Snog

Eggnog Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

“Mistletoe,” said Luna dreamily, pointing at a large clump of white berries placed almost over Harry’s head.
He jumped out from under it.
“Good thinking,” said Luna seriously.
“It’s often infested with nargles.”

—Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
J.K. Rowling

Eggnog Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

I told you I had many holiday posts to share, even in the short time we have before Christmas day.

There’s lots I’ve been trying to fit in during my break; it feels quite truncated because when compared to my friends who are on the semester system, it’s 3 weeks shorter!
I reread one of my favorite series (the Inheritance cycle), chewed through a mystery book (Girl on the Train), and have watched 3, count ’em, 3 of the Star Wars movies.
(Not to mention catching up on Top Chef and RHOBH.
P.S. Just watched this week’s episode, Lisa Rinna is definitely my favorite housewife this season.
Okay I’m zipping it shut now; I purposefully never ever discuss reality T.V. on this here website.)

Eggnog Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Anything else I must get to over break during my luxurious free and empty afternoons and evenings?
I am intending on reading Sellout by Paul Beatty next; I’m seeing Star Wars VII on Christmas Eve, I think.

Eggnog Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Virtually all of my cut-out cookies are based on the most simple recipe since pound cake.
If you can count to 3, you can make this recipe.
And if you can make this recipe, you can adapt it in an infinite number of ways to create whatever cookie your heart so desires.

3 cups of flour, 2 sticks of butter, 1 cup of sugar. 1 egg, 2 teaspoons coarse salt (to taste), 3 teaspoons vanilla.
So simple.  Swap out some of the butter for coconut oil; some of the flour for cocoa; brown sugar for white, etc.
Make it your own; change it to suit your tastes.

Eggnog Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Today, I’m sharing eggnog sugar cookies.
To make these, I swapped out the egg for 3 yolks, added brown sugar and a heap of fragrant, freshly ground nutmeg.
If I had some on hand, I would have swapped a couple of the teaspoons of vanilla for something boozier.
I guess these are virgin eggnog sugar cookies, as it were.  But methinks that’s unnecessarily wordy.

These are crisp but not too crunchy; the brown sugar keeps them slightly softer than some other cut-out cookies.
The extra egg yolks make them a lovely golden color, as well as making them even butterier than usual (if possible…!).
The nutmeg is fragrant even days later, post-icing; it really makes these taste like eggnog in a cookie form.

Eggnog Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

I save the whites from these cookies in order to make the royal icing necessary for decorating.
More often than not, I use raw egg whites for making my decorated cookies; if this gives you the creeps, feel free to use meringue powder instead.

The recipe I use for raw egg whites is from Joy of Baking; it’s simple and effective.
The recipe I use for meringue powder is from Bake at 350; I use whatever brand of powder I have on hand.

Be patient and go slowly while tinting your icing and decorating your cookies!
This is definitely not a process to rush.
One of my best tips (which I did not actually use this year) is to add a tiny pinch of cocoa powder to colors to make them a little more realistic.
I prefer gel colors for tinting royal icing, but liquid works too (just don’t add as much water as you go).

Finally, have fun.
We all learned this as little kids decorating cookies by slopping icing and candies and sprinkles everywhere, but the ugly cookies in a batch taste just as good as the pretty ones.  And so it goes.
Except if you like to add red hots.  Those are gross, seriously… What’s wrong with you?!

Eggnog Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

I’ve linked back to all my other Christmas posts in my last two posts, so I’ll just copy and paste in case you’ve only found your way here.

This year: chocolate peppermint cloud cake
chocolate peppermint shortbread, 5-spice snickerdoodles, Russian teacakes, and cinnamon cereal marshmallow treats
festive marshmallow ropes

1 year ago: honey spice and dark chocolate roll-out cookies
chocolate, sour cherry, and coconut cookies, grapefruit butter cookies, and dark chocolate pecan snowcaps.
peppermint and chocolate cupcakes
souche de Noël (eggnog layer cake with ganache)

2 years ago: pepparkakor
candy cane and chocolate macarons,
Nutella and various fruity jam Linzer cookies,
maple, nutmeg, and rye roll-out cookies
gingerbread layer cake

Eggnog Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Eggnog Sugar Cookies
makes 36 2-inch cookies

ingredients:
225 grams (1 cup) butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
3 egg yolks (save the whites for icing)
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
360 grams (3 cups) flour

royal icing for decorating, if desired

directions:
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place butter in bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment and beat on high for 2 minutes.
Add in the salt and sugar and beat for 3 full minutes.
Add in the egg yolks, nutmeg, and vanilla and beat for another 3 full minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add in the flour; stir until dough comes together.
Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness.
Cut into shapes as desired and place 1/2 inch apart on the baking sheets.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, until just golden on the edges.
Allow to cool completely before icing.

Brandy Alexander

Brandy Alexander Tiramisu | La Pêche Fraîche

Though I’d like to be the girl for him
And cross the sea and land for him
On milky skin my tongue is sand until
The ever distant band begins to play

He’s my Brandy Alexander
Always gets me into trouble
But that’s another matter
Brandy Alexander…

—Feist, Brandy Alexander

Brandy Alexander Tiramisu | La Pêche Fraîche

Do you know this song?
If not, go listen now: here’s the weird 2000s video, complete with wacky, sharpie eyebrows and way too many cut shots.

I love Feist; she’s got such a cool, easy vibe going.  Soft and breezy vocals with a touch of soul.
Brandy Alexander is one of my favorites.

Brandy Alexander Tiramisu | La Pêche Fraîche

Where in the dickens have I been?!
The last time you heard from me, I was dusting green powder on a beautiful little cake and shouting for Spring!
I’m back, more than a week later, with my tail between my legs and a more muted color palate, to say the least.

Spring quarter is shaping up to be a tough one, folks.
I’m still wobbly-kneed, trying to get my balance back as I adjust to my new (increased) workload.
I’m also working hard on a project for UChi’s Festival of the Arts (FOTA), the products of which you’ll see soon.  They may or may not include a multitude of layer cakes and a video(!).

On top of the rigorous demands of biochem/other classes, I have to prep for my summer job (that means shopping for pencil skirts, right?) and God, I have realized, I have to go outside this quarter.
Because, despite the fact that I’ve been in the library 24/7 over the last week, it’s been gorgeous in Chicago.
Sunny, not too hot, not too cold.  Magnificent spring weather.
My skin definitely needs the vitamin D this quarter.
(Hey, skin, remember what a revelation Mexico was, just, oh, 2 weeks ago?  Where did you put all my tan?????)

Brandy Alexander Tiramisu | La Pêche Fraîche

Tiramisù is derived from the Italian phrase pick-me-up (literally, tira-mi-sù), and I would agree wholeheartedly with that translation.
Inspired by this one-bowl tiramisu, I set my heart on making mini tiramisus in tiny bowls.

I was inspired by the flavors of a Brandy Alexander, which is made of crème de cacao, cognac, and cream, and are quite similar to traditional tiramisu.

In order to do so, I made the tiniest, twee-est savoiardi, less than an inch long each.
A nip of espresso to dip your ladyfingers in gives a nice bracing ripple of coffee to the dessert.
Each lightly soaked ladyfinger was layered with ultra creamy, egg-yolk rich mascarpone cream spiked with cognac and coffee liqueur, not too sweet and with a touch of salt.
Each layer was dusted generously with cacao powder, giving a necessary whiff of chocolate to each bite.

Tiramisù, if you haven’t indulged recently, is one of the most magnificent desserts ever created.  The ladyfingers soften under the espresso and become cake-like, the mascarpone cream is ridiculously rich and creamy; the alcohol and cacao cut through everything, giving each bite utmost clarity and leaving you drooling for more.

Because I’m sharing a tiramisu recipe, I have to give a health hazard warning:  (no, not the egg yolks… If you’re nervous, you can cook them lightly.  More on that from the Pioneer Woman) please DO NOT breathe in while stuffing your face with this creamy delicacy.  You will inhale cacao and cough for 10 minutes straight while looking ashamed in front of your dinner guests.  Best to hold your breath while you spoon the entire thing into your maw.  Much more elegant.

Brandy Alexander Tiramisu | La Pêche Fraîche

Tiramisu
makes 6 large-ish portions, 8 reasonable

ingredients:
for the lady fingers:
2 eggs, divided
60 grams (1/3 cup) sugar, divided evenly
pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
40 grams (1/3 cup) flour
3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

for the mascarpone cream:
225 grams (8 ounces) mascarpone
240 mL (1 cup) cream
4 egg yolks
50 grams (1/4 cup) sugar
30mL (2 tablespoons) cognac
30 mL (2 tablespoons) Kahlua
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

to assemble:
120 mL (1/2 cup) espresso
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
cacao powder, for dusting (sub cocoa powder if need be)

directions:
Make the lady fingers: preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and fit a piping bag with a small round tip.
Separate the eggs and beat the egg yolks with half of the sugar, the salt, and the vanilla for 3 minutes.
Add the flour to the yolk mixture and fold it in until it is half mixed in.
Whip the egg whites to stiff peaks with the other half of the sugar.
Once they reach stiff peaks, fold 1/3 of the whites into the yolk/flour mixture.
After the first 1/3 is fully incorporated, fold in the rest of the egg whites until the batter is homogeneous but still very fluffy (don’t mix too hard!).
Fill the piping bag and pipe tiny, 1 inch lines about 1/4 an inch from one another.
Dust completely with confectioner’s sugar
Bake for 7 minutes, until lightly golden, then remove from oven, peel off of parchment, and allow to cool.
To make the mascarpone cream, whip mascarpone and heavy cream until they reach stiff peaks.
Meanwhile, whisk the yolks, sugar, alcohols, vanilla, and salt together until fully homogeneous.
Pour into the whipped cream mixture slowly, and beat until it is all incorporated (the mixture will thin out).
To make the tiramisu, mix espresso and vanilla together and dip the bottom of the lady fingers into the mixture before placing them in serving dishes.
Layer 2 tablespoons of mascarpone cream over the lady fingers, then dust with cacao.
Repeat the layering 3 times for each tiramisu, smoothing the top and dusting generously.
Chill for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight before eating.

An Occasion

Dairy-free Lemon and Champagne Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“In his blue gardens,
men and girls came and went like moths
among the whisperings
and the champagne
and the stars.”

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 3

Dairy-free Lemon and Champagne Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“Every Friday
five crates of oranges and lemons
arrived from a fruiterer in New York—
every Monday
these same oranges and lemons
left his back door in a pyramid of pulpless halves.”

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 3

Dairy-free Lemon and Champagne Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Gosh, it seems like ages ago now, but Valentine’s day was only a month ago.
(I know, I know, we’re already gearing up for the next holiday, but this cake is from February, so deal with it.)

It’s warm here, and the shiverings of winter seem far away, now that we’re enjoying balmy 50 degree weather.
50 degrees!  Hallelujah.

You can see (dead) grass and hopeful little snow drops poking their dainty white petals out of the grey brown earth.
I heard a bird the other day singing its heart out, beak wide open and chest puffed up (exactly how I look while singing in the shower).  Shocking how we take birdsong for granted.

My daddy just visited me and brightened the gray skies.
We had dinner at Sunda (amazing! really amazing! those brussels sprouts… omg…) on Friday, Indian takeout from a Nepalese/Indian place on Saturday (having those leftovers for lunch today, yum.  Naan. Naaaan.), and an absolutely exquisite meal on Sunday at the Green Zebra, which is hands down one of Chicago’s best restaurants.  
We agreed that we have never had a bad dish from Green Zebra, in all the times we’ve been.
In fact, the food has only gotten better. (Cannot highly recommend enough! Get there if you can!)

Dairy-free Lemon and Champagne Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

In two weeks time, I’ll be in Mexico with my mama.
I am so excited! We’re going to have lots of mother-daughter time on the beach and spa (hint. hint.) and possibly hike a bit!  We are going to read ALL THE BOOKS.

I’m thinking of buying a GoPro for the trip/just to have (read: cute sorority videos!)—I’ve been looking at the (discontinued) Hero 3+ Black edition, but it’s pricy ($300-$400 with a monopod and SD card added).
Have any of you loved your experiences with GoPros?
Have you found them worth the money?
Heeeellllppp. I really really really really want one, but I want to feel like my purchase is justified.

Dairy-free Lemon and Champagne Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

So why did I start this post with Great Gatsby and champagne and Valentine’s day?

Because at the end of Valentine’s day, after having split a bottle of very, very nice champagne, N and I fell asleep and I awoke to find I had an oxymoron come true mournfully sitting on my counter—leftover champagne.
I needed to do something delicious with the leftover Veuve other than letting it sadly fizzle out before pouring it down the drain, so I made a cake that N could partake in, too.

Dairy-free lemon and champagne pound cake, with a dense, tight crumb delightfully laced with bright lemon and fruity champagne.
This cake had the best pound cake texture I have ever tasted or seen or cut in my life.  So smooth and dense.
It’s topped with a boozy champagne and lemon glaze, as well as a thick, drippy vanilla glaze that’s sweet and salty all at once.

It’s quick and easy to make, and makes for perfect afternoon slices with tea.  It’s a cake made for noshing—thin slice after thin slice.
The glazes are finger-licking good, and there’s nothing quite like the mouthfeel of a good pound cake, toothsome and dense.

Dairy-free Lemon and Champagne Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Dairy-Free Lemon and Champagne Pound Cake
makes 1 10-cup bundt cake

for the cake:
225 grams (16 tablespoons) Earth Balance buttery sticks or other dairy-free margarine
400 grams (2 cups) sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
5 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
zest of 2 lemons
juice of 1 lemon (about 45 mL=3 tablespoons)
360 grams (3 cups) flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup champagne (I used Veuve Cliquot, but the quality is not of great importance here)

for the lemon-champagne glaze:
juice of 1 lemon (45 mL=3 tablespoons)
30 mL (2 tablespoons) champagne
tiny pinch salt
125 grams (1 cup) (or as needed) powdered sugar, sifted

for the vanilla icing:
3-4 tablespoons almond milk or coconut cream (or heavy cream, if not dairy-free)
125 grams (1 cup) (or as needed) powdered sugar, sifted
pinch salt
splash vanilla extract

directions:
Make the cake: grease and flour a 10-cup bundt pan very well and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Beat margarine on high speed for 3 minutes until very fluffy.
Add the sugar and salt and beat for another full 3 minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add in the eggs one at a time while the mixer is running; after all are added, increase speed and beat for 5 full minutes.
Add in the vanilla, lemon juice and lemon zest and mix slightly.
Dump the flour on top of the batter and the baking powder and baking soda on top of the flour.
Begin to mix slowly; after the flour is halfway worked in, begin adding the champagne in a steady stream.
Increase speed and beat for 30 seconds, or until just homogeneous.
Scrape the bowl and mix for 15 more seconds.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until a tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
To make the lemon-champagne glaze, whisk lemon juice, champagne, and salt together, then sift the powdered sugar over while whisking vigorously to prevent lumps.
Add more powdered sugar if the glaze is too thin, then pour over the cake, being sure to cover the entire surface.
To make the vanilla glaze, whisk milk/cream, vanilla, and salt together, then sift the powdered sugar over.
If the glaze is too thin, again add more powdered sugar (and maybe a small pinch of salt).
Spread/pour the vanilla glaze over the lemon/champagne glaze and allow to set before cutting cake.

Une Souche de Noël

Une Souche de Noël | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Visit from Saint Nicholas, Clement Clarke Moore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forêt Noire

IMG_2557_01

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

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

–Pablo Neruda, Lost in the Forest

IMG_2683

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

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

IMG_2575

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

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

IMG_2600_01

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

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

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

IMG_2623

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_2586

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

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

This is a cake for crazy people.

I’m serious.  But let me explain.

IMG_2671

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

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

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

Yaaaaaagh.

IMG_2549_01

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

to assemble:
fresh cherries

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

감사합니다

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I’m thankful for home.

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I’m grateful to be surrounded by love and warmth and family.

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This brief respite has been much needed, and much appreciated.

It saddens me to leave (tomorrow), but I am comforted with the knowledge that I will be back in just a few short weeks.

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I love my home: my house, my friends, my family, my town.

I love this place.

I was dearly missing this place.

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I thought I’d share some snapshots of home with you; the first photo is of my beloved bed, where I haven’t been spending enough time this break. (Too many things to do!  People to see!  Places to go!)

You get a preview of our holiday cards (blech) and some cute photos of my kitten and pup.

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Also, THANKS GUYS, for being awesome and reading these stupid posts of mine on this silly little blog.

You rock.  Thanks for that.  I sure do appreciate you.

Now, food.

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Thanksgiving Menu 2013:

Roasted roots: herbed sweet potatoes, parsnips, and carrots with honey mustard aioli (GF)

Roasted brown butter and maple Brussels sprouts (GF)

Honey glazed turkey with giblet gravy (GF)

Maple and apple cranberry sauce (GF)

Cornbread stuffing with spiced sausages, pecans, sage, and celery (GF)

Goat cheese, buttermilk, and olive oil mashed potatoes (GF)

Whole wheat butternut squash mac and cheese

Mixed green salad with pomegranates, walnuts, shaved fennel, apples, and Parmesan with pomegranate dressing (GF)

Butterscotch and thyme apple pie (GF)

Maple kefir brûlée tart (GF)

Pumpkin roll with Frangelico and mascarpone whipped cream, brown butter glaze, chopped pecans (GF)

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Yes, I made all of that myself.  Boy, was it a marathon.  A very, very, very, long and delicious haul.

My photos were all very rushed and poorly lit; I had hoped to show you pictures of all the gluten free goodies I made, but no such luck.

At least I got a picture of the pumpkin roll cake… So I can torture you with yet another pumpkin recipe!

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This will be the last pumpkin recipe of the year.

It’s one to remember: light, fluffy pumpkin sponge cake rolled around mascarpone and maple whipped cream, topped with brown butter and Frangelico glaze and chopped pecans.

You might just be inspired to pull out one last can of pumpkin.

Happy Thanksgiving (weekend), y’all.

Thanksgiving (scaled)

 Pumpkin Roll Cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
powdered sugar, for sprinkling on towel
90 grams (3/4 cup) flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, pepper, coriander
pinch salt
3 large eggs
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
for the filling:
1 cup whipped cream
1 cup mascarpone
¼ cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
pinch salt

for the glaze:
4 tablespoons butter, browned
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup powdered milk
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons Frangelico (optional)

For garnish:
Chopped pecans

Directions:
For the cake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour a sheet pan very well; line with parchment paper.
Sprinkle a dishtowel with powdered sugar.
Whisk the flour, leaveners, spices, and salt together.
Beat the yolks and ¼ cup of the sugar very well, then stir in pumpkin.
Sift the flour mixture over the yolks and fold in gently.
Whip the egg whites and remaining sugar to stiff peaks.
Fold into the pumpkin mixture, then spread the batter out onto your prepared pan.
Bake for 15 minutes, until set.
Flip over onto towel and let cool for 5 minutes.
Gently roll up the cake and set aside to cool completely.
For the filling, beat the whipped cream to soft peaks, then gently beat in the other ingredients.
Spread onto the cooled, unrolled cake, then reroll the cake.
For the glaze, mix everything together until no lumps remain; drizzle over the rolled cake.
Garnish with chopped pecans.

Charred

 To be honest, more than charred, I’m fried.
 
I’m dragging my feet, so much so that the edges of my toes are burned and my shoes have holes in them.
Or, they would, if I were wearing shoes.  The past two days, it has been scorchingly hot.
Like, dash-reads-100-degrees hot.  
Like, yes-absolutely-let’s-go-to-the-grocery-store-it-has-AC hot.
Like, why-the-f@&#-did-I-turn-on-the-oven hot.
 
It’s cooled down, now.
This morning/midday was Sahara desert-esque (right when I was making ratatouille AND savoiardi like wat why me), but this afternoon and evening…
Well, holy monsoon Batman!!
All that rain practically sizzled off of the sidewalks, but eventually drowned out the heat.
I mean, phew, cause I’ve started cooking with apples and pears already, and there’s no turning back.
I just ain’t got time for no more summer, let me tell you.
Ah, yes.  What am I dragging my feet for, you say?
Well, I have 9 8 more days left here in Ith, and I haven’t started packing!!
I have shit to do, guys!  And I can’t bring myself to do it.
It’s just like, ugh, it’s so hot and like I don’t really want to think about like organization and fitting my closet into my dorm room, let alone my kitchen.
Those are the two largest entities in my house.
 
Because, yes! 
Surprise (or, rather, less than a surprise) surprise, this blog is not stopping here.
I’ll have access to a kitchen…
Which means baking and blogging and sugar and butter and flour.
Comin’ at yo face.
In turn, this means that I have to make a packing list for normal living things- linens, clothing, cosmetics, decor, etc., but also for kitchen supplies.
I can’t bear to think of the beloved appliances I’ll have to leave behind.
Examples: my ice cream behemoth machine
my pro WOLF convection oven
my big food processor
my stand blender
copper pots, wok, little pots, little saucepans, omelette pan, panini pan, roasting pan, all MY PANS
random prop materials- china, silverware, fabrics, wooden pieces, marble, much of my mason jar collection
… Pour one out for da homiez.  Seriously.
On a less dour note, this is a lovely little charlotte that I’m sharing today.
Get it?!?!?! Charlotte- charred
No? Damn, and I thought I was being a clever little monkey. (Insert that cute emoji here, you know the one, the little monkey with its little hands over its mouth.)
A charlotte is a molded cake, usually with savoiardi, or ladyfingers, around the outside.
(There are a few variations on what is on the exterior.)  
Where the imagination and difference comes in is the interior.
You could make a charlotte with literally any flavor or idea.
I chose tiramisù, because ladyfingers. 
And because I had never made tiramisù before.
It’s incredibly simple- just 3 components to the dish- savoiardi, coffee/liqueur to soak, and a cream/zabaglione/mascarpone mixture to add richness.
So simple, in fact, that I undertook to make my own ladyfingers, which may seem imposing, but are, in actuality, very simple.
This is a cookie that’s been around for 600 or so years.  How hard can it be?  Fo’ realz. 
 
On the inside is a classic tiramisù, except that I used whiskey, which is, erm… not traditional.
But to hell with it.  Use whatever liqueur tickles your fancy.
The ladyfingers are sponge cake’s sister, just piped out.
They’re layered with coffee/whiskey/vanilla (can I have that as my morning pick-me-up?!) and a deeeeelicious mascarpone/heavy cream/zabaglione mixture (wait no I want that…), topped with a mountain of raspberries, then chilled until set.
 
Wrap a ribbon around the whole shebang and give it to someone as a present!
HA just kidding.  
Untie the ribbon, cut yourself a fat wedge, watch the raspberries tumble out like so many ruby jewels, and MANGIA! 

Tiramisù Charlotte
makes 1 6×3 inch cake
note: brew some strong coffee before starting, then allow it to cool.  If you are making ladyfingers, make those right after the coffee and let them cool as well.  You can always use store-bought.
for the savoiardi (ladyfingers):
makes 1 1/2 sheet pans of 4×1 inch savoiardi
ingredients:
3.5 egg yolks (1/2 yolk is approximately 1 1/2 teaspoons, or 0.3 ounce)
3 tablespoons sugar
3.5 egg whites (1/2 white is approximately 1 tablespoon, or 0.5 ounce)
pinch cream of tartar
4 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 cup cake flour
directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Draw out 4×1 inch grids on two sheets of parchment paper; place them on two sheet pans, pencil or pen side down.
Have a pastry bag fitted with a 1 inch tip at the ready.
Place the egg yolks in a bowl with 3 tablespoons of sugar.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer with the cream of tartar.
Whip the egg yolks briskly (or with a hand mixer) until they become pale, thick, and double in size.
Meanwhile, whip the egg whites, slowly streaming in 4 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar once they begin to foam.  
Beat the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks.
Sift the cake flour over the egg yolks, but don’t mix in, then fold the egg whites into the egg yolk/flour until homogenous; be careful not to overmix.
Place into pastry bag and pipe out finger shapes, approximately 4×1 inch tall/wide.  (They will touch each other during baking.)
Bake for 8-10 minutes, until they are golden and puffy but not particularly hard. (They should not feel raw or look runny, but should still be slightly spongy to the touch.)
Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

for the mascarpone cream:
adapted from Chef Dennis via Bake and Bait
ingredients:
3 egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons mascarpone
scant cup heavy cream
directions:
Whisk yolks and sugar together very well; place in a small pot over low heat and cook until sugar is completely dissolved.
Remove from heat, pour into a different bowl, and whip until thick and about doubled in size.
Whisk in mascarpone.
In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream to stiff peaks, then fold it into the zabaglione/mascarpone mixture.
Set in fridge until ready to use (but not for too long; an hour at most before you should use it).

to assemble:
ingredients:
1/4 cup coffee, cold but strong
1 tablespoon liqueur (Marsala, Kahlua, etc.  Go nuts.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
cocoa powder, for dusting
1 pint of raspberries, optional
mascarpone cream, recipe above
ladyfingers (about 30 small ones, less if you have larger), either store bought or homemade, recipe above
directions:
Line a 6×3 inch pan with ladyfingers standing upright.
Place a cake board in the bottom, then place as many ladyfingers as can fit along the bottom, using torn pieces to fill in gaps.
Stir the coffee, liqueur, and vanilla together.
Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the coffee mixture over the ladyfingers- they should absorb it, but do not add so much that they are soaked.  
Smooth 1/3 of the cream mixture onto the soaked ladyfingers.
Layer more ladyfingers over the cream mixture, brush with coffee, and layer with cream.
Repeat layering once more.
Dust the top of the tiramisu with cocoa powder, and top with raspberries, if desired.
Refrigerate for at least 1 1/2 hours before unmolding.
Tie a ribbon around the outside for clean presentation.
Enjoy!

Corny

This is an end-of-summer hurrah.
Here’s the sad part: I don’t really feel like writing this post right now.
And I didn’t feel like writing it yesterday
 
or the day before.
Today was Labor Day; I should be gushing about how wonderful summer was and how much I’m looking forward to the fall (my favorite season, duh. Fall baby.)
but
but but
I’m not ready.  I’m so completely and utterly not ready for fall to come sweeping through on a breeze as sharp and cold as the edge of a knife.
Two weeks ago, I was beyond ready.  I could barely wait.
I was on the edge of my seat, excited for cool weather and college (?!) and even the infinite and damned pumpkin recipes.
So, as I write this post, this technically last summer post, why am I so apprehensive and even anxious?
Lord only knows.  
Something inside me has switched and is now tugging me backwards through time, rewinding through the heat and the rain and the thick humidity, rather than pulling me forwards into the chill.
As the time of my departure looms large, I find myself clinging to my friends who live here in town, clinging to my town itself.
Who knew it would be so hard to say goodbye to your safe haven, your happy place, your home?
(Other than everyone…)
See, and here is exactly why I didn’t want to write this post.
Now, I am in tears.
And I don’t want to tell you about this awesome ice cream.
I just want to sit and cry and listen to my sad music playlist and whine and reminisce.
I want a hot cup of tea and a pair of comforting arms to snuggle into.
I. Am. Not. Ready.
Hell, I don’t even want to be ready.
*sigh*
But, I have a job to do here on this sweet-filled blog. So:
This ice cream is awesome.  
This is the second time I’ve made it, which is very rare.
It’s a caramel corn ice cream, loaded with goodies.
 
A creamy custard base is steeped with sweet corn cobs and kernels, fortified with a million egg yolks, and churned until thick and soft.
It’s layered with a soft, smooth caramel laced with whiskey, and crumbled corn cookies, which are summer and sun in a single buttery bite, and which come from the great Christina Tosi.
If you wanna get real naughty, you take a big scoop of this ice cream and sandwich it between two leftover corn cookies.
And then you eat it and think about summer.
Because, I’m telling you, there’s no way you can eat this ice cream
 
and not think
about summer.
Caramel Corn Ice Cream
 
for the corn custard:
ingredients:
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
2 ears of corn, shucked and kernels taken off, cobs reserved
9 egg yolks
7 tablespoons sugar
directions:
Place heavy cream and milk in a deep pot with the kernels and cobs of the corn.
Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  
Allow to simmer for 15 minutes, then turn off the heat and let cool for at least 45 minutes.
Strain the milk mixture, discard the steeped corn. (Scrape the sides of the cobs to make sure you get all the milk out.)
Whisking vigorously, or blending with an immersion blender, add in the egg yolks and sugar.
Return to the pot and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Remove from heat and blend, in a regular blender canister or with an immersion blender.
Allow to cool completely (overnight in a fridge is ideal).
 
for the whiskey caramel:
ingredients:
3/4 cup sugar
big pinch kosher salt
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon whiskey
directions:
Place the sugar, salt, and corn syrup in a heavy bottomed and deep pan.
Heat over medium heat until sugar caramelizes and turns deep amber, about 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk the heavy cream and whiskey together.
Once the caramel reaches a suitable color, remove from heat and immediately pour in cream/whiskey mixture, whisking constantly.
Mixture will steam, foam, and erupt; be careful and wear an oven mitt.
If the mixture seizes, simply return it to a low heat and continue to whisk until the caramel dissolves and becomes smooth and grit-free.
Allow to cool completely.
 
to assemble:
1 batch corn custard, recipe above
1 batch whiskey caramel, recipe above, warmed for 20 seconds in a microwave or until pourable but not very hot

corn cookies, chopped roughly
directions:
Churn custard according to your ice cream maker’s directions.
Once churned, layer 1/3 of the ice cream into a loaf pan or other freezer-safe container.
Sprinkle 1/2 of the chopped corn cookies onto the ice cream, then drizzle the caramel over.
Layer in the same manner once more.
Finally, top everything off with the final third of the ice cream, then place in a freezer to set for at least 2 hours before using.
You may need to let the ice cream thaw slightly before scooping to serve.

Call Me Sally

So, I’m Irish.
Actually, I’m Korirish.
Korean on my mother’s side, and Irish on my father’s.
Bit of a strange mix, to be sure.
The one thing my family has figured that the two have in common is a love of cabbage.

This love has distilled into my passion for cruciferous vegetables.
Cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts (I’m eating some right now, actually, with apples and goat cheese), broccoli, bok choy, kale; pretty much a comprehensive list of my favorite vegetables.
Love me some Brassica.
Um, not that I’m here to tell you about vegetables.
That’s not really my shtick, at least not on this here blog.
 
Oh! What the Koreans and the Irish also both love is beer.
(Cabbage+beer sounds like the most terrible and smelly hangover in the world waiting to happen.)
So due to the fact that St. Patrick’s Day is on Sunday and my Korean grandmother is visiting, I made cake.  With beer.  
Beer cake.
With homemade Bailey’s cream sandwiched between each layer.
 
Yeah, it is as much of a good thing as it sounds like.
Trust me on this one. 

Now, it’s not the most traditional of Irish confections… But I’m certain it would be met with a hearty seal of approval in Ireland.
There’s browned Kerrygold butter, extra rich and nutty thanks to the higher fat content.
There’s Guinness, deep and dark, which adds a noticeable complexity to the cake.
There’s milk chocolate and coffee whipped cream, with a hefty dose of Bushmills whiskey.
There’s meringue, which actually is a well-loved Irish dessert.
Whether my ancestors are rolling in their graves, I know not.
Some fun facts about my Irish side:
“Sally,” actually, saileach, means willow in Gaelic.
There’s a barren field in Ireland called the Sally Gap- real talk, I’ve even been there.
It’s full of tumbleweeds and not much else.
Super. Exciting.
In 1908, John Sally, my great-great-grandfather, and his family immigrated to America.
Yadda yadda yadda.
Sally Gap Cake:
for the cake:
adapted from Nigella
ingredients:
1/2 cup Guinness
5 tablespoons Kerrygold butter (or other European butter)
3 tablespoons extra dark cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons sour cream
1 egg
big honking splash vanilla extract (about 2 teaspoons)
1 cup AP flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour two 6-inch pans (I suspect 1 shallow 9- or 10- inch would work as well, but I’m not promising anything).
Brown the butter in a large saucepot.  
Once it is fragrant and nutty, stir in the Guinness.  
Allow to cook for 30 seconds, then remove from heat.  
Stir in the sugar and cocoa powder.  
Add the sour cream and vanilla and whisk well; add in the egg while whisking.  
Dump the flour and baking soda on top of the wet ingredients (flour first), then whisk them in until a smooth batter forms.  
Pour into prepared pans; bake for 35-38 minutes, until risen and firm to the touch; a toothpick should come out CLEAN (this is an extremely moist cake and if underbaked will be gooey).
for the mock Bailey’s cream filling:
ingredients:
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon gelatin
1 small bar (I used regular ole Hershey’s) milk chocolate, melted
1 teaspoon espresso powder
pinch salt
2 splashes Irish whiskey
directions:
Sprinkle the gelatin over the cream and allow to sit for 1 minute.
Mix the cream with the espresso powder and salt, and whip to stiff peaks.
Add in the whiskey and milk chocolate and mix until fluffy and homogeneous. 
for the chocolate frosting:
ingredients:
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
2 sticks of butter
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
pinch salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup cream
directions:
Put everything in a food processor and pulse until homogeneous.
for the Swiss meringue:
ingredients:
1 egg white
1/4 cup sugar
directions:
Put the white and sugar in a metal mixing bowl and place over a pan of simmering water.
Heat, whisking all the while, until mixture reaches 160 degrees F.
Remove from heat and whip on high until a stiff meringue forms, about 5 minutes.
Use immediately, as meringue will harden sooner than later.
Torch after decorating, if desired. 
to assemble:
Torte the two layers; fill each with 1/3 of the bailey’s cream.
Frost the outside of the cake with the chocolate frosting; to smooth, use a warmed knife.
Mound the meringue in the center and torch it.
For the cleanest cuts, chill the cake slightly before cutting.