Golden

Raw Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake | La Pêche Fraîche

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand —
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep — while I weep!
O God! Can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

—Edgar Allan Poe, A Dream Within a Dream

Raw Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake | La Pêche Fraîche

Just a few more days until Thanksgiving!
I can’t believe how quickly November has flown by. I guess this means I should get my shit together and start thinking about the holidays now, but inevitably, I won’t.
Actually, since I’ll be near a Target when I go home (oh baby), maybe I will pick up a few cute decorations to get me ~in the mood.~ We shall see.

I am so excited to be going home. This will be my first vacation time from work since starting in June, and my first time back home for more than two days in over two years. My first Thanksgiving back home without my puppy, Ginger. That will be weird. Who is going to bother me for all of the turkey juices and table scraps?! (And don’t anyone dare suggest the cats. They may be hungry, but even their appetites combined could never match a chocolate lab’s.)

My life has changed rapidly in the last year (just one year ago we were attempting to prep for Thanksgiving in a teeny city kitchen), which I believe is a symptom of being 22 years old, freshly graduated, in a new city. Certainly I am not unique in this.
But even when I was a student and had midterms to worry about and had to bring my homework or lug my MCAT books back home with me for the holiday, or when I was only going “home” to a temporary home, Thanksgiving was a time of grounding. I know many people face holiday-preparation panic, with which I sympathize. For me, however, the crazy antics that go on in the kitchen, requiring careful planning, are a delight.
Stressful, yes, but everything in life that I love is stressful for me. This is a symptom of having a brain and personality like mine.

Raw Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake | La Pêche Fraîche

 Here are some tried-and-true La Pêche Fraîche recipes that are definitely Thanksgiving appropriate:

This pound cake is a perfect base recipe; I’ll be making this in a caramel apple version this year.

Can’t not mention this show-stopping checkerboard pumpkin cheesecake; it’s no-bake, so an option to take pressure off of the oven.

This pumpkin meringue tart with cinnamon toast crunch crust. Oh YES, it’s good.

These brown butter and molasses mini cupcakes. They can be your dessert appetizers. Can we make that a thing?

These sticky sweet pumpkin and condensed milk cakes, which would be fantastic as a sheet cake to serve a crowd.

This apple, pear, butterscotch, and cheddar pie could not be more autumnal and really elevates the apple pie game, y’all.

This double pumpkin (with pumpkin butter and pumpkin purée!) bread is a crowd-pleaser, and can be made dairy-free very easily.

This pumpkin spice, brown butter, chocolate pecan pie is a stunner; what Thanksgiving is complete sans pecan pie?!

Raw Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake | La Pêche Fraîche

Savory things I’m pocketing for Thanksgiving:

This golden fennel and kale chop from Sprouted Kitchen looks a lot like my go-to kale salad recipe; Sara adds fennel where I add raisins, and I love her twist on it! I might have to throw some into my salad this Thanksgiving.

I make an aioli every year to go alongside roasted vegetables; it’s the perfect easy sauce to throw together ahead of time. This year, I’ll be adding curry powder and maybe a touch of tahini.

This is the recipe I’m going to try for our cornbread stuffing this year; it looks solid and I love that it’s simple and vegan to boot!

Pie-inspo, because, duh:

Marbled chocolate cheesecake pumpkin pie from Adrianna: a mouthful, literally and figuratively. Just gorgeous (those swirls!) and I am personally a huge fan of chocolate + pumpkin.

Brownie. Pie. That is all. (Praise be to Joy and Erin for making me aware of this phenomenon.)

Erin made a chocolate cream pie with whipped peanut butter cream, and I think it would make a welcome break from pumpkin, apple, and cinnamon-spiced things at TGives!

Every post Linda creates is pure magic, and this vegan chocolate meringue pie is no exception. So dreamy, I can get lost in her photography!

Erin says, “[a] pithivier is a crispy, flaky alternative to pie.” That is when I stopped reading and started drooling. Her cranberry version looks dope.

Cakes to inspire you this holiday:

Michelle recently celebrated her sixth blog birthday (yay!) and made an autumnal hummingbird cake; it would make a great non-pie addition to the holiday table!

Zoe’s poached pear and ginger chocolate cake is something my mama would love; the flavor combination is elegant and classic and never goes out of style.

Tejal Rao wrote a lovely piece about three very different cakes for the holidays; I’m sure the recipes are bang-on (considering the sources!) and I enjoyed reading this one.

Sweet things that aren’t pie and cake to take notes on:

Jen makes macarons the same way I do (sucre cuit, or Italian meringue) and put together an awesome tutorial. If you’ve been scared to try them, this recipe may just be the ticket!

Alana’s baked apple cider donuts with maple glaze and cinnamon crumbles sound like the best iteration of apple cider donuts other than the original (piping fresh at the orchard). I love the combination of textures!

Raw Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake | La Pêche Fraîche

The recipe I’m sharing today is one that will have a proud place on my family’s Thanksgiving table, and I guarantee you that people will be shocked when they find out it is vegan, raw, gluten-free, and refined sugar-free.
My taste testers, both of whom had just arrived back from separate spinning classes (freaks) ate these with gusto, unbelieving that in spite of the creamy, indulgent taste, these were a virtuous and appropriate choice for a post-workout snack.

These are raw, vegan pumpkin-spice “cheesecakes” and they will convert even the most annoying of carnivores (ya, I said it, you people can be annoying too).
They are creamy and delicately spiced, with a date and almond cocoa crust and a cashew and coconut filling sweetened with maple syrup and given heft and color from earthy pumpkin purée.
They are a breeze to whip together, as long as you have soaked your cashews (overnight, covered in cold water; nothing fancy necessary).
They come together in a little under 15 minutes (no, I’m serious) and just require the freezer, so making these will free up some in-demand oven time!
Here, I’ve used this silicon mold, and it works perfectly.
I’ve been really into making raw cheezcakes lately in all forms, and you can make this in a springform pan as well. If you double this recipe, it will make a very tall 6-inch cake, or a regular 8-inch one.
Be sure to thaw the cake for a few hours in the fridge before serving, so it’s not rock solid.

I hope you all have a most wonderful and delicious Thanksgiving!

Raw Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake | La Pêche Fraîche

Raw Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecakes 

makes 6 small cheesecakes or 1 8-inch round

ingredients:
for the crust:
140 grams (1 cup) whole almonds
8-10 dates, depending on how juicy they are
2 tablespoons cacao or cocoa powder
pinch sea salt

for the filling:
250 grams (15 ounces) raw, unsalted cashews (soaked*)
50 grams (3 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons) coconut oil
150 grams (5.4 ounce can) coconut cream
78 grams (2 tablespoons) maple syrup
60 grams (1/4 cup) pumpkin puree
juice of 1 lemon
pinch sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

directions:
*Soak cashews overnight in cold water.
First, make the crust: place almonds, dates, cacao/cocoa powder, and salt in a food processor or blender.
Pulse until a rough meal forms, then press into tins and refrigerate.
Any leftover crust can be shaped into decorations for the tops of the cakes.
Place cashews into a clean blender with the other ingredients for the filling except the pumpkin and spices.
Blend for 5-8 minutes, depending on the power of your blender; filling should be very smooth.
Portion out 1/3 of the filling and pour over prepared crust; place into freezer until hardened.
Add the pumpkin and spices to the remaining filling and blend to combine.
Once the plain base is set (about 30 minutes to an hour), pour the pumpkin filling over top and freeze again until set.
To serve, allow to thaw for 3-4 hours in the fridge; dust with cocoa powder and top with leftover crust decorations.

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Checkmate


No-Bake Checkerboard Pumpkin Cheesecake | La Pêche Fraîche

“Without error there can be no brilliancy.”

—Emanuel Lasker

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

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

No-Bake Checkerboard Pumpkin Cheesecake | La Pêche Fraîche

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

Pumpkin, previously:

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

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

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

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

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

1 cup heavy cream, cold
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

melted and slightly cooled dark chocolate

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

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Day by Day

Mini Strawberry Cheesecakes | La Pêche Fraîche

“The way you live your days is the way you live your life.”

—Annie Dillard

Mini Strawberry Cheesecakes | La Pêche Fraîche

I am trying to use my days to make my life into whatever the hell I’m pretty sure I think I want my life to be like.

I have a bad habit of looking too far in the future.  Of being too fastidious and anxious of a planner.  Sound familiar?
(“Wherever you are, be all there.”
—Jim Elliot)

Ahem. Remember what I said about reading more?
I’ve been reading more… online, though.
Needless to say, that wasn’t what I previously had in mind.

I have other habits on my kill list.
I’m determined.
Just you wait and see!

Mini Strawberry Cheesecakes | La Pêche Fraîche

How long do they say breaking or forming a habit takes?  22 days?

I feel like that is completely achievable.
Of course, I am speaking naïvely from the outset of any of these break-ups or formations.

I have been writing in a little journal every night for the past month and half.  It’s a pipeline for random emotional anguish and rambling, bumbling thoughts from the day–perfect for when no one can be bothered to listen to me spout off for ages at 11pm!
Now that I’ve begun to develop this habit, I have the right mind to treat myself to a fancier journal, with creamy pages and a beautiful cover design.
Yes!—I am thinking of Rifle Paper Co.
How can one not fall in love with every pattern?  Anna creates the most mesmerizing designs.  I am in love.
You should follow her on Instagram, if you don’t already, for sneak peeks into future holiday cards and collections!
(Who here thinks I can motivate myself enough to invest in a 2016 planner?  I am notoriously bad at keeping planners intact and updated…)

I am trying to develop a habit (if it can be called that) of sleeping more.  That is, instagramming less at night.
I mean, really, someone give me a shout-out who also finds themselves idling away for HOURS on the discover tab.
I need an intervention!
My goal is to not touch my instagram/snapchat/facebook after 10pm.
I want to reserve time before bed only to check my email and send out my nightly volley of “goodnight; I love you; *kissy face**kissy face**kissy face*” texts.
(I say this as I write this post at 1AM on a weeknight, phone beside me…)

Don’t get me wrong. My bed is great as is.  That’s not what’s stopping me from sleeping.
In fact, as long as I have a pillow and a non-burlap set of sheets, I’m set.  But that hasn’t stopped me from drooling over certain Pinterest bedrooms…
Do you follow me on Pinterest yet (well, why not?!)?
I’ve been particularly active and I’m quite proud of the little spaces I have cultivated.
I’m always looking for more boards to follow though—which are your favorites?

Mini Strawberry Cheesecakes | La Pêche Fraîche

And now, to preach about sweets, which is why we’ve all found ourselves here in the first place:

Take advantage of Summer, friends, while her bounty is still plentiful!
Even non-farmer’s market, non-woodland (I’m looking at you, Dominique Ansel) strawberries and berries and other summer fruits are amazing right now.

I used mine to make des petits gâteaux au fromage et aux fraises.
Soft and fluffy little baked cheesecakes, laced with strawberry jam so that you get a hint of sweet fruitiness inside the cake itself.
The base is the butteriest graham cracker crust, with plenty of salt and brown sugar.
Each mini cake is topped with a tangy, creamy sour cream topping and a perfect half strawberry for a summer punch.

I love cheesecake. There is no denying that. But, arguably, I love mini cheesecakes even more.
So poppable! So party-friendly! And sooo easy. No cracks, no problems.
Let there be cheesecake.  Amen.

Mini Strawberry Cheesecakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Summer strawberries, previously:
Center stage, in a lemon-black pepper-strawberry tart.
Crowning jewels on a Victoria sponge, with goat cheese and tous les fruits rouges.
Embellishments on the fluffiest of coconut cupcakes, cutting through the sugar and adding a bite of freshness.
Playing the perfect foil to the most magnificent matcha butter cake; adding a pop of color and fruitiness to a simple, dang delicious pastry.

Mini Strawberry Cheesecakes | La Pêche Fraîche
Mini Strawberry Cheesecakes

makes 6 mini cheesecakes
ingredients:
for the crust:
5 sheets of graham crackers, broken up into crumbs
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar

for the cheesecake:
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
3 tablespoons of high-quality strawberry preserves, warmed in the microwave for 15 seconds

for the topping:
2 tablespoons sour cream
2-3 tablespoons powdered sugar
3 large strawberries, halved

directions:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and line 6 cupcake wells with paper liners.
Stir the melted butter, salt, and brown sugar into the graham cracker crumbs; mixture should hold its shape when pressed together.
Press a tablespoon of crust into each cupcake liner, pressing firmly to pack it down.
Make sure the cream cheese is completely at room temperature (I let mine sit out overnight), then whisk briskly while pouring in the sugar.
Whisk vigorously to completely incorporate the egg.
Pour the warmed strawberry preserves into the mixture and stir gently to combine.
Place 2-3 tablespoons of filling into each cupcake liner.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, then let cool completely.
Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
To top the cheesecakes, whisk the sour cream and powdered sugar together until it loosens up.
Dollop over the cheesecakes, and top with a half strawberry.
Serve chilled or at room temperature.

FOTA

Chiaroscuro LARGE

CHIAROSCURO

blackberry caviar, coconut mousse, coconut crumb, coconut yolk, blackberry puree

Chiaroscuro SMALL II

Hi!  To any newcomers, welcome to my blog, and welcome to my project for UChicago’s spring Festival of the Arts!

(I’ll post more explaining this post-presentation, for all you laypeople.)

////// Okay!  SO Hi!  Yes!  Presentation went off without a hitch. \\\\\\

I gave a 7-ish minute spiel about molecular gastronomy, this here blog, my weird love of reverse frozen spherification, and the three desserts you see here, which were funded by FOTA.

Hopefully I didn’t embarrass myself too badly (I definitely did).Chiaroscuro SMALL I

Contrast, made edible.  Fruity, creamy, crunchy, chewy.

Why are there so many seeds in blackberries?  Getting ultra-smooth puree is a pain in the ass.

Fragola LARGE

FRAGOLA

black pepper cheesecake, lemon curd, lemon sorbet, ginger black pepper sand, walnuts, candied lemons, creme fraiche, honey

Fragola SMALL I

Early summer on a plate.  Spicy, sour, rich, fresh.

PSA: candied lemons are so incredibly addictive.  So is lemon curd.  OMg.

Fragola SMALL II

For my live presentation, I made a deconstructed strawberry pie: strawberry yolk, yogurt cream, 5-spice milk sand.
Simple, delicious.

Tuolo LARGE

TUORLO

mango yolk, watermelon tartar, avocado mousse,  lime curd, creme fraiche, grapefruit

Tuolo SMALL I

A play on tuna tartare with raw egg yolk.  Tropical, crunchy, herb-y, tangy.
(There is nothing quite like cold watermelon on a hot day, amirite?!)

Tuolo SMALL II

Happy to provide any of the recipes pictured for my fellow molecular nuts!

Subpar

 
It was my dad’s birthday today!
 
My dad is not your average father… So, obviously, I made him a not so average birthday cake.
It’s birthday cake… with a twist.
Actually, a few twists.
Or a few kicks.  However you want to say it.
 
I’m very tired while writing this post (on Sundays, the credits of Breaking Bad pretty much signal bedtime to me), so I’ll keep it short and hopefully sweet.
 
My dad is a wonderful human being.  Just superb.  I mean, really.
I could not ask for a more supportive, caring, and understanding father.
He is truly the rock to which I am tethered.
I could not have weathered any storms without him keeping me from blowing away.
 
He’s watching golf, now that we’ve finished Breaking Bad, which is maybe his only bad habit.
Watching golf.  Or maybe playing golf.
He just loves golf so much… I guess I forgive him for it.  Depending on my mood, that is.
BUT I should clarify the title of this post: I mean subpar in a golf way, not in a real world way.
Even though it’s not a term they use, I don’t think.
What I mean is that he’s better than average.
Or something like that.
I don’t know.  Stop looking at me like that.
So this cake… It’s spicy.
Spicy, sweet, and over-the-top.
It’s a rich chocolate cake with a silky cheesecake in the center, sandwiched with spicy strawberry-cayenne jam, frosted with a super smooth Italian meringue buttercream, and topped with cayenne-gianduja macarons.
 
Everything balances out very nicely:
deep, smoky chocolate
slightly sour, rich, thick cheesecake
spicy and tart strawberry
silkier than silky IMBC, which is super buttery and offsets the intense flavors well
slightly crispy, chewy macs with a hint of spice and gianduja (AKA nutella).
This is truly a celebration cake.  You can expect to see more macaron-topped cakes from me in the future.
Once I get my macs down perfectly, that is.
Happy birthday, Daddy!  I love you!
Kickin’ Chocolate Birthday Cake
 
Cayenne Gianduja Macarons
adapted from Jo the Tart Queen
ingredients:
for the first mixture:
70 grams egg whites
130 grams hazelnut flour
25 grams cocoa powder
150 grams powdered sugar
A few pinches cayenne pepper, depending how spicy you want the cookies
for the second mixture:
60 grams egg whites
Pinch cream of tartar
150 grams granulated sugar
30 grams water
directions:
Preheat oven to 320 degrees.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Process hazelnut flour, confectioners sugar, cocoa powder, and cayenne together in a food processor until all lumps are gone.
Place in a bowl and fold in the first measure of egg whites until the mixture is mostly combined; it will look crumbly and dry.
Make the second mixture.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer with the cream of tartar.
Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan.
Heat the sugar and water over medium heat while the egg whites are whipping.
When the sugar syrup reaches 320 degrees F, the egg whites should be at soft peaks.
Heat the syrup until it reaches 340 degrees F.
With the mixer running, slowly pour the syrup over the meringue.
Allow to whip until the meringue has cooled and is stiff.
Fold the first and second mixtures together until the batter is like lava.
Pipe out circles and leave to dry for 15 minutes.
Bake for 12 minutes, or until cookies lift cleanly off the parchment.

Miniature Cheesecake
adapted from Miette

ingredients:
1/2 pound (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons half and half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and put a large kettle on to boil.
Wrap a 6-inch springform pan tightly in aluminum foil and lightly grease the inside; place inside a roasting pan.
Beat cream cheese until soft and fluffy; stream in sugar and beat until well incorporated.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and beat in the egg, half and half, and vanilla.
Pour into prepared pan.
Carefully pour boiling water around the springform into the roasting pan.
Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes, until set and the center jiggles only slightly.
Allow to cool completely, then freeze prior to placing in the cake.

Strawberry Cayenne Jam
ingredients:
1 quart strawberries
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pectin (low or no sugar)
Few pinches cayenne pepper
directions:
Chop strawberries finely and place in a wide saucepan with the sugar, pectin, and cayenne.
Cook until thickened and jammy, about 10 minutes.
Purée if desired.


6-inch Chocolate cake
adapted from the back of a Hershey’s cocoa powder
ingredients:
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup hot coffee
directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease 2 6-inch pans.
Whisk dry ingredients together.
Whisk wet ingredients (except coffee) together, then whisk into the dry ingredients.
Whisk in the hot coffee and pour into prepared pans.
Bake for 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Italian Meringue Buttercream
Same as here. 1/2 the recipe.

To assemble:
Place one cake on a cake plate.  
Spread with 3 tablespoons jam, then top with the frozen cheesecake.
Spread 3 tablespoons jam on the underside of the second cake, then place it jam side down onto the cheesecake.
Crumb coat with the buttercream.
Pipe 6 swirls on top of the cake, nestle in macarons that have been sandwiched with a little jam (3/4 teaspoon-1 teaspoon per cookie) or extra buttercream.
Serve at room temperature.

Brace Yo’self

Treat Brace yo’self.
 
Forgive me.  This one is a mouthful, in all senses of the word.
I guess I might as well start out by telling you what you’re looking at, because otherwise I fear you may feel unsure of my sanity.
Gird your loins.
This is a vanilla bean marshmallow, Greek yogurt cheesecake with a peanut butter base, torched marshmallows, and homemade potato chips.
 
These flavors called to me as I stared at a big ole pile of homemade vanilla bean marshmallows and graham crackers that I had leftover from a picnic yesterday (I’ll share some pictures etc. in the next few days.).
I keep a running note of minute-to-minute, day-to-day, random inspirations on my phone.
It includes eclectic and esoteric things like “honey nut” and “coconut kumquat” to, lo and behold, “homemade potato chips with peanut butter- cupcakes?
So obviously, this is not cupcakes.  But those two flavors are featured in this cake.
Victory!
Savory, fatty peanut butter combines with silky cheesecake and soft, puffy marshmallows, only to be highlighted with über crispy, salty chips.
This cheesecake is a no-bake deal.  You can whip it together in 20 minutes.
It has to chill for a while, but that’s down time.
You could run errands or walk your dog or clean your kitchen (none of which I did), or drink milky green tea while watching the last two episodes of Food Network Star (cue glazed eyes), and feign sleep when someone discovers you, which I may or may not have done.
Anyways, you have some time.  A minimum of 2 hours.  So plan ahead.
The nice thing about this is that you can make this way ahead and let it hang out in the fridge before unmolding and decorating it.
I would say a full day ahead would be totally fine.
You don’t want to put the chips on too early, you little eager beaver you, because they will get soggy and limp.
Soggy and limp are not two of the adjectives I ever want to hear describing any cheesecake.
Ever.
So chill with the chips until you’re ready to serve.
This thang is not so rich as one might think: there is no butter, only a smidgen of cream, it’s made with 0% Greek yogurt, light sour cream, and neufchâtel.
It slices very well and is light and creamy.
The textures are out of this world… I can only think of adjectives to describe this cheesecake.
I have trouble forming full, coherent sentences.
Crispy, salty, fatty, soft, creamy, silky, sweet, savory, and just a touch bitter (torched mallows).
One last thing: let’s be honest,  you don’t have to make your own marshmallows and potato chips to make this cake.
(I garnished with regular mini marshmallows!)
Go out and buy a package of mini mallows and some Cape Cod potato chips and go to town.
You’ll thank me later.
(You can add in vanilla bean or extract if you use regular marshmallows.)
Also, I realize this post was all about food and kind of one note.
Never fear, I’ll be back before you even want me to be, bitchin’ and whinin’ about my life as per usual.

Crazed Cheesecake
(Vanilla Bean Marshmallow Greek Yogurt Cheesecake with Potato Chips and PB Crust)
makes one 6×3 inch cheesecake or one 9×2 inch cheesecake
ingredients:
3 ounces graham crackers (I used homemade, you could easily sub more Nutter Butters)
3 ounces (about 6 cookies) Nutter Butter or other peanut butter sandwich cookies (leave the filling in)
2 ounces (heaping 2 tablespoons) peanut butter
16 ounces cream cheese (I used half neufchâtel)
150 grams (3/4 cup) sugar
8 ounces (1 cup) 0% Greek yogurt
3 ounces (1/3 cup) light or full-fat sour cream
2 ounces (1/4 cup) cream
2 teaspoons gelatin
7 ounces marshmallows, melted and still warm (about 1 cup when melted)
Garnish: toasted marshmallows, potato chips
directions:
Lightly grease your springform pan (either a 6×3 or 9×2).
In the bowl of a food processor, process your cookies and crackers, leaving the filling in the peanut butter cookies.
Meanwhile, melt the peanut butter in a microwave or over a stove.
Pour the still-fluid PB into the food processor and pulse until the mixture sticks together when pressed.
Press into the bottom of your pan and place in the fridge to chill while you make the filling.
Whip the cream cheese with a stand or hand mixer until it is light and fluffy.
Add in the sugar and whip for 3 minutes.
Meanwhile, sprinkle the gelatin over the top of 2 tablespoons of cold water and set aside for 5 minutes.
To the cream cheese, add the yogurt and sour cream and beat until combined; scrape the sides of the bowl.
After the gelatin has softened for 5 minutes, add it to the cream and microwave on high until it melts, about 20 seconds.
Add the cream mixture to the cream cheese mixture and beat on high.
Scrape in the still-warm marshmallows (you may need to reheat them a bit to get them nice and liquidy) and beat on high until everything comes together.
The batter will seem a little liquidy; this is fine.
Pour the mixture into the prepared crust/pan and place in the refrigerator to set, about 2 hours.
Once the cake is set, garnish how you like.
It cuts best with a clean knife, so wipe in between cuts.

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

Short and sweet today, y’all.
(I have a nap penciled in in about 15 minutes.  I’m very busy.  Island time.  It happens.)
This is a cake I made a few months back, to celebrate (mourn?) the end of my basketball season.
Yes, it’s taken me that long to get around to writing this post.  I’m a little slow on the uptake.
  
It was pretty ridiculous, ridiculously indulgent, and indulgently delicious.  
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like the combination of chocolate and orange.
Seriously.  One of my favorite things in the entire world, ever, is those chocolate-orange things.  You know, the chocolates which look like oranges and have orange in them and separate into little orange wedges?
Chocolate and cheesecake, a match made in heaven, is only made better by the addition of orange.
But I didn’t stop there.  I have no self-control, remember?  
Nay, I kept going.  “What else can I add into this cake?”
Well, nutella… 
Ugh.  Dead.  I’m dead.  That’s it.  There’s no going back; my tastebuds will no longer accept anything but this.
Here’s a secret, just between you and me:
These photos were taken the night before our last practice, meaning that I cut a slice out of the cake just to take photos- not the most, erhm, proper behavior in the world.
How rude!  I do de-clay-uh.
So, I took the photos, and slid it back in place.
Spackled the frosting back together, strategically placed some chocolate curls over the evidence, and served it the next day.
No one noticed.  
Victory!
 
Can you tell how badly I want to be a southern belle?  
(The font I always use, for the record, is Georgia.)

Mouthful (Chocolate-Nutella-Orange-Cheesecake) Cake
For the cheesecake layer:
(from Piece of Cake via RecipeGirl)
ingredients:
16 ounces of cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
pinch of salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
directions:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. 
Place a large roasting pan on the lower third rack of the oven. 
Place a kettle of water on the stove to boil. 
Spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick spray and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper. 
Wrap a double layer of foil around the bottom and up the sides of the pan (you want to seal it so the water from the water bath doesn’t seep into the pan). 
In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to mix the cream cheese- blend until it is nice and smooth and creamy. 
Mix in sugar and salt and blend for 2 minutes, scraping down sides of the bowl as needed. 
Add eggs, one at a time, blending after each addition. 
Finally, mix in sour cream, whipping cream and vanilla. 
Mix until smooth. 
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. 
Set the pan into the roasting pan in the pre-heated oven. 
Carefully pour the hot water from your kettle into the roasting pan (it will fill the pan surrounding the cheesecake). 
Pour enough water so that there is about an inch of water coming up the foil along the sides of the cheesecake pan. 
Bake the cheesecake for 45 minutes. 
It should be set to the touch and not jiggly. 
Remove the cheesecake from the roasting pan and let it cool on a wire rack for at least an hour. 
When it has cooled, place the pan into the freezer and let the cheesecake freeze completely. 

For the cake layers:
adapted from Gourmet via epicurious
ingredients:

2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup cornstarch (you can also use 2 3/4 cups cake flour, omitting the cornstarch and AP flour)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large whole eggs
zest of one entire orange
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/3 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed
1/3 cup sour cream or buttermilk
1/3 cup milk
handful of mini chocolate chips; enough for a healthy sprinkling on two 9 inch layers
directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans.
Rub the sugar and zest together with your fingers until very fragrant.
Beat the butter until softened, then add in the orange sugar.
Cream together until very fluffy and light, about 3 minutes.
Beat in eggs one at a time, scraping after each addition, then add in the vanilla.
Stir the sour cream, juice, and milk together.
Stir the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt together.
Either alternate adding the wet and dry or slowly dump them in at the same time (my preferred method… Just go slow so the flour doesn’t go all over).
Mix just until homogeneous, then pour into prepared pans.
Sprinkle the mini chocolate chips over the batter, and bake until golden and springy to the touch, about 20-25 minutes.  A cake tester should come out nearly clean, with perhaps just a few crumbs sticking on.
Allow to cool completely before assembling the cake.
For the frosting:
ingredients:
2 sticks butter
1 3/4- 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
big pinch salt
3/4 cup Ovaltine
1/2 cup nutella
splash vanilla extract
splash cream, if needed
directions:
Beat butter until soft, about 2 minutes.
Add in the ovaltine, nutella, salt, and vanilla, and beat to combine.
Slowly add in the powdered sugar, tasting to check the sweetness. (If you need more powdered sugar to thicken the consistency, be sure to add in a pinch more salt; you can also add in some more ovaltine for thickening.)
Play with the amount of powdered sugar to thicken the frosting; environments differ and really affect the thickness/pipeability.  If you need it to really thicken, don’t add too much more sugar or ovaltine, instead, stick it in the freezer for a few minutes to firm up.
If your frosting is too thick, add a splash of cream, about 2 teaspoons at a time, to thin it out a bit.  Don’t add too much, and wait between additions, because if it becomes soupy, there’s no going back.
To assemble:
Apply a thin layer of icing on the chocolate chip side of the first layer.
Place the frozen cheesecake layer on top, and spread another thin layer on top of that.
Place the second cake layer, chocolate chip side up, on top of the cheesecake.
Crumb-coat the whole cake in a thin layer of frosting, then chill it, either in the freezer or fridge, for 10-15 minutes in the freezer or 15-20 in the fridge.
Take the cake out and generously frost it with the remaining icing.
To smooth out the sides, dip an offset spatula in hot water, wipe it off, and gently run it on the outside of the cake.

Top with chocolate curls, if desired.

Lover, Lover

Allow me to officially welcome you into National Peanut Month!
Today, the first, is National Peanut Butter Lovers Day!
(Fun fact: National Peanut Butter Day is January 24th, and National Peanut Lovers Day is March 15th.  
Also, National Peanut Butter Lovers Month is November.  
There are also peanut -brittle, -cluster, -and Jelly Sandwich, -butter cookie, -festival, -butter fudge, and chocolate-covered peanuts days.
Apparently there are distinctions between them all… Let the PB lovers live their lives.)
 
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My dad loves peanut butter.
I’m talking PB&J every day for lunch for the rest of his life without ever getting tired of it.
Which is pretty much what he does.
The man loves PB&J… Genes that were not passed down to yours truly.
(And he prefers grape jelly… Yuck.)
He might be the greatest peanut butter lover on the planet.
(Although, to be honest, he could give two clucks about national whosamawhatsitpeanutbutter day.)
 
The only person being threatening his title is my pup, Ginger.  (Nyawww mon bébé!)
SHE could eat a scraped out peanut butter jar every ten minutes for the rest of her life and never get tired of it.
Sometimes, when she’s lucky, after my dad makes a peanut butter sandwich, she gets to lick the knife.  And even better, once we reach the end of a jar, she gets to lick the inside clean.
 
Ain’t she dainty?
Anyways, I like peanut butter alright.  I mean, it’s fatty, salty, nutty, slightly sweet; it hits me in all the right places and everything, but I just don’t lalalalove it.
However, I will use any excuse to write up an impromptu blog post/bake something stupidly decadent, and thus was born this cheesecake.
 
Peanut butter, creamy and sweet, buttery, caramelized Ritz crackers, and a deeply bittersweet ganache (with some peanut butter thrown in, for good measure).
There is a wonderfully decadent interplay of flavors going on in my belly here.
 
It’s kind of like a Reese’s cup, but creamier, chocolatier, crunchier, fresher, and, most importantly, you can have more of it, not two wimpy little nuggets in a orange coat.
Hmph.
Make it for the peanut butter lover in your life.
You will thank me after they sell you their soul.
 
(A note: follow the general instructions to get perfect cheesecakes every time, no cracks, no splits, no canyons.  Not guaranteed, but I pretty much promise kinda mostly.)
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So, I had to shoot these photos twice.  My camera misfired while importing or something, and none were transferred to my computer, but all were erased from my memory card.  
Not a happy camper.
Actually, a really angry camper.
 
*kicks tent down and walks away*
 
 
Peanut Butter Cheesecake

cheesecake, crust, and ganache adapted from Brown Eyed Baker, Milk Bar, and Sky High, respectively

ingredients:
24 ounces cream cheese
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 eggs
 
165 g Ritz Crackers (~1 1/2 sleeves)
150 g sugar (~3/4 cup)
30 g milk powder (~3/8 of a cup=6 tablespoons)
150 g (14 tablespoons) butter, melted
 
8 ounces chocolate (I used about 7 ounces bittersweet and 1 ounce milk chocolate)
3 tablespoons peanut butter
2 tablespoons glucose (or light corn syrup)
1/2 cup half-and-half
 
directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Crush the Ritz crackers into cornflake-sized bits.  
Stir in the milk powder and sugar, then stir in the butter.  
Press into a greased 9-inch springform pan wrapped with two layers of aluminum foil to prevent leakage.
Bake for 12 minutes, until fragrant.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling.  First, put a kettle on to boil.
While beating the cream cheese at medium high speed, slowly add in the sugar.  Beat for at least 2 full minutes, until fluffy and completely smooth- no grit.
Scrape the sides of the bowl, then beat in the peanut butter, vanilla, and salt.
Scrape the bowl again, thoroughly, then, while beating at medium low speed, add in the eggs one at a time, beating between eggs.
Pour over the crust, and smooth the top with the back of a spoon.
Place into a roasting pan, then pour the boiling water around it (careful!) until it reaches about 3/4 of an inch of the way up the sides.
Bake for about 1 hour, until the cheesecake is mostly set, but still jiggles in the center.
As soon as it gets out of the oven, run a sharp knife around the edges to unmold them from the pan; this will prevent most cracks.
Now either let it cool to room temperature and then chill, or chill it right away.  It’s about 30 degrees out right now, and I just stick my cheesecakes straight out into my sun room.
For the ganache, put the chopped chocolate, peanut butter, and glucose in a bowl, and heat the half-and-half up until simmering.
Pour over the chopped chocolate, and let sit for 2 minutes, undisturbed.  
Whisk until the ganache comes together, shiny and smooth. 
(Can be made ahead, just reheat gently in the microwave until flowing before use.)
Unmold the cheesecake from the pan, place on a serving plate, and pour the ganache over top.  Allow to cool and set before serving.

*[Nerdy] Update on the photos: 
Was shooting in RAW mode, not RAW plus jpg like I normally do.  
Forgot that Windows Live doesn’t automatically download .CR2 files; instead, for God knows what reason, they were automatically routed to the recycle bin (that’s the misfire part).  
Found all photos in said bin.  
Kicked myself repeatedly.  
Downloaded Canon software.  
Spent 30 minutes converting all .CR2 files to jpegs for editing.  
Then spent 30 more minutes editing due to noise due to the necessary high ISO used while shooting due to the fact that I decided to shoot at 10:00 pm.
Long story short, I hate .CR2s.  
Also, sorry for the grain, especially on that second gif.  
Woof.