Busy Bee

Whole Wheat Peppermint Mocha Brownies | La Pêche Fraîche

It’s past time we talk, isn’t it?

Whole Wheat Peppermint Mocha Brownies | La Pêche Fraîche

Let’s talk about busyness.  Let’s talk about crazy sleep-deprived weeks and times when there just isn’t enough time.

Talk about my new coffee-free lifestyle and how damn hard it is to keep your eyes open in a darkened lecture room.

About blog malfunctions (WHy, Pinterest, wHyyyYYyy) that seemingly can’t be fixed, about being so frustrated that you don’t even want to try anymore.
Talk about sophomore year and living with best friends and becoming a Theta girl and bumps and ruts in the road.
Talk about all the millions of things that I’ve wanted to say here that I haven’t had time to put down in a post.

Can we talk about how just the other day I saw a man and his young son sitting in the autumn sun, basking with eyes shut, hands folded, peaceful as can be, and it warmed my heart for one brief moment, almost as much as it warmed theirs, before bio lecture called and demanded that I rush onwards?

Time is cruel.  My schedule is punishing.
But I’m still here, and I know you are all here, waiting, too.

Whole Wheat Peppermint Mocha Brownies | La Pêche Fraîche

I’ve hired a web developer to try to solve my Pinterest woes, but that still hangs heavy in my heart.
I put so much work into this blog, and all I want is for it to work and run smoothly like a well oiled machine.

I have some fabulous things to share here, but I’m reluctant since I know a big part of the meat of my blog (Pinterest traffic/interest) is missing in action!

Life is crazy busy; second year is hard; my roomies are busy and my boyfriend is busy and I don’t sleep anymore.
But it’s good.  This life of perpetual motion and grinding work is one I chose; in the end, it’s fun and rewarding and there’s something deeply satisfying about being so exhausted that you fall asleep even before you’ve sunken all the way down into your fluffy, white, cloud bed.

Whole Wheat Peppermint Mocha Brownies | La Pêche Fraîche

These brownies are for Betsy.
She’s a Starbucks addict, and her favorite is a soy peppermint mocha (or an iced vanilla soy latte).
I was looking for an excuse to use my mini tartlette pans (remember these cute cakes?!), so I got to mixing up some quick brownie batter.
This batter takes the typical melted chocolate that’s added to brownies and replaces it with cocoa powder and butter—chocolate is just cocoa butter and cocoa powder, so why not replace the relatively flavorless cocoa butter with flavorful dairy butter?
Thank you Alice Medrich, for this impeccable logic.
Everyone else. Dooo it.

These brownies are fudgy, with shiny, crackly tops and the most satisfyingly chewy edges; the peppermint, salt, and espresso powder cut the richness and provide depth.
The ganache is—literally—the icing on top, finishing the thick, rich brownie with a perfectly smooth counterpart.
PLUS they’re whole wheat, and no one had any idea.

My roommates’ verdicts?
“Christmas in a cupcake.”
“I think I’ve had thousands of peppermint mochas in my life, and this passes the test.” (Guess who said that…)
“Thin mint. Thin mint. Thin mint.”

I don’t like Starbucks (I HATE Starbucks tbh) but this flavor combo is a straight up killaaaaa.
It’s a must make for fall/winter bakers!

Whole Wheat Peppermint Mocha Brownies | La Pêche Fraîche

Whole Wheat Peppermint Mocha Brownies
makes ~30 brownie bites, or 1 8×8 inch pan
adapted from Alice Medrich

ingredients:
for the brownies:
275 grams (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons espresso powder
250 grams (1 1/4 cup) sugar
70 grams (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4-1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 eggs
80 grams (~1/2 cup) white whole wheat flour

for the ganache:
70 grams (~2.5 ounces) dark chocolate
pinch salt
28 grams (2 tablespoons) butter
50 grams (~3 tablespoons) half-and-half, room temp

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour whatever pans or tins you are using.
Melt unsalted butter in a pan or in the microwave; stir in espresso powder and sugar.
Whisking vigorously, whisk in cocoa powder, salt, and extracts.
Whisk in eggs and then gently stir in flour until the batter is homogeneous.
Scoop or spread the batter into the greased tin and bake for 20 minutes.
Allow to cool completely, then place in freezer for at least 45 minutes.
While the brownies are chilling, make ganache: place chocolate, salt, and butter in a microwave safe bowl.
Melt in 30 second increments until 3/4 of the way melted; remove from microwave and whisk the half-and-half in very vigorously.
Whisk until ganache comes together and is shiny.
Pour hot ganache over the frozen brownies (it should set on contact), then allow it to set and the brownies to thaw.
Serve at room temperature with a big glass of milk or a hot cup of coffee!

Far to Fall

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Peanut butter Pollock.

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Thank god for no-bake recipes.

When you don’t have a kitchen (just a microwave and a fridge and a bureau for counter space), you have limitations.

i.e. I’ve been washing dishes in the bathroom.  Which only has push-button faucets, which means every 8 seconds, the water turns off and I have to hold down the handle again.  As if washing dishes could be MORE torturous.

Also, no oven.  Or stove.  Which means that recipes cannot only be no-bake, but no-cook.

Also, it’s finals week.  Which means, I ain’t got time.  For anything.  Other than crying and Game of Thrones, of course.

Stop looking at me like that.

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These bars are dead simple, and deadly delicious.
Just 6 ingredients, and they can be whipped up in just a few minutes.

It’s really hard to go wrong with peanut butter and chocolate.  But PB, chocolate, and graham crackers?
It is LITERALLY impossible.  It cannot be done.

For example: graham crackers sandwiched with peanut butter and chocolate.  Impossible to do wrong.

The best part of these bar cookies, aside from their no-bake conception, is the fact that the graham cracker crumbs stay crunchy in the melted butter/PB base, which creates an airiness and crunchiness that is incredibly difficult to resist.

Actually, impossible to resist.  Cut these small, because that means you can eat a million and one of them.

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Peanut Butter Graham Bars (no bake)
makes 1 8×8 or 9×9 inch pan of bars

ingredients:
8 tablespoons butter, melted
scant 1 cup smooth peanut butter
big pinch salt
1 1/4 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 1/3 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 10 sheets of crackers)
1 1/4 cup chopped dark chocolate
1 teaspoon butter
1 tablespoon chopped dark chocolate plus 1 tablespoon white chocolate, optional
1 tablespoon peanut butter plus 2 teaspoons chopped white chocolate, optional

directions:
Butter a 9×9 or 8×8 square pan.
Melt the peanut butter and butter together in a microwave; stir until smooth.
Stir in the salt, confectioner’s sugar, and graham cracker crumbs.
Press into the pan firmly; refrigerate until set.
Meanwhile, melt the dark chocolate with the second measure of butter; pour over cooled and set peanut butter base and smooth out; rap on the counter a few times to release air bubbles.
Refrigerate until set.
To decorate, melt the dark chocolate together with the white chocolate; stir until smooth.
Melt the peanut butter with the white chocolate; stir until smooth.
Splatter and drip the two mixtures over the set bars; allow to cool for 15 minutes before slicing to ensure that topping is set.

Dirrrty

Ahh… Sorry to burst your bubble, but this post is not about Xtina.
I know.  I’m sad about it too.
 
 Let’s talk about my OCD.
Because everybody loves a crazy person, right?
Today, I cleaned my entire KitchenAid with a toothpick.
Cleaned as in burrowed into every nook and cranny and crevice to pry out any old cookie dough, flour, and other nasty residue.
 
It was the single most horrifying and awesome thing ever.

 
Do you clean your appliances often?
Let me tell you right now, it’s probably not often enough.
I’m scarred after today.
 I mean, sheesh, I go at my stand mixer every so often, when the spirit so moves me, with a toothpick and a warm, wet paper towel, but not to the extent that I dug today.
How does all that even get all up in there?
All up in there in the weirdest places.  
Have you ever unscrewed the little button thing where the meat grinder attaches to your stand mixer?
DON’T DO IT.  JUST LEAVE IT.
TRUST ME.
Okay, new subject, same topic.
You know what my favorite commercials are?
Cleaning product commercials.
Ranging from face wash to shower cleaners.
I just love the feeling I get from watching dirty things become magically clean.
I get all of the satisfaction, and don’t have to get my hands dirty.
It’s like a wonderful dream.
 
Glad we talked about this.  I’m done rambling now.
This turned out to be a lot more about dirt than I meant it to be.
See, I was more thinking mud.
Because that’s what I’m sharing today.
Mud pie.
Mississippi Mud Pie, to be exact.
Only, this isn’t any ol’ Mississippi mud pie.  It’s MY Mississippi mud pie, redesigned and shined up a little bit by my imagination.
 
Traditional mud pie is comprised of a chocolate cookie crust and a chocolate pudding filling, topped with marshmallows and/or whipped cream.
(No, no, I know.  Quit your whining.  We all made gross-ass mud pies in puddles after the rain- those are not what I’m preaching about up in here.  You want that, you can walk yoself out of this fine establishment.)
 
I took it to another gut-busting, button-bursting, chocolatized level.
Because yes.
 
(Chocolatize me Cap’n!  Yes, Chocolate Cap’n Crunch is a thing.  I know.)
I was inspired in part by the Baked guys, because I saw a snapshot of their Mississippi Mud Pie and decided to make it my way.
Then, Russell of Chasing Delicious made this amazing Mississippi Mud Cake, and I decided it was high time to get back on the chocolate wagon.
It had been so long.  Summer just doesn’t always seem to be compatible with chocolate, which melts and makes a mess.  I usually stick to fruit.
But here we are, with a giant chocolate pie to talk about.
I’ll talk you through the layers- it’s not as hard as it seems, I promise.
Come your next chocolate craving, make this.  It will satisfy every bone and tooth in your body.

First up: chocolate cookie crust.
I used Oreos, because for some reason all the regular chocolate cookies were out of stock in all of the grocery stores near me.  Whatever.  
Smash up some cookies, add a little seasoning (sugar+salt) and bind the whole thing with a stick o’ butta.  Yum.  
Next: my favorite brownies.
These are a one-pot, one-spoon, super simple affair.
They come together in 5 minutes and bake in 15.

They’re fudgy and perfect to line the base of the crust.  
Simply cut off the top of the brownie base and lay it right in your crust.
Third: milk chocolate mousse.
This stuff has two major steps, but neither is difficult.  
You come away with the smoothest, fluffiest mousse, one that is very light on the tongue but is completely sliceable.
This would usually be a pudding, but I wanted something a little more sophisticated than chocolate puddin’.
A mousse is perfect for this type of molded dessert!  
Spread it over the cut side of the brownies and chill until it’s completely set.
Next: salted chocolate ganache.
Rich, dark, and so, so deeply chocolaty.  Need I say more?
Finally: Italian meringue.
These marshmallow-y clouds on the top of the cake are the perfect foil for all the chocolate they’re sitting on.  Traditionally, these would be marshmallows or whipped cream, but I prefer the lightness and softness of meringue.

One slice of this will do in your chocolate cravings in just the right way.
Mississippi Mud Pie just done grew up.

Mississippi Mud Pie
 
Assemble everything in the order shown here: crust, brownies, mousse, ganache, meringue.
Chocolate Cookie Crust:
ingredients:
2 1/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs (I used about 40 Oreos, after I had scraped the cream filling out)
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons butter, melted
directions:
Mix the cookie crumbs with the sugar and salt, then gently stir in the butter.
Press into a 9-inch springform pan and chill until solid, then begin layering.
Classic Brownies
same recipe as here
ingredients:
8 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons shortening
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate
9 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup flour
directions:
In a heavy pot, melt butter, shortening, chocolate, and cocoa powder together.
Once they are all melted, add the sugar and remove from the heat.
Whisk in the eggs vigorously one by one.
Add in the salt and vanilla and whisk.
Finally, stir in the flour.
Spread the batter in a greased and floured 9-inch cake pan and bake for 20 or so minutes, until a tester comes out clean.
To use in the cake, allow to cool completely, then cut off the shiny, crackly top along with about 4 mm of brownie.
Gently place in the bottom of the chilled crust, cut side up.
 
Milk Chocolate Mousse
adapted from Cannelle et Vanille
ingredients:

 

For the pâte à bombé:

 

56 grams sugar

 

14 grams corn syrup

 

28 grams water

 

1 medium egg yolk plus 1 large egg yolk or 1.5 large or extra large egg yolks

 

For the mousse:

 

56 grams (2 ounces) pâte à bombé

 

4 grams gelatin

 

84 grams (3 ounces) milk chocolate

 

8 ounces (1 cup, 235 mL) heavy cream

 

directions:

 

Make the pâte à bombé: place the egg yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer.

 

Begin to whip them on high while you combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water in a small pot and heat to 240 degrees F.

 

Once the syrup comes to temp, slowly drizzle it over the whipped egg yolks while the mixer is running.

 

Allow the yolks to whip until they cool to body temp.

 

Weigh out 56 grams (2 ounces) and set aside.

 

Melt the chocolate gently, then set aside to cool slightly.

 

Sprinkle the gelatin over 2 tablespoons of cold water and set aside for 5 minutes to soften.

 

Set aside 1/4 cup of the heavy cream and whip the other cream to stiff peaks.

 

Once the gelatin is softened, microwave it with the 1/4 cup cream until melted. Gently stir into the cream; the mixture will become loose.

 

Stir in the pâte à bombé and the cooled melted chocolate, and gently mix until homogeneous.

 

Mixture will be loose.

 

Pour over the brownie in the crust and refrigerate until set.

 

Salted Chocolate Ganache
ingredients:
230 grams bittersweet chocolate
130 grams heavy cream
40 grams corn syrup
Small pinch kosher salt
directions:
Heat the chocolate until half melted in a microwave or over a double boiler.
Add the cream, syrup, and salt and heat until the chocolate is 2/3 melted, about 20 more seconds on medium power in a microwave.
Stir gently, increasing speed, until the mixture is shiny and homogeneous.
Use right away- spread over the chilled and firm mousse.
 
Small-Batch Italian Meringue
ingredients:
38 grams egg whites

 

Pinch cream of tartar

75 grams sugar
25 grams water
Directions:
Place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer with the cream of tartar.
Combine the water and sugar in a small pot and bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, whip the egg whites.
When the syrup reaches 245 degrees F, the egg whites should be at soft to stiff peaks.
Slowly pour the hot syrup over the meringue with the mixer running. 
Allow to whip until completely cool, then pipe onto the cake.

De Rigueur

A good brownie recipe is like a good pair of heels or a slick black dress.  
 
 
Completely necessary and indispensable to have in your closet recipe box while seducing that hot boy
 
…Well that analogy fell through.  Brownies are an essential in my closet.  This is a no-judgment zone, okay?  So wipe that smirk off your face.
 
What I mean to say is that they’re classic.  And classic for a reason they are.  
 
And so easy!  They are one-pot wonders, I tell ya.
 
 
And so easily customized!  
 
You like cakey?  Bake them for 5 more minutes.  
 
You like fudgy?  Underbake them by 3 minutes.  
 
You want mix-ins?  Add whatever your little heart desires. 
 
This recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated.  It is foolproof.  I should know, because I’m a fool I’ve baked 4 batches of brownies (that’s 256 of these lil guys) in the last week for a school statistics project.
 
To answer your question, yes, I am always the annoying person who does projects only concerning things I already like.  So… baking projects.  Yeah.
Keep these in your arsenal; I guarantee they’ll come in handy some day.  
 
Nobody doesn’t love chocolate.
 
Classic Brownies
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
Makes an 8×8 pan
ingredients:
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 tablespoons shortening 
8 tablespoons butter
9 tablespoons cocoa powder
8.75 ounces sugar (1 1/4 cups)
3 eggs
5 ounces flour (1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
dash chocolate extract, should you be into that sort of thing
up to 3/4 cup mix-ins (chocolate chips?  toasted nuts?  dried fruit?  crushed candy?)
directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line an 8×8 pan with two sheets of aluminum foil, creating a sling.  Spray with cooking oil.  In a heavy bottomed saucepan, combine butter, shortening, chocolate, and cocoa powder.  Stir with a wooden spoon until melted and smooth.  Stir in sugar, then increasing your speed, beat in the eggs.  (If you’re a wimp, you can do this part in a stand mixer, but you honestly don’t need to stir for very long, and that dirties another bowl.) Stir in the extracts, then the flour.  Mix only until homogeneous.  Stir in desired mix-ins.  Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 14-20 minutes, depending on how cakey/fudgy you like them.  Check often; a toothpick will come out of fudgy brownies with faint streaks of chocolate and a few crumbs; in-the-middle brownies will produce only moistened crumbs, no streaks; and cakey brownies will come out with very few crumbs.  For cakey brownies, watch carefully because there is a difference between cakey and light and overbaked and burnt.

Super Freak


Loosen your belts, unbutton your jeans, and ready your stomachs.  

Why?
Because I have two very delicious recipes today that are comprised of multiple dessert components.


I guess I was in a Dr. Frankenstein type of mood.
See, I’ve been seeing a thing called “Slutty Brownies” slutting flying around the blogosphere.  


What is this brownie they are speaking of?
A chocolate chip cookie bottom, with a layer of Oreos chocolate sandwich cookies, then a layer of brownies.  
Yes. Yes. YES.
But… I was sending these to my best frenemy friend, Mikala, in California.  I knew I had to ramp them up a notch.  (Surprise, Mikala! They’re on their way.)
And that is how the Super Freak Brownies were born.  So many other names were tempting me, but I’m trying to keep it P.G… Ugh.
Brown sugar blondie base… Oreos come next… Chocolate peanut butter ganache… Red velvet brownie with cream cheese swirl.
Holy $#!+

Ahem.
Now meet Frankenpie.
Or as I like to call this beaut… The Americana Dream Cream Pie.


Diners across the nation have been serving hundreds of different flavors of pie for ages.  (And thank goodness for it!)

Apple, banana cream, banoffee, blueberry, buttermilk, cherry, chess, chocolate, coconut cream, crack, derby, French silk, key lime, lemon meringue, mud, peach, peanut butter, pecan, pumpkin, raspberry, shoofly, strawberry, strawberry-rhubarb, sweet potato… the list goes on.  
I combined banana, chocolate, and coconut: caramelized bananas into a chocolate-painted crust, covered in chocolate ganache, and topped with a coconut pastry cream.


And with that, I’m hungry.  Over and out.

Super Freak Brownies
blondie layer from smittenkitchen, red velvet brownies adapted from varying online sources
for the blondie layer:
ingredients:
1/2 stick butter, melted
119 grams light brown sugar
1/2 a large egg (weigh it out, divide by two, and save the other half.  You’ll need it.)
splash vanilla
pinch sea salt
1/2 cup flour
big handful bittersweet chocolate chips
directions:
Mix the butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, and salt together.  Stir in flour, then chocolate chips.  Spread over the bottom of a well-buttered 8×8 pan. Top with Oreos. (You’ll need 16)
for the ganache:
ingredients:
big handful of chocolate chips- I used bittersweet (use your discretion on how chocolaty you want it)
1/3 cup peanut butter
directions:
Heat chocolate and peanut butter together until melted and combined, either in a microwave or on a stove top.  Spread over Oreos.
for the red velvet brownies:
ingredients:
1/2 stick melted butter
1/2 cup sugar
splash vanilla
bit of red gel food coloring
pinch sea salt
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 egg
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 a large egg
2 tablespoons sugar
splash vanilla
directions:
Mix the butter and the first measurement of sugar together with the vanilla, food coloring, sea salt, vinegar, and cocoa powder.  Next, add in the egg, then stir in the flour.  Pour 3/4 of the batter over the ganache, reserving the rest to dot the top of the cream cheese mixture.  For the cream cheese swirl, beat the cream cheese, 1/2 egg, sugar, and vanilla together, then dollop it over the brownies.  Dot the cream cheese with the remaining red velvet batter, then swirl to your heart’s content with a toothpick.  
Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes, or when a toothpick comes out clean.
Allow to cool, then cut into 9 squares.

Americana Dream Cream Pie:
ingredients:
all-butter pie dough for 1 single crust, (baked at 425 for 8 minutes lined with aluminum foil and loaded with pie weights, then at 350 without the aluminum/pie weights, but pricked with a fork, for 15-20 minutes longer, until golden) brushed with melted chocolate once cool
3 super ripe bananas
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
100 g bittersweet chocolate
1/3 cup half-and-half
1 can coconut milk
pinch salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
4 egg yolks
splash vanilla and coconut extract
1 cup finely shredded unsweetened coconut
toasted chunk coconut, for garnish
directions:
Put bananas, sliced, into a pan with the butter, sugar, and flour.  Allow to cook until the mixture is thickened and very, very fragrant, about 10 minutes on medium heat.
Pour into bowl and allow to cool.  Once cool, pour into the cooled and chocolate-brushed pie crust.  Make the pastry cream:  heat up the coconut milk until simmering.  Whisk the yolks, flour, sugar, and salt together in a bowl.  Pour 2/3 cup of the hot milk over the yolks while whisking, then pour the yolk mixture back into the pan with the milk.  Allow to come to cook (it will boil and bubble) until thickened significantly.  Pour into another bowl, stir in the extracts and coconut, and allow to cool completely.  Next, heat up the half-and-half until almost boiling (I nuked it).  Pour it over the chocolate and allow to sit until the chocolate is melted, then stir until smooth.  Pour/spread over the bananas, then spread the cooled pastry cream over that.  Chill until well-set, then garnish with the toasted coconut.