Checkmate


No-Bake Checkerboard Pumpkin Cheesecake | La Pêche Fraîche

“Without error there can be no brilliancy.”

—Emanuel Lasker

No-Bake Checkerboard Pumpkin Cheesecake | La Pêche FraîcheNo-Bake Checkerboard Pumpkin Cheesecake | La Pêche Fraîche

The 2017 #virtualpumpkinparty is here, folks!
Click here for the page on Sara’s website.
Big thanks to Sara (Cake Over Steak) for hosting this party again! It’s such a fun way to share with other food bloggers and our readers.

No-Bake Checkerboard Pumpkin Cheesecake | La Pêche Fraîche

Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve last posted. I have so many wonderful fall things to share with you, so expect to see fresh content here more often in the coming few months.
Especially now that we’re in holiday mode! Halloween, then Thanksgiving, then the winter holidays. Ugh, I’m so ready for it.
As lovely as they are, I’m more than ready to wipe away the vestiges of summer that still cling to New York in the form of 75 degree days and bright green leaves.
Give me all the chilled winds and decorative gourds and chai teas and fall foliage.


I have had precious little sleep of late, so I’m not able to find many words at the moment. My brain is pretty mushy right now, and I need a solid 12 hour deep sleep to replenish my mind.
Although this way we can circumvent my usual bland blathering about life and get to the goods (AKA cheesecake) much faster.
Plus, I think most prefer the pumpkin pictures to another embarrassing and squashy diary entry. (See what I did there? Hahaha yeah it makes no sense and I need sleep.)


I just reread all of the Harry Potter books (…all in one week…); late night reading is at least partially to blame for my recent lack of sleep. I thoroughly enjoyed the reread; it had been a long time since my last.
I always find that Harry Potter gets me into an autumnal and wintry mood, because even though the books stretch over all parts of the year, J.K. Rowling’s descriptions of the great hall on Halloween and Christmas are transportive and ultra-dreamy.
I’ve started reading LoTR now. Definitely going to take me more than a week to finish it.
By the way, if you have Amazon Prime, you can download the single-volume version for free to your kindle (or phone) right now!
I’ve also discovered that you can download certain magazines for free as well—there are a lot of great Thanksgiving issues out right now.
I’ve got to start preparing my menu! Eeeeek!!


I’m not going to lie, this is a very involved pumpkin cheesecake.
It is probably too involved to make it onto our holiday table, given that I usually make three different desserts. This one is a stand-alone treat, for sure.
It’s made easier by virtue of being no-bake, but if you were to forgo making two separate mixtures and just make the whole thing pumpkin, it’s going to taste exactly the same. I promise.
So, no sweat if you’re not into all the fussy piping detail. I wish I had made mine cleaner, so you’ll probably see this technique repeated in the future when I have more time to practice.

This cheesecake is incredibly creamy and light, and avoids any of the rubberiness to which no-bake cheesecakes sometimes fall prey.

The simple crust is sweet and buttery and holds together without baking; it stretches up the sides of the whole cheesecake so you don’t have to line your pan (holla!).
The filling is half classic cheesecake, half pumpkin spice. It is tangy and rich, and the spices add balance to the earthiness of the pumpkin. Cloves, cinnamon, and ginger are just about the most warming combination of spices I can think of. Add a pinch of nutmeg if you’ve got it on hand.
On top, a checkerboard of dark chocolate and salted caramel adds whimsy to the bake, and clouds of fluffy, barely sweetened whipped cream cut the texture of the cheesecake wonderfully.

All in all, this cheesecake is undeniably impressive, and when you cut into it, the surprise of the checkerboard filling makes it even more attractive. The more careful you are with your piping, the cleaner your interior will be (mine is a little bit wonky, frankly).

Pumpkin, previously:

chocolate pumpkin cake with meringue ghosts
pumpkin meringue tart
pumpkin and condensed milk cakes
double pumpkin cake
dairy free pumpkin bundt cake with lemon glaze
pumpkin cream cheese crepe cake
brown butter pumpkin kanelbullens
brown butter pumpkin and cranberry upside down cake

No-Bake Checkerboard Pumpkin Cheesecake
makes 1 6-inch cheesecake

ingredients:
for the crust:
200 grams (about 12 full sheets) graham crackers
75 grams (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) sugar
pinch salt
113 grams (8 tablespoons) butter, melted

for the filling:
455 grams (16 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
150 grams (3/4 cup) sugar
20 grams (5 teaspoons) lemon juice, from 1 very juicy lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
300 grams (1 1/4 cups) heavy cream
7 grams (1 packet, 2 1/4 teaspoons) gelatin
15 grams (1 tablespoon) water
120 grams (1/2 cup) pumpkin puree
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon

to assemble:
65 grams (1/3 cup) sugar
30 grams (2 tablespoons) butter
40 grams (2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons) heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup heavy cream, cold
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

melted and slightly cooled dark chocolate

directions:
First, make the crust: crush graham crackers into crumbs and mix with the sugar, salt, and melted butter.
Press evenly into your pan and up the sides, then refrigerate.
To make the filling, beat cream cheese, sugar, salt, and lemon juice on high speed with a paddle attachment until smooth and not gritty, about 3 minutes.
Add in the heavy cream and whip on high until thickened.
Stir the gelatin into the water and set aside for 2 minutes; heat it gently in the microwave until it melts.
Mix the gelatin into the cheesecake mixture and allow to thicken for a few minutes.
Portion half of the mixture out and stir in the pumpkin and spices until homogeneous.
Fill two piping bags with each of the mixtures, and pipe alternating concentric circle layers inside the prepared crust.
Refrigerate until set, at least 3 hours and up to overnight.
To assemble, make the salted caramel: place sugar and salt in a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat.
Cook without stirring until the caramel is dark toffee color, then remove from heat and carefully stir in butter and heavy cream.
Allow to cool completely before using.
Whip the heavy cream with the powdered sugar until stiff peaks form.
Make a grid pattern lightly with a knife on the surface of the firm cheesecake; pipe alternating checkerboard squares of chocolate and caramel on top.
Use a star tip to pipe large swirls of whipped cream around the edge of the cheesecake.
Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.

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Pumpkin Head

Pumpkin and Condensed Milk Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

“Most dazzling human achievements are, in fact, the aggregate of countless individual elements,
each of which is, in a sense, ordinary.”
― Angela Duckworth, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Pumpkin and Condensed Milk Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

It’s the 2016 Virtual Pumpkin Party!! Woohoo!!
This party is hosted by the amazing Sara of Cake over Steak and Aimee of Twigg Studios.

There is a whole lot of pumpkin purée that’s about to inundate the internet, your instagram feed, and Pinterest.

There are some amazing, drool-worthy recipes, both savory and sweet, included in the link list below, and I absolutely encourage you to click through to whatever piques your interest!

Pumpkin and Condensed Milk Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

When my siblings and I were babies, our parents gave us (ridiculous) nicknames, each with their own backstory.

My older brother Michael was pumpkin head, because he had a giant, bald, blocky head as a newborn. LOL.
Unfortunately, this nickname didn’t stick around enough for us to tease him with it much.

My nickname was punky beef, and I have no good answer for why.  It is a nickname of inexplicable origins and uncanny endurance—my dad still calls me punky beef to this day.
I’m sure my parents could explain it… but I’ll leave that for another day.

Pumpkin and Condensed Milk Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

These hexagonal pumpkin cakes are cute, a little unexpected, and a little blocky, if you will.
They’re more elegant (and geometric) than typical cupcakes. They definitely lean closer to a petit four or a tea cake.

Dense, spicy, and with a good measure of dark molasses, they are delightfully and unmistakably pumpkin-hued. They’re finished with a sticky condensed milk glaze and a puff of whipped cream.  You can eat them in two bites and demolish multiple without even realizing it.

Pairing a light frosting like whipped cream with a dense pumpkin cake actually works incredibly well, in spite of the fact that you usually see pumpkin cake with thick cream cheese icing.

The milkiness of the glaze and whipped cream is a delicate, sweet match for the moist pumpkin cake below.
Those with whom I shared these cakes thought they were absolutely delicious, so I consider this recipe to be a real winner!

Pumpkin and Condensed Milk Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Cake Over Steak • Quick Pumpkin and Kale Risotto + Arancini
Twigg Studios • Sausage Stuffing Baked in a Pumpkin
Donuts, Dresses and Dirt • Pumpkin Spice Latte Popsicles
Cloudy Kitchen • Pumpkin Cake with Vanilla German Buttercream
Vegetarian Ventures • Smoky Pumpkin & Black Sesame Hummus
Eat Boutique • Pumpkin Scallion Dumplings
A Little Saffron • Pumpkin Stuffed Shells
Two Red Bowls • Pumpkin & Maple Caramel Baked French Toast
Wallflower Kitchen • Mini Pumpkin & Cinnamon Sugar Donuts
Wit & Vinegar • Pumpkin Butterscotch Banana Split
Style Sweet CA • Pumpkin Creme Brulee Cake
Nommable • Pumpkin Biscuits with Mushroom Thyme Gravy
With Food + Love • Cinnamon Raisin Pumpkin Seed Bread
Hortus • Creamy Roasted Squash Soup + Pumpkin Risotto
Sevengrams • Vegan Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream
Jojotastic • 1 Pumpkin, 2 Ways: Pumpkin Trail Mix & Dog Treats
Grain Changer • Pumpkin Spice Baked Oatmeal
Girl Versus Dough • Pumpkin Cranberry Flax Crisps
Earthy Feast • Pumpkin Grits + Pumpkin Home Fries + a Fried Egg
Harvest and Honey • Truffled Pumpkin Papardelle Alfredo With Frizzled Sage
Tasty Seasons • Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake
Broma Bakery • Pumpkin Butter Pop Tarts
Tending the Table • Roasted Pumpkin and Barley Salad
The Sugar Hit • Super Soft Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
Delicious Not Gorgeous • Waffles with Spiced Pumpkin Butter and Brown Sugar Walnut Crumble
Taste Love and Nourish • Pumpkin Bread Pudding
The Green Life • Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Chunk & Hazelnut Skillet Cookie (Vegan)
Foolproof Living • Pumpkin Creme Fraiche Pasta with Sage
The Monday Box • Pumpkin Mini Bundt Cakes
Design Crush • Pumpkin Bourbon Hot Toddy
The Road to Honey • Pumpkin Pie & Chocolate Layer Cake
My Name is Yeh • Roasted Pumpkin with Yogurt and Hazelnut Dukkah
Give Recipe • Orange Chocolate Pumpkin Bread
Heartbeet Kitchen • Magic Vegan Pumpkin Pie Fudge
Beard and Bonnet • Marbled Pumpkin Muffins
Eat Within Your Means • Vegan Pumpkin Blender Muffins
Snixy Kitchen • Pumpkin Tapioca Pudding with Candied Pumpkin Seeds
Ruby Josephine • Moroccan Sweet Pumpkin + Beef Tagine
Lab Noon • Pasta Bake with Roasted Pumpkin and Saffron Sauce, Pistachio and Goat Cheese
An Edible Mosaic • Pumpkin Spice Chia Seed Pudding
Hey Modest Marce • Mascarpone Pumpkin Pie
Inspired By the Seasons • Pumpkin Applesauce Smoothie
CaliGirl Cooking • Pumpkin Praline Cinnamon Rolls with Spiked Cream Cheese Glaze
Sally’s Baking Addiction • Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bundt Cake
Well and Full • Spicy Chipotle Pumpkin Hummus
Appeasing a Food Geek • Cheese Fondue Stuffed Roasted Pumpkin
SweetPhi • Pumpkin Chili Biscuit Bake
Warm Vanilla Sugar • Buttermilk Pumpkin Doughnuts
Mademoiselle Poirot • Cinnamon-Pumpkin Mousse on Honey Panna Cotta topped with Hazelnut Brittle
Heart of a Baker • Pumpkin Sticky Buns with Vanilla Bean Frosting
Flourishing Foodie • Massaman Curry with Pumpkin and Chickpeas
Ginger & Toasted Sesame • Pumpkin Jeon
Lindsay Jang • Best Ever DIY Pumpkin Spiced Latte
Fix Feast Flair • Hokkaido Pumpkin + Sage Mac and Gouda
Will Frolic for Food • Pumpkin Kale Patties with Coconut Cilantro Rice
A Couple Cooks • Pumpkin Pecan Baked Steel Cut Oats
Vermilion Red • Pumpkin Pie Souffle
B. Britnell • Vegan Pumpkin Pie
Displaced Housewife • Brown Butter Pumpkin Donuts
Sweet Gula • Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
La Pêche Fraîche • Pumpkin and Condensed Milk Cakes
Kitchen Konfidence • Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi with Rosemary Brown Butter Sauce
Loves Food, Loves to Eat • Savory Pumpkin Bread Pudding
Kale & Caramel • Goat Cheese & Sage-Stuffed Pumpkin Challah
Okie Dokie Artichokie • Pumpkin Chorizo Chili with Sweet Potatoes + Pinto Beans
Salted Plains • Easy Pumpkin Bread
Liliahna • Chicken Legs with Pumpkin and Tortellini
TermiNatetor Kitchen • Whole Wheat, Pumpkin & Brown Sugar Brioche
Vermilion Roots • Sweet Rice Dumplings with Pumpkin
Celebrate Creativity • Pumpkin Mini Cheesecake Tarts
Serendipity Bakes • Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake
So Much Yum • Vegan Maple-Glazed Pumpkin Spice Doughnuts
The Brick Kitchen • Pumpkin, Pecan & White Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwiches
Lisli • Pumpkin Pie Cake
Cookie Dough and Oven Mitt • Pumpkin Pie Dip
Fig+Bleu • Pumpkin Granola
The Speckled Palate • Pumpkin Caramel Cream Cheese Swirl Blondies
Cook Til Delicious • Fall Cliche Cake (Pumpkin Spice Cake / Maple Cream Cheese Frosting / Apple Cider Caramel Sauce)
Floating Kitchen • Chicken and Pumpkin Chili
The Wood and Spoon • Pumpkin Pecan Cake with Burnt Sugar Frosting
Fork Vs Spoon • Pumpkin Streusel Muffins
Lemon & Vanilla • Pumpkin and Coconut Caramel Flan
Dunk & Crumble • Pumpkin Chocolate Icebox Cake
Chicano Eats • Pumpkin Butter Pan de Muerto
On the Plate • Pumpkin Pancakes, Salted Caramel & Pecans
Rough Measures • Cosy Pumpkin Spice Latte (Caffeine and Dairy Free)
Brewing Happiness • Pumpkin Ginger Breakfast Cookies
A Butterful Mind • Pumpkin Cheesecake with Vanilla Whipped Cream
The Little Loaf • Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Fork to Belly • Pumpkin Gnocchi
The Little Epicurean • Chocolate Hazelnut Pumpkin Pie
Bourbon and Honey • Spicy Roasted Pumpkin with Honey and Feta
What to Cook Today • Spicy Pumpkin Noodle Soup
Food by Mars • Pumpkin Pie (Grain-Free, Diary-Free)
The Bojon Gourmet • Pumpkin Butterscotch Pudding
Oh Honey Bakes • Pumpkin Cake with Gingersnap Toffee
Long Distance Baking • Layered Pumpkin Cheesecake
The Jam Lab • Pumpkin Madeleines Dipped in White Chocolate
The Lemon Apron • Pumpkin Gingerbread Loaf with an Olive Oil Glaze
Sun Diego Eats • Thai Pumpkin & Sticky Rice Cakes
A Cozy Kitchen • Pumpkin Chai Scones with Black Tea Glaze
A Cookie Named Desire • Pumpkin Shrubs
Eating Clean Recipes • Vegan Pumpkin Chia Pudding
Kingfield Kitchen • Vegan Fresh Pumpkin Soup
Drink and Cocktail Recipes • Pumpkin Dirty Chai
The Pig & Quill • Pumpkin Sage Cannelloni (Dairy-Free)
My Lavender Blues • Pumpkin, Banana & Olive Oil Bundt Cake
Betty Liu • Pumpkin + Pear Butter Baked Melty Cheese
Happy Hearted Kitchen • Cinnamon Roasted Pumpkin with Tahini Yogurt + Hazelnut Dukkah
InHappenstance • Pumpkin Scones with Maple Butter
Live Eat Learn • Pumpkin Gingerbread Hot Cocoa
Pumpkin and Condensed Milk Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Pumpkin and Condensed Milk Cakes
makes 9 small cakes or 1 9×9 inch cake

ingredients:
for the cakes:
55 grams (4 tablespoons) butter, melted
56 grams (4 tablespoons, 60 mL) oil
267 grams (1 1/3 cups) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
244 grams (1 cup) pumpkin purée
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs
200 grams (1 2/3 cup) AP flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

for the glaze:
100 grams (5 tablespoons) condensed milk
2 tablespoons powdered sugar

to decorate:
240 grams (1 cup) heavy cream
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour a 9x9inch baking pan.
Place oil, melted butter, sugar, molasses, pumpkin, spices, and salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine.
Add in the eggs one by one and whisk vigorously to combine.
Add in the flour and baking powder and stir until combined.
Pour batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a tester comes out with only a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool completely.
Cut and level cake into the shape you desire, or leave whole (you may want to level the top if leaving it whole, just so the glaze can soak in).
Whisk condensed milk and powdered sugar together to make the glaze; pour all over the cake(s).
Whip cream; whisk in powdered sugar.
Spread or pipe whipped cream on top of cake, then decorate with crumbs left over from leveling the cake.

Suprème

Brûléed Citrus and Lime Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Cosine, secant, tangent, sine,
Three point one four one five nine,
Square root, cube root, BTU,
Sequence, series, limits too. Rah.

—Unofficial UChicago football cheer

(See here for a fantastically written article about a very nerdy tradition at my school, which is the nerdiest of the nerdy)

Brûléed Citrus and Lime Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

(Themistocles, Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War,
X squared, Y squared, H2SO4.
Who for? What for? Who we gonna yell for?
Go, Maroons.

Logarithm, biorhythm, entropy, kinetics,
MPC, GNP, bioenergetics!
Maximize and integrate, titrate and equilibrate—
Go, Maroons.)

Brûléed Citrus and Lime Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy Pi Day!
3.14, and I’m posting this at 1:59 so we get 3.14159.
(Last year, 3/14/15, at 9:26:53, the date was 10 digits of Pi!)

Pretty much every baking/food blogger is sharing a pie today.  It’s only right, right?
Shamefully, I’ve never shared a pie on Pi day.
I haven’t shared many pies at all, truth be told.  Which is weird, because I really like making and eating pie.
My last pie was made at Thanksgiving, and it was this insane apple, poached pear, butterscotch, and cheddar cheese beaut.  It was even shared on Buzzfeed (woot!) but has since faded into the recesses of my mind/tastebuds/blog archives.

If you want real (and regularly scheduled) pie envy, go see Michelle, who has undertaken a pie a month for 2016. Color me inspired! Her pies are gorgeous and her photography of late has been b o m b.
High fives, Michelle! Keep being the most impressive, please and thank you!

Brûléed Citrus and Lime Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

The pie I’m sharing today is definitely worthy of reviving the pie portion of my site.
It’s a creamy, custardy lime pie, full of sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks in a crunchy, buttery, toasty graham cracker crust topped with brûléed suprèmes of white and ruby red grapefruit and a navel orange.

It’s mostly the classic key lime pie (less the key limes) from the back of the sweetened condensed milk can, with the addition of a non store-bought graham crust and a heap of torched, bittersweet citrus segments.
The creamy filling contrasts brilliantly with the slightly bitter, sour fruit and the sweet, wheat-y crust.
Key lime pie has always—and will always—be in my personal favorite top 3 pie flavors.

I dropped this off at N’s fraternity house, and it was demolished. According to one ~taste tester~, my good friend Colton, it was “unreal” and “like an addiction,” as in, none of them could stop eating it, even if they tried.
Not only does this make me very happy, but it’s also a good indication of how yummy this combination is!

Brûléed Citrus and Lime Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

One last note about this pie…
In spite of the title of this post, there is no need to suprème your fruit. Seriously.

Unless you’re thinking to yourself: “YES. this is what I went to culinary school for 2 years for!  My time to shine!” or
“what’s the big deal about suprèming? I do it every Sunday for my weekly goat cheese, blood orange, and arugula salad!”
then it’s probably not worth it.
Slice up your peeled fruits like this, or cut ’em like this.

If, like me, you’ve seen this technique done on T.V. but have never had any formal knife skill training and are still silly enough to want to try it, please buy extra citrus fruits.
Because it’s kind of a pain and you’ll probably mash a lot of segments along the way. I know I did.

No matter how the citrus is arranged on top of the pie, it will be delicious and beautiful.  Just a word of warning advice.

Brûléed Citrus and Lime Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Brûléed Citrus and Lime Pie
makes 1 9-inch pie

ingredients:
300 grams (2 cups) graham cracker crumbs
112 grams (4 ounces, 1 stick) butter, melted
pinch salt
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar

for the filling and topping:
400 grams (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
135 grams (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) lime juice (I used 2 limes and 1 lemon)
5 egg yolks

1 white grapefruit
1 ruby red grapefruit
1 navel orange
turbinado sugar, optional

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and ready a 9-inch pie dish.
Stir graham cracker crumbs, butter, salt, and sugar together until sandy and coarse.
Firmly press into pan using your fingers and a measuring cup.
Bake in preheated oven for 8 minutes, then remove and let cool slightly.
Meanwhile, whisk the sweetened condensed milk, lime juice, and egg yolks together vigorously until a smooth and homogenous mixture forms.
Pour into cooling pie crust and bake for 15 minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool completely, at least 1 hour + some time in the fridge.
In the meantime, suprème your grapefruits and orange and arrange on a plate the way you want them.
When the pie is cool, lightly dry each slice of citrus with a paper towel and arrange on top of the pie.
Sprinkle some turbinado sugar on top (liberally) and brûlée with a blow torch.
Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Deuxième

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

–Disney’s “Ratatouille

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Has it been this long, really?

How could it possibly have been this long?

Two years?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joyeuse anniversaire, La Pêche Fraîche!

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

–Maya Angelou 

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

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

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

to assemble:
sprinkles!

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

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

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

Great Scott!

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It’s the 3rd Annual Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap!

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The GFBCS is a multiple nation wide food blogger swap which is sponsored by OXO, Dixie Crystals, and Grandma’s Molasses; all the profits go to the charity Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, which supports pediatric cancer research.

Pretty much a good time all around, right?

Not only did I receive three delicious types of cookies and have the opportunity to share my cookies with three other bloggers, but it was for a good cause.

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Also, OXO sent me three super fancy, brand-spanking new spatulas.  I’ve never been more excited to see a spatula before.  Ugh I’m in love.

This is the second year I’ve participated in the swap, and I’ve worked with Cookies for Kids’ Cancer for a service project as well.
It’s always a pleasure.

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With that, here are the details:

I received…

muddy buddy cookies (genius idea!) from Marley of Chicago Foodies
date pinwheel cookies (a family recipe!) from Jessica of Kettler Cuisine
and marbled shortbread (so cute!) from Lauren of a Dash of Soul.

I gave…

des petits sablés aux noix: pressed walnut sablés, buttery and rich, half dipped in 70% Scharrfen Berger chocolate

to Jenne of Mooshu Jenne,
Brooke of Crackers on the Couch (who sent out crackers— how perfect is that?)
and Joanna of A Kosher Kitchen.

Happy holidays to all!  I hope you enjoyed your cookies.

Until next year, Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap!

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Walnut Sablés

ingredients:
660 grams (5 cups) flour
120 grams (1 cup) walnut halves
450 grams (4 sticks, 1 lb) butter
400 grams (2 cups) sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 splashes vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
melted bittersweet chocolate, if desired, for dipping

directions:
In a food processor, pulse the flour and walnut halves until a uniform flour forms; careful not to over process, as the walnuts will start to form butter.
In a stand mixer, beat the butter for 4 minutes, until light and fluffy.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in the sugar and salt.
Beat for 2 more minutes, until all the grit is gone and the mixture is very pale.
Add in the vanilla and eggs and beat for 2 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl and dump in all of the walnut flour mixture.
Mix on low until a dough forms.
Chill for at least 45 minutes.
Roll out on a very well-floured surface, and press with a cookie stamp (alternately, just cut out shapes) and cut out.
Chill for at least 30 more minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Brush chilled cookies with the egg wash and bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown.
Remove from oven and let cool completely before dipping in chocolate.
Place the cookies on a cooling rack to let the chocolate drip through.

Merry Happy

March Hare: A very merry unbirthday. 

Alice: To me? 

Mad Hatter: To you! 

March Hare: A very merry unbirthday. 

Alice: For me? 

Mad Hatter: For you! Now blow the candle out, my dear, and make your wish come true!

March Hare & Mad Hatter: A very merry unbirthday to you!


Today, La Pêche Fraîche turns 1.
That’s right y’all; we’re celebrating a blogiversary right here.  Right now.
And we’re doing it properly: with a very large, opulent cake.

It’s hard for me to believe that one year ago, May 30th, 2012, at 9:11 PM, I first hit publish.
I hit publish and I didn’t know what was going to happen.
I had a blog and I didn’t know what that really meant.
I sent a post into this space, my corner of the internet, and waited.
For what, I had no idea.
Now, 80 posts later, I’m not sure if I have any clearer of an idea.
It’s an interesting experience, to look back on this past year, to browse through the many posts, reminiscing (and cringing).
 
Many things have changed, some for the better, some the worse.
 
People have moved in and out of my life; 
things I always took for granted as constants fell away: cliffs sheared off, leaving me teetering on the edge; 
new experiences, new relationships, have nested snugly, precariously, on the crags and crannies left behind; 
triumphs have been trumpeted, flags left proudly waving on distant planets; 
losses have been suffered, sending me cowering in a corner, covered with tears and blood;
I survived even those which I thought I could not.
 

This has been a year of change, of growth, of progression, of learning.
This blog makes that uncomfortably clear.

Just looking back at some really terribly formatted, I mean really awful, posts and photographs, I cringe, yes, but also laugh and enjoy them, as embarrassed as I feel.
There have been times, I’ll admit it, when I have wanted to go back through and re-format all the oldest posts, but I refrained.  
That’s a rabbit hole which this little girl is most certainly not falling into.
This blog is a reflection of my journey, in life and photography and pastry.

I would rather celebrate and embrace that than change it and sand off all the rough edges.

Those rough edges are, um… charismatic.  Or something.  I don’t know.
Actually, I would really like to sand off those edges.  I just don’t have the time or energy.

Oh and, by the way? Don’t you dare look back at those older posts.  Stay right here.
Eyes on the prize.

So anyways!  Right!  It’s celebration time!
Look!  Cake!
My kind of cake, specifically.  Yep.  Greedy and selfish.  That would be me my tastebuds!

My favorite flavors and components are incorporated into this cake.
It’s a brown sugar and deep, rich chocolate marble cake, filled with a tart, buttery passion fruit curd, generously frosted with a barely sweet and wonderfully tongue-coating Italian meringue buttercream.
The filling and frosting of my choice, as in, my favorites!  Absolute favorites.  I could eat ’em straight.  And I did.
Things are getting real wild, as you can tell.

This is a special cake; it does take a bit of effort and time (this cake took me 4 hours start to finish, which is a long time for me… like a really long time), but it’s worth it.
It’s easy on the eyes and the tastebuds.
It’s a celebration cake, in all senses of the word.

Let me just say…
I am grateful for my family and my friends, those whom I keep so very close to my heart, who support me and kick me in the butt, albeit occasionally unnecessarily.
I am grateful for the chance to blather on and on while standing atop this blog soapbox, to share what I love most in this world (no, not whining.  Pastry.).
 
I am grateful, above all, for you lovely readers, my dears, mes chéries, because it’s your clicks and comments that keep this blog going; it’s because of you that this blog gives me any sense of satisfaction, and, honestly, it’s for you.  
This blog is for you.
 
Bon anniversaire, La Pêche Fraîche!  
Et mes chers lecteurs, je vous remercie de tout coeur.
Je vous adore.
Je vraiment vous adore.
My Kind of Cake
for the brown sugar marble cake:
adapted from Food and Wine
ingredients:
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup milk
2 splashes vanilla extract
6 ounces (12 tablespoons, 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups tightly packed brown sugar
4 eggs
2 ounces very good quality unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
2 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Pam spray 4 6-inch cake pans (or 2 9-inch, or 3 8-inch).
Stir flour, baking powder, and salt together.  
Mix milk and vanilla extract.
Cream butter until very light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the sugar.
Cream for 2 more minutes, until super fluffy and smooth- not gritty.
Add in the eggs one at a time, while mixing on low.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix on low after adding all the eggs.
With the mixer on low, simultaneously add the milk mixture and the dry ingredients- go slow.
Once everything is mixed, scrape the sides of the bowl and mix on low again to ensure homogeneity.
Split the batter in two- by weight, you should have one half with 1 pound 5.5 ounces to which you will add the 4 ounces of chocolate.  By volume, measure out approximately 2 cups.
Stir in the melted chocolate into the batter that you just measured out.
Alternate placing scoops of the vanilla and chocolate batters into your pans; once all the batter is portioned out, swirl it well with a fork.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a paring knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
   

   
for the passion fruit curd:
ingredients:
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
55 g sugar
80 g passion fruit purée, thawed if frozen
pinch salt
56 g butter (4 tablespoons, 2 ounces)
directions:
Blend the eggs, sugar, salt, and passion fruit together, either in a standard blender or with an immersion blender. 
Transfer to a pot (if using a standard blender, clean the blender canister).
Place over medium high heat and cook, whisking (or blending, should you have a stick blender) all the while.
Cook for about 6 minutes, until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Remove from heat and blend in butter (transfer to the cleaned blender canister and add the butter and blend, if using a standard blender).  
Allow to cool completely before using.
 
for the vanilla bean Italian meringue buttercream:
from Joe Pastry: click through for an in depth tutorial
ingredients:
5 ounces of egg whites (about 5)
8.75 ounces of sugar, divided
pinch of cream of tartar
scrapings of 1 vanilla bean
2 ounces water
16 ounces (4 sticks, 32 tablespoons, 1 pound) unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened but still cool
directions:
Mix the egg whites in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment until foamy.  
Add in the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks begin to form.  
Slowly stream in 1.75 ounces of sugar, mixed with the vanilla bean scrapings.  
Beat on high until stiff peaks form.  
Stop the mixer.
Meanwhile, mix the water and remaining 7 ounces of sugar together in a heavy bottomed saucepan.
Place over medium high heat and bring to a boil. 
Use a candy thermometer, and bring the syrup to 245 degrees F.
Remove from heat and pour into a glass mixing cup.  
Drizzle some of the syrup over the meringue, then whip on high speed for 5 seconds.
Continue in bursts like this until all of the syrup is used up.
Whip the meringue until it has cooled to room temperature (feel the side of the bowl for an indicator).
One tablespoon at a time, beat in the butter. 
Mixture may curdle and look separated; keep beating.  
It will come together, usually quite suddenly, and you will be staring into a bowl of the fluffiest, most delicious frosting ever.  
It will be shiny and smooth.  
There should be no butter lumps and everything should be homogeneous.
 
to assemble:
Torte (level) each layer with a serrated knife to create a nice, smooth, flat top.
Place a cake layer on your cake stand.
Pipe buttercream around the edge of the layer to create a dam.
Fill the center of the layer with a scant 1/4 cup curd, then place the next layer on top of that.
Pipe another dam and repeat with second and third layers.  
Place the fourth layer on top, and crumb coat the cake.
Place in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes to set the crumb coat.
Use the rest of the frosting to create a smooth, even outer coat.
Enjoy!

To Share, To Care

First steps, words, teeth.
First loves and first heartbreaks.
First losses and griefs.
First snows, melts, blooms.
The sweetest first peaches and the crispest apples.
The first leaves and snowflakes to fall.
Everywhere you look, life is replete with novel experiences…
 
This was my first year participating in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap!
 
 
I made decorated sugar cookies (for the first time), and they were funky fresh ugly not the most beautiful, but they were delicious- rich and reminiscent of the holidays.
 
The cookie swap benefits Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, which helps fund pediatric cancer research.  It has inspired me to run two bake sales for the charity; it’s a great (and enjoyable) way to help others.
 
If you feel so inclined, you can send cookies to young cancer patients, or you can donate money or run bake sales and other events.
 
 
It is an incredibly satisfying and rewarding way to spend a little time; I highly recommend it.
I was sent wonderfully delicious cookies from three other talented blogger-bakers:
Ginger spice pumpkin thumbprint cookies from Marly of Ginger Foodie,
Chai-spiced gingerbread men from Rachael of Passing Daisies
And Earl Grey almond chocolate chip cookies from Leila and Nina of Cenabimus
 
They were all crazy yummy! Thank you so much! Be sure to click through to their sweet blogs.
 
I sent my cookies to three other bloggers:
Hannah (and Kate!) of Fleur DeLicious
 Lauren of SizzleEats
and Sara of Modern Alice
Go check their pages out too: deliciously creative things abound!
 
I am ever grateful to have had the chance to help fight pediatric cancer.  Cookies for Kids is a charity which I will be keeping up with, whether it be through another food blogger cookie swap or more bake sales.
 
Some random photovomit photographs:
 
Oh and also? I’m super thankful for the delicious cookies.  This was a truly fattening fun experience.



Classic Iced Butter Cookies

Yield: about 44 small sized cookies
From Cook’s Illustrated
Ingredients:
12.5 ounces flour
5.5 ounces superfine sugar (whiz regular granulated sugar in a food processor for 30-45 seconds)
1/4 teaspoon salt (I would have increased this by a touch)
8 ounces (2 sticks) butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons cream cheese
Directions:
Mix the flour, sugar, and salt together in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  Add in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the mixture starts to resemble sand.  Add in the cream cheese and vanilla and mix until the dough begins to come together.  Remove from mixer and lightly knead a few times to bring dough together.  Pat into two disks and refrigerate at least 30 minutes, and up to 3 days.
Once dough has chilled, preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Roll dough out to 1/8 inch thickness and cut into desired shapes. Freeze dough for at least 20 minutes, or until very firm. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until cookies are barely turning golden.  Cool on a wire rack.
The decorator icing is from Bridget of Bake at 350, who makes just about the most perfect decorated cookies.
I increased the recipe by 1.5 and had plenty… In fact, I had way too much.  For this number of cookies, I think 1 batch of the recipe would do.  I tinted using Wilson gel colorings, which I prefer over regular food coloring for their potency.