L’Impératrice

“Men’s strengths go hand in hand with their weaknesses.
That is why there is no such thing as an invincible warrior, and why heroes die.”

― Shan Sa, Empress

November is here!

It’s cold, blustery, and the leaves and time have changed. Fall is set in deep.
That means Thanksgiving draws nigh. My favorite time to be busy cooking. I have prepared my menu and absolutely cannot wait to go home and be in a real kitchen with a real, fancy Wolf oven and a fridge that can actually maintain temperature. (Side eye @ my New York fridge. Sigh.)

Time has been flying with things being busy at work, and I haven’t gotten around to posting as much as I’ve wanted to. But! I have a few really great recipes I want to share before Thanksgiving, and I’ll also be doing a round-up of recipes from LPF and also other blogs in case you need some inspo!

Today, I’m sharing the world’s most perfect sour cream pound cake, studded with fuschia pink empress plums, tart and sweet and jammy, and rich, bitter dark chocolate and served warm with a scoop of creamy vanilla bean ice cream.
This is my new go-to recipe for pound cake. (!!!!)
It produces a cake with a tight, dense crumb that is remarkably moist without being heavy. The sour cream adds complexity and the cake isn’t overly sweet. It lends itself brilliantly to adaptations and different mix-ins.
Although plums + chocolate were nothing short of incredible, I’ll be adapting this same base recipe for Thanksgiving but with a caramel apple flavor. (~heart eyes~)
The possibilities are endless: chocolate, lemon, blood orange, etc. Tuck this recipe away in your back pocket for the next time you need a truly great pound cake!

Plum and Chocolate Sour Cream Pound Cake

adapted from Stella Parks, via Serious Eats
makes 1 loaf cake

ingredients:
250 grams (1 1/4 cups) sugar
142 grams (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons, 10 tablespoons) butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
215 grams (7.5 ounces, 1 2/3 cup fluffed and spooned) flour
140 grams (5 ounces, 2/3 cup) sour cream
4 finely chopped prune plums
1/3-1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1 tablespoon flour

directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour a loaf pan.
Place sugar, butter, and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Beat on high speed for 4 full minutes, until light and fluffy with no graininess left.
Add in the eggs one at a time, mixing for 30 seconds between each one to ensure they are incorporated fully.
Add in the flour in four portions and the sour cream in three; begin with the flour and alternate mixing the dry and wet.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix on low for 30 seconds to ensure homogeneity.
Toss the chopped plums and chocolate chips with a tablespoon of flour, then gently fold into the batter.
Spread batter into prepared pan; bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until a tester inserted into the center comes out mostly clean and the inside registers 200 degrees F.

 

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)!

Sim Sala Bim

Fluffy Overnight Cinnamon Rolls | La Pêche Fraîche

Then the Earth shook, that was all that it took for the dream to break
All the loose ends would surround me again in the shape of your face

What makes me love you despite the reservations?
What do I see in your eyes
Besides my reflection hanging high?

Are you off somewhere reciting incantations?
Sim sala bim on your tongue…

—Fleet Foxes

Fluffy Overnight Cinnamon Rolls | La Pêche Fraîche

Ever since I was little, there have been certain thought streams that help me settle down and fall asleep.

Particularly in the winter, I imagine myself in the deep arctic, in a little pure white snow cave dug into the side of a hill while a storm howls around the landscape.
I think of each warm piece of clothing I’d don (long johns, leggings, two pairs of my warmest, softest wool socks, gloves and mittens and a cuddly sweater, etc…) and imagine myself, warm and cozy despite the cold.
At that point, sleep drapes itself over my drowsy body, yet another blanket of comfort.

Fluffy Overnight Cinnamon Rolls | La Pêche Fraîche

I’d be hard-pressed to imagine anything more cozy than a pan of fresh-baked, fragrant cinnamon buns.
Just look—! at them.  They’re snuggled up against their brethren, their nakedness revealing bewitching spirals that hypnotize almost as much as their scent does.

I made these for Christmas morning, because that’s really the time to break out your most indulgent breakfast recipes.  Served still-warm with a cup of hot coffee or tea makes for a morning treat that’s impossible to top.

Fluffy Overnight Cinnamon Rolls | La Pêche Fraîche

If you want to pull off the magic of warm cinnamon buns on a busy holiday morning, it’s definitely imperative to have a reliable and easy recipe.

My requirements for such a recipe:
it must require minimal effort in the AM, because you’re going to be preoccupied with other things and no one wants to fuss around in the kitchen for half of the morning

it must be quick in the morning, because if your family is anything like mine, they will be breathing down your neck and threatening to turn to cold cereal by 11am

it must be consistently worth the calories and evening effort; it needs must prep and taste like a dream every time.

Fluffy Overnight Cinnamon Rolls | La Pêche Fraîche

These cinnamon buns fulfill all of my stipulations.
They’re easy, fast, and taste like a cloud of sugary, buttery, spicy goodness.
The night before, you make and knead the dough—15 minutes in a stand mixer/3 dishes (1 measuring cup + 2 bowls) dirtied.  Done and done.
The dough, which has similarities to a brioche in its milk- and butter-rich proportions, rises quickly and is smooth, shiny, and supple, making it easy to roll out once risen.
A heap of softened butter and brown sugar and cinnamon gets spread generously over the dough, further enriching the rolls with all-around deliciousness.
Rolled up tight and cut with kitchen string (or floss), they are tucked into a buttered pan and set in the fridge to develop flavor and relax overnight.
In the morning, it’s just a matter of taking them out of the refrigerator and preheating your oven; once again, they rise quickly and bake in less than 30 minutes.
A classic cream cheesy glaze is lathered on top, making the already fluffy, buttery buns even more luxuriously sweet and sticky and creating rivals to even Cinnabon buns.

Pinky promise these will make whomever you live with happy.  They are irresistible!

Fluffy Overnight Cinnamon Rolls | La Pêche Fraîche

Fluffy Overnight Cinnamon Rolls 
makes 15 large buns
adapted from KAF

ingredients:
for the dough:
240 grams (1 cup) low-fat milk, 110 degrees F
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 eggs, room temperature
75 grams (1/3 cup) butter, soft and cut up
530 grams (4 1/2 cups) flour
1 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar

for the filling:
75 grams (1/3 cup) butter, soft
210 grams (1 cup) packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons cinnamon

for the glaze:
3 tablespoons cream cheese
1 teaspoon cream
170 grams (1 1/2 cups) powdered sugar
splash vanilla extract

directions:
Make the dough: bloom the yeast in the lukewarm water; set aside to become frothy.
Place flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment.
Add in the frothy yeast mixture and stir on low; add in the eggs one at a time and knead until a rough dough comes together; add in the butter one piece at a time, waiting until each is fully incorporated before adding the next.
Knead on medium speed for 10 minutes, or until the dough isn’t too tacky and has created a “tornado” shape on the bottom of the bowl.
Dough should not be sticking to the sides of the bowl, but rather, be smooth and even and soft.
Remove from stand mixer bowl and form into a ball; place into a well-greased bowl and oil the top of the dough just a little.
Place in a warm, draft-free place with plastic wrap fitted snugly on top of the bowl.
Once doubled in size (about an hour), punch dough down.
Flour a surface lightly and grease a 9×13 or similar size pan.
Turn the dough out and roll out firmly into a 16″x21″ rectangle; dough should be fairly thin.
It will snap back as you roll it out, so be patient.
Once rolled out, spread the softened butter out all over the dough, leaving a small edge on one long side.
Sprinkle the brown sugar and cinnamon all over the butter.
Starting from the long side opposite the little empty lip, roll up the dough into a snug spiral.
Using a piece of string or flavorless floss or a serrated knife, cut the roll into 12 2″ buns.
Arrange them snugly into the greased pan.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
In the morning, remove from fridge and place in a warm, draft-free place.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
When buns have doubled in size, remove plastic wrap and place in oven for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown and fragrant and a tester doesn’t stick in the center.
Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly while you prepare the frosting.
Whisk cream cheese and cream together with vanilla extract; sift in the powdered sugar and stir until a thick frosting comes together.
Spread over the still-warm buns in a thick layer.
Allow frosting to set, about 15 minutes, before serving with hot coffee.

A Covey of Cookies

Chocolate Peppermint Shortbread | La Pêche Fraîche

“Today, me will live in the moment
unless it’s unpleasant, in which case
me will eat a cookie.”

—Cookie Monster

Russian Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche5-Spice Snickerdoodles | La Pêche Fraîche

For me, baking Christmas cookies for all my loved ones is a necessity as much as a tradition.
As I said in my last post, I usually make quite a mélange so that in case someone doesn’t like {peppermint, crunchy cookies, soft cookies, spicy cookies, sweet and salty cookies, etc.} they can find at least a couple goodies in their box.

Cinnamon Crunch Toast Marshmallow Treats | La Pêche FraîcheChocolate Peppermint Shortbread | La Pêche Fraîche

Recap (same as last post):

Last year, I made honey spice and dark chocolate roll-out cookies, decorated in many different shapes.
I also made chocolate, sour cherry, and coconut cookies, grapefruit butter cookies, and dark chocolate pecan snowcaps.
All were a big hit, and they made for a very nice assortment in my cookie gifts.

The year before, I made pepparkakor, beautifully decorated Swedish gingerbread cookies, as well as
candy cane and chocolate macarons,
Nutella and various fruity jam Linzer cookies,
and maple, nutmeg, and rye roll-out cookies.

Russian Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

This year, I’m gifting Russian teacakes, 5-spice snickerdoodles, chocolate peppermint shortbread, cinnamon toast crunch marshmallow treats, and eggnog sugar cookies!

Today, I have 4 of those 5 recipes.

5-Spice Snickerdoodles | La Pêche Fraîche

Russian teacakes have just about a million and one alternative names.
You might know them as butterballs, snowballs, Mexican wedding cookies/cakes, polvorones, Italian wedding cookies.
No matter what you call them, they’re little powdery spheres of über rich butter cookie dough.
The dough contains no eggs and barely any sugar—the main flavor is really of the butter.
Flour acts as a binder to keep them from crumbling on the way to meet your mouth, but once on your tongue, they melt like so many snowflakes.
They are utterly delightful and seriously dangerous.
I make them extra small and poppable, but other than that, the recipe is consistent across generations, cultures, and nearly every food site on the internet.
Simple, delicious.

Chocolate Peppermint Shortbread | La Pêche Fraîche

I haven’t ever made snickerdoodles.
I rarely have even eaten them—for some reason, I fear biting into just one more dry, crumbly cookie with no flavor other than sugar and cinnamon would end my love of spiced cookies right then and there.
Snickerdoodles should be chewy and soft—not as soft as Lofthouse, but more like a chewier version of a chocolate chip.
Here, I’ve taken a very good base recipe, chewy and soft and spicy and made it a tad bit more interesting with a few pinches of 5-spice.
This ups the intrigue just a little, and makes you seem superfancy to boot.

Cinnamon Crunch Toast Marshmallow Treats | La Pêche Fraîche

The chocolate peppermint shortbread goes marvelously with a cup of tea or hot cocoa to dip; dark, fruity chocolate cookies that are crunchy around the edges and studded with many little pieces of peppermint bark.
(You can buy these as Andes peppermint chips to save yourself needing to chop up the bar.)

For a twist on rice krispies treats, I subbed out the puffed rice for Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, which is way too sugary and addictive to keep in the house for any significant period of time.  I could eat a boxful without blinking (and then have a terrible stomachache, but whatevs).
The result is a cinnamon-y, chewy, soft, crunchy marshmallow treat that is comforting and cozy.
You can use a little less cereal if you want a more pillowesque treat; you can also use homemade marshmallows if you’re really going for the jugular.

Russian Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

But wait!  There’s more… I still have 2 cakes and 1 batch of cookies to share with you!
The crazy week of baking continues—I hope you’ll stick around to see what I have in store!

P.S. Shoutout to Courtney from the wonderful Fork to Belly, who made the absolute dreamiest variety of cookies for the holidays.  Sign me up for 2 of those boxes, plznthx.

Chocolate Peppermint Shortbread | La Pêche Fraîche

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Marshmallow Treats 
makes 1 9×9 inch pan

ingredients:
5 tablespoons butter
pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
10 ounce bag marshmallows
6 cups Cinnamon Toast Crunch (or other type of cereal)

directions:
Lightly grease a 9×9 pan.
Place butter, cinnamon, and salt in a microwave safe bowl and microwave until fully melted.
Add the marshmallows and microwave until the marshmallows are melted.
Stir to combine the butter and marshmallows and then gently stir in  the cereal.
Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and press down to compress it slightly.
Allow to set completely (a few hours), then cut into squares.

Chocolate Peppermint Shortbread
makes 24-30 2 inch cookies
adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

ingredients:
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, soft
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup peppermint bark pieces

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high for 3 minutes.
Add the sugars and beat for 3 minutes.
Add in the egg and salt and vanilla and beat for another 4 full minutes.
Stir together the flour, baking soda, and cocoa, and then stir into batter, increasing speed until homogenous.
Stir in the peppermint bark pieces, then portion out with a cookie scoop onto the baking pans.
Bake for 10 minutes, or until puffed and fragrant, then remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Russian Teacakes
makes 36 1 inch cookies
adapted from Betty Crocker

ingredients:
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, soft
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 cup powdered sugar, for rolling

directions:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
Place powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high for 5 minutes, until extremely light and fluffy.
Add in the flour and almond meal and stir to combine.
Scoop out in 1 teaspoon portions, roll into little balls, then roll in a bowl of powdered sugar.
Bake for 8 minutes, then remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before re-rolling in the powdered sugar and allowing to cool completely.

5-Spice Snickerdoodles
makes 30 2 1/2 inch cookies
adapted from Averie Cooks

ingredients:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, soft
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon 5-spice

1/4 cup sugar (for rolling)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (for rolling)
1/4 teaspoon 5-spice (for rolling)

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat for 3 minutes.
Add in the sugars and beat for 3 more minutes.
Add in the egg and vanilla and beat for a full 5 minutes, until extremely light and fluffy.
Stir flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, and spices together, then stir into the dough until homogenous.
Scoop out 2 teaspoon sized portions and roll into even balls.
Stir the sugar and spices for rolling together, then lightly coat each cookie by rolling it around.
Place on baking sheet.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, until puffed and golden.
Allow to cool on a wire rack.

 

Everything But

Healthy Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“Please understand that I am in
full rebellion
against my own mind; that when I live
I live by impulse, by emotion,
by white heat.”

—Anaïs Nin, Henry and June

Healthy Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

The French, in their effortless elegance, make a difference between kitchen and bathroom sinks.
Un évier et une lavabo.

They draw the line at owl’s ears: ones with visible ears are les hiboux, while ones without are les chouettes.
There are three words for frost, seven for ice.
Five for window, four for wall.
There’s even a phrase in French for the phenomenon of the urge to jump off of tall buildings/cliffs/balconies/heights:
l’appel du vide.
(Literally: call of the void.)

There are other nuances threaded into the language that make translation tricky; this is one of the most fascinating parts of non-native languages, I think.
Idioms and untranslatables that might confuse anyone hearing them for the first time.

Healthy Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

This cake is totally autumnal, so in the same vein, here are some fantastic fall links for you to peruse.

OMgomgomg. Michelle made brown butter pumpkin cinnamon rolls with crème fraîche glaze and they are so fluffy and beautiful I am seriously losing my mind.

These ultra healthy sugar free apple, almond, and buckwheat muffins from Green Kitchen Stories look so comforting (that applesauce center wooooow) and I want to eat 3 for breakfast like, right now, please.

On the savory side, stew is my favorite kind of meal.
Customizable, easy, makes leftovers.
I gravitate towards middle Eastern flavors (za’atar is my go-to spice blend) when I’m cooking, and this squash and bean stew over brown rice is my idea of a perfect fall meal.
Side note: I really want SK’s Bowl + Spoon because, like I said, that’s the kind of cuisine/meal that just gets me.

See also: this butternut squash chili. Oyyyyyy so warm and spicy and squash-y.

Last one: drooling over this dutch apple pie with muscovado toffee sauce.  Crumbly and salty-sweet and layers upon layers of apple drenched in toffee sauce…
I am quite partial to a good apple pie.

Healthy Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Where to start with this carrot cake…

First of all, it is remarkable how well the mélange of ingredients mesh in this cake.
The sheer number of mix-ins might make one wary, but you absolutely must trust me, because the resulting cake is nothing short of phenomenal.

It is exactly how I like my carrot cake: moist, dark, spicy, fruity, and chock full of little surprises in each bite.
And lots and lots of carrot!

The cake is healthier than most carrot cakes, which are always touted to be calorie bombs in disguise.
The amount of refined sugar is drastically reduced by using coconut sugar, which is dark and a little smoky tasting.  It lends the cake an extra deep, caramel flavor.
The cake itself is dairy free, with MCT-rich coconut oil standing in for butter.

The frosting has a cracked, shiny, swirly top.
It’s lusciously rich on the tongue, with butter and brown sugar creating an extremely rich caramel flavor.
It’s good while soft and melty and fantastic when cold, which firms it up into a fudgy consistency.
It’s a rich frosting to pair well with the dense, moist cake beneath.  A wimpy frosting would have no impact and no chance of competing with the cake.

Healthy Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

The cake is filled with grated carrots and apples for earthiness and a firm bite; coconut sugar and flaked coconut add a whisper of the tropics and a hint of caramel and smoke; candied ginger and a pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves add a spicy note; juicy golden raisins are sweet and unexpected; finally, toasted chopped walnuts give an ever-so-slight bitter nuttiness to each bite.

The frosting deserves a whole host of adjectives of its own.
This is seriously the best frosting of this sort (spread over warm sheet cake) I have ever in my life tasted or imagined.
Unlike the cake, it is in no way healthified.

It’s made of copious amounts of butter and brown sugar, and is literally liquid fudge that is spread over the warm cake and then allowed to set into luscious, creamy goodness.
It’s sweet and salty and a little caramel-esque, with a crunchy, shiny top layer and a buttery center below.
I want to spread it on every single sheet cake I ever make.
This would be incredible with applesauce cake, or chocolate cake, or caramel cake, or coconut cake… or a spoon, or cardboard.  You get the point.  It’s good.

Healthy Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake with Brown Sugar Fudge Frosting
makes 1 9×9 inch cake
frosting adapted from KAF

ingredients:
for the cake:
2 eggs
100 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
75 grams (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
170 grams (3/4 cup) coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon kosher salt
120 grams (1 cup) flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
200 grams (1 1/2 cups grated) carrots
2 small granny smith apples, grated
1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup candied ginger, chopped
1/2 cup golden raisins

for the brown sugar fudge frosting:
100 grams (7 tablespoons) butter
130 grams (2/3 cup) brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon plus big pinch kosher salt
60 grams (1/4 cup) milk
275 grams (2 1/4 cup) confectioner’s sugar

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 9×9 inch pan; line with parchment and grease the parchment as well.
Whisk eggs, sugars, oil, and salt together until homogeneous and light in color.
Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and spices on top.
Fold in until halfway incorporated, then add the grated carrots and apple on top and fold until completely uniform.
Stir in walnuts, coconut, raisins, and candied ginger.
Pour batter into prepared tin and bake for 30-40 minutes, until a tester comes out with a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool while you prepare the frosting.
Make the frosting: melt butter, brown sugar, and salt together until completely incorporated.
Whisk in the milk and powdered sugar until a thick frosting comes together.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then spread over the partially cooled cake, swirling with a palette knife as desired.
Serve cake room temperature or slightly chilled for denser cake.

Love is Real

Fig, Rosemary, and Lemon Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

“What is REAL?”
asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room.  “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse.  “It’s a thing that happens to you.  When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful.  “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse.  “You become.  It takes a long time.  That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.
Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.  But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly,
except to people who don’t understand.”

The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams

Fig, Rosemary, and Lemon Tart | La Pêche FraîcheFig, Rosemary, and Lemon Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

Since Life first unexpectedly sprung from unassuming, antediluvian and micellar murk on a planet wholly unrecognizable to us, so too did Death.
Organisms, animals—man and beast and plant alike—enter this realm and pass into the next.
And by the time sentience came into vogue, grief had entered the mix as well.

The unfairness of loss draws out our most innate and intimate emotions, primal keening and crying accompanied by
external, physical pain.  It hurts.

Fig, Rosemary, and Lemon Tart | La Pêche FraîcheFig, Rosemary, and Lemon Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

To my best friend, my honey bee, keeper of my secrets and sharer of my memories—

Know that everything you feel is Real.
Love, regret, anger, and sadness all roll together to become the acutely painful sensation of grief, which is, paradoxically, the balm and toxin during heartbreaking loss.

Know, however, that your heart isn’t breaking.
It is swelling so full of love and memories that it is fit to burst; the dull ache of each thump in your chest only serves to remind you how very full it is.

No matter how deeply it feels like it is rending, it is knit together tightly by years of love.
That much, my dear, I can certainly promise you.

Fig, Rosemary, and Lemon Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

“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.

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.”

It Gets Better, 2014

Fig, Rosemary, and Lemon Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

I must share this beautiful snapshot of writing:

“She was speaking last night about a litter of cats she wanted to bring home, and the look of the moonlight on a lake.
Memories from the past resurfacing.
When we are about to cross over, these thoughts are the things we take with us.
Philip Eastman

Fig, Rosemary, and Lemon Tart | La Pêche Fraîche Fig, Rosemary, and Lemon Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

This stunning tart is definitely one of the most delicious and beautiful things I have made yet this summer.
Figs, to me, signal the dog days of summer: sticky, syrupy heat that produces fruit of the same temperament, as the season bleeds lazily into Autumn.

They are an unctuous, sensual fruit, and it is truly hard to beat a perfectly ripe fig.
Figs pair well, in my opinion, with savory flavors as well as bright, citrusy flavors.
This tart blends the two, with woodsy rosemary and tart lemon creating a perfectly harmonious backdrop for lots of thinly sliced, ripe figs.

Fig, Rosemary, and Lemon Tart | La Pêche FraîcheFig, Rosemary, and Lemon Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

For this tart, buttery crust, crisp and perfectly fluted (no shrinkage! Heh.) is hit with pine-y rosemary and molasses-y brown sugar to elevate it above a basic pâte sucrée.
The shell is filled with tart citrusy cream, rich with cream cheese, cut with a whole lemon’s worth of zest and juice.
When chilled, it sets into a sliceable form, solid enough to support any number of fresh or seasonable fruits.
I can easily imagine this tart/pie made with sautéed plums, or candied citrus, any type of berry, or many tiny apricots.
Here, I’ve chosen a bevy of super ripe, late-season juicy black mission figs, sliced thin and brushed with warm apricot jam for shine.
The effect is jaw-dropping, a spiral of late summer’s finest fruits, showcasing their orange-y pink centers—a veritable sunset of beautiful colors.

When figs pie, indeed.

Fig, Rosemary, and Lemon Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

Fig, Rosemary, and Lemon Tart
makes 1 8-inch tart

for the rosemary-brown sugar pastry:
180 grams (1 1/2 cups) flour
30 grams (1/4 cup) confectioner’s sugar
50 grams (1/4 cup) brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
130 grams (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) butter
1 egg
Whisk together 180g (1 1/2 cups) flour, 60g (1/2 cup) confectioners sugar, 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Cut in 130g (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) butter and whisk in an egg. Press into a tart pan and freeze. Bake at 350 for 22-25 minutes, until golden brown and fragrant. Fill cooled shell with lemon cream: beat 130g (10 ounces) cream cheese with 90g (3/4 cup) confectioner’s sugar, the juice and zest of one lemon, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Top with fresh, ripe fruit!

for the lemon cream:
130 grams (10 ounces) cream cheese
90 grams (3/4 cup) confectioner’s sugar
juice and zest of 1 large lemon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

to assemble:
8-9 ripe figs, sliced very thinly
1 tablespoon apricot jam (optional)

directions:
Grease an 8-inch tart pan and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Make the crust: whisk together flour, confectioner’s sugar, brown sugar, rosemary, and kosher salt.
Cut in the butter and whisk in the egg.
Knead lightly until dough comes together but is still slightly crumbly.
Press into prepared pan, prick all over with a fork, and freeze for at least 30 minutes.
Weight with pie weights and parchment paper and bake for 25 minutes, until golden brown and fragrant.
Allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, prepare the lemon cream: whip cream cheese with confectioner’s sugar for 2 minutes until fluffy.
Add in the lemon zest, juice, and salt, and whip for 3 more minutes.
Fill cooled shell and chill for 15 minutes, until partially set.
Top with sliced figs or other fruit (berries, plums, candied citrus) and a brush of heated apricot jam for shine and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes until completely set.
Serve chilled (cut with a hot, sharp knife).

Grey Matter

Apricot Pistachio Lemon-Chamomile Scones | La Pêche Fraîche

All we have to decide
is what to do
with the time that is given to us.

—Gandalf the Grey

Apricot Pistachio Lemon-Chamomile Scones | La Pêche Fraîche

Nary a single complaint nor excuse will I launch about how long I’ve been away from this space.
It’s been ages. Epochs.  I know.
But I’m not going to harp on the time that has passed.
Know that I wanted to be here and know that I was thinking of it constantly.
OK, I can’t resist: I just got wifi back, friends. I wasn’t just being neglectful.

I fear my mind is wasting away, lately.
The part of my brain that is fed by my own explorations, that is fattened by a good story or a poignant quote or a resonating piece of music, is greying at the edges, fading in a most unpleasant and quiet manner, so that I barely even notice it.
The encyclopedic filing cabinet of my mind that is more full up with facts that I love, rather than mandated ones, is seeming barren as a field left to fallow.
That part.  That wild, soulful, curious part.
I worry.

I need a good book to soothe my soul; I need more classical music and less coffee in the mornings.
I mean, good Lord, I sit in front of a screen all day.  I know this isn’t ideal.
I think that in order to return to balance and some sort of an even keel, some serious non-screen time is necessary.
I took a nap outside on Sunday, which was heavenly even if I was laying on the hardest lounge chair of all eternity.
Next weekend I intend to do the same, with a book thrown in the mix.
And sometime between now and then I’m going to get in the kitchen and make a wonderful mess.

Apricot Pistachio Lemon-Chamomile Scones | La Pêche Fraîche

I have things I want to share with you—photos, too.
I have willful thoughts and questions that I am trying to coax out of my brain by smashing words together, head-on.

Today, I’m hopping on the scone wagon.
I actually made these scones a while ago, and now would you just look at THAT everyone and their mother posted a scone recipe last week.  Fantastic timing on my part.
And everyone else’s are so beautiful and delicious and photogenic.
Mine are a bit craggier and are up to their necks in a pool of glaze, but trust me—flavor-wise, they’re well up to snuff.

Apricot Pistachio Lemon-Chamomile Scones | La Pêche Fraîche

These have the most ridiculously long name (even longer than the kingly titles of Game of Thrones…) but they need it because they are a little self-conscious of their cracked, flaky tops, okay??!!

Whole-wheat apricot pistachio lemon-chamomile scones.
Whole wheat pastry flour, soft-milled and nutty, meets butter in the best way possible, becoming a flaky, sweet, slightly-crumbly base.
Each bite is studded with chopped pistachios, the grassiness of which offsets the pieces of sweet Turkish apricots that are strewn throughout the dough.
A generous coat of egg wash and even more generous sprinkling of sparkly sugar and the scones are ready to meet an extremely hot oven, which puffs them up proudly and creates the craters and canyons that will secret away rivers of glaze until bitten into.
The glaze itself, poured over the cooled pastries generously, is made of delicate floral chamomile tea and tart lemon juice.  A pinch of salt tempers the sugar, as always.

Persian flavors are very subtly melded into these scones, which last for days and make for a fantastic breakfast or tea.
You can make the scones ahead and freeze them like you would cookies.  When you want a hot, buttery scone with a cup of tea, you can simply pop a few in the oven straight from the freezer.

Apricot Pistachio Lemon-Chamomile Scones | La Pêche Fraîche

Whole-Wheat Apricot, Pistachio, Lemon-Chamomile Scones
scone portion adapted from Food.com
Makes 8 large scones

ingredients:
for the scones:
2 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt
8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) butter, cubed
1/3 cup granulated sugar, plus more for topping
2/3 cup milk (I used almond milk)
1 egg plus 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
10 dried apricots, chopped
1/4 – 1/3 cup pistachios, chopped

for the glaze:
1 tablespoon hot water
chamomile tea
juice of 1/2 lemon
3/4 cup powdered sugar, or as needed
pinch or two coarse sea salt or kosher salt

directions:
Make the scones: preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Put flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and add the cubed butter.
Using a pastry blender or your fingers, smash the butter into small pieces until the largest bits are the size of a pea.
Add the sugar and stir gently.
While stirring, pour in the milk of your choice.
Before the milk is completely incorporated, add in the apricots and pistachios and gently fold to incorporate.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently pat into a circle.
Cut the dough into 8 wedges and place on the baking sheet.
Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, or freeze for up to a month, well-wrapped.
When ready to bake, whisk the egg and water together and brush over the tops of the scones.
Generously sprinkle sugar all over the scones, and bake for 12-14 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.
Allow to cool.
To make the glaze, brew a very strong (and tiny) amount of chamomile tea—I used about a tablespoon of hot water and a tea bag that I allowed to steep for 10 minutes.
To the tea, add in the lemon juice and the salt.
While whisking, add in the powdered sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, until the glaze reaches a pourable but thick and opaque consistency.
Drizzle or pour the glaze over the scones and allow to set completely before serving.
Scones keep for up to 4 days, tightly sealed.

Left Footed

Chocolate Dipped Shortbread | La Pêche Fraîche

 Left foot, right foot, breathe.

-Pat Summit

Chocolate Dipped Shortbread | La Pêche Fraîche

Midterm season.  Run.
Trip, clumsy, with leaden feet and wearied mind.
Make it through with 3 hours of sleep and 37 pages of painstaking notes.  Promise yourself a nap, forget to take one.
(Did you even remember to take your vitamins? Tsk.)

Lose—at the end of the simultaneously hellish and fabulous weekend—your last assignment, nearly finished (one question left!) to the perilous brink of Autosave in Word.
Redo the four page lab, tears in your eyes and hate in your heart, and fall into bed—alas— at 2 am.

Monday: forget how to function; forget how to swim; forget how to run and jump and write your name.
Remember, and breathe; remember, and breathe.

Chocolate Dipped Shortbread | La Pêche Fraîche
I am currently embarking on an (insane) journey to get 200 cupcakes made and delivered to a philanthropy pre-event that my sorority is hosting this Thursday.

I baked 100+ today.  Tomorrow will be the rest and frosting.

I’ve never seen this many cupcakes before in my life.  It’s pretty intense over here guys—I have no space in my kitchen—and the cupcake towers have gone vertical and are only climbing.
From Alexa: “it’s like Japan!”

Wait. Did I just hear a crash coming from my kitchen?!
(I kid.  Cupcake Tokyo will live to see another morning.)

Lots of delicious flavors—nutella, funfetti, red velvet, caramel, etc. so if you’re from UChicago and reading this, come to the pre-event on Thursday and eat one for free!!

Chocolate Dipped Shortbread | La Pêche Fraîche

So, I’m keeping this brief here because I am tired and need to read the ever-engaging textbook from my Genetics class.

These little buttery cookies are a perfect rendition of a classic shortbread.  They’re dipped in chocolate and pecans to make them extra special, but to be honest, they don’t really need it.
The rich dough needs little accompaniment: it’s a beloved classic for a reason, friends.

Still, it is awfully, terribly hard to resist a buttery, slightly crumbly cookie dipped in deep, dark chocolate with a smattering of crunchy pecans.

I brought these to a superbowl party (not exactly football fare, but whatever) and they were gone within 10 minutes.
Always a good sign.

Chocolate Dipped Shortbread | La Pêche Fraîche

Even though I’ve shared this quote before, it’s one of my favorites:

“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

Chocolate Dipped Shortbread | La Pêche Fraîche

Chocolate Dipped Shortbread
makes 30 cookies

ingredients:
3 cups (360 grams) flour
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (250 grams) butter
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (225 grams) sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
vanilla sugar, optional
4 ounces melted dark chocolate
chopped nuts, optional

directions:
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on high for 3 minutes.
Add the sugar and salt and beat for 3 more minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the egg; beat for 5 more minutes.
Add the vanilla extract and the flour and slowly mix until homogeneous.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/4-1/2 an inch and cut out desired shapes; press the tops in a little vanilla sugar if desired.
Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment and into the freezer.
Freeze for 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, then bake cookies for 10-12 minutes, until lightly golden.
Allow cookies to cool completely, then dip half of each cookie in melted dark chocolate.
Top with nuts while the chocolate is still wet, then place in the fridge for 5 minutes to set.

Softie

Lofthouse Cookie Clones | La Pêche Fraîche

In the end, these things matter most:
how well did you love, how fully did you live, how deeply did you learn to let go?

-Siddhartha Gautama

Lofthouse Cookie Clones | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Here, this sweet little photo story about capturing life’s little moments on film is a perfect way to start your day.
“People are just lost in their own world when they’re kissing.”

Or, in the vein of the links I shared in my last post, here’s the app for the 36 questions to fall in love.  Brilliant.

Lofthouse Cookie Clones | La Pêche Fraîche

I wasn’t going to share these here, but they turned out so darn fluffy and cute that I had to pull out my camera and snap a few shots.

Plus, they’re pink.
To share them right after Valentine’s would be a shame.
So are these cookies, pink and fluffy and heart-winning, on Valentine’s morning.
Still have time to bake for your sweetie?  Make these, they’re fast and buttery and therefore universally loved.

Lofthouse Cookie Clones | La Pêche Fraîche

These Lofthouse-like cookies are buttery and rich, with slightly crispy edges and soft, fluffy centers; they’re topped with a veritable cloud of thick frosting and a smattering of sprinkles.
The cookie itself is soft vanilla, and it is topped with the creamiest, dreamiest pink American buttercream frosting–the epitome of soft and vanilla!
A light hand of sprinkles finishes them off.
These are classic and simple and delicious.

Lofthouse Cookie Clones | La Pêche Fraîche

Sending love, bisous, and positive vibrations to all my readers every day, but especially today.

xx

Lofthouse Cookie Clones | La Pêche Fraîche

Lofthouse Cookie Clones
cookies portion adapted from Cooking Classy
makes 15-16 large cookies

ingredients:
300 grams (2 1/2 cups) flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
170 grams (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, soft
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg plus 1 egg white
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

for the frosting:
225 grams (1 cup) butter, soft
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream, room temperature
drop red food coloring
sprinkles, optional, for decorating

directions:
Make the cookies: whisk flour, cornstarch, and baking powder together; set aside.
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on high speed until very soft, pale, and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Add in the sugar and salt and beat for 3 more minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in the egg and egg white; beat for a full 4 minutes, streaming the vanilla in while mixing.
Scrape the bowl and beat on high speed for 30 seconds to ensure homogeneity.
Add in the flour mixture all at once, then mix on very low speed, increasing the speed as the mixture becomes cohesive.
Once the batter is thick and homogeneous, stop mixing.
Scoop out 1/3 cup size scoops with an ice cream scoop; place on parchment lined sheets.
Using a glass dipped in flour, very lightly press down on the cookies to flatten.
Chill the cookies for at least 15 minutes in your freezer, or 30 minutes in your fridge.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake each sheet of cookies for 10 minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool slightly on the sheet and completely on a rack.
To make the frosting, place the soft butter and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Beat on high speed for 5 minutes, until pale and fluffy.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and begin slowly adding the powdered sugar while mixing on low speed.
Once the sugar is all mixed in, stream in half of the heavy cream and the food coloring.
If it reaches a fluffy, smooth consistency with half of the cream, stop.
If not, stream in the rest of the cream and beat on high speed until incorporated.
Frost the cookies very generously, finishing with sprinkles.