’t set rock-hard, but rather like a very soft royal icing, with a nice shine.

The showstopper aspect of this cake are the fresh fruits, most of which I got at the Union Square Greenmarket. I love supporting local farmers! And everything is so fresh at farmer’s markets.
Amazing summer fruit is so abundant right now—it would be a shame not to take advantage of it.
Here I used juicy red currants, the sweetest blueberries I have ever tasted, dark red cherries and strawberries, glossy blackberries, and a few fat smyrna figs for good measure.
The whole thing is topped with anise hyssop flowers, which provides a whisper of licorice and herb flavor to the cake.
You could easily sub a little thyme or lemon thyme, or even a tiny bit of rosemary or lemon zest. Anything that provides a contrast to the fruits without taking center stage!

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Vegan Coconut Cake
makes 1 9-inch cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
360 grams (3 cups) AP flour
400 grams (2 cups) sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
480 grams (2 cups) canned coconut milk
200 grams (1 cup) coconut oil, liquid
30 grams (2 tablespoons) vinegar
1 generous cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)

for the glaze:
22 mL (1.5 tablespoons) coconut milk
pinch salt
115 grams (1 cup) confectioner’s sugar

to assemble:
fresh fruits
anise hyssop (or other herb of choice)
confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour a 9-inch tart pan or cake pan.
Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt together, and make a well in the center.
Stir in coconut milk, coconut oil, and vinegar until the batter is smooth.
Fold the shredded coconut into the batter and pour into prepared pan.
Bake until a tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs, or about 20-25 minutes.
Allow to cool completely.
When cooled, make the glaze: whisk coconut milk, salt, and confectioner’s sugar together and pour over the cake.
Allow to set for 5 minutes before piling on the fruits and sprinkling on the herbs.
Serve with a glass of non-dairy milk!

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Blooming

Dairy- and Gluten-Free Citrus Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“You aren’t a flower, you’re every blossom in the wood blooming at once.
You are a tidal wave. You’re a stampede.
You are overwhelming.”

― Leigh Bardugo, Crooked Kingdom

Dairy- and Gluten-Free Citrus Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Words are not my strong suit right now.
I have been absent—there have been reasons, and there have been reasons.
Good and bad, both escape me before I can write them down here.

I want to keep this space a little bit sacred, for my own sanity.
It will all come out, eventually, although I am avoiding bottling up the months of June and July too tightly inside myself.
Again: for my sanity.
I have chosen to journal them in another place, rather than here, so don’t worry: I’m letting my mind run loose a little.
So, so. I am back!

Dairy- and Gluten-Free Citrus Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

And. Do you know what else is back?
Game of Thrones.
You can catch me lurking in the ASOIAF reddit, or watching endless Youtube analyses, furiously texting theories with my BFF Sam or my brother, winding down endless Wiki pages—just generally with my head in the Westerosi clouds.

A girl is very happy.

Note that this cake baked into smaller tins would be a marvelous recreation of Sansa’s favorite lemon tea cakes, without a doubt. If you need something to bring to your next watch party and you want to impress, this is just the treat.

Dairy- and Gluten-Free Citrus Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Speaking of watching, you should read this article about Buzzfeed’s Tasty if you are at all interested in the future of the online food community and/or have ever watched one of their ubiquitous videos (I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that you have probably seen at least one). It is a fascinating look inside the company.
I can personally while away full hours just scrolling through their videos…

As far as other news and articles go, read them as you see fit. I could link to a million more NYTimes articles that I have pored over or rolled my eyes while reading in recent days.
Empower and equip yourself with knowledge, if I may so kindly suggest. Never let anything that you would not have considered normal a few years ago pass by undetected amidst the chaos of our world.

I personally read the news constantly.
In truth, the news is literally the only thing of which I have become an increased consumer lately.
In all other aspects of my life, I am trying to focus on what is, rather than what if.
That is to say, not many shiny new purchases to show off. Just more knowledge in my noggin’.

Dairy- and Gluten-Free Citrus Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Oh! Also speaking of watching, I have finished the Handmaid’s Tale.
I felt satisfied having completed it.
I don’t really know how much I want another season—I know some people are chomping at the bit for one, but although I did enjoy the show fully and sincerely, I feel lukewarm about seeing the series continue.

I met a colleague of mine whose name is Hannah (and as some of you may know, my middle name is Hannah) and she was joking that we pretty much have all the biblical names in the office.
I said that we just needed Rachel’s handmaid, and neither of us could remember her name despite having both watched the damn show.
The day I finally remembered to look it up—Bilhah—and tell her, the show was nominated for an Emmy.
What a funny coincidence.
The Emmy nom leads me to believe there will be more seasons; our society does tend to milk until dry, it seems.

Dairy- and Gluten-Free Citrus Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

In food-related news, I have been sticking almost exclusively to a dairy-free + largely egg-free diet (except for Halo Top, cause oh my GOD that stuff is good and I am irrevocably hooked) since I discovered that dairy might not sit well with my skin. I cut it out last summer, but it has become much easier and practical now that I am a Real Adult and cooking 98% of my meals.
I do miss cheese, like, a lot. I’ll be honest.

I’ve been meal prepping my breakfasts, lunches, and snacks for the work week, and it feels great.
The shopping on Sundays is not the most fun, but getting it all out of the way and not worrying about planning or lugging groceries daily through New York makes it worth it.
I eat the same things happily every day. I am the most staid creature of habit.
As long as I get my favorite foods in (cruciferous vegetables, preferably kale, usually twice a day and strawberries, often frozen and slightly thawed so that they’re like sorbet), I am content.
Since I added seafood into my (as I mentioned above) essentially vegan diet, I’ve found protein to be a lot easier to come by. I still stick to my vegan staples of seitan and tofu, though. I love bouncy, chewy foods, so those come more naturally to me than they may to others.
By the way, did you know that some people consider mussels and oysters to be vegan? We all have to make our own choices, of course, and I am less concerned with perfect labels than I once was. But it is an interesting ethical question to ponder.

Dairy- and Gluten-Free Citrus Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

This cake is a luxurious experiment in dairy- and gluten-free baking.
My last post was also dairy-free: these little strawberry orange shortcakes.
Although neither is vegan (both contain eggs), don’t worry, because I have a vegan cake coming very soon. Watch this space!

Today’s cake is a citrus and almond affair, dense and plush and delightfully tangy.
It is lightly spritzed with lemon syrup, moistening it and bringing it one step closer to a melt-in-your-mouth pudding. The top is finished with powdered sugar, chopped pistachios, sweet juicy blackberries, and candied lemons.

This cake is bursting with flavor and texture, and is made with the most simple ingredients—you can garnish it a lot more minimally if you desire. Overall, it is much greater than the sum of its parts.
It is light without being wishy-washy, and it is a great choice if you need to serve people with varying food allergies. The only fat in the recipe comes from the almonds and egg yolks—no oil!
And no one will miss the dairy or gluten… My taste testers didn’t even blink or pause between inhaling bites when I told them.

Dairy- and Gluten-Free Citrus Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I think this would be fabulous with orange zest, topped with a little dark chocolate ganache and whipped (coconut) cream; or served warm with raspberry sorbet or pistachio ice cream.
Add some fresh rosemary to the batter and serve it with vanilla crème anglaise and a drizzle of good olive oil and a pinch of flaky sea salt, if you want to get really fancy.

That does sound good… I rather wish I was in a lovely garden enjoying a slice right now. Hmm.

Dairy- and Gluten-Free Citrus Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“I’ve known a great number of clever men. I’ve outlived them all.
You know how?
I ignored them.

—Lady Olenna Tyrell, S7 E2

Dairy- and Gluten-Free Citrus Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Dairy- and Gluten-Free Citrus Almond Cake
makes 1 8-inch cake
ingredients:
for the citrus almond cake:
4 eggs
zest of 2 limes
zest of 2 lemons
100 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar, divided in two
150 grams (1 1/2 cups) almond flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

for the candied lemons:
1 lemon
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
240 grams (1 cup) water

to assemble:
2 tablespoons lemon syrup, reserved
powdered sugar, as desired
blackberries
chopped pistachios
edible flowers, as desired

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour (with GF flour) an 8-inch pan.
Separate the eggs; whisk the yolks with half the sugar and the citrus zests until lightened in color.
Add the other portion of sugar to the egg whites and whisk until soft peaks form.
Add the almond flour, baking powder, lemon juice, and salt to the yolk mixture and stir until homogeneous.
Gently fold in the egg whites, then pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a tester comes out clean and the center springs back.
Allow the cake to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the candied lemons: slice the lemon into very thin slices.
Bring a pot of water to a boil, then blanch the lemon slices.
Empty the pot of water; add the sugar and cup of water and stir over low heat just until the sugar is dissolved.
Add the blanched lemon slices and allow to simmer until the rind is translucent, about 45 minutes.
Reserve 2 tablespoons of the syrup.
Lay onto parchment paper and allow to cool.
To assemble, brush the cake with the reserved syrup.
Roll the blackberries in a little bit of powdered sugar, and dust the cake with powdered sugar.
Decorate the cake with chopped pistachios, candied lemons, blackberries, and edible flowers, if desired.
Serve at room temperature with tea.

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Lumi

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

Hospital gowns never fit like they should
We yelled at the nurse, didn’t do any good
More morphine, the last words you moaned
At last I was sure
That you weren’t far away from home

—The Lumineers, Long Way From Home

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

Ho! A blogger returns!

And I come with spring tidings, because it finally seems like we have changed seasons for good.

Two weeks ago we were still getting intermittent snow storms, a cruel reminder that March doesn’t always go out like a lamb.  This year, she left as an unchanged lioness.
Today, the lake is turquoise like the Caribbean, the sky is cloudless and baby blue, and the weather is a balmy 65 degrees.
The tiniest yellow daffodils nod their heads along the path to our library, and even the rhododendron saplings have fuchsia buds delicately emerging.  April pulled through in a big way.

P.S. Lumi really is a fun word.
In Finnish and Estonian, it means snow. But in Romanian, it means worlds. In Latin, it means lights.
And in Yoruba, it means hit me.  Cool.
Thank you Google Translate.

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

In other April news, have you heard the Lumineers’ new album, Cleopatra?
Some real gems on it. I recommend Ophelia, Cleopatra, and Long Way From Home. I just love their band!

More importantly, Game of Thrones is coming back in 7 short days. I am freaking out, to put it mildly. The show has now managed to overtake the books’ timeline, so some of what happens this season will be material even I have never seen.
~*fangirling~*~**~*

Less awesome news: I fucking got shingles this week.
If you are thinking, what the fuck?! you’re not 70 years old yet, then we share very similar sentiments, my friend.
Not only do I rarely get very sick, which I attribute to growing up in Ithaca and putting lots of dirt in my mouth, but I am 20—20!!!—and yet I got shingles, AKA a super painful, non-contagious reawakening of the varicella (AKA chickenpox) virus in your dorsal root ganglion (nerve roots) that emerges as an excruciating and somewhat debilitating rash (that can be very dangerous, even deadly, for immunocompromised individuals).
Luckily for me, work just started picking up (hi, UChicago) so this is totally the ideal time to feel simultaneously and relentlessly exhausted, itchy, and in pain.
But seriously, Universe. WHY.

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

I haven’t been feeling exactly bright and alive lately, but I’m trying to get in the kitchen as often as I can.
This, primarily, is because I haven’t been baking as much as I really like to, and because I have no clue as to how much I’m going to be able to do over the summer.

I’m also feeling the call to the kitchen because of my cravings for humongous, fresh salads, which require some time and patient chopping. Trying to dive into as many spring vegetables as I possibly can and saying Bye Felicia to winter squash and citrus.
Like, I love you. But it’s past time for you to go.

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

Today, I’m sharing a pretty little tart that has virtually no bake time and minimal effort required.
It’s totally adaptable—use whatever bounty of fruit you can get your hands on.
This could be made (and deliciously, I might add) with poached rhubarb or sliced plums or apricots.
Lemon and cream cheese never fail as a delicious backdrop.
Strawberries are cheap and abundant right now, as spring has long been arrived in more verdant parts of the globe (looking at you, California).
This tart would be fabulous with just strawberries.

You can check out another riff on lemon+strawberry (plus one of my most favorite poems that I’ve written) from eons ago two summers ago, here.

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

The base of this tart is my beloved pâte sucrée. It’s like a buttery shortbread cookie, but not quite as sweet, and it holds its shape perfectly when frozen and weighted with some dry beans (my ceramic pie weights live at home).
The filling is smooth and rich—lots of lemon zest and juice is thrown in with cream cheese and powdered sugar. Equally delicious would be a substitution of mascarpone for the cream cheese. Nom.
On top, a bounty of berries, juicy and colorful, brushed with a little apricot jam for extra shine and dusted with a shower of powdered sugar, if you should so desire.

Perfectly low-key, full of fresh fruit and flavor, this tart is a perfect way to officially ring in spring!

*Please don’t let this post jinx our beautiful weather, please don’t let this post jinx our beautiful weather…*

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

Cream Cheese Berry Tart
makes 1 13×4 inch tart

ingredients:
for the crust:
112 grams (1 stick, 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, soft
100 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
120 grams (1 cup) flour, plus 2 tablespoons if needed
1 egg yolk

for the filling:
120 grams (4 ounces) cream cheese, soft but still chilled
zest of 1 whole lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon heavy cream
200 grams (1 1/2 cups) powdered sugar, sifted

to assemble:
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 cup blackberries
1/2 cup raspberries
1/2 cup blueberries
1 tablespoon apricot jam
powdered sugar, as desired

directions:
Make the crust: place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high until doubled in size, about 4 minutes.
Add in the sugar, vanilla, and salt and beat on high for another 3 minutes.
Stir in the flour and egg yolk slowly until a cohesive dough forms.
Press into the tart pan with your fingers and prick with a fork.
Freeze for at least an hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Cover tart shell with foil and weight with pie weights or dry beans.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and fully set.
Allow to cool fully.
Meanwhile, make the cream cheese filling: beat cream cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice, and heavy cream on high for 2 minutes, until light and fluffy.
Add in the powdered sugar and stir slowly until incorporated; increase speed to high and beat for another minute.
Filling should be thick.
Spread into the cooled shell.
Decorate with berries, then brush hot jam over the berries with a pastry brush.
Dust with powdered sugar if desired.

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.

Crackberry

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Blackberries were on sale.

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Can you tell?  No? Here, here, and now, here?

Summer berries are arriving.  And I fully intend to eat my weight take advantage of them.

{In regards to the title of this post, although I’ve always been partial to my bevy of iPhones and have never indulged in a crackberry, my friend’s dad has it both ways with a Blackberry keyboard that attaches to his iPhone!  How cool is that?
It’s for people who really love the keys on the Bberry (that satisfying clicking…) but who realize the superiority of the iPhone OS.
Genius.}

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I can’t wait until I go back to Ithaca and am able to raid the farmer’s market.
I miss the smell, the bustle, the lake, the people.

I’m in a list-y mood, so:

Fresh, early-summer/late-spring produce that I’m craving (that you should be looking for now! now! now!):
fresh, astringent rhubarb
tart, plump raspberries and blackberries (holla!)
crisp, tender spring greens
thin, delicate stalks of asparagus
young, sugary sweet corn
early, juicy strawberries

Ways I’ll be using all this freshness:
rhubarb, maple, nutmeg compote to be served over cold, creamy greek yogurt with butter toasted oats and pecans
cardamom poached rhubarb and vanilla bean mascarpone tart
giant chopped salads full of grilled corn, balsamic roasted asparagus, hard boiled eggs, avocados, slivered almonds, and chickpeas
lemon and strawberry and black pepper ricotta tart

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If you find yourself with an abundance of blackberries, as I did, make these cupcakes.  I beg of you.

Blackberries are nestled into a ridiculously simple, 1 bowl no-mixer yellow cupcake batter, spiked with melted butter and plenty of kosher salt.
On top, a honey malted buttercream is drizzled with honey and finished with a single juicy blackberry.

The cupcake itself is like the softest, tenderest, and most fine-crumbed and cakelike blueberry muffin you’ve ever had (only with blackberries instead).

The frosting is not too sweet, and plenty salty.
It came about when I ran out of powdered sugar!  I decided to incorporate honey into the frosting, and then I threw some malted milk powder in for body.
It benefits by the punch of honey flavor from the drizzle, so don’t skip it.

This recipe only makes 12 little cupcakes, so don’t worry about a huge yield!

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Malted Honey and Blackberry Cupcakes
cupcake portion adapted from Sally
makes 12 cupcakes

ingredients:
for the cupcakes:
1 2/3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
heaping 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
splash vanilla extract
1 heaping cup smallish blackberries

for the frosting:
1 cup (16 tablespoons) butter, softened
big pinch salt
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup malted milk powder

to assemble:
12 large blackberries
1/2 cup honey, for drizzling

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line a cupcake tin with 12 liners.
Whisk together flour, baking powder and soda, and salt.
Beat melted butter with sugars until combined, then beat in egg.
Whisk milk and vanilla in, then quickly whisk in the dry ingredients.
Gently stir blackberries into batter, then portion out with a 1/3 cup scoop into liners.
Bake for 18-22 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
Allow to cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the frosting: beat butter with salt until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
Add in the powdered sugar, honey, and milk powder and, starting slowly, beat until totally combined, about 4 minutes.
Scrape the bowl and taste– if it’s not sweet or thick enough, add more powdered sugar.

To assemble the cupcakes, pipe frosting as desired and top with a blackberry.
Drizzle about a teaspoon and a half of honey on top of each cupcake.

FOTA

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CHIAROSCURO

blackberry caviar, coconut mousse, coconut crumb, coconut yolk, blackberry puree

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Hi!  To any newcomers, welcome to my blog, and welcome to my project for UChicago’s spring Festival of the Arts!

(I’ll post more explaining this post-presentation, for all you laypeople.)

////// Okay!  SO Hi!  Yes!  Presentation went off without a hitch. \\\\\\

I gave a 7-ish minute spiel about molecular gastronomy, this here blog, my weird love of reverse frozen spherification, and the three desserts you see here, which were funded by FOTA.

Hopefully I didn’t embarrass myself too badly (I definitely did).Chiaroscuro SMALL I

Contrast, made edible.  Fruity, creamy, crunchy, chewy.

Why are there so many seeds in blackberries?  Getting ultra-smooth puree is a pain in the ass.

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FRAGOLA

black pepper cheesecake, lemon curd, lemon sorbet, ginger black pepper sand, walnuts, candied lemons, creme fraiche, honey

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Early summer on a plate.  Spicy, sour, rich, fresh.

PSA: candied lemons are so incredibly addictive.  So is lemon curd.  OMg.

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For my live presentation, I made a deconstructed strawberry pie: strawberry yolk, yogurt cream, 5-spice milk sand.
Simple, delicious.

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TUORLO

mango yolk, watermelon tartar, avocado mousse,  lime curd, creme fraiche, grapefruit

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A play on tuna tartare with raw egg yolk.  Tropical, crunchy, herb-y, tangy.
(There is nothing quite like cold watermelon on a hot day, amirite?!)

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Happy to provide any of the recipes pictured for my fellow molecular nuts!

Swimmingly

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Promise me
you will not spend so much time treading water and
trying to keep your head above the waves that you forget,
truly forget, how much
you have always loved to swim.

–Tyler Knott Gregson

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I’ve had a shit week.

A shit fucking week.  Actually, the last two weeks have been pretty fucking terrible.
I think.  I find it difficult to pinpoint exactly what I want to complain about.

Clearly, something is wrong, because this is unheard of.
I can make whine out of, well, nothing.

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Busy. Running running running can’t stop.  Balance.  One toe, two toes, one fine wire.
Teeter, totter, fall on my ass.  Climb back up and repeat with markedly diminishing grace.
It never ends, this race to the finish.  I’m sick and I’m fucking tired and I don’t want to run anymore.
I don’t want to bother with the balance and the business and the busyness.

Doors are slamming shut left and right; doors slam shut right in my face.  Fine.  Fuck you, too.
I didn’t want to come in anyways; happy to stand in the soaking spring rain.
Happy to keep myself company in my confused, delighted misery.

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 The words don’t come, don’t flow, don’t exist.
The sentences have dissipated, dissolved, disappeared.
My brain is a microcosm of unproductive stagnant energy; it refuses to spit out even the shortest string of words, preferring instead to brood in dark, dank spaces that exist far below the surface.

I miss this stupid, time-consuming blog so very dearly.
Posts await, impatiently, glaringly unwritten but filled with photos and sugar and longing.
Why can’t I write?  Where are the words that so easily filled pages just months ago?

I miss my family.
Even the words meant for them, short snippets of text messages, have slowed.
Can’t find what to say.  Utterly foreign for a needy, demanding, over-sharer.

I miss home, but that’s a given.

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Stretched too thin.
The sum total is too great: two major art/food projects, four classes spanning two majors, one new and important person, three incredibly important friends with as much on their plates as mine, one blog, one body, one mind to hold it all in.

I’m happy, I’m sad.  I feel things deeply and profoundly.
Cry while listening to the Civil Wars–listen to them a lot, on repeat, even– and squeal while watching baby bunnies hop around–too few this spring, too few after a harsh winter.
Cry while thinking about my grandfather; cry and laugh, delighted, at his memorial.
Giddy while holding hands and smile while my hair is gently smoothed back from my face.
Sadness, anger, and regret all stab deeply into my stony heart, just as satisfaction, peace, and joy buoy me upwards, make me light as air and malleable as clay.  Ballooned upward, only to be popped by a pin that feels more like a baseball bat.

But thank the gods that I do feel.
A very wise woman said sadness is raw skin, painful and present.
Depression is a down parka, muffling and silencing, blocking and numbing life.
Fuck those stupid fucking “Depression Hurts” commercials.
Depression dulls; sadness hurts– sadness feels.

And oh!– do I feel.

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Wake up–Friday–sheets already sticking sticking stuck to sweaty skin.  Wake up, drool smeared up one cheek and into one ear; wake up feeling disgusting but alive, so alive.  Sick of being refrigerated anyways.  Grateful for the sweet breeze.

The heat and soupy humidity and smell of rain in the air set my soul to singing.
Spring reminds me to live.  Reminds me not to let a single moment escape unnoticed, unappreciated.
Spring refuses to let me crawl back under my winter parka, refuses to let me burrow deep and hibernate.

Spring is life.  Life in bloom.

Open eyes, breathe deep, smile, cry, whatever the fuck this feeling is at this moment, and embrace it.  Own it.

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These photos are a little preview of an article I wrote for a fabulous food magazine here on campus, Nonpareil.

Stoked to work with them.  I had a super fun interview over coffee with their lovely editor, Jenny.
Reading the article she wrote, I was a touch embarrassed but crazy flattered.  It’s an exciting feeling, to be sure.

To my UChicago readers, I do hope you’ll pick up a copy when it’s published. (Translation: pick one up and read it cover to cover or else.)
To my other readers, sucks to suck.  Just kidding.  I’m sharing the recipe here so you can be included, too.

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This cake takes the traditional American birthday cake– yellow, with chocolate buttercream, and elevates it ever so slightly.

Buttery yellow coconut cake, gently scented with coconut oil, with threads of coconut and egg yolks creating the tenderest and softest of crumbs.
Salted chocolate buttercream, whipped and fluffy, rich with deep, dark, fruity chocolate cocoa powder and enhanced with a pinch of espresso powder and three pinches of salt.
Blackberries, tart and juicy, pair gorgeously– they play a perfect foil for the heaps of butter and chocolate, and add a fresh, lively element to the cake.

You could substitute raspberries very easily, light coconut milk in the cake batter, and coconut cream in the frosting, as well.
You do, however, need the bittersweet chocolate.  It’s the key to getting a truly chocolaty buttercream.

This has birthday cake written all over it.

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P.S.  Happy mother’s day.  My mama and my grandmas are true inspirations.
(HI GRANDMA shout out to you, I know you’re reading this.  You’re the BEST and I miss you dearly.  Hope you got my cards and letters– did I put enough stamps on?– Love you SO much.  I will call you later today, but I expect an email about 5 minutes after you finish reading this…)

My mama inspires me to work hard; she teaches me to balance on the thin wire of life and not take shit from idiots.
She reminds me to let little things go and not let myself be bullied by the patriarchy.
She comforts me when I’m down– “fuck them”– and makes me laugh with pictures of my badly behaved cats– again, “fuck them”.
She begs me to not be like her, but I know I am my mother’s daughter.
And I am blessed for it.

I love you, mama.  See you in a few weeks.

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A Grown-Up Birthday Cake

ingredients:
for the yellow coconut cake:
200 grams (1 2/3 cups) flour
2 1/8 teaspoons baking powder
85 grams (6 tablespoons) butter
30 grams (2 tablespoons) coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
180 grams (3/4 cup) reduced-fat milk
3/4 cup desiccated coconut, optional

for the salted chocolate buttercream:
50 grams (2 ounces) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
315 grams (2 3/4 sticks) butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon espresso powder, optional
110 to 140 grams (4 to 5 cups) powdered sugar, sifted
50 grams (1/2 cup) cocoa powder, sifted
30 to 60 grams (2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup) heavy cream

to assemble:
blackberries
powdered sugar, for dusting

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter and flour 3 6-inch pans or 2 8-inch pans
Stir together flour and baking powder.
Cream butter and coconut oil with salt for 3 full minutes.
Add the sugar in a stream and cream for 4 more minutes (set a timer).
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in the egg yolks and vanilla extract.
Beat for 3 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl; while mixing slowly, alternate adding in the flour mix and the milk, beginning and ending with the dry.
Stir in the coconut.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pans.
Bake for 22-25 minutes, until golden and springy to the touch.
A tester should come out nearly clean, with just a few crumbs sticking to it.
Allow to cool completely.

Make the frosting: melt the chocolate in a double boiler or very gently in a microwave; set aside to cool.
Beat butter, espresso powder, and salt on high for 5-7 minutes, until very fluffy and nearly white.
While whipping, slowly stream in the cooled chocolate; beat for another minute until homogeneous.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and sift the powdered sugar and cocoa over the butter.
Starting slowly to prevent sugar explosions, beat in the sugar and cocoa.
As the frosting begins to come together, stream in the cream, starting with 2 tablespoons and increasing if the frosting is still too stiff.

Assemble the cake: level your cake layers with a serrated knife if they are uneven; brush crumbs off gently.
Place the first cake layer on a serving plate; spread with 1/4 cup of frosting and top with the second layer.
Spread the second layer with 1/3 cup of frosting and press a few blackberries on.
Smooth more frosting over the blackberries so that the layer is even, then top with the third cake layer.
Use 1/2 cup-2/3 cup of the frosting to create an even, thin crumb coat.
Refrigerate crumb-coated cake for at least 30 minutes.
Once chilled, use the remaining frosting to cover the cake as desired.

Ingots

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

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

Soie

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Time and patience change the mulberry leaf into silk.

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I have to come clean with a recent addiction.

I am hooked on The Sopranos.
It finally happened.  I started watching, and now I can’t stop.
Season 3 and still going strong.

I wouldn’t have expected myself to enjoy it as much as I do.
The complexities and fine details are what make HBO shows so great, and seeing as The Sopranos arguably started this vein of television (plot intrigue, very nuanced characters, lots of action and violence and detail), it is no exception.

It’s so bad.  I can sit and watch 3 episodes in a row and forget where I am.
It is an incredibly immersive show.

(In other Rachel-TV-addiction news: watching this and this and now this makes me want to cry and pee myself because I cannot wait one minute longer for Season 4 of Game of Thrones.  I. Am. So. Fucking. Impatient. Excited.
Currently reading A Sword of Storms… and… I just can’t even any more.  GEORGE.)

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Anyways, let’s talk panna cotta.  A true Italian masterpiece.
Panna cotta = “cooked cream.”
This delightfully simple dessert originated in Northern Italy, and consists of cream, milk, and sugar being cooked together with a touch of gelatin (fish bones, in ye olde days, but, um, ick).
The resultant custard is softly set and light on the tongue, each spoonful melting to nothing.
It’s fast, easy, versatile, impressive and a great make-ahead dessert.
I clearly have nothing but good to say about panna cotta.

A note: a good panna cotta should be smooth and silky, not gelatinous or rubbery.
Especially panna cotta that won’t be turned out of its mold.
It shouldn’t be too firm: this is not Jell-O, people.  Thank god.

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Since panna cotta has no eggs to dull the flavor, it’s a great foil for fruits, nuts, and other flavors.

This panna cotta is made with buttermilk, which cuts the cream and sits super clean on the tongue.
It adds a certain je-ne-sais-quoi, so that the base itself has some personality, and the dessert isn’t all about the toppings.
(I’m looking at you, fro-yo.)

You can let your imagination run wild; the flavor of the pudding itself is only slightly tangy, and not overpowering in the least.
While it’s refreshing on its own, I have a million and one ideas of toppings or mix-ins.

Here, I’ve topped each panna cotta with a splash of thick, round Grade B maple syrup, sweet and earthy,
a few fresh, plump, tart blackberries,
a smattering of crunchy, nutty pepitas,
and a hefty sprinkle of Maldon salt.

A few more ideas: add chopped fresh peaches to the base before it sets, then top with caramel and pecans and more thinly sliced peaches.
Stir some melted white chocolate into the base, top with pomegranate seeds and chocolate ganache.
Zest a lemon into the base, top with honey, hazelnuts, and raspberries.

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While we’re talking about addictions, I also need to mention Maldon sea salt.
It’s been a craze for a long time, but I never felt the urge to give into the fad.
I refused that little white rock box during many a grocery trip.  Then one day, I gave in.

And thus did it begin, my love affair with this stupid salt.
I put it on everything, from chocolate to broccoli.
I love the crunchiness; I love the pure sea flavor; I love the look of those flakes.

You saw it on these tarts and these chocolates, and now, here, on panna cotta.
A little dusting of salt can truly make the difference between a blah dessert and a lively, exciting one.

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How amazing are these little teacups?

I purchased them from a girl who lives in my house, at our house auction.
I fell in love at first sight and was willing to outbid anyone who dared go against me.

They are seriously precious; the color palette could not be more my aesthetic.  (Seriously, just take a look at my Pinterest color board.)
In addition, I love that they’re different sizes and shapes.  So dainty and adorable!

I want to (re)learn how to throw, so that I can make more plates and cups and cake stands… Oh my.
This cannot be good.

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Buttermilk Panna Cotta
adapted from Donna Hay
makes 4 small ramekins
2 teaspoons gelatin
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
pepitas, maple syrup, berries, flaky sea salt, to garnish

directions:
Mix the gelatin with 2 tablespoons of the cream and set aside to bloom.
In a small saucepot, combine buttermilk, heavy cream, and sugar.
Bring to a boil, stirring constantly to prevent a skin from forming.
Remove from heat and vigorously whisk in the gelatin, ensuring that all of it dissolves.
Pour into molds and set in the fridge until firm, at least 2 hours.
Garnish with berries, a splash of maple syrup, and a sprinkle of pepitas and flaky sea salt.