Oh Deer

Red Velvet Woodland Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Calvin: This whole Santa Claus thing just doesn’t make sense. Why all the secrecy? Why all the mystery?
If the guy exists why doesn’t he ever show himself and prove it?
And if he doesn’t exist what’s the meaning of all this?

Hobbes: I dunno. Isn’t this a religious holiday?

Calvin: Yeah, but actually, I’ve got the same questions about God.

—Bill Watterson

Red Velvet Woodland Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Merry Christmas Eve!

I hope you all had a wonderful Festivus and Christmas Eve Eve, and are now prepared for Christmas itself.

Red Velvet Woodland Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

We have not even a single lick of snow around my hometown; it’s been 60s and sunny and utterly autumnal, despite the fact that it’s the end of December.

So today, instead of a winter wonderland cake, I’m sharing a woodland wonderland cake.
Seems legit.
(It’s actually just an excuse to use my adorable new Schleich deer figurines.)

Red Velvet Woodland Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

This cake is a dressed-up red velvet.

It’s a foolproof recipe, with a touch of cocoa and a generous amount of buttermilk; the batter remains moist with a tight crumb and the distinctive “red” velvet flavor.

The frosting is white chocolate cream cheese, my new go-to when it comes to a tangy frosting.
Adding a good measure of melted white chocolate to your standard cream cheese frosting gives extra body and allows the frosting to set better when chilled—it doesn’t run and become a drippy mess.
The white chocolate is subtle—the frosting remains tangy and creamy and rich, just thicker and more luscious on the tongue.

The cake is decorated with all sorts of “woodland” goodies: blackberries, kumquats, and sugared cranberries, little bundles of cinnamon and rosemary, pinecones, and that stinkin’ adorable mama deer and her fawn.
A dusting of powdered sugar finishes the cake off nicely.

Red Velvet Woodland Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Normally, I wouldn’t put anything inedible on top of a cake, but I really was vibing on the woodland aesthetic.
This cake comes together very quickly, and can be decorated in any number of ways.

Whatever you’re baking for the holiday, I hope it comes out wonderfully and that you get the chance to share it with loved ones—that’s what I’ll be doing with my treats.
I’ll be back after the holiday.

Merry Christmas!

Red Velvet Woodland Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

For one last and final time for the year, a quick Christmas post rundown (with treats easy and fast and long and arduous, too).

This year: eggnog sugar cookies
chocolate peppermint cloud cake
chocolate peppermint shortbread, 5-spice snickerdoodles, Russian teacakes, and cinnamon cereal marshmallow treats
festive marshmallow ropes

1 year ago: honey spice and dark chocolate roll-out cookies
chocolate, sour cherry, and coconut cookies, grapefruit butter cookies, and dark chocolate pecan snowcaps.
peppermint and chocolate cupcakes
souche de Noël (eggnog layer cake with ganache)

2 years ago: pepparkakor
candy cane and chocolate macarons,
Nutella and various fruity jam Linzer cookies,
maple, nutmeg, and rye roll-out cookies
gingerbread layer cake

Red Velvet Woodland Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“One can never have enough socks,” said Dumbledore. “Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn’t get a single pair.
People will insist on giving me books.”

—J.K. Rowling

Red Velvet Woodland Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Red Velvet Woodland Cake
makes 1 3-layer 6-inch cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
113 grams (8 tablespoons) butter, softened
30 grams cocoa powder
333 grams (1 1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup) sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs
2 teaspoons red gel food coloring
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
240 grams (1 3/4 cups) flour
240 mL (1 cup) buttermilk
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda

for the frosting:
175 grams (12 tablespoons) butter, soft
225 grams (8 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
115 grams (4 ounces) white chocolate, melted and cooled
450 grams (4 cups) powdered sugar

for decorating:
mini (sanitary) pine cones
kumquats
cinnamon stick bundle
mini animal figurines
sugared cranberries
berries
rosemary bundles

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 3 6-inch pans.
Beat butter until soft and light, about 3 minutes if already softened.
Add in the cocoa powder, salt, and sugar and beat for 3 full minutes; the mixture should be glossy and very fluffy.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in the eggs, food coloring, and vanilla extract.
Beat for 5 full minutes; the mixture should have tripled in size.
Scrape the bowl and dump the flour on top of the butter.
Place the baking soda over the flour.
Mix the buttermilk and vinegar together.
Start mixing the flour into the batter at a very low speed; simultaneously, start drizzling in the buttermilk.
Once all is incorporated, beat on high speed for 20 seconds to ensure homogeneity.
Portion out the batter equally into your 3 pans and bake for 20-22 minutes, until springy to the touch and a tester comes out nearly clean.
Allow to cool completely.
Make the frosting: place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat for 5 full minutes at medium speed.
Add the cream cheese and salt and beat for 2 more minutes; add the melted and cooled white chocolate and beat at high speed until  combined.
Sift in the powdered sugar and stir until combined, then beat at high speed for 2 minutes, until light and fluffy.
Stack and crumb coat the cakes, then refrigerate the cake for at least 30 minutes (leave the frosting at room temperature).
Finish icing the cake.
To decorate, tie the rosemary bundles and cinnamon bundle together with some string.
Arrange the rosemary and figurines first, then add the cinnamon and fill in with berries, kumquats, and cranberries.
Dust with powdered sugar to finish.

Slump, Grunt, Buckle

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Snorfle, sniffle, slurp.

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Can we take a moment to appreciate the ridiculous names bestowed upon cobblers, crisps, and the like?

Betty, buckle, cobbler, crisp, crumble, grunt, pandowdy, slump, zonker(????).

whaaaaaaaaa why why why why

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Despite their stupid names, these kind of desserts are delicious, and what’s more, crazy easy and fast.
Perfect when you need a quick fix of warm, cozy dessert. (Which, in my case, is 24/7.)

Chop up seasonal, fresh fruit (it can even be a little underripe.  We don’t judge here.) and toss it with some sugar, salt and flour/cornstarch.
No need to measure, just go with your heart by taste.
Top it off with buttery cookie crumbs (I wish my whole life were topped with buttery cookie crumbs) and bake it.
SO EASY GUYS WHY AREN’T WE ALL DOING IT?!

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This is the best crisp I have ever tasted. Ever.
I’ve made it a few times, in a few different forms.
The first time, about 3 years ago (is 2011 really 3 years ago?! Have mercy.), I baked it in a big heavy dish, and served it with vanilla ice cream.  I was blown away.
In fact, I was so impressed that I then made it into a crumble pie (think dutch apple pie).  The pie was good, but, can I be honest, people?  It was more work.  And the best part was the filling and topping anyways.  So I do not advocate the pie version.  It’s fussier and not worth it.  Keep it simple, stooopid.
And now, I’ve made it into tiny little individual crisps, so you don’t have to think twice about eating four.

For once in my life, I’m not exaggerating.  Seriously. Best crisp I have EVER. HAD.
Sweet and juicy from the pears, tart and punchy from the cranberries, and spicy and rich from the buttery gingersnaps.  
I’ll never look at plain pear crisps the same way.  There’s no going back once you try this combo.
Read: try this combination.  For your own sake.

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Okay, time for an explanation about these mini crisps/crumbles/whatever you want to call them.

Other than being delicious, they are dead simple.

I didn’t use a recipe.  Here’s what I did:

peel, core, and dice a couple d’anjou pears
toss ’em with lemon juice, a couple tablespoons of sugar and flour, and some fresh cranberries
throw a bunch of gingersnaps into my food processor and grind them into crumbs
add a hefty pinch of pepper, ginger, brown sugar, and salt
melt some butter and pour it in until the crumbs get clumpy
dump the fruit into serving vessels, top with a shit ton of gingersnap crumb stuff
bake until bubbling and burbling
eat
eat
eat.

If you want more solidified measurements and directions, check out Deb’s (AWESOME) recipe.  Seriously thankyouthankyou Deb for leading me to this delicious flavor combination.  Heaven.

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Let It Snow

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Delicately blue light streams in through the windows as snowflakes fall, soft and silent, to nestle in with their brothers and sisters blanketing the earth.

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Fragrant pine fills the house, as the scent of sweet spices wafts about, luring passerby into the kitchen.
The ornaments jingle as they are lifted onto the tree, one by one, until it is full up with a motley myriad of memories in the form of handmade popsicle stick and Elmer’s creations and childhood photos, as well as jewel toned orbs and sparkling glass shapes.

It’s the most wonderful time of year…

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Cheery holiday music blasts through my speakers.
Mittens, hats, scarves, and boots are donned to brave the cold.

That is, when one ventures out of the delicious warmth of a cozy bed.
There’s nothing better than sleeping in a soft, pillowy bed in a cold room, snuggled deep into goose-down comforters and blankets.
There’s nothing worse than stepping out of said bed in the pale, wintery morning light onto freezing cold hardwood floors.
Wool socks, please.

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I love winter.  I love the holiday season.  I’m home home home for three full weeks.  I’m delirious with happiness.
Sleeping in my own warm bed, showering with water pressure, yadda yadda yadda all that stuff I mentioned during Thanksgiving.
Only, this time, I get to enjoy it thoroughly, not rushed and harried.

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I have so many ideas floating through my head of what to bake; it’s all consuming.

Cakes, pastries, and so, so many cookies.
So much holiday cheer to bake into little yummies, so little time!

Of course, that’s most of what I’ll be gifting this year!  Everyone loves cookies… And I love making them.  I promise you many recipes to come.

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However, since everyone and their mother have been making gingersnaps lately, I made gingerbread.

Soft, spicy gingerbread.  Sandwiched with tart cranberry compote and bright, tangy lemon curd.  Covered in a thick blanket of creamy mascarpone frosting, and decorated with a few sparkling cranberry ornaments.

This would be a beautiful and jaw-dropping addition to a Christmas party/dinner/celebration.

Happy winter!  Keep your ovens turned on, y’all.

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Gingerbread Cake
makes a 2 layer 6-inch cake
cake portion adapted from Joy of Baking

ingredients:
for the cake:
2 cups (260 grams) flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
scant 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
big pinch ground cloves
pinch cardamom
pinch coriander
pinch ground pepper
pinch nutmeg
1/2 cup (115 grams) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (105 grams) brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup (120 grams) molasses
1/2 cup (120 grams) kefir (substitute yogurt or buttermilk)

for the cranberry compote:
3/4 cup cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup apple cider

for the lemon curd:
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (50 grams) lemon curd
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar
1 tablespoon butter

for the whipped mascarpone frosting:
2 cups (450 grams) mascarpone
1 cup (110 grams) powdered sugar
2-4 tablespoons (30-60 grams) heavy cream

for the sugared cranberries:
1 cup (240 grams) water
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
1 cup cranberries
1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar for dusting

directions:
Make the sugared cranberries:
Heat the water and first measure of sugar together in a sauce pot until sugar is dissolved.
Allow to cool and then place the cranberries into the sugar syrup.
Allow to sit overnight, or at least 5 hours.
Drain the cranberries and allow them to sit for 10 minutes to become slightly tacky.
Place the second measure of sugar in a bowl and place the cranberries in the bowl.
Shake around so that all of the cranberries are covered in sugar.

Make the cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour 2 6-inch round pans.
Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, and spices together.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar together for 3 minutes until light and fluffy.
Scrape the bowl and add the molasses and eggs; cream until the mixture is homogeneous (will be liquid).
Add in the kefir and stir to mix.
Add the dry ingredients and stir to mix.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 22-25 minutes, until center is springy and cake is fragrant.

Make the cranberry compote:
Place all ingredients in a deep pot and bring to a boil.
Allow to boil until all of the cranberries have burst and the sauce has thickened considerably.
Cool completely before using.

Make the lemon curd:
Place the lemon juice in a small sauce pot and heat until simmering.
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together well while the lemon juice heats up.
Once the juice is simmering, quickly whisk in the yolk/sugar mixture and continue to whisk and heat until the curd has thickened enough to leave a trail on the back of a spatula.
Allow to cool completely before using.

Make the mascarpone frosting:
Whip the mascarpone until very fluffy and light.
Sift in the powdered sugar and beat while streaming in 2 tablespoons of cream.
If the frosting is too thick, add 2 more tablespoons of cream, or as needed.

Assemble the cake:
Carefully split each of the layers of cake into two.
Place a dot of frosting on your cake stand or board and place the first layer onto the frosting.
Spread 1/3-1/2 of the cranberry compote onto the first layer.
Place the second layer of cake onto the first and spread with almost all of the lemon curd.
Place the third layer and spread on almost all of the remaining cranberry compote.
Top with the fourth layer and frost with the mascarpone frosting as desired.
To smooth the frosting, run a slightly hot knife over the surface of the cake.
Decorate with sugared cranberries and chopped pistachios.

Estuaire

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The tides of autumn are flowing into winter;
great gusts of wind mix and swirl leaves and snow as waves do river and sea.

The glory of fall has long since faded,
the embers that set fires to hearts gone out;
tamped down by wind and rain and snow.

Trees stand, tall and stolid, bare branches creaking and cracking,
old men straightening their backs.

Creeping ivy creeps no more, its grip on wind whipped walls failing;
stripped bare, its leaves float forgotten, the last whispers of a season.

The wind breathes deep

and the trees sleep as deeply.

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It is here, in this seasonal limbo, that I am floating
waiting
for Thanksgiving.

Y’aaaaaalll I am so excited to go home home home.  You have no idea!! I’ve finalized my menu, typed out time tables, recipes, and shopping lists.
The entire document is 10 or so pages.

(Why can’t it be so easy to write a 10 page paper?  Hmm.)

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Everyone’s gearing up for Thanksgiving.
Do some clicking around the blogs and you’ll see gorgeous, tempting foods that make me want to restart my entire menu (I won’t) or make it a meal comprised entirely of pie (I might.)

I’m sharing some of the most tempting (and hopefully inspiring!) Thanksgiving-worthy posts/recipes I’ve seen thus far.

First of all, Pie Week.  Done.  Get me into Adrianna’s kitchen.  Let me live there forever eating her lovely, inventive pies.  Please.

I fainted at the thought of cornbread+biscuit stuffing.  Also, I want to move to Tennessee/see the world through Beth’s lens.  Gorgeous.

Brown butter crumbs.  On top of cauliflower.  Glory be.  Can you imagine eating this with a poached egg?!?!

Green beans with pomelo (I so did not know what the inside of a pomelo looked like, so thanks, Heidi!).  Vegan green beans.  Vegan spinach.

This stop motion video stopped my heart.  PUMPKIN.

Speaking of pumpkin, pie.

Cranberries are among my favorite fruits.  These adorable pâte des fruits confirmed that for me.

Good luck planning your Thanksgiving menus!

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Cranberries and pumpkin are both emblematic of their respective seasons, at least for me: I associate pumpkin with fall and cranberries with winter.

Perfect for Thanksgiving, which lies along the seasonal lines in my mind.

This cake boasts the best of both.
A soft, tender pumpkin cake, fragrant with brown butter and spice, is baked on top of bubbling, jammy cranberries.

The whole thing is inverted, resulting in gorgeous ruby gems lining the top of a sweet little cake.

If you don’t like cranberries, at least promise you’ll bake the pumpkin cake.
It’s the best pumpkin cake I’ve ever tasted!  So subtly sweet and soft, and not overwhelmingly spiced or dense.  It’s light and fluffy and buttery.
Best of all, it only requires a pan, a bowl, and a whisk!  Quick and easy clean-up, which is crucial when you’re in the midst of hectic holiday cooking, I know!

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This is ~maybe~ the last pumpkin recipe of the season. I’m making something pumpkin for Thanksgiving, though, and if my calculations are correct all goes as planned, I will make, shoot, and share the 3 (three!) desserts I’m making for the hollyday, and maybe even the 8 (eight!) savory dishes I’ll be preparing.
Which would mean one more pumpkin recipe.

Sorry!

notsorryboutitpumpkingangfolyfe.

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Brown Butter Pumpkin and Cranberry Upside-Down Cake

cranberry portion adapted from Zoe Bakes
makes 1 6×3 inch cake; could be doubled for a 2.5×9 inch cake

ingredients:
for the cranberries:
340 grams (3 cups) cranberries, picked over
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
for the pumpkin cake:
25 grams (2 tablespoons) oil
115 grams (1/2 cup, 8 tablespoons) butter, browned
50 grams (1/4 cup) brown sugar
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
200 grams (3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon) pumpkin purée
180 grams (1 1/2 cups) flour
pinch kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 heaping teaspoon pumpkin spice

directions:
Butter and flour your pan very well.
In a large pot, place cranberries and first measure of sugar.
Cook over medium heat until many of the cranberries pop and the sugar melts.
Pour cranberries into pan and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Whisk oil into browned butter, then whisk in sugars and pumpkin.
Whisk the flour, salt, baking soda and powder, and spices together.
Whisk them into the butter mixture; batter will be very thick and soft.
Spread the batter over the cranberries, being careful not to mix them too much; smooth the top.
Bake for 35-40 minute, until a tester comes out completely clean.
Allow to cool almost completely before turning upside down and unmolding.
Serve with powdered sugar.