Moyamoya

Brown Butter Smoked Salty Honey Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Light-winged Smoke! Icarian bird,
Melting thy pinions in thy upward flight;
Lark without song, and messenger of dawn,
Circling above the hamlets as thy nest;
Or else, departing dream, and shadowy form
Of midnight vision, gathering up thy skirts;
By night star-veiling, and by day
Darkening the light and blotting out the sun;
Go thou, my incense, upward from this hearth,
And ask the gods to pardon this clear flame.

—Henry David Thoreau

Brown Butter Smoked Salty Honey Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy pi day, party people! Here are 1000 pieces places of pi, to celebrate:

3.14159265358979323846264338327950288419716939937510582097494459230781640
62862089986280348253421170679821480865132823066470938446095505822317253594081284
81117450284102701938521105559644622948954930381964428810975665933446128475648233
786783165271201909145648566923460348610454326648213393607260249141273724587006606
31558817488152092096282925409171536436789259036001133053054882046652138414695194
15116094330572703657595919530921861173819326117931051185480744623799627495673518857
527248912279381830119491298336733624406566430860213949463952247371907021798609437
027705392171762931767523846748184676694051320005681271452635608277857713427577896
091736371787214684409012249534301465495853710507922796892589235420199561121290219
60864034418159813629774771309960518707211349999998372978049951059731732816
096318595024459455346908302642522308253344685035261931188171010003137838752
8865875332083814206171776691473035982534904287554687311595628638823537875937
519577818577805321712268066130019278766111959092164201989…

And yes, this is being posted at 1:59 GMT. It’s the little things that make me happy, ok?

Brown Butter Smoked Salty Honey Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Pi day is pretty much as close to a universally celebrated holiday in the food blogosphere as you can get.
This is especially true given that pies are currently in vogue on Instagram.

I often marvel at the virality of Instagram trends, and food trends in general.
They burst in very quickly—due to the low barrier of entry: read a recipe, get some ingredients, voilà—and then slowly trickle down, normalizing after some time.
We’ve had cupcakes. Macarons. Funfetti. Marzipan. Salted chocolate chunk shortbread. Pan-banging cookies. Intricately decorated pies. Fruit roses. Drip cakes. Unicorn cakes. Ice cream (à la Katherine Sabbath) cakes.

I don’t particularly dislike trendy foods. In my opinion, they are distinct from fashion trends, because it is very rare that they ever go completely “out of style.” Good, delicious food is always welcome.
I happily read recipes for cupcakes and drip cakes, use marzipan and sprinkles liberally, and regularly ask myself why I don’t have a stash of Alison’s or Sarah’s cookies in my freezer for, um, emergencies.
I, however, don’t frankly want to buy a Chanel fanny pack to fit in in 2018. They may have come back from their heyday in the 80s, but in between now and then, they were considered ugly.
TBH, they just are ugly. Even when they’re trending and “considered” fashionable. Can we just, like, cut it with the freaking fanny packs? Topshop is literally calling them bumbags. Nordstrom calls them bag belts. SERENITY NOW!
I am sorry if you own a Chanel/Gucci fanny pack. Mostly because you own an overpriced wallet-belt, but secondarily because I may be offending you.
Clearly, I had to get that off my chest. Were we talking about pie?

Anyways, even when I’m on the tail end of a food trend and everyone and their mother has already done the damn thing before me, I still find myself inspired by the plethora of pictures that I see on ig.
I’ve been meaning to bake more pies, and pi day is as good of an excuse as any.

Brown Butter Smoked Salty Honey Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

I want to share some amazing pie recipes, new and old, that have been said inspo for me:

Chocolate pies like WHOA:
Katie’s chocolate chess pie. That! Chocolate! Whipped! Cream! Cloud!
Cindy’s chocolate mudslide pie. I need all my pies to be spiked with Irish cream and Kahlua from now on, nnnkay?
Ashlae’s vegan chocolate mousse pie. Chocolate mousse, peanut butter whip, pretzel crust… Ooooof.

Uniquely flavored/hella creative pies:
Michelle’s purple sweet potato pie. Level up your sweet potato pie game, friends. And, can we talk about the color….?! Wig snatched.
Amy’s blueberry, peach, and basil pie. Turns out the queen of cakes makes ridiculously aesthetic pies, too (but of course she does!).
Naomi’s lemon meringue pie pops. These are SO twee and fun. I think I could eat 7 of them.
Linda’s apple pie with a purple blueberry crust. This pie spawned a whole new generation of insta-worthy pies, with gorgeous naturally colored and flavored crusts. The forefront of pie-nnovation!
Also, any mention of pie trends necessitates a mention of Lauren of the instagram Loko Kitchen, whose meteoric rise is owed solely to her crazy beautiful, ridiculously perfect pies. Respect.

Apple pies that have me feeling like November can’t come soon enough:
Erin’s apple and blackberry pie. You guys, this chick makes the most incredible pies. The level of detail is beyond what I can even dream of and I can truly get lost in her mesmerizing designs. The best part? Her crust is still flaky flaky flaky AF.
Courtney’s caramel apple pie v3.0. I would like to faceplant into that caramel puddle, please and thank you.
Deb’s apple pie cookies. No recipe from SK ever really goes wrong, does it? This one is no exception. These have a crust to filling ratio that I can get behind. I’ve made ’em multiple times, and I can’t wait until apple season is back and I can make them again.

Brown Butter Smoked Salty Honey Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

I’m beyond excited to share today’s recipe. It honestly rivals all the pies I’ve ever made.
It is an adaptation of a very popular recipe from the NYC pie shop, Four & Twenty Blackbirds.

This is a brown butter smoked salted honey pie. YAH. I know.

The pie starts with a sturdy all-butter pie crust, shatteringly crispy and layered.
To make the filling, butter is browned until nutty and freckled; liberal amounts of smoked salt, vanilla bean seeds, and clover honey are added while it’s warm, so they melt into a glossy, flecked puddle.
The smoked alderwood salt weaves its way into the pie with sexy subtlety, adding saltiness and a kiss of je ne sais quoi that plays altogether too nicely with the vanilla bean and honey.
Eggs and a pinch of white cornmeal provide body, apple cider vinegar balance, and an unctuous stream of heavy cream is stirred in for smoothness.

The mixture is strained into the chilled shell and baked until it puffs into a golden dome, then delicate decorations slicked with cream are laid on top and baked until the pie is deep brown and barely jiggly.
It’s finished with a haphazard scattering of jagged salt flakes that up the saltiness in every other bite and provide the occasional unexpected soft crunch.

The most difficult part of this whole baking endeavor is waiting for the pie to chill completely. This is key to setting the custard properly, but the smell of the pie is so intoxicating that it’s tempting to cut into it right away. Trust me, the wait is worth it.

This pie is quite similar in texture to a crack pie, or a chess pie, or a vinegar pie (if you’ve never had any of these, think of a pecan pie without any pecans).

Brown Butter Smoked Salty Honey Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

People really, really liked this pie.
Luca said, and I quote, “[this] puts the YUM in daYUM.”
Naomi said it was the best pie eating experience of her life, and she’s had my peach pie and I even made her a crack pie for her birthday in December! She actually preferred this to crack pie, and so did I.
Here’s why: I think that the pairing of a sweet filling with a traditional pie crust is better than the oat cookie crust of crack pie, which is a lot of sugar, to the point that it gets a bit cloying. Additionally, the oat cookie crust tends to be more stodgy, especially when chilled. This crust stays crisp and thin, even after the cooling period.
(Another tester described the all butter crust as “unreal.” Four & Twenty know their ish, y’all.)

I also prefer this recipe to standard chess pies: the honey adds a more complex flavor than straight up sugar does. The addition of smoked salt and vanilla beans rounds out the complexity. (Do note that you could easily swap the smoked salt for non-smoked varietals and still have an outstanding pie.)
I also like the addition of a couple tablespoons of cornmeal: it is utterly indiscernible, except that the filling has more body that a simple custard. I’m interested in subbing oats or toasted breadcrumbs for the cornmeal.

In fact, I am quite sure I will be returning to this base recipe to test out other flavors, textures, etc. It is an excellent pie.
I fully understand why it has been so popular.
Here’s to [brown butter smoked] salted honey pie being a lasting trend!

Brown Butter Smoked Salty Honey Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Pi day, previously:
2017: vegan campfire pie
2016: brûléed citrus and lime pie

Pie, previously:
2017: perfect peach pie
2016: pumpkin meringue tart
2015: apple, pear, butterscotch, and cheddar pie
2015: fig, rosemary, and lemon tart
2014: coconut buttermilk chess pie
2014: peach slab pie
2014: American pie
2013: Pumpkin spice brown butter chocolate pecan pie

Brown Butter Smoked Salty Honey Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

P.S. Because I vowed to share this silliness every year on this day:

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

—Very Unofficial UChicago football cheer
(And apparently also shared among other famously nerdy schools? Who knows where this even came from?)

P.P.S. For the curious, moyamoya means puff of smoke in Japanese.
It’s also a rare cerebrovascular disorder. And, uh, on that note, here’s a pie recipe?

Brown Butter Smoked Salty Honey Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Brown Butter Smoked Salted Honey Pie
makes 1 9-inch pie
adapted from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book

ingredients:
for the pie crust:
150 grams (1 1/4 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
113 grams (1 stick, 8 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter
120 grams (1/2 cup) cold water
30 grams (2 tablespoons) apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup ice cubes

for the filling:
113 grams (1 stick, 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
150 grams (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons white cornmeal
3/4 teaspoon smoked salt
seeds from 2 vanilla beans
(3/4 cup) honey
3 large eggs, at room temperature
120 grams (1/2 cup) heavy cream, plus an extra tablespoon for decorating
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1-2 teaspoons soft sea salt flakes (for finishing)

directions:
Make the crust: whisk flour, salt, and sugar together.
Add water, vinegar, and ice cubes into a bowl together.
Cut and mix the butter into the flour mixture until the largest piece is pea-sized.
Sprinkle on the ice water 1 tablespoon at a time so that you can gather the dough into a cohesive mass. (I used ~4 tablespoons, but this is highly variable! Use your hands and eyes to judge this.)
Divide dough into two unequal disks: one that is ~3/4 of the dough and one that is a little less than 1/4 and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Roll out the large disk into a 10 1/2 inch round and drape over the pie plate, crimping the edges, then refrigerate.
Roll the other disk out and cut out shapes as desired; freeze the shapes while you make the filling and preheat the oven.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
To make the filling: brown butter in a large saucepan until it is darkened and nutty-smelling.
Pour over granulated sugar.
Whisk in cornmeal, smoked salt, vanilla beans, and honey (mixture may not homogenize at this point due to the large amount of fat).
Whisk in eggs one at a time, making sure that they fully incorporate before adding the next.
Whisk in the heavy cream and apple cider vinegar.
Strain the mixture through a sieve directly into the pie crust.
Place pie on a baking sheet and place in oven.
When the filling has partially set (still wobbly and jiggly in the center, but not runny at all), about 35 minutes, brush the extra tablespoon of cream over your frozen decorative shapes.
Remove pie from the oven, and arrange shapes (carefully!) how you desire.
Return pie to the oven on the top rack to encourage browning of the decorations and bake for an additional 10-20 minutes, or until the center is barely jiggly and the pie has puffed on the edges and the decorations are browned.
Allow to cool completely, then ideally chill for at least 2 hours or overnight. (The texture will be better if allowed to chill down, but serving from room temperature is also good! Don’t sweat it too much.)

Reconnaissant

Pumpkin Meringue Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Autumn, the year’s last, loveliest smile.

William Cullen Bryant

Pumpkin Meringue Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

The word for grateful in French, reconnaisant, is derived from the verb reconnaître: to recognize or acknowledge.

To be thankful is to share your appreciation.
I have so, so many thanks to give this holiday season, in spite of the fragility of 2016 in the face of so many tragedies, differences, and disagreements. I feel strongly that acknowledging good and allowing our spirits to be lifted by it is just as important and crucial to progress as discussing what we feel is wrong or problematic.

I choose to feel lucky and count my blessings, because there are so many people around the world who have too few.
I am grateful for my family, for my partner, for friends near and far, for my school and the opportunities afforded to me, for clean water and laundry and a quiet bed to sleep in at night.

My life and heart are full, and yet I keep space enough to hope for peace and unity, for universal rights and equality, and an end to the bombings of hospitals and schools in Aleppo.
I pray for women and girls around the globe, for animals losing their homes and environments, or in zoos, shelters, or abusive homes, and I pray for Mother Earth.

Pumpkin Meringue Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

I thought I’d share a few (mostly food) links that have made me smile, or pause and think, or drool lately. I’m thankful for the food blogging community and the creativity that thrives in it.
Inspiration is good for the soul!

Thalia turned 21! She baked herself a glorious chocolate and hazelnut and praline cake (that frosting, omg bye) and also wrote a beautiful post (with pie) about self-transformation.

Michelle wrote some realness about the election and having work to do. So refreshing when so many have just gone on posting about yummy cakes etc. If you didn’t read her 5th blogiversary post either, definitely check it out for some food for thought about what’s really important about being a blogger.

Cindy’s apple + marionberry marzipan crumble with “chewy bits of almond paste throughout the crisp topping” sounds like the best thing, ever. Definitely want to try this over the winter!

Speaking of things I want to try, Jen made an apple rose tart that is perfection embodied. Those swirly slices! I need to try making fruit roses, especially in a dessert, yum.

Adam Ellis is a cartoonist for Buzzfeed and his instagram is guaranteed to make you laugh. Hehe.

Pumpkin Meringue Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

The frosting on Sam’s hazelnut cake, holy cow. So shiny and chocolaty! I love the idea of using sour cream to add a slight contrast to the sweetness. Plus, the post is part of a campaign for No Kid Hungry, which is doubly awesome.

Erica made a beautiful pear bourbon pie and shared a sad story and her own urgings for us all to acknowledge and work together to move forward after a divisive political season. I completely understand her hesitation to say anything about politics in a space usually reserved for happy musings, but I applaud her for being bold and sharing some of her feelings.

Those seeking comfort and solace should turn to Beeta’s classic chocolate chip cookies, which look pillowy and soft and full of chocolate. I could totally go for a warm cookie and cold milk right about now.

Ellen crying while getting a Medal of Freedom from Obama made me tear up, to be honest. She is so wonderful and this was a momentous honor.

Finally, my pictures are in a Belgian magazine!
You can check out the issue from Creacorner here—spot my Yule Stump cake!

Pumpkin Meringue Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

The pie I’m sharing with you guys today comes together in a flash and doesn’t require any rolling of crusts, which is something that I know many people dread.

Instead, this creamy, spicy, sweet pumpkin pie has a brown butter graham cracker and cinnamon cereal crust (you know your inner child wants to try this) and a thick swirl of torched, marshmallow-y Italian meringue.

This comes together in a flash and doesn’t require any ingredients that aren’t already in your pantry.
It’s not an enormous tart/pie, so it’s good as part of a holiday dessert spread.

Pumpkin Meringue Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy Thanksgiving, friends. I urge you to give your loved ones an extra squeeze and don’t be afraid to share what you’re thankful for this year.

Pumpkin Meringue Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Pumpkin Meringue Tart
makes 1 8- or 9-inch tart or pie

ingredients:
for the crust:
300 grams (2 1/4 cups) crushed graham crackers and/or cinnamon cereal
25 grams (2 tablespoons) sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
100 grams (7 tablespoons) butter, melted or browned

for the filling:
150 grams (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
pinch nutmeg
40 grams (1/3 cup) dry milk powder (Note: you can sub 7 ounces evaporated milk for the dry milk powder and water)
120 grams (1/2 cup) water
75 grams (5 ounces, 1 small can) evaporated milk
420 grams (15 ounces, 1 regular can) pumpkin purée
2 eggs

for the meringue:
2 egg whites
100 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
60 grams (1/4 cup) water

directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Make the crust: crush the graham crackers and cereal into crumbs, then pour into a bowl.
Stir the sugar and salt into the crumbs, then pour the brown butter over and stir until the mixture will stick together when pressed.
Pour into an 8- or 9-inch tart or pie pan and press into an even layer.
Place the pan on a sheet pan lined with parchment.
Bake for 10 minutes, until fragrant.
Meanwhile, whisk sugar, spices, and dry milk powder together.
Add the evaporated milk and water while whisking, then stir in the pumpkin until homogeneous.
Whisk in the eggs, scraping the bottom of the bowl to ensure that everything has been incorporated.
Pour into the hot crust and place back in the oven.
Bake at 375 for 30 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350 and bake for 20-30 more minutes, or until the center just barely jiggles when you shake the pan a little bit.
Allow to cool completely.
Make the meringue: place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Place sugar and water in a small pot over medium heat, fitted with a candy thermometer.
Begin to whisk egg whites while syrup heats up.
Once syrup reaches 245 degrees F, the egg whites should be at semi-stiff peaks.
Pour the hot syrup into the meringue while beating at high speed.
Whip until the meringue is glossy and cooled to body temp.
Spread the meringue over the pumpkin pie and torch it as desired.

Mud and Molasses

Brown Butter and Molasses Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

The air was so sweet in New Orleans it seemed to come in soft bandannas;
and you could smell the river and really smell the people, and mud, and molasses, and every kind of tropical exhalation,
with your nose suddenly removed from the dry ices of a Northern winter.

—Jack Kerouac

Brown Butter and Molasses Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Well, I buried my head in my MCAT studies and found myself at the cusp of a Northern winter, with a chill in the air and the leaves all dead and Thanksgiving fast approaching.

Between school and the current sorry state of our nation’s mud-slinging politics, I could do with some serious relaxing tropical exhalations right about now.

I’m sending hugs and brown butter and cake to everyone who has been shaken up by the last week+.
I’m here for anyone who reads this and want to reach out.  It’s a confusing and scary time that has left many feeling adrift.
Hold tight—so tight—the things and people you love, and never let yourself lose sight of how important that love is.

Brown Butter and Molasses Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Enter: brown butter and molasses cupcakes, which are basically a hug in cake form.
Or like the best salty-sweet brown sugar and buttery goodness of a chocolate chip cookie, but in cake form.

These will blow. you. away.  One bowl/pot, just a few minutes of prep, and you’re in for some comfort.

I made these mini, so they’re only two teeny bites of moist brown butter cake topped with a smidgen of salty-sweet molasses buttercream, but as I always say, that just means you can eat more of them.
Mini treats just have a way of being extra addictive and extra adorable, I think.

These would be a cute and low-fuss addition to a holiday spread, Thanksgiving or otherwise. They can be made and frosted up to a day ahead, so that can relieve some day-of stress for all my cooks out there.
They’re also small but pack a lot of flavor for their size, so after a heavy dinner, these could be just the ticket.

Brown Butter and Molasses Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Brown Butter and Molasses Cupcakes
makes 12 mini cupcakes, easily doubled

ingredients:
for the cakes:
90 grams (6 tablespoons) butter, browned and cooled
1/4 teaspoon salt
175 grams (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
120 grams (1/2 cup milk) (I used cashew)
135 grams (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) AP flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

for the frosting:
90 grams (6 tablespoons) butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1 tablespoon molasses
250-375 grams (2-3 cups) powdered sugar, as needed
1-2 tablespoons milk or cream, as needed

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line a mini muffin tin with cupcake liners.
Whisk the cooled brown butter, salt, sugar, and vanilla together until fully incorporated.
Whisk in the egg and beat for 3 minutes, until lightened in color.
Add in the milk, then the flour on top, then the baking powder on top of the flour.
Whisk vigorously to combine all ingredients.
Portion batter into your mini cupcake tin and bake for 7-8 minutes, or until a tester comes out with only a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the frosting: beat butter on high speed for 3 minutes.
Add in the salt and molasses and beat until incorporated.
Add in the first 2 cups of powdered sugar, then beat until combined and taste: if it needs to be sweeter or thicker, add the next cup of powdered sugar in two batches.
If the sweetness is just right to your taste but it needs to be thinner to be pipeable, add in 1 tablespoon of milk (or 2, if necessary).
Decorate the cupcakes as desired!

Venus

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

That’s Venus, September thought.
She was the goddess of love.
It’s nice that love comes on first thing in the evening, and goes out last in the morning.
Love keeps the light on all night.

—Catherynne M. Valente

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy February!
Here in Chicago, the month eased in with uncharacteristic rainy, warm days, leaving us wondering what Winter had left with which to rattle our bones.

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

February will start out with two exams and my little’s birthday, for which she demands cake but I have promised bran muffins.  Can’t spoil them too much, right?!

Later, there is Valentine’s day and my big’s birthday—she’s in France, and I’m going to have to figure out how to ship presents, edible and not, across the ocean.

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

I truly love Valentine’s Day, and so I am beginning to post appropriately adorable, twee, and chocolaty things here—we only have two weeks left, after all!
I’ve made, precisely, a ton of treats geared for this holiday.  There is a ridiculously long list that I’ve linked to below.

To start out this year’s desserts, I chose these brown butter and vanilla bean teacakes, decorated with dark chocolate and sparkly almond sanding sugar.
They’re light and airy, with crispy edges and nibbly insides; they’re mildly flavored with a whole vanilla bean and brown butter; the dark chocolate on the top adds a sweet contrast and the almond sanding sugar is the perfect crunch! (Plus, just look at those vanilla flecks inside!)

These are impossibly fast to pull together, and they store fairly well in an airtight container (up to 3 days, but by day 2, they’ll be crying out for a cup of tea to dunk in).
I actually had a few for breakfast with my morning tea—they are very light, a bit like madeleines.
Buttery, a little crumbly, and a very sweet little treat.

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Valentine’s Day, previously (I will leave these links at the bottom of all my coming V Day posts):

2015:
Fluffy, buttery copycat Lofthouse cookies, with swirls of pink buttercream and handfuls of sprinkles!
Chocolate covered strawberry cake—sinfully dark chocolate layer cake with goat cheese buttercream and chocolate covered strawberries on top.
A dolled-up red velvet cake: with cream cheese meringue buttercream and malted milk candies.
Perfectly pink princesstårta—sponge cake with whipped cream and marzipan.

2014:
The cutest, most pin-able pink grapefruit possets, with salty and buttery Ritz crunch and pistachios.  One of my favorite recipes ever!
Dark and white chocolate French mendiants, quick and healthy and pretty.
Strawberry pocky cake—love this idea, didn’t love the red velvet recipe I used.  Would recommend the link above for dolled-up red velvet if recreating this idea!
Salty dark chocolate tarts—the perfect balance between flaky salt and dark, fruity chocolate.

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Brown Butter and Vanilla Bean Teacakes
makes 12 small cakes; easily doubled

ingredients:
85 grams (3 ounces, 3/4 stick) butter
3 eggs
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
scrapings of 1 vanilla bean
pinch sea salt
70 grams (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) flour
melted dark chocolate for decorating, if desired
almond sanding sugar for decorating, if desired

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour (I use baking spray) 12-15 little tins, whether they are mini muffin or mini tart pans.
Place butter in a saucepan over medium heat and cook until browned and fragrant, about 6 minutes.
Remove from heat and let cool.
Meanwhile, place the eggs, sugar, vanilla bean, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Beat on high for 10 minutes, until extremely light and meringue-like; mixture should be airy and glossy and no longer gritty.
Carefully fold in the flour; once it is half incorporated, pour the brown butter over top and once again carefully fold in.
Batter will fall; be sure to be gentle but completely incorporate all of the butter (this make take a little while).
Portion out into the prepared pans and bake for 10 minutes, until the center springs back and a tester comes out with only a few moist crumbs.
Turn out from pans and allow to cool completely before decorating with melted dark chocolate and sanding sugar.
Serve with tea (of course)!

Underwater

Apple, Pear, Butterscotch, and Cheddar Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Underwater basket-weaving: (noun)

Used as the type of college course that is thought to be without any practical or professional value.

Apple, Pear, Butterscotch, and Cheddar Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

This whirlwind of a quarter has finally drawn to a close.
My daddy told me, as I arrived home (Nati in tow) to be glad that I simply survived.
And how right he is.

(“Promise me you will not spend so much time treading water and trying to keep your head above the waves that you forget, truly forget, how much you have always loved to swim.”
—Tyler Knott Gregson)

I still need to get myself employed, but for now today, I’m content to have survived my craziest academic quarter yet (and hopefully ever) and be home in my wonderful house with my parents and boyfriend (and animals, of course), with my head above water and still planted firmly on my shoulders.

Apple, Pear, Butterscotch, and Cheddar Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

I have been so so so in and out with meager offerings in my posts on the blog, which is something that irritates me to no end, but which was an unfortunate consequence of working tirelessly on school.

Next quarter will be different.
Also, I have so many ideas for holiday baking and I’m just praying I have enough time to fit them all in during break.

This pie is from Thanksgiving, and it would be an utter shame if I didn’t get this post together whilst we are still in pie season.

Apple, Pear, Butterscotch, and Cheddar Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

This pie is a delicious endeavor and a total showstopper.
It features a gloriously brown and shiny, crackling crust chock full of sharp cheddar cheese and sweet cream butter.
The inside is comprised of layers upon layers of cinnamon-poached pears, soft and sweet, and tart, spiced apples, with more bite and brightness, all lacquered and laced with brown butter butterscotch, a salty, profound, caramel sauce that really takes the pie to the next level.

There are a few components, but three of them (the poached pears, the butterscotch, and the dough) can be made ahead of time and store beautifully, so that when pie day rolls around, you will be prepared and calm and ready to make the most beautiful, bad-ass pie of your life.

Apple, Pear, Butterscotch, and Cheddar Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

When making pie, my best advice is as follows:
Keep everything cool.  Your flour, your butter, your fillings, your mentality.
Read the recipe very well beforehand.  Make sure you have all of your ingredients on hand and prepped.
Relax!  A rustic pie tastes just as good alone with a perfect lattice, and any pie is better than no pie.  People will love you and you should be proud.
Pie will always make you friends.

Apple, Pear, Butterscotch, and Cheddar Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Apple, Pear, Butterscotch, and Cheddar Pie
makes 1 large pie

ingredients:
for the poached pears:
1 lemon, zested in large strips and juiced
1 stick cinnamon
2 pounds hard pears, peeled, cored and sliced
1 cup white wine
1 1/3 cups sugar

for the pie filling:
2 lb. granny smith and golden delicious apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
juice of ½ lemon
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch cloves
pinch allspice
pinch ginger
pinch coriander
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch

for the butterscotch:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup (about 109 grams) packed dark or light brown sugar (I used dark)
1/2 cup (118 ml) heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt, to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons (8 ml) vanilla extract

for the cheddar pie crust:
360 grams (3 cups) AP flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoon cane sugar
170 grams shredded cheddar cheese
170 grams (1 1/2 sticks) frozen butter, grated
1 1/2 teaspoon vinegar
60 to 90 grams ice water

directions:
Make the dough: whisk flour, salt, and sugar together.
Cut and mix the grated cheese and butter until the largest piece is pea-sized.
Add in the vinegar, then sprinkle on just enough ice water so that you can gather the dough into a cohesive mass.
Divide dough into two balls.
Refrigerate 1 ball.
Roll the other ball out very gently into a 12 inch round.
Lightly drape over a pie dish and crimp gently.
Refrigerate or freeze.

Poach the pears: peel, core, and slice the quinces fairly thinly.
Place lemon zest, juice, cinnamon stick, sugar, wine, and quince into a sauce pot on medium high heat.
Bring mixture to a hard simmer, then reduce heat to a bare simmer.
Simmer for 10 minutes, then place lid on pot and allow to cook for 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the moisture has been mostly absorbed and the quince is rosy toned.
Allow to cool completely.

Make the butterscotch: brown butter in a saucepan.
Add sugar, cream, and salt and whisk to combine.
Bring to a very gently boil and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat, stir in vanilla, and carefully taste to adjust salt and vanilla.
Allow to cool at room temperature.

To make the pie, toss thinly sliced and peeled apples with lemon juice, salt, and spices.
Whisk sugars together with cornstarch; stir into apple mixture and set aside.
Remove the top portion of the pie dough from the fridge; allow to thaw until it is workable.
Roll out to ¼ inch thickness and cut out shapes or lattices; refrigerate.
Remove bottom part of dough from freezer or fridge.
Place 1 thin layer of pears on the bottom of the pie.
Top with a layer of apple mixture and a drizzle of butterscotch.
Repeat until pie is full.
Top the pie with the lattice or decorations as desired.
Brush with egg wash or cream and sprinkle on turbinado sugar.
Bake at 425 for 10 minutes, then lower heat to 375 and bake for 45 minutes, covering crust if necessary.

Wait For Me

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Wait for me and I’ll come back,
Dodging every fate!
What a bit of luck! they’ll say,
Those that would not  wait.
They will never understand
How amidst the strife,
By your waiting for me, dear,
You had saved my life.
Only you and I will know
How you got me through.
Simply—you knew how to wait—
No one else but you.

—Konstantin Simonov, 1941, to Valentina Serova

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I refuse to accept the fact that it is nearly November.
I mean, if it is, then
where are the Halloween spooks haunting my blog?
And where are the many festive fall recipes that surely I’ve shared on this page?

And why aren’t there cakes like this (bloody amazing, if I do say so myself) one or this (OCD-tic-inducing) one, or non-pumpkin treats like these cookies or even pumpkin treats, for God’s sake, because even a cliché is better than utter silence and the cold shoulder, isn’t it?!

Where in the world have I been?
Well, this last week I had 2 p-sets, a double lab report, 2 midterms, and a paper due.
Twice this week I have gotten 3 hours of sleep because there is simply too much organic chemistry and cell biology to learn.
Far, far too much. 

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I’m humbled by this year.

I haven’t quite bitten off more than I can chew, but my mouth is certainly full.

I know the blog has been sadly neglected, but it’s not just because I’m busy.  I promise I haven’t forgotten, either.
The developer I hired has fixed the Pinterest issue, I think, and if that’s true, I’ll be unreasonably happy and grateful.
I have a bunch of new, delicious cakes to share with you, and one of them is (ya, Alexa, this is your shoutout) this gal’s birthday cake.

For now, I’ve brought something comforting and cozy and warm.
Something buttery, full of warm spice, and covered in crackling glaze.  Brown butter and banana and speculoos.

This is a classic banana cake, made with a combination of butter and coconut oil along with greek yogurt to keep it moist and tender, with four wizened old bananas to give it the most concentrated banana flavor.
It’s a go-to.

The glaze is bananas… Unbelievably addicting.
You will spoon it straight into your mouth, unless you have a remarkably ascetic type of willpower.  Ahem.
Butter is browned until it’s fragrant, then showered with lots of fat flaky sea salt shards.  A few spoonfuls of cookie butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon are whisked in; next comes milk (or cream, you minx) and a pile of powdered sugar.
The whole shebang is glossy, shiny, and sexy.
It’s thick and pourable and cools into a shattering glaze that perfectly complements the soft banana cake underneath.
You must use all of it.  It seems like a lot.
You must persevere, friends.

Happy Halloween! Let’s eat some cake.

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Classic Banana Cake with Speculoos Glaze
cake portion adapted from Hummingbird High

makes 1 bundt cake
ingredients:
for the cake:
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
4 ounces (8 tablespoons) butter
4 ounces coconut oil
2 cups sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 blackened bananas
1 cup greek yogurt

for the glaze:
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt (Maldon)
3 tablespoons cookie butter (speculoos, biscoff)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup milk
~1 cup powdered sugar, or as needed

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter and flour a bundt or tube pan very well.
Place butter and coconut oil in the bowl of a stand mixer; beat for 3 full minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl, add the sugar 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.
Mash the bananas with the yogurt and vanilla extract, then add them into the bowl (don’t mix yet).
Place the flour and baking soda on top of the bananas, then gently stir to combine everything, making sure to scrape the sides of the bowl.
Pour batter into pan and bake for 60-70 minutes, until a toothpick comes out completely clean; allow to cool.
Meanwhile, make the glaze: brown the butter in a sauce pot, then add in the salt and speculoos and whisk vigorously to melt the speculoos.
Remove from heat and stir in cinnamon and milk; whisk in powdered sugar until no lumps remain (you may want to sift it in).
While cake is just barely warm, pour the warm glaze all over it.
Allow to cool to room temperature, then cut into fat wedges and serve with milk and tea.

Serendipitous

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Hey there, Autumn.

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I thought I’d share some things that I’m loving and coveting right now.  Some hover on the edge of the seasons, some I share with autumnal intent, and some for plain old adoration.

First off, I cannot stop listening to “I’m Not the Only One.”
It’s been on repeat for 2 full days.
Sam Smith gets me and my current life mood, and this song is soothing but oh-so-sad.
It’s incredibly refreshing to hear his beautiful Adele-man-voice singing something other than “Stay With Me” or “Latch.”

I finally (!) read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Oh!!!!
It was utterly fantastic. I picked it up and didn’t put it down until I finished, 24 hours later.
The attention she pays to details, her nuanced plot implications, and realistic emotional touch add up to quite an addictive read.
And OMG I can’t wait for the movie.

I reallyreallyreallyreallyreally want to read The Hedge Knight (AKA the tales of Dunk and Egg) by GRRM to bide my time until the next GoT book (2015?!?! REALLY?!) but have discovered that it costs $100+ dollars to buy a new copy.
I may have to settle for the kindle version, which is inferior in my humble opinion. Give me a crackling spine and sweet, faintly musty paper pages any day.

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I love the Hunter “Iconic Red” collection, but I really have my eye on some tall black wellingtons.  I have the olive green ones and absolutely adore them, and I think black can only be more versatile!
(Although since I intend to buy these gorgeous black boots in the next few weeks, red wellingtons could be just the ticket to keep my boot collection from looking too monotonous…)

I bought a pair of Lululemon 4-way stretch running shorts about a month ago, and I am about ready to throw out all my “norts” and invest in 4 more pairs of these babies.
They’re fitted without being clingy, so they don’t ride up or stick to you in weird places; they’re stretchy and comfortable, lightweight, and don’t cut in at all at the hips.
I hate having to adjust my clothing in the middle of a workout, which is the main reason why I fell for lulu leggings.  Now, I fear also been converted to their sport shorts…

This bag shall be mine, as soon as it goes back on sale (as Jessica pointed out, Rebecca Minkoff is always on sale).
I have a similar bag (white python, gold hardware) but it’s irritatingly large and due to its poor quality, stained from my blue jeans.  Can’t wait to get rid of it and replace it with a mini Mac!

In the realm of bags, I am coveting this Céline.
Sigh. One day.

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I have more links to share, but I don’t want my varied obsessions to be too long-winded, so I’ll save them for another link love post.
(Although by then I’ll inevitably have racked up another impressive list of randoms…)

Let’s chat about this here cake, y’all.

It started out as a spiced applesauce cake with a heaping ton of streusel on top, but in the heat of the oven, the top of the cake buckled in and ate much of the streusel—when I pulled out the loaf, the top sported an eighth of the original amount of streusel.
I figured it would mostly just melt into the batter, no big deal.

However, something far, far better happened:
a pocket of molten streusel, basically a little river of caramelized sugar and butter with a heavy hit of salt, aka the stuff of dreams aka pinch-me-am-I-dreaming-deliciousness, formed right in the center of the cake.

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The parts of the cake that retained their streuseled top (mostly the edges) were, just as expected, pleasantly moist with a lovely crunch on top.
So, if your streusel doesn’t sink through the cake, don’t worry.  Either way produces a gently spiced, super moist cake that offers a faint suggestion of apples and fall.
Either way, however, you neeeeed to add this glaze.
It’s my go-to: maple syrup, brown butter, salt, a touch of cream. UGH. Could eat with a spoon.

I snuck one two pieces of this cake before I wrapped it up and gave it to my bestfriendinthewholeworld, Gwen.
It’s perfectly comforting, well-suited for stressed out students!
Like a hug in cake form.
It’s a bomb way to start off fall baking—warm and spicy, but decidedly not pumpkin.

(I’m so not ready for that yet.)

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Brown Butter Applesauce Cake
cake portion adapted from Averie
streusel portion adapted from Smitten Kitchen
makes 1 9×5 loaf

ingredients:
for the streusel:
5 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

for the cake:
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground coriander (optional)
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup sour cream
1 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

for the brown butter maple glaze:
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 – 3/4 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
Make the streusel: combine all of the ingredients and pinch with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, set aside.
Make the cake: place the sugars, salt, and spices in a large bowl. Brown the butter in a skillet, then pour it over the sugar mixture.
While whisking, add in the eggs and vanilla extract; whisk until combined, then stir in the applesauce and sour cream.
Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and baking powder, then stir into the batter until homogeneous.
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan, then sprinkle the streusel on top.
Bake for 55-65 minutes, until a toothpick comes out completely clean (you can tent it with foil if the top browns too quickly).
Remove from the oven; while the cake is cooling, make the glaze.
Place butter in a small skillet and brown; remove from the heat and add stir in the salt and maple syrup.
While whisking, add in the powdered sugar, then add heavy cream to thin it to a pouring consistency (if you add too much cream, you can add in a little more sugar to balance it out).
Pour/drizzle the warm glaze over the slightly warm cake, then leave to cool completely.
Serve in thick slices with strong coffee.

For Sansa

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Valar morghulis.
Valar dohaeris.

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Finally, finally, finally.
After months of agonizing waiting, frenzied reading, and greedy marathon-watching, Season 4 of The Best Show Ever Made is here.
It premiers tonight.  HBO.  Don’t miss it. (Have you seen the new trailer?)

It’s April 6th.  Game of Thrones.  Season 4.  Premiers. Tonight. Be still, my beating heart.

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I recently finished A Dance with Dragons, the 5th book in the series.
George R.R. Martin takes no prisoners.
I am so transported by his writing, and the show even more so, I dare say.
I’m really glad that I watched part of the show before reading the books, which is a first, because the sets that they dream up are truly magical and fantastic, arguably better than what my imagination would have filled in.
This way, when I read the books, I can visualize the characters and their homes and country very clearly.
Normally, I’m an advocate for experiencing a series the opposite way, books first, then movie/T.V. show, but Game of Thrones is special.
It’s a cinematic masterpiece.

I’ve rewatched season 3 for the 90th time, and I have this on repeat while I study daydream all day and snack on these cakes.
I am so ready, y’all.  I can’t even express it.

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Sansa: “Lemon cakes are my favourite!”
Lady Olenna: “So we’ve heard.”

(Our first introduction to Lady Olenna, that marvelously dry and brutal little bird.)

Poor, miserable Sansa.
We can only wait for her luck to turn around and her life to stop constantly falling to pieces (or die, knowing G.R.R.M).
She really does love lemon cakes, as is made abundantly clear by all the mentions of these little treats.

In honor of her, I made dainty lemon cakes to share today.
These are incredibly quick to make, about 40 minutes from start to stuffing them in your face.
These have only seven ingredients, and no chemical leavening!  If we are really trying to be accurate, these cakes come incredibly close to ingredients available in Westeros.

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The cakes are light and delicate, crumbly and ever so slightly sweet, buttery and full of lemon, the glaze sticky and luxuriously tangy.

Where the glaze sinks into the warm cake, pockets of puckery sweetness form, prompting a finger licking so as not to lose any of the precious, sticky icing.
The cakes themselves are redolent with butter, vanilla, and lemon, with a fine textured crumb and crisp edges.
I think they’d go over quite well with Lady Sansa of House Stark, and they will fit right in as a snack during the premiere tonight.

These are best served with a piping hot cup of milky black tea and the heads of your enemies.

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Sansa’s Lemon Cakes
makes 15-18 small cakes

ingredients:
for the cakes:
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) butter, plus extra for greasing the pans
4 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
pinch sea salt
zest of two lemons
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup flour

for the glaze:
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
5 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons dried milk powder
1 tablespoon butter

directions:
Make the cakes: first, brown the butter until very dark, almost burnt, then strain out the solids by pouring the butter over a mesh sieve lined with 2 paper towels.
Allow to cool, then squeeze out the extra butter in the paper towels and set aside to cool to room temperature.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter your mini muffin tins or mini tart shells very well with melted butter– be sure to get in all the grooves.
Place eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment with a pinch of sea salt and begin to beat on high.
Meanwhile, zest 2 lemons into a bowl with the sugar and rub very well with your fingertips to release the essential oils.
When eggs are beginning to become light colored and fluffy, start to slowly stream in the lemon sugar.
Whip for about 6 minutes, until quadrupled in size and very light colored.
Pour in the vanilla and beat until combined, 10 seconds.
Sprinkle the flour on top of the eggs, then pour the cooled butter over the flour.
Gently fold batter to combine, being sure to incorporate any pockets of flour.
Batter will deflate slightly, but still be very light when you are done folding.
Scoop rounded tablespoons into your pans, filling them 2/3 of the way full.
Bake for 15 minutes, until deeply golden and springy to the touch.
Immediately turn the cakes out of their molds, and set aside while you make the glaze.

Make the glaze: place sugar, lemon juice, and water in a small pot.
Heat until boiling and bubbling, cook for 1 minute, then whisk in the milk powder and butter.
Whisk very well; glaze should be sticky but homogeneous and still pourable when hot.
Pour a teaspoon or so of glaze over each warm cake, then set aside to cool and set.

Enjoy with tea!

It Gets Better

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“When I was a girl, my life was music that was always getting louder. Everything moved me.
A dog following a stranger. That made me feel so much. A calendar that showed the wrong month.
I could have cried over it. I did.
Where the smoke from a chimney ended. How an overturned bottle rested at the edge of a table.
I spent my life learning to feel less. Every day I felt less. Is that growing old? Or is it something worse?
You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.”

— Jonathan Safran Foer | Everything is Illuminated

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Eleven weeks has this year been.

Magically have the hours stretched into days, weeks, months.
In the moment, the minutes melted like molasses, yet here we are, looking back at the accumulation of time piled high like snow drifts.
The quarter gusted by, ruffling my hair, picking at the edges of my jacket, freezing my salty tears to icicles.

Time, that infallible, indefatigable soldier, marches on.
I pool myself at his knees, pull at his clothes, cry, implore him for more, more, more.
I beg a retreat, a repeat– just one– beg for second chances, for one minute, one hour longer.

But he is deaf, this cruel god.  There is no rewinding, no turning back.
Done is done; done is done, calls his war drum.
Onward we march.  Forward we go.

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Eleven weeks has this year been.

One, two, three months.  Two thousand fourteen.  Twenty fourteen.

The year began as a frenzy of tears, of dually joyous and grieving reunions, of family and love and support and then fell into a deep well of loneliness and numbness, of steely walls and wintry blues, of homesickness and exhaustion.
Slowly, though, 2014 stabilized to an equilibrium.
Just as there was sadness, there was celebration.
Just as there was remembrance, there was readjustment and renewal (even some resolutions).

Healing is not easy.
But you cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.
One walks hand in hand with the other.
And so must we, as their waves beat down on our beaches, as they soften and change our malleable souls.
This submission is not comfortable; it is not easy.

We do not like to be changed.

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Yet what can I say?  It gets better.

Things get better.  I don’t eat dinner alone in the stairwell anymore, cold and alone.  I let warmth into my life.
I don’t cry when I’m falling asleep; I don’t cry when I wake up.  I smile, and stretch, long and satisfying.
I don’t feel like my lungs are collapsing in on themselves when I think about you.  I breathe deeper, and deeper still.
I don’t feel my heart break anew into a million pieces when I think about my father, his brothers, his mother.  It aches, but I embrace it.
I don’t feel like I’ve been punched in the gut when I hear your name.
(Although I did feel like I was being punched, repeatedly, when I heard your voice.  My body clenched and I started to sweat.  I listened to it over and over and over.)
I am so proud and so grateful, and I close my eyes and remind myself of that instead.

There were times when I didn’t think it would get easier.  When I felt hopeless, helpless, lost.
It did, though.  I see it more and more as this quarter draws to a close.
Never forgetting.  I miss you.  I keep your picture in my wallet for good luck on my tests.  I taped your picture to my wall– you’re a dreamcatcher for anything math-related because those kind of thoughts give me nightmares.
I’m sure you happily absorb them, and roll your eyes when they’re wrong.
No, never forgetting.
Just feeling my heart knit back together, feeling the rent be mended, one stitch of time by one.

Allowing it to get better.

gggg

If there was ever something that you would think couldn’t get better, it would be St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake.
The name alone is enough to give this impression.  Gooey.  Butter. Cake.

But oh, friends, oh.  Does it ever get better.  In a word, yes.
Let’s be clear and upfront about what gooey butter cake is.

There are two versions: one is the more classic, yeasted bottom, butter topped coffeecake-like confection, and one is Paula Deen’s dump-a-buncha-butter into a cake mix and slather it with cream cheese decadence.  Christina Tosi makes a similar version.
That’s how you know it’s good.
1) the name
2) Paula Deen
3) Xtina Tosi

This is the decadent, preservative-filled type, but made better.  Made way, way, way better.
No box mixes.  Sans preservatives.  Still just as easy.

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First, the base.  Normally a box of yellow cake mix with a stick o’ melted butter added.
Here, oats, brown sugar, plenty of salt, and brown butter are stirred together, turning into a thick, soft cookie base, with a hearty texture and assertive flavor.

Next, the topping.  Cream cheese, more brown sugar, eggs, plenty of salt, and a heap of powdered sugar are beaten together to form the sticky, cheesecake-y layer.

After it bakes, the top is cracked and deeply golden, and the whole thing smells like brown butter-brown sugar heaven.
Shut your eyes to resist its seductive temptation, and stick it in the freezer.  Overnight.  This is the hardest part of this recipe.
When it comes out the next day, it’s dense and chewy, yet maintains its eponymous gooey-ness.
Dust it in more powdered sugar, slice, and dive right in.

One bite and there’s no going back.
It just got better, fam.

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Brown Sugar Oatmeal Gooey Butter Cake
makes an 8×8 pan
heavily adapted from Christina Tosi (originally via the now defunct Gilt Taste)

ingredients:
for the base:
3/4 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter
2 egg yolks
1 egg
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder

for the topping:
8 ounces cream cheese
hefty pinch salt
6 packed tablespoons (3 ounces) brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups (13 ounces) confectioner’s sugar

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line an 8×8 pan with parchment, then grease the parchment generously.
Place oats in the bottom of a bowl, then put sugars and salt mounded up to one side.
Place your butter in a heavy pan over medium heat.
After it melts, continue to cook it until it browns and becomes nutty and fragrant.
Pour browned butter over oats and allow to sit and marinate; after a few minutes, stir the sugars and salt together with the oats.
Beat in the egg and egg yolks.
Stir in the flour and baking powder.
Mixture will be crumbly but stick together when pressed.
Press into the bottom of your 8×8 pan; you will have some left over (leave 3/4 of an inch for the topping).
Prepare the topping:
Beat cream cheese and salt together until very light and fluffy, and no lumps remain.
Whip in the brown sugar until the mixture is no longer gritty, about 3 minutes.
Add in the eggs and vanilla and beat on high for another 3 minutes.
Sift the confectioner’s sugar over the top of the mixture and beat just until combined; scrape the sides of the bowl and make sure everything is homogeneous.
Spread the mixture over the crust, making sure it covers the entire thing.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, until puffed, golden, and crackly, with only a slight jiggle in the center.
Remove from oven and let cool; PLACE IN FREEZER for at least 4 hours, and up to one night.
To serve, remove from freezer and immediately slice; dust with plenty of powdered sugar.