Auspicium

Chocolate and Candied Kumquat Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

And now we welcome the new year.
Full of things that have never been.

—Rainer Maria Rilke

Chocolate and Candied Kumquat Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy 2016!
I’m a cool seven days late, but no worries—that means we only have 51 weeks left of this year.
That’s not me being eagerly pessimistic, people.

It’s just a f-a-c-t.

Chocolate and Candied Kumquat Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Impossibly, it seems, I’m back at school.
Finishing up my first week of classes, actually.
From the outset—and let’s pray for the sake of my sanity and the number of delicious things I manage to make and photograph for the blog—it seems like this quarter will be less busy.

Of course, as I have probably stipulated before, this often has no correlation with how relaxed I feel.
The brain is a wondrous thing, isn’t it?!
…says the neuro major…

Chocolate and Candied Kumquat Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Starting the year off with chocolate all but guarantees a pleasant January, which can be an altogether bleak and dreary month (it’s already abnormally slushy here in Chicago).

Today, I’m sharing a dark, moist sour cream chocolate bundt cake: it’s one bowl, it comes out of the pan looking simply magnificent and just as tender as a steamed pudding.
It stays soft and has a tight crumb, even over the course of a few days.
A few light lashings of vanilla cream glaze offset the chocolate nicely, although I could definitely see this paired with an equally chocolaty ganache.
Finally, the cake is topped with a golden crown of candied kumquat flowers, an auspicious, chewy, bitter, sweet, sour, and traditional treat for the Lunar New Year, which I have appropriated for this (Western) New Year cake.
Kumquat trees are a sign of prosperity and good luck in Chinese and Vietnamese New Year celebrations, and it couldn’t hurt to have some more of that in 2016, right?
Find more in depth (and a very detailed recipe) at the Kitchn.  I halved the recipe (I only made a couple handfuls of kumquats) and followed the instructions to a T and they were delightful.

Chocolate and Candied Kumquat Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Stars when you shine, you know how I feel
Scent of the pine, you know how I feel
Yeah, freedom is mine, and I know how I feel..
It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me
And I’m feelin’ good.

—Nina Simone

Chocolate and Candied Kumquat Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Chocolate Sour Cream Cake
cake portion adapted from Food52; kumquats from the Kitchn
makes 1 10-cup bundt

ingredients:
for the cake:
400 grams (2 cups) sugar
210 grams (1 3/4 cups) flour
90 grams (3/4 cup) cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
240 grams (1 cup) sour cream
240 grams (1 cup) black coffee
112 grams (1/2 cup) vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

for the glaze:
2 tablespoons cream
225 grams (2 cups) powdered sugar
pinch salt
drop of vanilla extract

directions:
Make the cake: spray a 10-cup bundt pan with baker’s spray and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Place sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine.
Make a well in the center and add in the eggs, the coffee, the sour cream, the vegetable oil, and the vanilla extract.
Carefully stir to incorporate the wet ingredients, then whisk vigorously a few times to ensure homogeneity.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until a tester comes out with a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool 10 minutes in the pan before turning out and allowing to cool completely.
To make the glaze, whisk all ingredients together until no lumps remain and pour over the cooled cake.
Decorate with candied kumquats or orange rind.

Brandy Alexander

Brandy Alexander Tiramisu | La Pêche Fraîche

Though I’d like to be the girl for him
And cross the sea and land for him
On milky skin my tongue is sand until
The ever distant band begins to play

He’s my Brandy Alexander
Always gets me into trouble
But that’s another matter
Brandy Alexander…

—Feist, Brandy Alexander

Brandy Alexander Tiramisu | La Pêche Fraîche

Do you know this song?
If not, go listen now: here’s the weird 2000s video, complete with wacky, sharpie eyebrows and way too many cut shots.

I love Feist; she’s got such a cool, easy vibe going.  Soft and breezy vocals with a touch of soul.
Brandy Alexander is one of my favorites.

Brandy Alexander Tiramisu | La Pêche Fraîche

Where in the dickens have I been?!
The last time you heard from me, I was dusting green powder on a beautiful little cake and shouting for Spring!
I’m back, more than a week later, with my tail between my legs and a more muted color palate, to say the least.

Spring quarter is shaping up to be a tough one, folks.
I’m still wobbly-kneed, trying to get my balance back as I adjust to my new (increased) workload.
I’m also working hard on a project for UChi’s Festival of the Arts (FOTA), the products of which you’ll see soon.  They may or may not include a multitude of layer cakes and a video(!).

On top of the rigorous demands of biochem/other classes, I have to prep for my summer job (that means shopping for pencil skirts, right?) and God, I have realized, I have to go outside this quarter.
Because, despite the fact that I’ve been in the library 24/7 over the last week, it’s been gorgeous in Chicago.
Sunny, not too hot, not too cold.  Magnificent spring weather.
My skin definitely needs the vitamin D this quarter.
(Hey, skin, remember what a revelation Mexico was, just, oh, 2 weeks ago?  Where did you put all my tan?????)

Brandy Alexander Tiramisu | La Pêche Fraîche

Tiramisù is derived from the Italian phrase pick-me-up (literally, tira-mi-sù), and I would agree wholeheartedly with that translation.
Inspired by this one-bowl tiramisu, I set my heart on making mini tiramisus in tiny bowls.

I was inspired by the flavors of a Brandy Alexander, which is made of crème de cacao, cognac, and cream, and are quite similar to traditional tiramisu.

In order to do so, I made the tiniest, twee-est savoiardi, less than an inch long each.
A nip of espresso to dip your ladyfingers in gives a nice bracing ripple of coffee to the dessert.
Each lightly soaked ladyfinger was layered with ultra creamy, egg-yolk rich mascarpone cream spiked with cognac and coffee liqueur, not too sweet and with a touch of salt.
Each layer was dusted generously with cacao powder, giving a necessary whiff of chocolate to each bite.

Tiramisù, if you haven’t indulged recently, is one of the most magnificent desserts ever created.  The ladyfingers soften under the espresso and become cake-like, the mascarpone cream is ridiculously rich and creamy; the alcohol and cacao cut through everything, giving each bite utmost clarity and leaving you drooling for more.

Because I’m sharing a tiramisu recipe, I have to give a health hazard warning:  (no, not the egg yolks… If you’re nervous, you can cook them lightly.  More on that from the Pioneer Woman) please DO NOT breathe in while stuffing your face with this creamy delicacy.  You will inhale cacao and cough for 10 minutes straight while looking ashamed in front of your dinner guests.  Best to hold your breath while you spoon the entire thing into your maw.  Much more elegant.

Brandy Alexander Tiramisu | La Pêche Fraîche

Tiramisu
makes 6 large-ish portions, 8 reasonable

ingredients:
for the lady fingers:
2 eggs, divided
60 grams (1/3 cup) sugar, divided evenly
pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
40 grams (1/3 cup) flour
3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

for the mascarpone cream:
225 grams (8 ounces) mascarpone
240 mL (1 cup) cream
4 egg yolks
50 grams (1/4 cup) sugar
30mL (2 tablespoons) cognac
30 mL (2 tablespoons) Kahlua
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

to assemble:
120 mL (1/2 cup) espresso
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
cacao powder, for dusting (sub cocoa powder if need be)

directions:
Make the lady fingers: preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and fit a piping bag with a small round tip.
Separate the eggs and beat the egg yolks with half of the sugar, the salt, and the vanilla for 3 minutes.
Add the flour to the yolk mixture and fold it in until it is half mixed in.
Whip the egg whites to stiff peaks with the other half of the sugar.
Once they reach stiff peaks, fold 1/3 of the whites into the yolk/flour mixture.
After the first 1/3 is fully incorporated, fold in the rest of the egg whites until the batter is homogeneous but still very fluffy (don’t mix too hard!).
Fill the piping bag and pipe tiny, 1 inch lines about 1/4 an inch from one another.
Dust completely with confectioner’s sugar
Bake for 7 minutes, until lightly golden, then remove from oven, peel off of parchment, and allow to cool.
To make the mascarpone cream, whip mascarpone and heavy cream until they reach stiff peaks.
Meanwhile, whisk the yolks, sugar, alcohols, vanilla, and salt together until fully homogeneous.
Pour into the whipped cream mixture slowly, and beat until it is all incorporated (the mixture will thin out).
To make the tiramisu, mix espresso and vanilla together and dip the bottom of the lady fingers into the mixture before placing them in serving dishes.
Layer 2 tablespoons of mascarpone cream over the lady fingers, then dust with cacao.
Repeat the layering 3 times for each tiramisu, smoothing the top and dusting generously.
Chill for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight before eating.

Busy Bee

Whole Wheat Peppermint Mocha Brownies | La Pêche Fraîche

It’s past time we talk, isn’t it?

Whole Wheat Peppermint Mocha Brownies | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

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

Whole Wheat Peppermint Mocha Brownies | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

Whole Wheat Peppermint Mocha Brownies | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

Whole Wheat Peppermint Mocha Brownies | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

IMG_2549_01

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!

Mellow As the Month

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Mellow as May might be, the end of this month holds much serious significance in my life.

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“Many things have changed, some for the better, some the worse.

People have moved in and out of my life; 
things I always took for granted as constants fell away: cliffs sheared off, leaving me teetering on the edge; 
new experiences, new relationships, have nested snugly, precariously, on the crags and crannies left behind; 
triumphs have been trumpeted, flags left proudly waving on distant planets; 
losses have been suffered, sending me cowering in a corner, covered with tears and blood;

I survived even those which I thought I could not.”

–from Merry Happy, last year’s blogiversary post

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It is my brother’s birthday (last year’s cake); it’s this blog’s birthday; it’s the anniversary of Chris’ death.

I cannot believe that in two days it will have been a year.
It will have been a whole year since that dark, blinding night.

Chris, you are dearly beloved and missed.
The people whose lives you touched are all the better for it, will never forget it, will always be grateful.

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It is quiet around this blog lately.  I am busy.  I am trying to balance.
This, you know.  I’ve made that abundantly clear with all my whining and whinging.

Still, exams be damned, count on a big, delicious cake for my second (?!!?) blogiversary, marking the third year of La Pêche Fraîche.
Also on the docket: pie and two types of cupcakes and more cake.  Always, cake.

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These are dark chocolate coffee pots de crème.  

The recipe is so so easy and quick– no bake, gluten-free, and perfect when hit with a little extra salt and powdered sugar over top.

The recipe is from the Pioneer Woman (oh, dear, wonderful, hilarious Ree), and I’ll leave you with a link if you’d like to check it out.

Here.  I skipped the orange and topped mine with unsweetened whipped cream and Maldon sea salt.

It comes with high recommendation from me and praise from my taste testers!

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P.S. Like the beautiful stationary that I used in the background of this post?
Check out Mockingbird Paperie.  They’re fab!

Swimmingly

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Promise me
you will not spend so much time treading water and
trying to keep your head above the waves that you forget,
truly forget, how much
you have always loved to swim.

–Tyler Knott Gregson

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I’ve had a shit week.

A shit fucking week.  Actually, the last two weeks have been pretty fucking terrible.
I think.  I find it difficult to pinpoint exactly what I want to complain about.

Clearly, something is wrong, because this is unheard of.
I can make whine out of, well, nothing.

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Busy. Running running running can’t stop.  Balance.  One toe, two toes, one fine wire.
Teeter, totter, fall on my ass.  Climb back up and repeat with markedly diminishing grace.
It never ends, this race to the finish.  I’m sick and I’m fucking tired and I don’t want to run anymore.
I don’t want to bother with the balance and the business and the busyness.

Doors are slamming shut left and right; doors slam shut right in my face.  Fine.  Fuck you, too.
I didn’t want to come in anyways; happy to stand in the soaking spring rain.
Happy to keep myself company in my confused, delighted misery.

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 The words don’t come, don’t flow, don’t exist.
The sentences have dissipated, dissolved, disappeared.
My brain is a microcosm of unproductive stagnant energy; it refuses to spit out even the shortest string of words, preferring instead to brood in dark, dank spaces that exist far below the surface.

I miss this stupid, time-consuming blog so very dearly.
Posts await, impatiently, glaringly unwritten but filled with photos and sugar and longing.
Why can’t I write?  Where are the words that so easily filled pages just months ago?

I miss my family.
Even the words meant for them, short snippets of text messages, have slowed.
Can’t find what to say.  Utterly foreign for a needy, demanding, over-sharer.

I miss home, but that’s a given.

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Stretched too thin.
The sum total is too great: two major art/food projects, four classes spanning two majors, one new and important person, three incredibly important friends with as much on their plates as mine, one blog, one body, one mind to hold it all in.

I’m happy, I’m sad.  I feel things deeply and profoundly.
Cry while listening to the Civil Wars–listen to them a lot, on repeat, even– and squeal while watching baby bunnies hop around–too few this spring, too few after a harsh winter.
Cry while thinking about my grandfather; cry and laugh, delighted, at his memorial.
Giddy while holding hands and smile while my hair is gently smoothed back from my face.
Sadness, anger, and regret all stab deeply into my stony heart, just as satisfaction, peace, and joy buoy me upwards, make me light as air and malleable as clay.  Ballooned upward, only to be popped by a pin that feels more like a baseball bat.

But thank the gods that I do feel.
A very wise woman said sadness is raw skin, painful and present.
Depression is a down parka, muffling and silencing, blocking and numbing life.
Fuck those stupid fucking “Depression Hurts” commercials.
Depression dulls; sadness hurts– sadness feels.

And oh!– do I feel.

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Wake up–Friday–sheets already sticking sticking stuck to sweaty skin.  Wake up, drool smeared up one cheek and into one ear; wake up feeling disgusting but alive, so alive.  Sick of being refrigerated anyways.  Grateful for the sweet breeze.

The heat and soupy humidity and smell of rain in the air set my soul to singing.
Spring reminds me to live.  Reminds me not to let a single moment escape unnoticed, unappreciated.
Spring refuses to let me crawl back under my winter parka, refuses to let me burrow deep and hibernate.

Spring is life.  Life in bloom.

Open eyes, breathe deep, smile, cry, whatever the fuck this feeling is at this moment, and embrace it.  Own it.

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These photos are a little preview of an article I wrote for a fabulous food magazine here on campus, Nonpareil.

Stoked to work with them.  I had a super fun interview over coffee with their lovely editor, Jenny.
Reading the article she wrote, I was a touch embarrassed but crazy flattered.  It’s an exciting feeling, to be sure.

To my UChicago readers, I do hope you’ll pick up a copy when it’s published. (Translation: pick one up and read it cover to cover or else.)
To my other readers, sucks to suck.  Just kidding.  I’m sharing the recipe here so you can be included, too.

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This cake takes the traditional American birthday cake– yellow, with chocolate buttercream, and elevates it ever so slightly.

Buttery yellow coconut cake, gently scented with coconut oil, with threads of coconut and egg yolks creating the tenderest and softest of crumbs.
Salted chocolate buttercream, whipped and fluffy, rich with deep, dark, fruity chocolate cocoa powder and enhanced with a pinch of espresso powder and three pinches of salt.
Blackberries, tart and juicy, pair gorgeously– they play a perfect foil for the heaps of butter and chocolate, and add a fresh, lively element to the cake.

You could substitute raspberries very easily, light coconut milk in the cake batter, and coconut cream in the frosting, as well.
You do, however, need the bittersweet chocolate.  It’s the key to getting a truly chocolaty buttercream.

This has birthday cake written all over it.

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P.S.  Happy mother’s day.  My mama and my grandmas are true inspirations.
(HI GRANDMA shout out to you, I know you’re reading this.  You’re the BEST and I miss you dearly.  Hope you got my cards and letters– did I put enough stamps on?– Love you SO much.  I will call you later today, but I expect an email about 5 minutes after you finish reading this…)

My mama inspires me to work hard; she teaches me to balance on the thin wire of life and not take shit from idiots.
She reminds me to let little things go and not let myself be bullied by the patriarchy.
She comforts me when I’m down– “fuck them”– and makes me laugh with pictures of my badly behaved cats– again, “fuck them”.
She begs me to not be like her, but I know I am my mother’s daughter.
And I am blessed for it.

I love you, mama.  See you in a few weeks.

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A Grown-Up Birthday Cake

ingredients:
for the yellow coconut cake:
200 grams (1 2/3 cups) flour
2 1/8 teaspoons baking powder
85 grams (6 tablespoons) butter
30 grams (2 tablespoons) coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
180 grams (3/4 cup) reduced-fat milk
3/4 cup desiccated coconut, optional

for the salted chocolate buttercream:
50 grams (2 ounces) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
315 grams (2 3/4 sticks) butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon espresso powder, optional
110 to 140 grams (4 to 5 cups) powdered sugar, sifted
50 grams (1/2 cup) cocoa powder, sifted
30 to 60 grams (2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup) heavy cream

to assemble:
blackberries
powdered sugar, for dusting

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter and flour 3 6-inch pans or 2 8-inch pans
Stir together flour and baking powder.
Cream butter and coconut oil with salt for 3 full minutes.
Add the sugar in a stream and cream for 4 more minutes (set a timer).
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in the egg yolks and vanilla extract.
Beat for 3 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl; while mixing slowly, alternate adding in the flour mix and the milk, beginning and ending with the dry.
Stir in the coconut.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pans.
Bake for 22-25 minutes, until golden and springy to the touch.
A tester should come out nearly clean, with just a few crumbs sticking to it.
Allow to cool completely.

Make the frosting: melt the chocolate in a double boiler or very gently in a microwave; set aside to cool.
Beat butter, espresso powder, and salt on high for 5-7 minutes, until very fluffy and nearly white.
While whipping, slowly stream in the cooled chocolate; beat for another minute until homogeneous.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and sift the powdered sugar and cocoa over the butter.
Starting slowly to prevent sugar explosions, beat in the sugar and cocoa.
As the frosting begins to come together, stream in the cream, starting with 2 tablespoons and increasing if the frosting is still too stiff.

Assemble the cake: level your cake layers with a serrated knife if they are uneven; brush crumbs off gently.
Place the first cake layer on a serving plate; spread with 1/4 cup of frosting and top with the second layer.
Spread the second layer with 1/3 cup of frosting and press a few blackberries on.
Smooth more frosting over the blackberries so that the layer is even, then top with the third cake layer.
Use 1/2 cup-2/3 cup of the frosting to create an even, thin crumb coat.
Refrigerate crumb-coated cake for at least 30 minutes.
Once chilled, use the remaining frosting to cover the cake as desired.

Charred

 To be honest, more than charred, I’m fried.
 
I’m dragging my feet, so much so that the edges of my toes are burned and my shoes have holes in them.
Or, they would, if I were wearing shoes.  The past two days, it has been scorchingly hot.
Like, dash-reads-100-degrees hot.  
Like, yes-absolutely-let’s-go-to-the-grocery-store-it-has-AC hot.
Like, why-the-f@&#-did-I-turn-on-the-oven hot.
 
It’s cooled down, now.
This morning/midday was Sahara desert-esque (right when I was making ratatouille AND savoiardi like wat why me), but this afternoon and evening…
Well, holy monsoon Batman!!
All that rain practically sizzled off of the sidewalks, but eventually drowned out the heat.
I mean, phew, cause I’ve started cooking with apples and pears already, and there’s no turning back.
I just ain’t got time for no more summer, let me tell you.
Ah, yes.  What am I dragging my feet for, you say?
Well, I have 9 8 more days left here in Ith, and I haven’t started packing!!
I have shit to do, guys!  And I can’t bring myself to do it.
It’s just like, ugh, it’s so hot and like I don’t really want to think about like organization and fitting my closet into my dorm room, let alone my kitchen.
Those are the two largest entities in my house.
 
Because, yes! 
Surprise (or, rather, less than a surprise) surprise, this blog is not stopping here.
I’ll have access to a kitchen…
Which means baking and blogging and sugar and butter and flour.
Comin’ at yo face.
In turn, this means that I have to make a packing list for normal living things- linens, clothing, cosmetics, decor, etc., but also for kitchen supplies.
I can’t bear to think of the beloved appliances I’ll have to leave behind.
Examples: my ice cream behemoth machine
my pro WOLF convection oven
my big food processor
my stand blender
copper pots, wok, little pots, little saucepans, omelette pan, panini pan, roasting pan, all MY PANS
random prop materials- china, silverware, fabrics, wooden pieces, marble, much of my mason jar collection
… Pour one out for da homiez.  Seriously.
On a less dour note, this is a lovely little charlotte that I’m sharing today.
Get it?!?!?! Charlotte- charred
No? Damn, and I thought I was being a clever little monkey. (Insert that cute emoji here, you know the one, the little monkey with its little hands over its mouth.)
A charlotte is a molded cake, usually with savoiardi, or ladyfingers, around the outside.
(There are a few variations on what is on the exterior.)  
Where the imagination and difference comes in is the interior.
You could make a charlotte with literally any flavor or idea.
I chose tiramisù, because ladyfingers. 
And because I had never made tiramisù before.
It’s incredibly simple- just 3 components to the dish- savoiardi, coffee/liqueur to soak, and a cream/zabaglione/mascarpone mixture to add richness.
So simple, in fact, that I undertook to make my own ladyfingers, which may seem imposing, but are, in actuality, very simple.
This is a cookie that’s been around for 600 or so years.  How hard can it be?  Fo’ realz. 
 
On the inside is a classic tiramisù, except that I used whiskey, which is, erm… not traditional.
But to hell with it.  Use whatever liqueur tickles your fancy.
The ladyfingers are sponge cake’s sister, just piped out.
They’re layered with coffee/whiskey/vanilla (can I have that as my morning pick-me-up?!) and a deeeeelicious mascarpone/heavy cream/zabaglione mixture (wait no I want that…), topped with a mountain of raspberries, then chilled until set.
 
Wrap a ribbon around the whole shebang and give it to someone as a present!
HA just kidding.  
Untie the ribbon, cut yourself a fat wedge, watch the raspberries tumble out like so many ruby jewels, and MANGIA! 

Tiramisù Charlotte
makes 1 6×3 inch cake
note: brew some strong coffee before starting, then allow it to cool.  If you are making ladyfingers, make those right after the coffee and let them cool as well.  You can always use store-bought.
for the savoiardi (ladyfingers):
makes 1 1/2 sheet pans of 4×1 inch savoiardi
ingredients:
3.5 egg yolks (1/2 yolk is approximately 1 1/2 teaspoons, or 0.3 ounce)
3 tablespoons sugar
3.5 egg whites (1/2 white is approximately 1 tablespoon, or 0.5 ounce)
pinch cream of tartar
4 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 cup cake flour
directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Draw out 4×1 inch grids on two sheets of parchment paper; place them on two sheet pans, pencil or pen side down.
Have a pastry bag fitted with a 1 inch tip at the ready.
Place the egg yolks in a bowl with 3 tablespoons of sugar.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer with the cream of tartar.
Whip the egg yolks briskly (or with a hand mixer) until they become pale, thick, and double in size.
Meanwhile, whip the egg whites, slowly streaming in 4 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar once they begin to foam.  
Beat the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks.
Sift the cake flour over the egg yolks, but don’t mix in, then fold the egg whites into the egg yolk/flour until homogenous; be careful not to overmix.
Place into pastry bag and pipe out finger shapes, approximately 4×1 inch tall/wide.  (They will touch each other during baking.)
Bake for 8-10 minutes, until they are golden and puffy but not particularly hard. (They should not feel raw or look runny, but should still be slightly spongy to the touch.)
Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

for the mascarpone cream:
adapted from Chef Dennis via Bake and Bait
ingredients:
3 egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons mascarpone
scant cup heavy cream
directions:
Whisk yolks and sugar together very well; place in a small pot over low heat and cook until sugar is completely dissolved.
Remove from heat, pour into a different bowl, and whip until thick and about doubled in size.
Whisk in mascarpone.
In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream to stiff peaks, then fold it into the zabaglione/mascarpone mixture.
Set in fridge until ready to use (but not for too long; an hour at most before you should use it).

to assemble:
ingredients:
1/4 cup coffee, cold but strong
1 tablespoon liqueur (Marsala, Kahlua, etc.  Go nuts.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
cocoa powder, for dusting
1 pint of raspberries, optional
mascarpone cream, recipe above
ladyfingers (about 30 small ones, less if you have larger), either store bought or homemade, recipe above
directions:
Line a 6×3 inch pan with ladyfingers standing upright.
Place a cake board in the bottom, then place as many ladyfingers as can fit along the bottom, using torn pieces to fill in gaps.
Stir the coffee, liqueur, and vanilla together.
Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the coffee mixture over the ladyfingers- they should absorb it, but do not add so much that they are soaked.  
Smooth 1/3 of the cream mixture onto the soaked ladyfingers.
Layer more ladyfingers over the cream mixture, brush with coffee, and layer with cream.
Repeat layering once more.
Dust the top of the tiramisu with cocoa powder, and top with raspberries, if desired.
Refrigerate for at least 1 1/2 hours before unmolding.
Tie a ribbon around the outside for clean presentation.
Enjoy!

Call Me Sally

So, I’m Irish.
Actually, I’m Korirish.
Korean on my mother’s side, and Irish on my father’s.
Bit of a strange mix, to be sure.
The one thing my family has figured that the two have in common is a love of cabbage.

This love has distilled into my passion for cruciferous vegetables.
Cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts (I’m eating some right now, actually, with apples and goat cheese), broccoli, bok choy, kale; pretty much a comprehensive list of my favorite vegetables.
Love me some Brassica.
Um, not that I’m here to tell you about vegetables.
That’s not really my shtick, at least not on this here blog.
 
Oh! What the Koreans and the Irish also both love is beer.
(Cabbage+beer sounds like the most terrible and smelly hangover in the world waiting to happen.)
So due to the fact that St. Patrick’s Day is on Sunday and my Korean grandmother is visiting, I made cake.  With beer.  
Beer cake.
With homemade Bailey’s cream sandwiched between each layer.
 
Yeah, it is as much of a good thing as it sounds like.
Trust me on this one. 

Now, it’s not the most traditional of Irish confections… But I’m certain it would be met with a hearty seal of approval in Ireland.
There’s browned Kerrygold butter, extra rich and nutty thanks to the higher fat content.
There’s Guinness, deep and dark, which adds a noticeable complexity to the cake.
There’s milk chocolate and coffee whipped cream, with a hefty dose of Bushmills whiskey.
There’s meringue, which actually is a well-loved Irish dessert.
Whether my ancestors are rolling in their graves, I know not.
Some fun facts about my Irish side:
“Sally,” actually, saileach, means willow in Gaelic.
There’s a barren field in Ireland called the Sally Gap- real talk, I’ve even been there.
It’s full of tumbleweeds and not much else.
Super. Exciting.
In 1908, John Sally, my great-great-grandfather, and his family immigrated to America.
Yadda yadda yadda.
Sally Gap Cake:
for the cake:
adapted from Nigella
ingredients:
1/2 cup Guinness
5 tablespoons Kerrygold butter (or other European butter)
3 tablespoons extra dark cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons sour cream
1 egg
big honking splash vanilla extract (about 2 teaspoons)
1 cup AP flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour two 6-inch pans (I suspect 1 shallow 9- or 10- inch would work as well, but I’m not promising anything).
Brown the butter in a large saucepot.  
Once it is fragrant and nutty, stir in the Guinness.  
Allow to cook for 30 seconds, then remove from heat.  
Stir in the sugar and cocoa powder.  
Add the sour cream and vanilla and whisk well; add in the egg while whisking.  
Dump the flour and baking soda on top of the wet ingredients (flour first), then whisk them in until a smooth batter forms.  
Pour into prepared pans; bake for 35-38 minutes, until risen and firm to the touch; a toothpick should come out CLEAN (this is an extremely moist cake and if underbaked will be gooey).
for the mock Bailey’s cream filling:
ingredients:
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon gelatin
1 small bar (I used regular ole Hershey’s) milk chocolate, melted
1 teaspoon espresso powder
pinch salt
2 splashes Irish whiskey
directions:
Sprinkle the gelatin over the cream and allow to sit for 1 minute.
Mix the cream with the espresso powder and salt, and whip to stiff peaks.
Add in the whiskey and milk chocolate and mix until fluffy and homogeneous. 
for the chocolate frosting:
ingredients:
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
2 sticks of butter
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
pinch salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup cream
directions:
Put everything in a food processor and pulse until homogeneous.
for the Swiss meringue:
ingredients:
1 egg white
1/4 cup sugar
directions:
Put the white and sugar in a metal mixing bowl and place over a pan of simmering water.
Heat, whisking all the while, until mixture reaches 160 degrees F.
Remove from heat and whip on high until a stiff meringue forms, about 5 minutes.
Use immediately, as meringue will harden sooner than later.
Torch after decorating, if desired. 
to assemble:
Torte the two layers; fill each with 1/3 of the bailey’s cream.
Frost the outside of the cake with the chocolate frosting; to smooth, use a warmed knife.
Mound the meringue in the center and torch it.
For the cleanest cuts, chill the cake slightly before cutting.
 

A Wise Man Once Said

My dearest readers, I have some frightening exciting news to share with you.
For the next four months or so, I will be embarking on a foray deep into the world of modernist cuisine AKA molecular gastronomy.
 
My best description goes something like this: modernist cuisine and molecular gastronomy sit squarely, and comfortably, at the crossroads of food, science, and art.  
 
This weak explanation is strengthened by examples; the most highly sought-after and rated restaurants in the world, e.g. the late El Bulli, the Fat Duck, Alinea, wd-50, etc., are based in molecular gastronomy.  These chefs are the best in the world, and they utilize precise techniques and unique flavor pairings to create transcendental dining experiences. 
“But why,” say you? 
This is a school assignment, that’s why.
A very unorthodox school assignment.
I am a second-semester senior in WISE English, a course which allows seniors to conduct sixteen weeks of independent study and research, in a field of their choosing.
 
Obviously, I chose dessert above all else.
Thus, I find myself making spreadsheets of costs of compounds like hydroxypropyl methylcellulose and calcium lactate gluconate, poring over endless lists of strange flavor combinations, and freezing and re-freezing my ice cream maker’s bowl.
 
There are many so-called “molecular gastronomy” techniques, but modernist cuisine is not all about tricks and chemicals.  Much comes from the presentation of the food.  Not every dish has to contain manipulated foodstuffs, but every plate has to be aesthetic.
Not to mention taste good!
 
 
I’m beyond excited.  And terrified.  
 
 
I currently have around 10 pounds of food-grade chemicals being shipped to my house.  I have hemispherical molds and glucose and carbonated sugar and a .01 gram accuracy scale.  
I think I’m ready; I’ve done my best to prepare myself.
I know that not everything will go the way I want it to, or the way it’s supposed to (see: my pitiful quenelles in these pictures.  What is that strange pointy thing on the end?!?  I haven’t the faintest.)
My goal is to have created many a fanciful and delicious composed dessert: not just a slice of cake or hunk of chocolate thrown on a plate with a schmear of sauce.  I want to make high-quality restaurant desserts.
 
I want to push myself to try out as many techniques as I can: spherification, gelation, dehydration, carbonation, smoking, foams, making powders, etc. etc.
Sixteen weeks isn’t as much time as one would think; I’ll have to work quickly and in a timely manner.
 
So what does this mean for La Pêche Fraîche?  Why am I even telling you this?
Because once a week, I will be sharing my thoughts, failures, and endeavors on this here blog, using it as part of my project journal.
This is not to say that my regular sweets won’t stick around; I’ll still post cookies and cakes and more pedestrian fare, but don’t be shocked when you click through and see something that doesn’t even look like food.
Whatever panic you might feel at that moment, rest assured that I’m feeling 10 times more.
 
I’m so glad to be sharing this with y’all.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  
Without any further ado, here’s my first shot at a composed dessert.
 
“Carly Simon”
espresso, chocolate, meyer lemon
(components, from base layer upwards)
bittersweet chocolate ganache
meyer lemon curd
firm chocolate and coffee grind “ganache” cubes
dark chocolate butter cookies
crumbled meyer lemon meringues
espresso ice cream with whipped cream “clouds” frozen in
fried meyer lemon zest
mocha dust
 
In the future, recipes will accompany.  Right now, I’m just about ready to close this introductory post up, and that is just what I shall do.