Time Enough

Whole Wheat Lemon Meringue Tarts | La Pêche Fraîche

The butterfly counts not months but moments and has time enough.
—Rabindranath Tagore

Whole Wheat Lemon Meringue Tarts | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy New Year my friends!
I am as belated as anyone could expect (1/24 of the year is already gone) of my sporadic blogging schedule.

Nevertheless, I hope your year has started out brilliantly and smoothly. And I hope whatever resolutions you resolved have been a fulfilling part of the beginning of 2017. May they become habits and continue for the long run!
I have been studying non-stop for my MCAT, which will be mercifully finished in exactly 4 days/96 hours… Annnndd cue the oh-my-god-that-is-terrifyingly-soon panic attack.

Whole Wheat Lemon Meringue Tarts | La Pêche Fraîche

Anyways, I haven’t done much of anything fun or new in 2017. I’ve been getting back into a regular gym/lifting routine after doing yoga for all of December, and that feels damn good.
(On that note, anyone have any really good music they’ve been grooving to at the gym? I need to update my playlist ASAP.)
I want to clean out my closet (especially since I’m leaving it in just a few short months, ACK!) and give my room a deep clean, but right now I’m barely getting laundry done, let alone dusting and wiping and organizing.
I guess my fresh start will come more towards February! Or March! Or… It can always be Spring Cleaning.

Whole Wheat Lemon Meringue Tarts | La Pêche Fraîche

Starting off the blank slate of this year with something light and lemony feels right.
Three years ago (HOW) I made this pavlova with Greek yogurt, thyme, and berries for the same reason.

These cute little tarts are made of a buttery, whole wheat shortbread base (the WW actually adds a nice hint of nuttiness), filled with simple, creamy lemon curt, and topped off with some sweet, toasted (~er… burnt) meringue.
I love the shape of the rectangle tarts—I used a silicon mold—but you could definitely make this in an 8-inch pan.

It’s a quick recipe that’s sure to impress, and perfect for a lighter January treat!

Whole Wheat Lemon Meringue Tarts | La Pêche Fraîche

Back soon with cake! And Valentine’s treats, hopefully. x

Whole Wheat Lemon Meringue Tarts | La Pêche Fraîche

Whole Wheat Lemon Meringue Tarts
makes 8 small tarts or 1 8-inch tart

for the crust:
240 grams (2 cups) AP flour
120 grams (1 cup) white whole wheat flour
225 grams (2 sticks) unsalted butter
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

for the lemon curd:
3 medium egg yolks (or 2 extra-large)
240 grams (1 cups) water
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
28 grams (1/4 cup) cornstarch
27 grams (1/8 cup, 2 tablespoons) butter
zest of 1 lemons
juice of 1 1/2 lemons (approximately 1/4 cup)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

for the meringue:
2 egg whites
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
45 grams (3 tablespoons) water

directions:
Make the crust: place butter, sugar, eggs, salt, and vanilla into the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high speed for 5-6 full minutes, or until completely homogeneous, fluffy, light in color, and doubled in volume.
Stir in the flours until dough comes together; roll out to 1/4 inch thickness and line tart pans/pan of choice.
Prick all over and then freeze for at least 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F; bake tart shells lined with foil and weighted with pie weights, dry rice, or beans for 8-12 minutes, depending on size and thickness of crust.
Crust should be dry to the touch, golden, and fragrant when done.
Meanwhile, make the lemon curd: place water in a pot over high heat; bring to a boil.
Stir in the cornstarch and sugar and bring back to a boil while stirring constantly; mixture will be quite thick and opaque.
Remove mixture from heat and, whisking vigorously, add the egg yolks.
Return to heat and bring back to a boil while whisking the entire time.
Remove from the heat and stir in the butter; whisk until an emulsion forms.
Add in the lemon zest, juice, and vanilla and whisk until incorporated.
Allow to cool completely, pressing plastic wrap over the top to prevent a skin from forming.
Fill cooled tart shells with chilled lemon curd.
Make the meringue: place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Add the vinegar and start to whip.
Stir the sugar, cornstarch, and salt together.
As the egg whites become frothy, add the sugar mixture in tablespoons, until the meringue is glossy and shiny and all of the sugar is incorporated.
Using a piping bag fitted with a French or star tip, pipe the meringue onto the tarts, then torch if desired.

Vingt-Et-Un

Birthday Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

“Strange is our situation here upon earth.
Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to a divine purpose.
From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: That we are here for the sake of others…for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy. Many times a day, I realize how much my outer and inner life is built upon the labors of people, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received and am still receiving.”
― Albert Einstein, Living Philosophies

Birthday Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

Three years ago, on the cusp of adulthood—18 starry-eyed years come and gone—I was packing up to come to UChicago.
Growing up in two big ways, simultaneously.
I was scared and melancholy to say goodbye to my so-called childhood and my home, my whole body jangly with nerves.

Things are very different this time around: I’m turning 21, about to start my last year of college—comfortable in my home away from home.
I’m supposed to already be an adult, but I’m not at all sure if I’m more confident in where my life seems to be heading. The only thing I’m certain of is that time has, miraculously, begun passing much, much faster.
I always feel this way on my birthdays (but it’s not a feeling exclusive to my b-day. Because, neuroses and all).

Birthday Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

This is the first birthday that I will not spend in Ithaca, in the home I grew up in.
It feels a little strange, to be sure, to not be sitting at the kitchen counter writing this and eating cake.
It’s also the first birthday I will spend away from my amazing parents, who have given me everything and more over the years.
When I’m not with them, I never don’t miss them. But I’m indulging in a ~little~ extra pining today. It is the first, after all!

Luckily for me, I got to FaceTime them this morning and this afternoon, Nati surprised me with flowers, so I know I won’t feel too discomfited today.

Birthday Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

Pavlova is my favorite dessert, which is why I like to have it for my birthday cake!

I kept this one simple and classic, with three layers of crisp meringue, marshmallow-y on the inside, fluffy whipped cream, tart, luscious lemon curd, and strawberries and raspberries.

They almost inevitably crack and begin to slide and crumple when you try to cut a slice, so I usually go the loser route and stick the whole thing in a bowl when this happens.
Voilà, Eton mess!
If the prospect of your lovely pastry ending up a wonky mess in a bowl makes you nervous, take a couple shots and just cut the damn thing. With determination, I think it can be done.

Otherwise, pavlova taste just as good when scooped with a spoon.
Take it from me.

Birthday Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

Birthday pavlovas, previously:
18 years old
20 years old

(…And a New Year’s pavlova, for good measure.)

Birthday Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche
Lemon Berry Pavlova
makes 1 3-layer 8-inch cake

ingredients:
for the meringue:
8 egg whites
1 tablespoon vinegar
400 grams (2 cups) sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
pinch of salt

for the lemon curd:
5 egg yolks
480 grams (2 cups) water
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
56 grams (1/2 cup) cornstarch
55 grams (1/4 cup, 4 tablespoons) butter
zest of 2 lemons
juice of 3 lemons (approximately 1/2 to 1/3 cup)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

to assemble:
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 punnet raspberries
10-15 strawberries
powdered sugar, optional

directions:
Make the meringue: preheat oven to 250 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment; draw 3 8-inch circles on the paper.
Place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Add the vinegar and start to whip.
Stir the sugar, cornstarch, and salt together.
As the egg whites become frothy, add the sugar mixture in tablespoons, until the meringue is glossy and shiny and all of the sugar is incorporated.
Using a piping bag fitted with a French or star tip, pipe the meringue into circles on the parchment.
Bake for 2 hours, then turn off the oven and allow to cool inside the   oven to prevent cracks.
Meanwhile, make the lemon curd: place water in a pot over high heat; bring to a boil.
Stir in the cornstarch and sugar and bring back to a boil while stirring constantly; mixture will be quite thick and opaque.
Remove mixture from heat and, whisking vigorously, add the egg yolks.
Return to heat and bring back to a boil while whisking the entire time.
Remove from the heat and stir in the butter; whisk until an emulsion forms.
Add in the lemon zest, juice, and vanilla and whisk until incorporated.
Allow to cool completely, pressing plastic wrap over the top to prevent a skin from forming.
To assemble, whip the cream to stiff peaks, then stir in the starch and sugar.
Layer the meringue disks with lemon curd, then whipped cream, then a few berries in between; pile the rest of the berries on top and dust with powdered sugar, if desired.

Decade II

Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche FraîchePassionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

She said,
“I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.
I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one.
I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone.  People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.
I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but
people will never forget how you made them feel.”

—Maya Angelou

Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche FraîchePassionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

It doesn’t really feel like my birthday today.
It couldn’t possibly be.
And yet here I am, turning twenty.
My body and soul have completed one more trip around the sun.
September 16th.
20 years old; 2 decades done and dusted.
Today is a very special day; it’s the day when all my Facebook friends will murmur their felicitations on my wall.
Hbd, hbd.  Heartfelt.  Ha. Ha.
But in all seriousness—and maybe it seems too cliché and millennial—these little reminders are a sweet part of the day; after all, people are taking their time out to send me a little wish.
It would be wasteful to not be thankful, although my friends and I no longer keep count the way we did in middle school.
Thank God.

Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche FraîchePassionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

As I age (o, le pauvre, j’suis vraiment trop vielle…), birthdays become a new sort of clarifying moment.
What becomes important and what falls out of magnification are telling.
That which I reflect upon, replaying over and over, and those minutiae that I let fall to the wayside simply because they are heavy are telling.
Somehow, the nights that bookend my Glorious Day of Birth find me in tears and astounded gratitude for my life/the world.
I aim more and more, these days, to take nothing for granted.  To live and revel in what is important, and let all else go.  In some ways, to depart from my hyper uptight nature.
Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche FraîchePassionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

When I was little (very little and even not-so-little), my birthdays would always, always end in a tantrum, in a great storm cloud of frustration and sadness and lots and lots of crying.
Why?
I’m not quite sure why, exactly.
There was always such a buildup of excitement and anticipation; I think we’re all familiar with the over-hype of a birthday.
I’m type-A, to say the least; even when I was 5, when the smallest thing would go wrong with the endless and carefully laid plans that my mom and dad had made, tailored to my obsessive specifications, I would melt (Princess hats must be more CONE-shaped, Mummy, and they must be pink satin).
My parents, patient pillars that they are, would herd the little party guests away from their red-faced, sobbing spawn.

Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

When I think back on these times (and, curiously, I do remember snippets from these parties, though little else from that age remains in the dusty cabinets of my brain), I laugh and cringe and feel ashamed.
But mostly, I am moved and inspired by what my creators put up while at the mercy of my meaty little birthday paws.
I feel their love and forbearance even through the years.

I couldn’t ask for better birthday memories than those.

Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche FraîchePassionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

It’s strange to think of how old I have become.
Even stranger to think how it must look to others.
I am, after all, the baby of the family.
My brothers wonder that I’m not still 8; my parents marvel at the years that have flown by; my peers are suspicious that I haven’t been 23 this entire time…
I don’t know which age I perceive myself to be.  I just know it can’t possibly be twenty—that number feels like an ill-fitting shoe on the wrong foot for now.
But it will wear in (gracefully, I pray), and by the time 21 and Adulthood roll around, I know that I shall be twenty through and through.  Just in time to start over again.

Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

A pavlova is my idea of a perfect birthday cake.
It is the ultimate dessert for me—no question about it.
So light, so airy and fluffy—the perfect cloud of dessert.
I, of course, prefer primarily fruity sweets to deep, dark chocolaty ones.
And my birthday cake is therefore appropriately fruitful.

A very sturdy, slow-baked meringue with a hint of salt forms the layers of the cake.
Tart, buttery, and unmistakably fruity passionfruit-lemon curd is spread over, then topped with smooth, cool whipped cream.
Jewel-like late-season raspberries accentuate each layer, as do light lashings of dark chocolate nutella ganache, a perfect rich and sweet foil to the tart fruits.

Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

Each bite is a harmonious melange of textures and flavors.  It’s a birthday cake perfectly suited to my tastes, and it is simply delicious!
P.S. I actually like making my own birthday cakes, because then I don’t have to feel a single ounce of guilt for cutting into it early for photographs!

Too bad pavs don’t cut very cleanly…!
I preemptively put this one in a bowl and used a spoon to scoop; the first cut rendered it utterly slippery and slidey and it was not long for the layered life.
Now, it’s an Eaton mess.  And I ain’t even worried.

Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

The monument of a memory
You tear it down in your head
Don’t make the mountain your enemy
Get out, get up there instead
You saw the stars out in front of you
Too tempting not to touch
But even though it shocked you
Something’s electric in your blood.

Various Storms and Saints, Florence and the Machine

Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova
makes 1 8-inch pavlova

ingredients:
for the meringue layers:
100 grams (10 large) egg whites
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vinegar
500 grams (2 1/2 cups) sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
pinch kosher salt

for the passionfruit curd:
125 grams (1/2 cup) passionfruit pulp, thawed if frozen
2 egg yolks
3 eggs
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon cornstarch
150 grams (6 ounces) butter, cold

to assemble:
60 grams (2 ounces) dark chocolate, chopped
45 grams (3 tablespoons) heavy cream
2 tablespoons nutella
pinch kosher salt

3 cups heavy cream, cold

raspberries

directions:
Make the meringue: preheat oven to 250 degrees F and line 2 being sheets with parchment; draw 3 8-inch circles on the paper.
Place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Add the cream of tartar and vinegar and start to whip.
Stir the sugar, cornstarch, and salt together.
As the egg whites become frothy, add the sugar mixer in tablespoons, until the meringue is glossy and shiny and all of the sugar is incorporated.
Using a palette knife, spread the meringue into rough circles on the parchment, using the knife to create high sides.
Bake for 5 hours, then turn off the oven and allow to cool inside the   oven to prevent cracks.
Meanwhile, make the passionfruit curd: whisk passionfruit pulp, eggs, egg yolks, sugar, salt, and lemon juice together.
Place cold butter in a food processor or blender.
Cook over medium heat; sift cornstarch over while whisking; bring to a boil.
When curd comes to a boil and thickens, pour over cold butter; start the machine and process until the butter has emulsified.
Allow to cool completely, then press a piece of plastic wrap against  the surface and refrigerate until chilled.
To assemble, melt the chocolate, nutella, salt, and cream together, then whip vigorously until shiny and thick.
Whip the cream to stiff peaks.
Place 1 layer of meringue on a cake plate; secure the bottom with a dollop of curd if desired.
Spread a layer of curd onto the meringue, then a layer of whipped cream.
Drizzle a little chocolate sauce onto the whipped cream, then place a few raspberries.
Repeat the process with the remaining layers; finish the top with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, if desired.
Best eaten the day it is made.

Tårta

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O, Pivoine

From verdant buds they did erupt;
from tight globes came flowers flush.
O, the peonies blossomed,
fat and full,
on a day that promised rain.
A hundred thousand petals unfurled
as a misty dawn hid the moon away.
Their silken scent clung to the breeze;
the honeyed air wound in my hair
and the sultry day perfumed.
Now they droop under heat and sun
and wish they were not troubled so.
But I still love their burdened blooms
and kneel to smell them all.

–6/9/2014

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A poem shared for spring, for summer, as the seasons transition like sand slipping twixt our fingers.

Flowers have bloomed and trees have greened; buds become fruits slowly but surely.
The bounty of summer prostrates itself beneath our greedy, hungry fingers as a fat, juicy, sprawling spread.
I mean, have you seen the peaches coming in right now?

To market, to market, to pick the reddest fruits.
To market, to market, for armfuls of darkest greens.
Here’s to fresh produce and to the beginning of a fruitful (vegetal?) summer.

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Yes! The summer solstice has come and gone.  It’s officially summer!
It’s sunny and hot and green!
(Can I be tanned yet?!)

I have no real responsibilities (Scary that I’m feeling a little… bored?) and am able to spend the day daydreaming about pastries and makeup and shoes and big salads.
I can get my nails done, oh luxury of luxuries, and–soon–my hair cut.

It will be my first time getting a real haircut in so so long.  I’m scared to cut off too much!  I recently took off an inch and half (thanks to my mama), so I’ll probably take off another inch and a half and call it quits.
My mermaid hair is definitely my security blanket– anyone else feel this way?

I’ve also been watching the World Cup and really enjoying it.
This is my first time seriously following along.
Fuuuutbol, y’all.

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This luscious tart was inspired by a great trio of flavors: strawberry, lemon, and black pepper.

I originally wanted to garnish with candied celery leaves, but decided against it when they came out a little wonky and far too sugar-coated.  Celery+strawberry+black pepper is a bomb-ass combination though, so keep it in mind.

I also played with the idea of a lemon-ricotta filling, which would be marvelous if you want to give it a try, but I didn’t want to bake twice–it’s summer, after all, and my kitchen is hot as hell as is.

One tip that I wish I had foreseen: add a few extra grinds of black pepper to your crust than you think are necessary.
That way, you ensure that you’ll get a burst of gentle heat in each bite.
It’s a perfect foil to the sweet strawbs and tart lemon.

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In the end, the tart is made up of a black pepper crust, buttery and a hint spicy, filled with a rich, round lemon curd filling and topped with as many of the season’s reddest, juiciest strawberries as can possibly fit. 

The whole thing is utterly divine, each mouthful embodying the fresh, bold flavors of summer.
Tart, sweet, spicy, buttery, crisp, lush, juicy.
(Adjective addict.)

This tart is, quite possibly, my ideal.
You know I prefer fruit over chocolate, and citrus is arguably my favorite.
While it’s often showcased in the winter, with the addition of summer-sweet strawberries, lemon launches fully into the appropriate season.
It lasted <24 hours in my household– always a good sign!

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“In case you ever foolishly forget, I am never not thinking of you.”

–Virginia Woolf

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Strawberry, Lemon, and Black Pepper Tart
makes 1 14×4 inch tart

ingredients:
for the black pepper shell:
8 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8-1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 egg yolk
1 cup flour

for the lemon curd filling:
2 lemons
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
pinch kosher salt
1 teaspoon corn starch
4 tablespoons butter

to assemble:
27 small to medium strawberries
lemon marmalade, optional

directions:
Make the tart crust: beat butter on high speed in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 2 minutes.
Stream in the sugar and salt slowly, then beat for another 2 minutes.
Add in the black pepper and egg yolk, scrape the sides of the bowl, and beat for 2 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl, add in the flour, and mix on low until the dough forms– it should be clumpy but not 1 cohesive mass.
Press clumps evenly into tart pan; prick all over with a fork.
Freeze for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line the tart shell with aluminum foil, then fill it with pie weights or beans.
Bake for 15 minutes, until set, then remove the foil and pie weights carefully.
Return to oven for 5-7 minutes, until lightly golden.
Remove tart shell from oven and let cool.
Meanwhile, make the filling: zest 1 of the lemons and set the zest aside.
Juice both of the lemons to obtain 1/4 cup juice.
Place juice, eggs, sugar, salt, and cornstarch in a sauce pot.
Whisk vigorously to combine, then cook over low heat for 15 minutes, or until thickened enough that a finger dragged along a spatula leaves a trail.
Remove from heat and whisk in butter and zest.
Place hot curd in a food processor and pulse for 30-45 seconds, until lightened in color and slightly cooler.
Pour warm curd into warm tart shell, smoothing the top.
Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to one night.
To assemble the tart, hull the strawberries.
Line them up next to the tart shell to judge how they will fit.
Cut off small slices from the strawberries on the side if they will not fit, then snuggle them into the center strawberry.
Heat up a few tablespoons of lemon marmalade, then brush over strawberries if desired.
Best if enjoyed the day it is made, but it will save reasonably well overnight in the fridge.

FOTA

Chiaroscuro LARGE

CHIAROSCURO

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

Chiaroscuro SMALL II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fragola LARGE

FRAGOLA

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

Fragola SMALL I

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

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

Fragola SMALL II

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

Tuolo LARGE

TUORLO

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

Tuolo SMALL I

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

Tuolo SMALL II

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

Janvier

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“There are many things we would throw away if we were not afraid that others might pick them up.”

-Oscar Wilde

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January is a fragile month.
The new year is only just hatching, stretching its wings, ruffling its feathers, blinking awake.
The sun is slowly becoming stronger, the days longer.

It is the month of resolutions, ever so delicate, easily crushed in their nascence.

We are all only dipping our toes in the cold, cold new waters.
Not a one of us knows what the year will bring—a terrifying and invigorating prospect.

How has it come to pass that the end of this first month of 2014 is nigh?
January has flown by in a blur, spinning me around in a whirled frenzy of snow and wind.
I shiver to think of what this year holds—whether it is borne from excitement or dread, I cannot say.
It could also be the ungodly cold here in Chicago.  I don’t know.

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January is a month of citrus.
Though, I must admit, you cannot tell as much from my archives.

January 2013: puff pastry tutorial, coconut mochi, s’mores cake, conversation heart cookies, nutella-raspberry-brown butter crumb bars, maple-bacon and Vietnamese coffee doughnuts, gâteau des rois.  Only one had citrus…
January 2014: Peppermint-chocolate cookies, PB cupcakes, pear-cranberry-ginger crisps, earl grey cupcakes.  Ahem.  Still none.

This pavlova is my answer, my remedy, then, to the absent citrus in what I have just declared to be a month of citrus.
Specifically, lemon.
January is a lemon month.

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Lemon.  Perky, bright, sunny.
Lemon.  Tart, balancing, acidic.
Lemon lemon lemon, I’d choose over chocolate any day.  (Freak.)

The first time I met a meyer lemon was 2006.
I received the January issue of Martha Stewart Living.
As I tore through it, my 11 year old self soaking in every hit of inspiration, I fell upon this cake.
I wanted to cry.  I wanted to make this cake so incredibly badly, but knew it was out of my reach.

This cake prominently featuring these mysterious meyer lemons was all I wanted.  And I couldn’t have it.
I begged my parents to let me make it.
They said, “um… no. We don’t need a 3 foot high, 3 tier meyer lemon cake.  Stop reading Martha Stewart, you little weirdo.

Everything was so beautiful and yellow and happy and lemony.
It was torture.
And what the hell was a meyer lemon, anyway?

Can you tell what a strange, disturbed child I was?  A Martha Stewart addict from a young age.
It explains so much, don’t it?

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In a month where stagnation is banished, where the wheels are turning and the world is changing, lemon is ideal.
It’s fresh and lively, something which I appreciate when the fresh produce situation is somewhat abysmal.
Lemon never fails to awaken the palette.
It’s a clean flavor, and after all the heavy desserts of December, we can all use a flavor boost.

Pavlova.  Also perfectly suited for January, with its light airiness and minimal sweetness.
Good for resolution breaking, but not resolution destroying, ja feel?

It’s probably my favorite dessert.  Which is a big, big deal.
I wrote a sonnet inspired by rhubarb, which was featured in my first pavlova. (I have no words for the white balance in those photos.  Please accept my apologies.)
I had pavlova for my 18th birthday cake, a simple one-layer affair, covered in coconut/mascarpone fluff, passionfruit sauce, and tumbling raspberries.

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And now, here we are.
This pavlova focuses on tartness, allowing the meyer lemons to shine.

A supremely light meringue base, crispy and crackling on the exterior, pillowy marshmallow on the inside, is
layered with barely sweetened Greek yogurt,
thick and luscious meyer lemon curd,
fresh bites of strawberries and raspberries, and
finished with a sprinkle of earthy, grounding thyme and
tart, chewy candied meyer lemons.

My pavlova cracked, pretty badly.  I ain’t stressed about it.
See, I thought it would be genius to layer the yogurt and curd onto the layers before stacking them.
What anybody with a shred of common sense would quickly see is that the meringue was too delicate and fragile to stand up to the thick sauces and promptly crrrrrraacked.  *shit shit shit*
Oops.  It’s okay.  Pavlovas crack and crumble; it’s part of their personality, their patina.
Get over it.

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Once I was done photographing the cake, I realized how futile it would be to try to keep it on the cake pedestal.
It was already slip sliding around, as I didn’t secure it to the stand with a daub of lemon curd, as I should have.
Things were cracking, falling, toppling.
So, I plopped it into a bowl, shoved the leftover fruits on top, and called it a day.

The secret?  It tastes just as good smashed up, packed into a bowl, smashed to bits and spooned straight into your mouth as it does dressed up, stacked, and eaten from a proper plate.

And thank goodness for that.

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Meyer Lemon, Berry, Thyme, and Yogurt Pavlova
meringue base from Donna Hay
lemon curd adapted from Use Real Butter
ingredients:
for the meringue base:
4 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons white vinegar

for the lemon curd:
1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons cornstarch
4 egg yolks, beaten
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup meyer lemon juice
zest of 2 meyer lemons

for the candied lemons:
2 meyer lemons, sliced very thinly
2 cups sugar
2 cups water

to assemble:
3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 pint strawberries, 1/2 hulled and sliced, 1/2 whole
1 cup raspberries
Fresh thyme

directions:
Make the meringue base:
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment.
Trace 2 6-inch circles (you could do 8- or 9-inch, but it won’t be as tall.) with pencil, then turn the paper over.
Begin to whip egg whites with a stand mixer.
When soft peaks are just starting to form, stream in the sugar very slowly, one tablespoon at a time, until the meringue has reached very stiff peaks.
Gently fold in the vinegar and cornstarch.
Spread the meringue out around the traced circles.
Bake for an hour and a half, then turn off the oven and allow the pavlova to cool completely inside the oven.

Make the lemon curd:
Place water and sugar in a large pot.
Bring to a boil, then whisk in cornstarch.
Bring to a boil; mixture will be very thick and gloppy.
While whisking egg yolks, take a spoonful of the cornstarch mixture and quickly combine; continue to add, by the spoonful, until about 1/3 of the hot cornstarch mixture has been added.
Whisk the egg yolk mixture back into the corn starch mixture, and return to very low heat.
Whisk in the butter, then, off the heat, carefully whisk in the lemon juice and zest.
If any lumps are present, blitz the curd in a blender until smooth.

Make the candied lemons:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and prepare an ice bath.
Place the very thinly sliced lemons in the boiling water and cook for 20 seconds.
Remove to the ice bath and allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, add 2 cups sugar and 2 cups water to the pot and bring to a simmer, until the sugar is dissolved.
Add the lemon slices and allow to simmer for 45 minutes, until softened and no longer bitter.

Assemble the pavlova:
Whisk the yogurt and confectioner’s sugar together.
Spread a thin layer over the first pavlova layer, then spread half of the lemon curd onto the yogurt.
Top with the sliced strawberries and a sprinkling of thyme.
Add the second meringue disk, and top with the remaining yogurt and lemon curd.
Arrange the fruit on top of the lemon curd, and sprinkle more thyme leaves over.
Serve with a spoon, in bowls.

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.

Brass Monkey

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Winter is coming.

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Note.

Sidenote: I cannot wait for February 2014.  I’m dying with anticipation for Season 4 of what is arguably the best television series ever made.
And yes, I’m willing to make that argument.

My dad and I good-naturedly disagree about this all the time.

Speaking of my dad, he’s here in Chicago visiting me and giving a talk at the Booth school.  I’m sitting here writing this while he works next to me at the Quad Club.

We just had dinner at the Green Zebra…

Life is good.

Edit: Sitting in Harper Memorial.  Just ate breakfast at the dining hall.  Wish I were at the QC.  Wish I had just eaten at the Green Zebra.

Sigh.

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One thing I miss most about home is the leisure time spent watching my favorite shows avec mon papa.

I’m going through serious withdrawals, because while we have a Slingbox, I just don’t have enough time to sit down and watch the many hours of TV that have racked up.  I wish I did, but I don’t.  For a period of time, he was in London, and that didn’t help either.  Oh well.

Also, I just miss spending time with him and my mama and mes animaux.

I’m so grateful that he is here this weekend, and I’m incredibly excited to go home for Thanksgiving, which is already my favorite hollyday.

Incredibly. Excited.

Likeyoudon’tevenknow.

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It has been pretty bracingly cold in Chicago over the last few days.
I can’t say I’m surprised or unused to this type of weather, since Ithaca has very similar weather patterns (it generally lags 1 or 2 days behind Chicago weather, but is temperature-wise very similar), but it sure came on fast.

Supposedly, it will be 64 on Sunday…  Again, can’t say I’m surprised.

But three short days ago, it was 27 degrees F with the sun out, not including the windchill.

Edit: It’s around 45-50 degrees out today.  Gorgeous.  Perfect.  My kind of weather.  Cool enough to be comfortable.  Warm enough to be pleasant.  

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Enter: bread pudd’n.
Hot, crunchy, citrusy, and custard-like, it’s a great comfort dessert.
The bread pieces on top are crunchy and crispy from the almonds and extra sugar which caramelizes in the oven.
Those on bottom are soft and gooey, bathed in custard redolent of citrus and butter.
It’s an eggy delight, and so simple!

I would love to be curled up on a couch right now, wrapped in blankets, with a steaming bowl full of bread pudding topped with a great mound of softly whipped cream and powdered sugar, watching Game of Thrones.

Can someone come make that happen?

Like, now?

Guys?

Anyone?

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Orange and Lemon Bread Pudding
ingredients:
5 eggs
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar
pinch kosher salt
2 1/3 cups milk
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon
1 batch orange curd, fully cooled (recipe below)
1 1/2 loaves soft Italian bread
turbinado and granulated sugar, for sprinkling
handful almond slices, for garnish
powdered sugar and softly whipped cream, for serving

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter a 12-inch round pan (or other pan of comparable size).
Slice your bread into slices between 1/2 and 3/4 inch thick.
Whisk eggs, milk, lemon zest and juice, sugar, and salt together.
Spread each of the sides of each of your slices of bread with orange curd, then arrange them in your pan.
Pour the milk and egg mixture over the slices of bread, making sure that they all get at least partially covered.
Sprinkle heavily with turbinado and granulated sugar.
Bake for 30 minutes, turning halfway through, until custard is set but slightly wobbly.
Garnish with lots of almonds and stick back in the oven for 5 minutes, to let the almonds toast up a little bit.
Remove from oven and let cool slightly, then dust with powdered sugar and serve.
Bread pudding and whipped cream or ice cream are a match made in the heavens above.  Do it.

Orange Curd:
ingredients:
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
zest of 2 oranges
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
pinch salt
1 egg plus 2 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vinegar or lemon juice
8 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks

directions:
Whisk sugar, juice, zest, cornstarch, salt, and eggs together in a pot.
Begin to heat over low-medium heat until it comes to a boil; allow to cook until thick.
Remove from heat and whisk in vinegar or lemon juice.
Either transfer to a stand blender or use a hand blender: blend in the chunks of butter until the curd is very smooth and silky.
Allow to cool, then transfer to the fridge with a piece of clingfilm placed directly on the surface of the curd to cool completely.

Make It Work

Watch out, because whether you like it or not, I’m sharing some shi stuff that I’m loving right now.
This post is peppered with links.  Click ’em!
Meow.
Reading Blood and Beauty, a fabulously intricate novel about the Borgia family in 15th century Italy, by Sarah Dunant.
This book is right up my alley. I love historical-fiction novels about European monarchies. (Speaking of which, I’ve just binge-watched the first season of the Tudors.)
Also reading Dash and Bella, a new-to-me blog that makes me laugh and cry and cry and laugh.
Seriously, I read every single post in the span of two days.
I cried three times and laughed the whole way through.
Phyllis is an amazingly personable writer who has a way of transporting her reader into her kitchen.
In other words, she is not a terrible writer.
Watching Pirate Radio, a movie set in 1960s Britain on none other than a pirate radio ship.
I’m actually writing this right after having finished this movie, so it’s still fresh in my mind.
My final thoughts- they did an awesome job with the music and the actors captured the very British and very raucous, racy mood perfectly.
Also watching the new season of Project Runway… Gosh how I love Tim Gunn.
I’ve been watching Project Runway with my dad since the second season.
It’s one of our shows, among the ranks of GoT, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Top Chef, Veep, etc.
Carry on!
Listening to lots of the Rolling Stones- I love rock n roll in the summer time. It makes me feel extra free and fun.
Also listeningthis song by Ellie Goulding. Love!
Making these tarts, for a little dinner party, filling them with luscious lime curd and deep dark chocolate ganache.
Also making ice creams and summer succotashes served with hot sauce and scrambled eggs, dreaming of making malasadas and hand pies and ice cream cakes. (I’ll back quite soon with some of these delights!)
Raspberry Tartlettes
makes 5 or 6 small tartlettes or 1 9-inch tart
for the pâte sucrée shells:
ingredients:
12 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups flour
2 medium egg yolks, or one large/extra-large
directions:
Cream the butter, salt, and sugar together on high for 5 minutes, until very fluffy and extremely pale.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the flour, mixing only until the mixture is starting to form large curds.
Add the egg yolks with the mixer running and mix until a cohesive dough comes together.
Press into tartlette molds or a 9 inch tart pan.
Prick all over with a fork, then freeze for at least 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake the shells until they are golden and slightly tanned, 15-18 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
for the lime curd:
ingredients:
3/4 cup lime juice
scant 1 cup sugar
zest of 2 limes
pinch kosher salt
5 medium egg yolks, or 4 large/extra-large
8 tablespoons butter, cold and cubed
directions:
In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, rub the lime zest and sugar together until fragrant.
Add in the egg yolks, lime juice, and salt and whisk to combine.
Heat over medium-low heat until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens, about 10 minutes.
The mixture should be thick enough to leave a trail when a spatula is dragged through.
Either transfer mixture to a blender or blend with an immersion blender.
Add in the butter chunks one at a time, blending to emulsify. (If you use a real blender, you can throw half of all the chunks in and just do it in two additions.)
Allow the curd to cool completely before using.
for the salted dark chocolate ganache:
ingredients:
3/4 cup dark chocolate, either chips or chunks, at least 70% cocoa
3 tablespoons heavy cream, or as needed
pinch sea salt
directions:
In a microwave or over a double boiler, melt the chocolate until it is 2/3 of the way melted. (In a microwave, nuke it in 25 second blasts, stirring between each.  You will probably need 3 blasts, but it depends on the wattage of your microwave.)
Stir in the heavy cream and sea salt and heat just a little more, to melt it 3/4 of the way.
(In a microwave, this will probably be a 15 second burst.)
Finally, stir the mixture very well until it becomes shiny and glossy.
Allow to cool to body temperature before using.
to assemble:
Fill each of the tartelette shells with a scant 1/2 cup of either mixture.
Smooth out with a small offset spatula or a butter knife.
Decorate with raspberries (you’ll need about 2 pints) and dust with powdered sugar.