Comfort and Joy

Almond and Orange Spice Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“For it is in giving that we receive.”

Prayer of Saint Francis

Almond and Orange Spice Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Merry Christmas Eve and a very happy first night of Hanukkah!
I have not yet wrapped my gifts nor done all the productive things I needed to do, but OH WELL that is just about how I expect 2016 to come to a close.

All my brothers are in town (though we are all staying apart since none of the four apartments where various fractions of us permanently live in NYC are big enough to fit the whole family), and tonight we’re heading to Brooklyn for Christmas Eve dinner at my grandma’s.
Last night, we all went bowling/drinking/for dinner at Brooklyn Bowl, which was fun. Although I was very salty at how bad at bowling I am, especially after a margarita. Ugh.

Almond and Orange Spice Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Tomorrow, we will exchange a few small gifts, eat some french toast (I kind of want to try making french toast with panettone. Is that frowned upon?!), and probably see a movie.

The past few years, I’ve made cinnamon rolls for Christmas day, but that’s not happening in our current kitchen. I’ve seen them all over Instagram this year though, and I think it’s a sweet tradition. Do you make anything traditional for breakfast? I try to keep it low-key and no-fuss since my family likes to just chill together.

Almond and Orange Spice Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

This layer cake recipe is one of my new go-tos.  It’s more unique than just another vanilla or chocolate cake, and it doesn’t fall prey to the gingerbread trope, either.

It’s an almond and orange spice cake, and it’s really soft and moist from the almond meal.  It’s fragrant with spices and orange zest without being overpowering.  Between the layers, there is alternating apricot jam and orange marmalade, which are just a match made in heaven.  Sweet and fruity, with a hint of bitterness that complements the orange zest in the cake.  The icing is a simple cream cheese frosting with a tiny touch of maple syrup to round out the tanginess.

I decorated my cake with a mound of fruits painted with luster dust and bourbon because I am now officially way too obsessed with this technique. Someone stop me.

It would be just as yum with a few rosemary “trees” or a simple piped border and a dusting of powdered sugar.

Almond and Orange Spice Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

More Christmas cakes!

Last year’s cute Red Velvet Woodland cake.
Also last year: Chocolate Peppermint Cloud Cake
The year before: the insane and super fun Souche de Noël.

Almond and Orange Spice Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Almond and Orange Spice Cake
makes 1 4×6-inch layer cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
4 tablespoons (55 grams) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
zest of 1 orange
2 eggs
1 cup (120 grams) flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (32 grams) almond flour or finely ground almonds
1/2 cup (120 grams) milk

for the frosting:
12 tablespoons (175 grams) unsalted butter, softened
4 ounces (112 grams) cream cheese
12 ounces (330 grams) powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon (5 mL) maple syrup
3-4 tablespoons (45-60 mL) milk or cream

to assemble:
1/4 cup apricot jam
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
strawberries, raspberries, pomegranate arils, kumquats
luster dust, if desired

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 2 6-inch pans.
Place butter, sugar, spices, and zest into a bowl and cream on high speed for 3 full minutes, or until light and fluffy.
Add in the eggs and beat for another 3 minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl.
Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and almond flour and stir gently until half mixed in.
Add the milk and beat until the batter is homogeneous, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Portion out the batter into prepared pans and bake for 14-16 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool completely; meanwhile, make the frosting.
Beat butter and cream cheese on high speed for 3 minutes, or until doubled in volume and very pale in color.
Add in roughly half of the powdered sugar, the salt, the maple syrup, and 1 tablespoon of milk.
Beat on high speed until the frosting is very fluffy, about 3 more minutes.
Add in the rest of the powdered sugar to taste, along with 2-3 more tablespoons of milk, if needed to make the frosting more spreadable, and whip on high speed until fully incorporated.
The frosting should be spreadable but not loose; add more milk or powdered sugar to thin or thicken as needed.
To assemble, cut each of the layers in half.
Pipe a border of cream cheese frosting around the first layer, then spread 2 tablespoons of apricot jam in the center.
Spread frosting on top of the layer to cover the jam.
Add the second layer and repeat, except use orange marmalade instead of apricot jam.
Repeat with the third layer, using apricot jam again.
Top with the fourth layer and add a thin crumb coat of frosting on the outside of the cake.
Refrigerate the cake for at least 15 minutes to set the crumb coat.
Spread frosting thick on the top layer but thin on the sides to create a semi-naked finish.
Top with fruits dusted with luster dust or other decorations as desired.

Shamrock Shake

Shamrock Shake Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

If a man who cannot count finds a four-leaf clover,
is he lucky?

—Stanislaw Lem

Shamrock Shake Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

 Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!

Also, happy last day of finals for me!  I’ll be taking my last test (neurobiology) this afternoon and then packing up to fly to California on Friday with my parents!
I’ll be spending a few days in L.A. (Venice) and then going to Palm Springs for the rest of the week.
I’m excited for rest, relaxation, and sunshine.

(Any restaurant/sightseeing recommendations would fall on eager, grateful ears!)

Shamrock Shake Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Two holiday posts in one week, with Pi Day being only 3 days ago.
It’s feeling like Christmas or Valentine’s Day all over again!
I do become frustrated that my blogging occasionally morphs into this frenzy: bake bake bake right before a big day, barely and frantically squeezing every post out that I want to get to so I don’t miss it and have to wait a year.

It’s by virtue of my schedule and how activities have been prioritized in my life lately.  At the beginning of this quarter, I promised things would be different and more regularly scheduled.
That didn’t exactly happen, although my post frequency has been decidedly more consistent than the end of last year.

My frustration doesn’t stem from obligation—this is my space, it conforms to fit my needs and abilities, etc. etc.—but rather, from the fact that this journal is a part of myself, and neglecting it for too long leaves me itchy and antsy to create and indulge my suppressed artistic side.

Shamrock Shake Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I’m sharing something a little trashy with plenty of food dye in it today, because I’ve been plotting of this cake for ages and I’ll be damned if I miss St. Paddy’s again this year (as I did in 2014… Sigh).

Since Nati has a car at school now, I accompany him on his occasional late night McDonald’s runs.
I’m a strict vegetarian and eat fairly healthfully, so there’s nothing I get there (although I do usually mooch some fries, as is a girlfriend’s duty); about a month ago, though, I received some serious inspiration from none other than our local Mickey D’s.
That’s because early in the spring, the infamous harbinger of the change in seasons appeared on the drive through billboard:
the Shamrock Shake.

I’ve never had one (apparently it has 54 ingredients, which is a little scary considering it’s a milkshake), but I know its premise: a mint shake with a little cream and a cherry on top.

I knew it had to be cake.
Specifically, a St. Patrick’s Day cake.

Shamrock Shake Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

This Shamrock Shake cake (Shamrock Cake?) was thus conceived and created.
It’s a dense, vanilla white cake, moist and dependable (and made with the reverse creaming method), frosted with an light ombré wash of pale, pastel green buttercream with a hit of salt and mint.
A drip of creamy white chocolate adds some sweetness and cuts the mint, and eight bright red maraschino cherries, dusted with a few gold stars for good luck, finish the cake perfectly.

It’s actually a very simple cake, but looks extremely pretty and appropriate for the time of year.
If your friends like mint flavored treats, then they’ll love you forever if you share this with them.
It got good feedback from mine, certainly.

In fact, my Irish friend Peter told me I could reference his praise and his homeland as testimony.
So, in spite of the somewhat trashy, very American origins of this cake, a real live Irishman appreciated and approved of it.
I call that a victory.

Shamrock Shake Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Shamrock Shake Cake
makes 1 3-layer 6-inch cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
240 grams (2 cups) flour
30 grams (1/4 cup) cornstarch
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
350 grams (1 3/4 cups) sugar
5 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
240 grams (1 cup) milk
160 grams (1 1/2 sticks, 6 ounces) butter, cut into cubes

for frosting and assembly:
270 grams (2 1/2 sticks, 10 ounces) butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon table salt
460 grams (4 cups) powdered sugar
30-60 grams (2-4 tablespoons) cream, as needed
1 teaspoon mint extract or oil
green food coloring

white chocolate

maraschino cherries
gold luster stars

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 3 6-inch round pans.
Place butter in a bowl and microwave for 30 to 45 seconds, until very slightly melted and soft.
Place flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix until combined.
Whisk milk, vanilla extract, and egg whites together in a measuring cup.
With the mixer running, add the melty butter into the flour mixture a few tablespoons at a time; allow the mixer to run for about a minute, until the batter is coarse and sandy and no visible pieces of butter remain.
With the mixer running on low, stream in the milk and egg mixture; increase speed to high and beat for 1 minute until homogeneous and smooth.
Divide into prepared pans.
Bake for 16-20 minutes, until a tester comes out with only a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool completely.
To make the frosting, beat the softened butter for 3 minutes, until light, fluffy, and doubled in volume.
Add in the salt and sugar and mix on low speed until combined; add cream slowly (spoonful by spoonful, mixing after each one) if the frosting is too thick.
Add the mint extract.
Divide the batter into two bowls; add a little bit of green food coloring to one of the bowls.
To decorate the cake, place one layer on a cake stand and top with 1/2 cup frosting.
Repeat until all 3 layers are stacked.
Working with just the green frosting, add it on in a thick layer to the bottom half of the cake.
Repeat with the white frosting for the upper half of the cake, saving 1/2 a cup for later.
Use a large spatula to blend and smooth the frostings together.
Once smooth, place in the fridge to chill.
Melt the white chocolate very gently in the microwave; pour or pipe over the edges of the chilled cake.
Using the extra white frosting, pipe some poofs on top of the cake with a french tip or a star tip.
Place a cherry on top of each poof and follow with some edible gold star glitter.

Troisième

Vanilla Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life.
He taught me that if you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead.
Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and, above all, become passionate about it.
Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good either.
White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.”

—Roald Dahl

Vanilla Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

One more trip around the sun has served to ripen cette petite pêche, giving it a deeper, sweeter significance with each passing month and each published post.

One more trip around the sun has seen me splashing liters of digital ink across this page with endless photos and words that are too often few and far between.
Has seen me splashing tears and buttermilk on counters and in posts alike.

Another year has made me ever so much more grateful for everyone who populates this web page.
Has reminded me, with every post and every pin, how proud and devoted I am to LPF.

Vanilla Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

A blink is all it took for three years to pass me by.

I was in high school just yesterday—I swear—concentrating all my effort into thinking of a name that was just right for the wildly successful blog (*eye roll*, high schoolers) that I meant to start just as soon as, well… I thought of a name.
And yet somehow this year, old high school friends scattered across the country world will graduate from university.

And it was just yesterday that I made my first successful meringue buttercream, and my first (and only) batch of perfect macarons, and tasted the heaven that is pavlova.

Amazing how quickly time passes.
Every event that reminds me of a year passing—an anniversary, a blogiversary, a birthday, a tearful memory—pushes me back into perspective, squarely on my bottom.
And so here I sit, in wondrous rapture, as the pages of the calendar flip by comically quickly, as if blown by the breath of Father Time himself.
Awesome and deeply unsettling, isn’t it?

Vanilla Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“I have stumbled and stubbed toes, sliced fingers and scrubbed dishes; I have burned wrists and knuckles and cookies countless, have made nine thousand messes and used an entire herd of cows’ butter; I have dropped cakes and dropped things on cakes, have cried and sworn and studied and laughed on the kitchen floor.

I have planned meticulously and tasted liberally and danced in sheer delight; I have spat out failures and hoarded successes.

I have moved and survived, have mourned and celebrated, have resisted and adapted, have failed and succeeded.
I have given in and given up.
I have poured my heart and soul and dozens of cups of cream into La Pêche Fraîche.

I have closed my eyes and stuck the pan in the oven and then, terrified, let go.”

—Deuxième, May 29 2014

Vanilla Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I thought I’d share a few of my favorite gems from this past year.

This matcha cake, with early (too early) berries.
This lemon, black pepper, and strawberry tårta.
The ultimate chocolate-chocolate cake.
This crumbly, buttery vanilla bean and pine nut shortbread.
My daddy’s birthday cake: modern black forest (+macs!).
Speaking of macs, chocolate+summer fruit macarons.
Starred and striped red velvet roll-out cookies for the fourth.
Whole wheat peppermint mocha brownies.  For my Starbucks lovers out there.
Dark chocolate and honey spice “gingerbread” men!
Fat, fluffy Lofthouse clone cookies.
Elegant, chocolate dipped vanilla bean shortbread.

My two absolute favorites:

This nutso “souche de Noël,” with eggnog layer cake, chocolate ganache, marzipan holly, and adorably realistic meringue mushrooms.  An insane cake that took lots of dedication—but the end result was well worth it.

This red-fruited Victoria sponge, with drippy goat cheese and sour cream filling.  Another version of this, with fluffier filling, is on my to-make list this summer.  There are honestly few better ways to use a plethora of ripe, fresh fruit.

Vanilla Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

And of course, here’s the link to last year’s blogiversary cake.
(And the year before, I suppose.)

This adorable cake is worthy of a celebration in and of itself.
I knew this year had to include pink and sprinkles, in the same vein as last year.
I wanted candles, but couldn’t find any red “3” candles for a reasonable price (weird?) and I left my special tall candles (carefully saved from last year’s cake) back home in NY for God knows what reason.

Vanilla Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

And so, with a little planning and a lot of preparation, I made a cake with sprinkles, and a tinge of pink, and it was the happiest little thing I think has ever come out of my oven.

I knew I wanted to use the marzipan that I found beneath the coconut in my pantry (oops); I knew I wanted maraschino cherries, which compliment almond so well.
I knew that I didn’t want any almond extract, because even the slightest heavy hand makes that stuff unbearable.

The sprinkly 3 that I fashioned out of white chocolate and a scavenged lolly stick was too large for my dainty cake.
I stuck it on for kicks at the end of shooting, but I didn’t like how it looked—too clunky, in my humble opinion.
(That’s okay… after all, it was just white chocolate and sprinkles, and tasted juuuust fine in little nibbles.)

Vanilla Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

What resulted was the fluffiest vanilla almond cake, flavored with a touch of almond milk and vanilla extract, kept soft and supple with a little cornstarch, with a baking time that, despite using only egg whites, kept the crumb moist.

I covered it in my favorite glossy, shiny Italian meringue buttercream, which is by far my favorite frosting.
It’s like a buttery cloud, ever so slightly sweet-and-salty, that compliments the fluffy cake perfectly.
Too heavy of a frosting would have weighed each bite down; I wanted a cake that would melt in your mouth and leave a whisper of sugar, vanilla, and almond behind.
I tinted a tiny amount of frosting with cherry juice and a drop of red gel coloring, leaving it a perfectly pale pink.  I used this around the bottom of the cake for a teeny-tiny amount of ombré.

The layers of the cake were each fitted with a perfect circle of chewy, sweet marzipan, which added the exact amount of almond flavor that I was hoping for, and kept the texture of each bite interesting.

Finally, a few lashings of milk chocolate ganache, creamy and decadent and, importantly, not overwhelmingly chocolaty, crowned the edges of the cake.

A handful of sprinkles, and 8 perfect maraschino cherries finished off the cake.

Vanilla Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I think it looks rather like an ice cream sundae—cheery and happy—how can this cake not make you smile?

It was delicious, and the people with whom I shared it loved it (phew).

This is exactly the cake I wanted to create for this special 3-year blogiversary.
I want this blog to make people smile; I want to share yummy, beautiful things.

Who knows how long this blog will continue?
I hope for many years to come, but I don’t know.
We can only take each day and make the most of it.
I, personally, will have my cake and eat it, too, for as long as I possibly can.

Vanilla Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Thank you, friends, for supporting La Pêche Fraîche.
Every click, every visit—I appreciate you.
This blog would be nothing without you.
This blog is for you.

Vanilla Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“I’m just someone who likes cooking and for whom sharing food is a form of expression.”

—Maya Angelou

Vanilla Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Vanilla Almond Cake
makes 1 4 layer 6-inch cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
240 grams (2 cups) flour
30 grams (1/4 cup) cornstarch
350 grams (1 3/4 cups) sugar
1 heaping teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
175 grams (6 ounces) butter, soft and cut into pieces
240 mL (1 cup) almond milk
170 grams (6 ounces, 6 large) egg whites
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

for the frosting:
200 grams (7 ounces, 7 large) egg whites
200 grams (2 cups) sugar
75 mL (5 tablespoons) water
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
565 grams (20 ounces, 5 sticks) butter, cubed and softened

to assemble:
200 grams (7 ounces) marzipan
50 grams (1 3/4 ounces) milk chocolate, chopped finely
45 mL (3 tablespoons) heavy cream
drop of red food coloring, if desired
sprinkles, if desired
jar of maraschino cherries, if desired

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 4 6-inch round pans.
Mix flour, cornstarch, sugar, salt, and baking powder together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Add in the softened, cubed butter one piece at a time at a low speed until the mixture looks like sand and the butter is fully incorporated.
Whisk the almond milk, egg whites, and vanilla extract together, then slowly pour into the batter with the mixer running.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and beat on high speed for 30 seconds to ensure homogeneity.
Portion batter into the prepared pans.
Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until the cakes are golden and the tops spring back to the touch.
Cool completely on a rack.
To make the frosting, place sugar and water and salt in a small pot over medium heat.
Simultaneously, place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and begin whipping them on medium speed.
When the sugar syrup reaches 240 degrees F, the egg whites should be nearly at stiff peaks.
Carefully pour the sugar syrup into the whipping egg whites.
Continue whipping at high speed until the meringue has cooled to body temperature and is glossy and shiny.
Beat in the butter one tablespoon at a time, until it has all been incorporated into the buttercream.
Whip on high until the buttercream is fluffy, soft, and shiny, about 7 minutes.
To assemble the cake: roll out the marzipan to 1/8 of an inch thickness and cut 3 6-inch round circles out.
Layer a cake round, a 1/3 cup of buttercream, and 1 marzipan circle; repeat twice more, until you place the top layer on.
Crumb coat the cake and place in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, remove 2/3 cup of the buttercream and add a drop of red food coloring and 2 tablespoons of maraschino cherry juice; stir well to combine.
Remove the cake from the fridge and finish frosting the top and 3/4 of the sides with plain buttercream, leaving the bottom 1/4 with just a crumb coat (reserve the rest of the plain buttercream)
Place the cake in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the ganache: place chopped chocolate and cream in a small bowl and microwave on medium power for 30 seconds-1 minute until the chocolate is 2/3 melted.
Whisk vigorously until the ganache has come together and is shiny and smooth.
Set aside to cool slightly.
Take the cake out of the fridge and add the cherry buttercream to the bottom 1/4, spreading it up to create a slight ombre effect.
Apply sprinkles to the bottom of the cake, as desired.
Refrigerate for 5 more minutes.
Carefully pour a little of the chocolate ganache around the rim to create drips.
Refrigerate for 5 more minutes.
Fill a piping bag with the reserved plain buttercream and pipe small swirls on top of the cake; place a maraschino cherry on top of each swirl.

Naughty To Nice

Holiday Cookie Platter | La Pêche Fraîche

Where do you stand with Mr. S. Claus?

Chocolate, sour cherry, and coconut cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Worry not, my friend.
Though I have been a bad blogger and neglected to share any holly-day recipes around here (Oreo cupcakes?! In December? Ugh!), I am now swooping in clutching everything you need to go from the Naughty list to the Nice.

Say farewell to Santa’s shit list.
These cookies are a guaranteed hit.

Grapefruit Butter Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

These cookies (and the caramels pictured, too) were bundled up and gifted to friends, all a jumble of holiday cheer and spirit sugar.

The first are grapefruit butter cookies, crinkled and cracked and crisp in their sugary coating.  They’re ever so slightly fragrant thanks to grapefruit zest and juice, which cuts gently through their buttery richness.

Holiday Cookie Platter | La Pêche Fraîche

Next come soft and chewy dark and white chocolate, coconut, and sour cherry cookies.  They’re full of brown sugar and stay soft for days (the trick is the cornstarch!).  They strike a perfect balance between salty and sweet, and are chockfull of bits and pieces without being overwhelmed by additions.

Finally, my favorite, and arguably the most interesting cookies I’ve made in a while: dark chocolate pecan snowcaps.
These cookies are made without butter or flour or any fat or grains—choose your chocolate correctly, and these are gluten and dairy free.
They’re dead simple: powdered sugar and dark cocoa powder, salt, pecans, chopped chocolate, egg whites.
The batter looks like thick black sludge, but once each piece of dough is rolled in Swedish peal sugar, it looks like a little snow ball.
Once baked, they’re crispy and ethereally light on the exterior, but soft and chewy on the inside.  The chopped milk chocolate is sweet and a good contrast to the deeply chocolaty exterior; the pecans add a wonderful toasty flavor, and the sugar-coated, crackled outside is tempered by a pinch of salt in the cookie itself.
This is cookie perfection, guys.
Simple and surprising!

Holiday Cookie Platter | La Pêche Fraîche
Here’s to cookie-filled holidays!
Stay posted for more giftable treats…

Holiday Cookie Platter | La Pêche Fraîche

Chocolate, Sour Cherry, and Coconut Cookies
adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction
makes 24 cookies

ingredients:
2 1/4 cups (280 grams) flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
3/4 cup (170 grams) butter, melted
3/4 cup (135 grams) brown sugar
1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup sour cherries
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
1/3 cup white chocolate chips

directions:
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Whisk melted butter, sugars, and salt together.
Vigorously whisk in egg and egg yolk, then whisk in the vanilla.
Batter should be light colored and smooth.
Place flour, baking soda, and cornstarch on top of batter and stir to combine.
Stir in coconut, cherries, and chocolates until mixture is homogeneous.
Scoop out 2 tablespoon size balls and roll to uniform size.
Place on baking sheets and chill/freeze for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake each sheet straight from the freezer for 12 minutes.
Remove and let cool for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Grapefruit Butter Cookies
adapted from Cooking Classy
makes 30 cookies

ingredients:
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
10 tablespoons butter, soft
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
zest of 1 grapefruit
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
juice of 1/2 grapefruit (1 1/2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
granulated sugar, for rolling

directions:
Place butter, sugar, salt, and the grapefruit zest in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Beat on high for 5 full minutes, until very light and fluffy and not gritty.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in the egg and egg yolk; beat for 5 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add the grapefruit juice and vanilla extract; mix briefly to combine.
Add in the flour and baking powder and stir until homogeneous.
Scoop out 2 tablespoon portions and roll to uniform size; gently roll in granulated sugar to coat.
Chill for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and bake straight from the fridge or freezer for 12 minutes.
Move to wire rack immediately to cool.

Dark Chocolate Pecan Snowcaps
adapted from Kim Severson
makes 30 cookies

ingredients:
3 cups (300 grams) confectioner’s sugar
3/4 cup (90 grams) dark cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
5 ounces (135 grams) chocolate, chopped (she suggests dark, I used what I had—milk—and they turned out fabulously)
1 1/2 cups (135 grams) chopped pecans
4 large egg whites
granulated and Swedish pearl sugar, for rolling

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Whisk confectioner’s sugar, cocoa powder, and salt together.
Stir in the chopped chocolate and chopped pecans.
Using a wooden spoon, stir in the egg whites—keep stirring until the batter comes together in a very thick, shiny mass (this is an arm workout!).
Scoop out 2 tablespoon portions and roll in a 1/2 and 1/2 mixture of pearl and granulated sugar; shape into a uniform ball once the sticky dough has been rolled in sugar and is easier to handle.
Bake the cookies from room temperature for 12 minutes.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes on the sheet pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Forêt Noire

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

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

–Pablo Neruda, Lost in the Forest

IMG_2683

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is a cake for crazy people.

I’m serious.  But let me explain.

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

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

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

Yaaaaaagh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

to assemble:
fresh cherries

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

Rouge

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 You will hear thunder and remember me,
And think: she wanted storms. The rim
of the sky will be the colour of hard crimson,
And your heart, as it was then, will be on fire.

–Anna Akhmatova

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Color of passion, anger, love, luck. Of seduction and danger and courage. Of fire and blood and the book on my bedside table.
(A Feast for Crows, obviously.)

Color of summer—raspberries, strawberries, cherries, red currants, tomatoes.
Just take a peek over on the right sidebar for proof.
(This post will soon be added to my little collection of summer’s bounty.)

Walking through the farmer’s market last weekend, ruby jewels in two forms caught my eye: lovely tart little red currants and fat, sweet cherry tomatoes in a veritable rainbow of shades.
This weekend, I’m hoping to get my grubby paws on some of the local corn that’s just now bursting onto the scene.

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Lots of photographs today.
I simply couldn’t bear to cut any more from the hundreds I took; I was taken with the drama of the scene.

I took these photos during a fortuitous break in the rain on a grey day; it started drizzling again right as I packed up and came inside.
I stepped on a snotty, slimy slug while shooting.  Panic and terror-stricken screaming ensued.
Still, I persevered, and I’m quite smug pleased with the outcome.

I just love how striking les fruits rouges are, both under the snowy blanket of powdered sugar and unadorned, in all their ripe, natural, juicy glory. (I do not love, however, how crooked my favorite cake stand is.  I am realizing why all my photos with this thing seem so off-kilter.  Sigh.)

I’ve been struggling to write lately.  I have photos, recipes, ideas to share and the words refuse to come.
So I’ll let these photos, of which I am so proud, speak for themselves.
I’m doing my best to be patient with this temporary frustration.
These things always come to pass.

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Victoria sponge cake—a classic for a proper English tea.
Layers of fluffy sponge, filled with jam and whipped cream.

Here, the typical sponge cake is kept dead simple: eggs, sugar, butter, flour, salt, baking powder.
Tangy and rich goat cheese cream fills the center, accented with strawberry preserves and fresh strawbs.
Finally, the cake is piled high with des fruits rouges and showered with plenty of powdered sugar.

The cake gets better as it ages, as it soaks up the flavors and moisture and everything softens and melds together.
I won’t lie, this kind of sponge cake is not as moist as, say, a nice devil’s food cake, but then again, it’s not supposed to be.
It’s supposed to be eaten with a nice spot of tea, little chickens.  Serve it with good, hot, black tea (this tea from Taylors of Harrogate is my absolute, unequivocal favorite) with cream and a touch of sugar.

Cheers, loves.

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Victoria Sponge Cake
cake portion adapted from Leite’s Culinaria
makes 2 6-inch layers

ingredients:
for the cake:
6 ounces (12 tablespoons) butter, very soft
6 ounces (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) sugar
pinch of kosher salt
3 eggs, room temperature
6 ounces (1 1/3 cup) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

for the goat cheese cream:
3 ounces goat cheese, soft
5 ounces (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) sour cream
3 ounces (3/4 cup) powdered sugar
2 ounces (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) powdered milk

to assemble:
1/4 cup good quality strawberry preserves
strawberries, cherries, redcurrants, etc.
powdered sugar

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and liberally grease and flour 2 6-inch round pans.
Beat butter, salt, and sugar together until very fluffy and nearly white, about 4 minutes.
Add in the eggs one at a time and beat for 5 more minutes on high speed, until the mixture is totally smooth (it will be somewhat runny).
Sift the flour and baking powder over the mixture and gently fold in; mix until the batter is homogeneous.
Divide the batter into the two pans and smooth the top.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until the golden and the center is springy—a tester should come out clean.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pans; once partially cooled, flip onto racks and allow to cool completely.
Once your cakes are cooled, make the goat cheese cream: beat goat cheese and sour cream together until smooth and soft, about 3 minutes.
Sift the sugar and powdered milk over the mixture and stir together until homogeneous.
Level the cakes if need be, then spread the bottom layer with strawberry jam.
Spread the cream over (be generous, it will spill over but its moisture is needed in the cake) top and layer with some sliced strawberries.
Place the top layer on and decorate with fruits as desired; finish with a heavy handed sprinkle of powdered sugar.
Eat as part of a proper tea!

American Pie

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I know that you’re in love with him
’cause I saw you dancin’ in the gym
You both kicked off your shoes,
man I dig those rhythm and blues
I was a lonely teenage broncin’ buck,
with a pink carnation and a pick-up truck,
but I knew I was out of luck
the day the music died.

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Happy Fourth of July!!
AKA happy birthday America!

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What do y’all think of the new blog?
It took me forever to update, and now I have a snazzy new sidebar where you can access archives, subscribe, search, and click through to important (read: pretty) posts.
Let me know if you have any problems, or if things seem glitchy.
I’ll try to get them worked out ASAP.
Note: to click through to see or make comments, click on the top of the post in the meta tag (date posted/comments) or just click on the post and scroll to the bottom.
Also note: blank spaces will soon be filled.  Please ignore the giant gaping holes… I am trying to iron things out.
(I am quite bad at it.)

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Y’all. There is a reason 4th of July rhymes with PIE.
(No, it’s not a coincidence. You hush.)
It is our god-given right to eat pie while celebrating the US of A.
We have lots and lots of traditional pies that originate here in America—thick shoofly, key lime, pecan, etc.
I had my heart set on a red, white, and blue pie—a true American Pie—for the 4th of July.
(Although now, I am realizing… shoofly, Ju-ly… that might have to happen too!  Oh well, more pie to eat..)

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American Pie.  American Flag Pie.
Wild blueberries make up the upper quadrant, with dark sweet cherries comprising the rest; the entire thing is encased in and carefully decorated with flaky, buttery pastry; rich, creamy vanilla bean custard adds a touch of white!
This pie is so dang cute, and delicious to boot. That vanilla bean custard, man. I could put that on cardboard and eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
I love the combination of cherry blueberry, and if you’re not looking to American-ize your pie, just chuck everything in and top it with a lattice or even a full crust.

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I hope all of you have a safe, sunny, and fun Fourth of July! May you eat BBQ and patriotic desserts and break out the bathing suits and have a great time celebrating our country.
America!!

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Pee Ess:
I know some of my readers like to connect with me via instagram (and Pinterest). Click on the little instagram icon in the About the Author section and it will direct you to my profile. Same for Pinterest!
(Picture below is from my instagram, taken with iPhone and edited with Afterlight.)

iphone pie


American Pie with Vanilla Bean Custard

makes 1 10-inch pie
ingredients:
for the crust: 2 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
16 tablespoons butter, cubed and cold
ice water, as needed
for the filling:
2 1/2 cups frozen wild blueberries (or about 2 cups big fresh blueberries)
5 cups halved cherries (about 1 1/2 pounds frozen or 1 3/4 pounds fresh)
juice of 1 lemon
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
pinch of salt
for the vanilla bean custard:
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup lowfat milk
3 egg yolks
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sugar
scrapings of 1/2 a vanilla bean
directions:
Make the crust: place flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.
Dump all the cold cubed butter into the bowl and begin to smash all of the cubes to sheets.
Rub some of the mixture between your hands so that it’s sandy—you’re going for a crumbly, sandy mixture wherein the largest pieces of butter are about the size of a marble and flattened into a sheet.
Begin to stir in the cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time; you will likely need 4-6 tablespoons, but it all depends on kitchen environment, so go slow.
You want the dough to come together into a ball but not be sticky at all.
Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and pat it into a long rectangle about 1/2 inch thick.
Fold over the edges like you’re folding a letter, then pat the folded dough out into another rectangle; repeat twice more for a total of 3 folds.
Divide the dough in two and pat into disks; wrap each in saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, roll one out of the disks to a 14 inch diameter—it should be about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick.
Fit the dough into a pie pan and loosely fold excess edges over temporarily; place in the fridge while you make the fillings.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees before making the fillings.
Place the cherries in a large bowl with the juice of half a lemon.
Place the blueberries in another bowl with a little less than the juice of half a lemon.
Stir the cornstarch, sugar, and salt together and divide it roughly into thirds: toss blueberries with 1/3 and the cherries with 2/3 of the mixture.
Roll out the other pie crust and cut into stripes and stars.
Spoon the blueberry filling into 1/4 of the pie (unfold the edges so they hang over the pan), and the cherry into the other 3/4.
Lay on the stripes and stars, then fold up the overhanging crust and crimp.
Bake for 50 minutes to an hour, until the crust is golden and the fillings are bubbling.
Meanwhile, make the custard: whisk all ingredients together and place them in a small sauce pot over medium-low heat.
Cook, stirring nearly constantly, until the mixture thickens up slightly—it should still be liquid, but when you drag your finger across the spatula, a trail should remain (like the texture of quite cold heavy cream).
Pass through a strainer and chill until ready to eat.
Serve the pie warm with cold custard sauce!

Holidazed

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All the cookies!

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‘Tis the season for cookies.
We alllll know it.
And you know, I ain’t mad at it.  Cookies and I get along very well.

Anyways, this year we’re stepping up our cookie game.  Right?
Let’s give away cookies that take the lackluster cookie platter to the next level.

We started with nutmeg, maple, and rye sugar cookies.
Now, we’re doing traditional, but we’re doing it a better way.

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Linzer cookies are totally a staple on holiday cookie platters.
Butter cookies with a cut out, filled with jam.  You’ve seen ’em.  You’ve enjoyed eaten them.

Here’s the problem: too often they are dry and crumbly, sucking the moisture right out of your mouth and leaving a telltale trail of crumbs down the front of your ugly sweater. (What?! We all do it.)

Or, they’re utterly boring.  Not enough punch; plain Jane fillings and plain Jane casings.
Not so with these Linzer cookies!  They’ve got a hefty pinch of salt, a touch of spice, and fillings with body.

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These cookies are made with almond flour and minimal sugar, which means the flavors stay clean and un-muddled on your tongue.
To ensure that they have a good bite, not too crumbly nor too firm, we use a technique most often utilized in making fluffy cakes with tight crumbs: reverse creaming.

Reverse creaming involves whisking all the dry ingredients together, then beating in soft butter followed by the wet ingredients.  It creates a dough with minimal air pockets, meaning your cookies will be nice and flat and less prone to crumbling.

We’ve got a good base going: lightly spiced and sweetened, with hints of almond and a firm, crisp bite.

Don’t mess it up with the fillings!  Use good quality jams.
My favorite was the D’arbo sour cherry jam, which went well with the almond undertones (almonds+stone fruit=magic), and also offset the butteriness of the cookies masterfully, what with its tart, fruity self.
I highly recommend choosing fillings with a little kick.
In the future, I’d add a pinch of cayenne to the Bonne Maman strawberry jam, and a sprinkle of salt to the Nutella.  I’m partial to apricot as is, but I bet an extra touch of nutmeg would work wonders.

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Sorry that my posts haven’t been very wordy.  It’s the holidays, and my brain is fried.
Holidazed and confused…

More cookies coming your way in a day or so.
Hint: there’s peppermint involved.  Get excited.

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Linzer Cookies
adapted from Martha Stewart
makes approximately 20 large sandwich cookies
ingredients:
5 ounces (1 cup and 3 tablespoons) almond flour or finely ground almonds
3.6 ounces (1/2 cup) sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder
big pinch kosher salt
9 ounces (2 cups plus 2 tablespoons) flour
8 ounces (16 tablespoons) butter, softened and cut into small chunks
1 egg
splash vanilla extract
confectioner’s sugar, for dusting
fruit jams or Nutella, as desired

directions:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, add the almond flour, sugar, spices, baking powder, salt, and flour and mix to combine.
Add in the softened butter and paddle until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
Add in the egg and vanilla and mix until a dough forms.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to 1/4 inch thickness.
Cut out circles, and cut a small shape out of half of the circles.
Place onto parchment lined baking sheets and freeze or chill for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake the frozen/chilled cookies for 9-11 minutes, until set and lightly golden.
Allow to cool completely.
Spread 1 1/2 teaspoons of filling of choice onto the cookies without cut outs.
Dust the cookies with the cutouts with plenty of confectioners sugar, then sandwich them on top of the filling and uncut cookies.

Clafir

It’s not lazy, it’s French.
Clafou-what?  
Clafoutis is derived from the Occitan word clafir, to fill.
And yes, there is an s, even for the singular version of the word.
 
(L’Occitane, anyone?  L’Occitane means “a woman from Occitania.”  
Occitania spans Southern France, Monaco, the Val d’Aran, which is the only part of Catelonia north of the Pyrenees, and the Occitan Valleys of Italy.)
 
According to Wikipedia, Occitan is comprised of 6 dialects, 2 of which are definitely endangered and 4 of which are severely endangered.
 
When I first discovered the UNESCO Red Book of Endangered Languages, I thought it was a little ludicrous.
However, the more I thought about the real meaning of an endangered language, and the implications of such, the more saddened I became.
The fact that a language, something so deep rooted in history and culture, can disappear within a few generations thanks to globalization and modernization, not to mention lazy teenagers/future generations, is upsetting to me.
 
I spent more time than I probably should have exploring UNESCO’s map of endangered languages (here).
The number of languages, ranging from vulnerable to extinct, is mind-boggling.
2471.
231 fully extinct.  And that’s just in recent memory.
Cleopatra spoke 9 languages.
Nowadays, many are lucky to speak two, let alone three.
The broad scope of what we are losing is arresting, but not surprising.
We disregard our history and heritage, both intellectual and physical.
We are letting our environment fall to pieces and our culture, too.
My!  I guess I’ve been feeling a little disconnected after discovering trash strewn all over a state forest.
After hiking down a long and winding path to discover that it ended in a dumpster.
Poignant or repugnant?
I don’t know.
Back to your regularly scheduled program.  (…L’album Noir; The Black Album…)
 
This is my take on a classic French (hailing from Limousin, within Occitania) pastry, the clafoutis.  It consists of an eggy custard surrounding sweet, juicy cherries.
I added a rye crust because I love rye pastry crusts.
And because I felt that the nutty richness of rye complemented the sweet stone fruits well.
 
Traditionally, the pits are left in this dessert, for two reasons.
One, it preserves the beautiful shape of the cherries, and prevents much of the juice from escaping, ensuring a lovely pop of flavor from each little fruit.
Two, the centers of the pits of the cherries, the noyaux, give a wonderful almond perfume to the whole tart.
The kernels in the pits of any stone fruit have a flavor reminiscent of almonds, and are indeed related to the nut.
(And third, albeit not traditional: I was lazy.)
I already had to pick through the cherries to ensure that none were past their prime, let alone try to remove their stubborn little pits with a paper clip.
 
These tarts are delicious, and despite the pits, they were all gone by the next day.
This clafoutis is ridiculously easy to make, gorgeous, delicious, and can be served at any temperature: warm, room temp, or chilled.
AKA fresh out of the oven, for an afternoon snack, and dessert.
Parfait!

Rye and Cherry Clafoutis
ingredients:
for the crust:
2 sticks butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 cup AP flour
3/4 cup coarse rye flour
for the filling:
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 cup half and half 
1 tablespoons sugar
2 or so cups of fresh sweet cherries, picked over and cleaned
directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Make the crust: beat butter and sugar together until shiny, fluffy, and smooth, about 4 minutes.
Scrape the bowl, add in the salt and flours, and mix on low until a ball forms.
Roll the dough out on a well-floured surface and transfer it as best you can into your pans. (I used a 9-inch, a 41/2 inch, and two 3 inch cake rings.  I think that you could use a 10 or 11 inch pan and fit everything in one, but I wanted to have some smaller tarts on the side.)
Do not worry if it rips; it is extremely forgiving.  
Just press and patch the dough into the pans as evenly as possible.
Prick all over with a fork and freeze for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, pull the shells out of the freezer and place the cherries in the bottom. (Put as many as you can humanly fit.)
Bake for 10 minutes, until you can just hear the cherries sizzling.
Meanwhile, whisk the egg, egg yolk, half and half, and sugar together.
After 10 minutes, pull the tarts halfway out of the oven and pour the custard into the shells, until it comes up the sides nearly to the top; you probably won’t use all of the custard, especially if you filled your crusts up with cherries.)
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the custard is set and the edges of the pastry are browned and fragrant.
Allow to cool (or don’t!) and serve with whipped cream, if desired.