“Great cooking is not for the faint of heart.
You must be imaginative. Strong hearted.
You must try things that may not work.
And you must not let anyone define your limits because of where you come from.
What I say is true: anyone can cook, but only the fearless can be great.”
Has it been this long, really?
How could it possibly have been this long?
Such a funny, dual-sided feeling, this one.
I have been writing this blog for my whole life, and, at the same time, have been writing for all of two days.
How can this be?
I have stumbled and stubbed toes, sliced fingers and scrubbed dishes; I have burned wrists and knuckles and cookies countless, have made nine thousand messes and used an entire herd of cows’ butter; I have dropped cakes and dropped things on cakes, have cried and sworn and studied and laughed on the kitchen floor.
I have planned meticulously and tasted liberally and danced in sheer delight; I have spat out failures and hoarded successes.
I have moved and survived, have mourned and celebrated, have resisted and adapted, have failed and succeeded.
I have given in and given up.
I have poured my heart and soul and dozens of cups of cream into La Pêche Fraîche.
I have closed my eyes and stuck the pan in the oven and then, terrified, let go.
And yet here I am, still standing
knee neck-deep in flour and sugar and butter.
Here I am, crying as I write this post, laughing at myself and at this silly, silly little space.
For I may have doubted this blog, doubted my writing, my work, my thoughts, myself,
but oh, oh, I have loved, loved, loved.
188 posts prior to this one.
65 about chocolate, 55 about cake (32 about “cakes”), 50 for cookies.
43 posts in which I whine, 7 rants, 22 “stupid,” 13 diva moments.
25 brown butter, 25 holidays.
19 winter posts, but only 11 each of spring and autumn, and a sad 7 spring.
7 starry-eyed dreams, 7 cases of the blues.
39 love and 38 crazy. Coincidence? I think not.
talk whine about this, but the growth and development on this blog is remarkable to me.
Look through the archives, and the most tangible improvement– photography– is undeniable.
I won’t lie, some of the photos on this blog are downright scary.
Out of focus, underexposed, unappetizing coloring, terrible angles, lack of styling… Good grief.
However, I remind myself as I cringe, the bad photography is only a testament to my willingness to learn, to try new things, to start from nothing and improve myself.
I am proud of this blog, damn it.
I am proud of how much I have learned, both on the pâtisserie and photographic sides.
I am beyond happy to celebrate the start of a third year.
I have no intentions of stopping or slowing down.
I don’t know where this blog is leading me. I don’t know where my life is leading me.
I don’t even know where this post is leading me, for Pete’s sake.
Right now is a volatile and dynamic time in my life, and I’m doing my best to ride the waves, blind and fearful as I am.
Nevertheless, onwards I press, keys tapping and oven creaking.
I have faith that I shall better understand where I’m headed in the future.
I have faith that one day, I’ll figure my shit out.
And I have a strong suspicion that La Pêche Fraîche will be a part of it.
It’s true that there have been times when I have been scared or reluctant to press “Publish.”
There have been posts so raw with emotion that I worry what my readership will think of me.
But you have stuck with me, through all the painful changes and exciting developments.
You’ve borne all my typos and rants and sappiness.
You’ve continued on with me during the slowed down times– I can see you clicking around, probably hungry for fresh material, tired of stale old crumbs. I see you. And I appreciate you.
You’ve read through too-long and too-short posts, through my geek-outs and freak-outs.
So sometimes, goes the moral of this story, you have to let go of the pan and let the oven work its magic.
Thank you, readers, for being my oven.
Thank you for demonstrating, with your clicks and searches and comments, that it is fine for me to press publish, to let go of the pan, to reveal insecurities and intimacies to an invisible audience.
It is for you that I write LPF, and it is thanks to you that it continues to grow.
Thank you for supporting this blog, replete with sugar and silliness.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. From La Pêche Fraîche– from me.
A birthday–blog birthdays included– demands cake.
Cupcakes, cookies, pavlovas, pudding and custards, ice creams, etc., will simply not do.
It must be cake. I assure you, it must. be. cake.
Last blogiversary (May 2013) I made a brown-sugar/chocolate marble cake, filled with passionfruit curd and covered in fluffy, shiny clouds of vanilla bean Italian meringue buttercream.
The flavors were amazing– some of my absolute favorites– but I think the cake was left in the oven 3 minutes too long.
It wasn’t (ohhhh God, here it comes…) *moist* enough, in my opinion.
So though there have been many cakes in the last year, today’s cake demonstrates one way to keep your cakes from being dry and crumbly, in honor of last year’s semi-dry cake.
This year’s is a 1 bowl cake. (The frosting requires an additional pot, but whatever.)
This is a virtually fool-proof cake.
(ATTN: nerd alert. Skip to the recipe at the bottom if you don’t want to have to listen to me geek out.)
All is due to the FP FFP scheme that I have deployed here.
Fool Proof Fat Flour Paste. Sound disgusting? Well, yeah.
The idea here is that by creating a paste of the flour and fat, you coat essentially of the fat particles with starch particles.
Following this observation, then, it becomes clear that all of the starch particles are associated with fat particles, which prevents them from forming too much gluten when moistened.
Adding sugar in the form of cane sugar and milk sugar (lactose) further inhibits gluten formation.
Since all of the ingredients are thoroughly beaten together, the batter is completely homogeneous and the dry ingredients are very evenly distributed, preventing pockets of dryness or bitterness where flour or baking soda didn’t fully incorporate, and making over-beating cake batter a thing of the past.
Once moisture is added, some gluten forms, which maintains the structure of the cake.
Plenty of egg whites are added, since they contain albumen, a structural protein, that help enhance the gluten structure, ensuring the cake is sturdy, not crumbly.
Basically, by preventing too much gluten from forming, we ensure the cake is very tender and fine-crumbed, and since the fat particles have been evenly suspended in starch, as they melt, they create a very moist, soft cake.
In sum total: this cake is a tall, four-layer beauty, with a base of malted milk cake, redolent of nutty malt and laced with a hint of salt, butter, and buttermilk. The crumb is fine, tender, and soft.
The frosting is sweet and salty vanilla Italian meringue buttercream, glossy and fluffy, swaddling the cake in buttery goodness.
Finally, and most importantly, 39 ( and exactly 39) handfuls of sprinkles are thrown, haphazardly, at the cake.
The pattern that results is organic in shape but very much artificially dyed and flavored.
Sprinkles are just so happy and fun and bright and colorful and they, along with the pink frosting, make this cake so damn twee.
Once I pull out that 1 pound jar (no, I am not kidding), there’s no stopping me.
The soles of my shoes have been tracking sprinkles everywhere since I made this cake.
I may have gotten a tad bit out-of-control. Just a tad, though.
Joyeuse anniversaire, La Pêche Fraîche!
“I did then what I knew how to do.
Now that I know better, I do better.”
Malted Milk Birthday Cake
makes a 4 layer 6-inch cake or a 2 layer 8- or 9-inch cake
for the malted milk cake:
340 grams (2 3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon) all purpose flour
50 grams (5 tablespoons) cornstarch
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
scant 1 teaspoon kosher salt
113 grams (8 tablespoons) butter, softened
100 grams (8 tablespoons) shortening
350 grams (1 3/4 cups) granulated sugar
60 grams (heaping 1/2 cup) malted milk powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 egg whites
120 grams (120mL, 1/2 cup) buttermilk, cold
240 grams (240mL, 1 cup) water, cold
for the vanilla Italian meringue buttercream:
6 egg whites
3 drops (1/8 teaspoon) white vinegar
350 grams (1 1/2 cups) sugar
big pinch kosher salt
90 grams (6 tablespoons) water
660 grams (6 sticks, 1 1/2 pounds, 3 cups) butter, diced
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
drop red gel food coloring, if desired
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 4 6-inch pans or 2 8- or 9-inch pans.
Place flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer and stir to combine.
Add in the softened butter and shortening a few tablespoons at a time, mixing until a flour-fat paste forms– it will be thick like cookie dough.
Stir together the sugar and malted milk powder, then add to the flour paste, stirring slowly at first, then beating until fluffy.
Whisk together the vanilla, egg, egg whites, buttermilk, and water, then add to the batter, stirring very very slowly at first, then increasing speed to beat at high speed for 30 seconds.
Batter should be thick and creamy; if it is a tiny bit curdled, don’t worry about it.
Pour into prepared pans and bake for 35-38 minutes, until springy in the center and a tester comes out clean.
Allow to cool completely, then trim and level as needed.
Meanwhile, make the frosting: place egg whites and vinegar in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Place sugar, salt, and water in a small pot.
Begin to heat the sugar mixture on high as you whip the whites on medium speed.
When the syrup reaches 245 degrees F, your egg whites should be at firm soft peaks (almost hard peaks, but not dry).
Drizzle the syrup into the meringue with the mixer running; whip on high until cooled to body temperature.
Beat in butter one or two tablespoons at a time.
Beat buttercream on high speed until thick, glossy, and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
If buttercream is too soft, refrigerate for 20 minutes.
To assemble the cake, stack layers with 1/2-2/3 cup frosting between them.
Use about 1 cup of frosting to crumb coat and level out the cake; freeze for at least 30 minutes.
Finish the cake with the remaining frosting as desired, and add sprinkles to your heart’s content!