Rarest


To live is the rarest thing in the world.
Most people just exist.

—Oscar Wilde

I have been trying my best to feel lucky and blessed as I welcome in September and fall this week, as so many have suffered so much at the hands of hurricane season already.

I hope all of you, your loved ones, and your far-flung, little-known Facebook friends are safe and dry in the wake of Harvey/Irma.
The images and videos splashed across the television could only be described as living nightmares; I can’t fathom what it is like to have it happen to you. I am deeply impressed and moved by people like Dana from Minimalist Baker and Miley Cyrus (boy that feels strange to say) who went to work using their platforms to do good in the immediate aftermath of the storm.
There do exist good people, after all.

This photo reminder of Sandy from National Geographic is humbling.
It stopped me in my tracks. It looks like a tumblr-shopped photo that would have some dreamy teenage quote scrawled across the turquoise waters in white script. Or from a different lens, a still from a horror movie about a mysterious, flooded amusement park.
What I mean to say is that it doesn’t look real.
And when you realize that it is all too real, that these really are our coasts swallowed by our angry seas—that this alternate universe is the one we’re living in, not a photoshopped dimension nor a movie set—it is the most pin-prickling sensation of all.
I can’t stop staring at that photograph.

Yes, September is here. 2017 lumbers towards its final quarter and autumn approaches.
The gingko trees outside my gym have been absolutely crowing about it for the last week and a half, daintily dropping canary-colored leaves, proud to be the first harbingers.
They don’t know, but marketers—frantic from huffing their pumpkin spice—had them beat, what with orangey, latte-scented everything having been regurgitated onto seemingly every store shelf before Labor Day.

I picked up a little coffee colored candle from the heady essential oil slick that is the Whole Body section of Whole Foods the other day. It smelled so, so good. And I turned it around, and I am ashamed to admit that it was just a bougie pumpkin spice latte candle. I quickly put it down, label facing away, and walked away before anyone saw my guilty enjoyment. Ha!

I am accustomed to the smell of cool, crisp fall nights, the kind that allow you to throw windows open and burrow under covers and dream deeply. It is part of what makes this season my very favorite.

It is still early, of course, but I have discovered that this pleasure of mine will not be so while living in my New York apartment and in my current headspace.
I sleep uneasily in my little bedroom perfumed with bergamot and Bleu de Chanel, my air-conditioner whirring and faint clangs of the pizza shop downstairs and bleating horns from the street very gently punctuating the quiet.
It is my space, and it is clean and comfortable and well cared-for.
Yet somehow, it is still foreign.
It is not unfamiliar in a sterile way, like a hotel might be, nor is it unsettling like a stranger’s home.
Certainly, it is a part of me—I labored to build every little detail, and my fingerprints and errant DNA are smeared everywhere.
I live here. Permanently. As in, I’m not going back to school; I’m not a student anymore.
I’m not going back home; I am, in theory, not a child anymore.
Accepting this is mostly passive, because it is not constantly on my mind.
But when I do brood on it, I am confronted with a new piece of myself that is as strange as looking in the mirror and seeing a different colored pair of eyes blinking back at you.

Who am I, if not the person I was before I came here?
What will autumn bring me, if not the frosty fresh scent of the morning?

Summer hasn’t kicked the can just yet, however.
I can still find excellent peaches easily, although the blushing plums have truly come into their prime and the apples are peeking around the corner.

Finding a perfect ripe juicy peach is rare, even in the heart of the summer. You know when you’ve found the platonic ideal, and you’re lucky if 1) you’re eating it straight up and 2) you get more than one in a season. The beauty of peach pie is that  a few bruises on your peaches don’t make a difference whatsoever, as long as the peaches themselves are juicy and plump.

This pie baked up gorgeously. I am (not really) sorry for the slew of excess photos. I have just wholesale bought into the instagram trend of unbaked, prettily decorated pies of the last year and a half.
There is something irresistible about the juxtaposition of a rustic, jammy pie and delicate flowers, braids, and lattices. (Just ask elleventy or Julie…! Pie masters.)

A perfect peach pie needs little other than a squeeze of something bright and acidic, a light sprinkle of zest and sugar, a pinch of salt, and a spoonful or two of a thickener.
Here, I went with lemon juice and zest, good ol’ granulated sugar, and tapioca starch. It would be magical to substitute brown sugar or coconut sugar, for a hint of molasses, and you could easily swap out actual tapioca if you like the texture, or flour or corn starch if that’s what you have on hand.
The two tricks to a good fruit pie are making a solid crust and not overthinking the filling.
This crust is very easy to work with and makes a bit more than is needed for a double crust pie—this is to accommodate any and all decorations your heart desires.

I wanted lattices of varying widths, interwoven with braids, topped with leaves/flora.
I did not have a leaf cutter.
So, (spoiler warning) I used a baby chick cutter and added veins with a knife. Once you see it, you can’t unsee it.

P.S. Friday was my grandma’s birthday (although she refuses to celebrate birthdays anymore), so shout out to the number one fan of this blog! Love ya grandma.
(I should probably remake this cake that I made in honor of her birthday, since it was so delicious and rich and since it has been so long since I made anything mochi!)

I have done nothing all summer
but wait for myself
to be myself again.

Georgia O’Keeffe

Perfect Peach Pie
makes 1 10-inch double-crusted pie

for the crust:
438 grams (3 1/2 cups, plus 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon) flour
40 grams (3 tablespoons) sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt (or 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt)
340 grams (3 sticks, 1 1/2 cups) butter, cold and in chunks
14 grams (1 tablespoon) shortening (or more butter)
106 grams (7 tablespoons) water, ice cold

for the filling:
2 1/2 pounds (1.1 kg) peaches (about 8-9 medium)
150 grams (3/4 cup) sugar, or to taste
big pinch salt
juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 1/2 tablespoons tapioca flour

to assemble:
1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water
sugar, if desired

instructions:
Make the dough: whisk flour, salt, and sugar together.
Cut and mix the butter and shortening into the flour mixture until the largest piece is pea-sized.
Sprinkle on the ice water 1 tablespoon at a time so that you can gather the dough into a cohesive mass.
Divide dough into two disks and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Roll out one disk into a 12 inch round and drape over the pie plate, leaving a little overhang, then refrigerate.
Roll the other disk out and cut out shapes as desired; freeze the shapes or lattice strips while you make the filling and preheat the oven.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
To make the filling, toss thinly sliced peaches (I do not peel mine, just wash them well) with the sugar, salt, lemon juice and zest, and tapioca flour.
Set aside for at least 5 minutes and up to 10.
Pour the filling into the prepared bottom crust, spooning the leftover juices and sugar over top of the fruit.
Top with frozen shapes, then trim and crimp the bottom crust.
Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.
Place on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper and place in the oven.
Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, then lower heat to 375 and bake for 35-45 minutes, covering crust if necessary, until the crust is deep golden brown and the juices are bubbling and thick.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Blooming

Dairy- and Gluten-Free Citrus Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“You aren’t a flower, you’re every blossom in the wood blooming at once.
You are a tidal wave. You’re a stampede.
You are overwhelming.”

― Leigh Bardugo, Crooked Kingdom

Dairy- and Gluten-Free Citrus Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Words are not my strong suit right now.
I have been absent—there have been reasons, and there have been reasons.
Good and bad, both escape me before I can write them down here.

I want to keep this space a little bit sacred, for my own sanity.
It will all come out, eventually, although I am avoiding bottling up the months of June and July too tightly inside myself.
Again: for my sanity.
I have chosen to journal them in another place, rather than here, so don’t worry: I’m letting my mind run loose a little.
So, so. I am back!

Dairy- and Gluten-Free Citrus Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

And. Do you know what else is back?
Game of Thrones.
You can catch me lurking in the ASOIAF reddit, or watching endless Youtube analyses, furiously texting theories with my BFF Sam or my brother, winding down endless Wiki pages—just generally with my head in the Westerosi clouds.

A girl is very happy.

Note that this cake baked into smaller tins would be a marvelous recreation of Sansa’s favorite lemon tea cakes, without a doubt. If you need something to bring to your next watch party and you want to impress, this is just the treat.

Dairy- and Gluten-Free Citrus Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Speaking of watching, you should read this article about Buzzfeed’s Tasty if you are at all interested in the future of the online food community and/or have ever watched one of their ubiquitous videos (I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that you have probably seen at least one). It is a fascinating look inside the company.
I can personally while away full hours just scrolling through their videos…

As far as other news and articles go, read them as you see fit. I could link to a million more NYTimes articles that I have pored over or rolled my eyes while reading in recent days.
Empower and equip yourself with knowledge, if I may so kindly suggest. Never let anything that you would not have considered normal a few years ago pass by undetected amidst the chaos of our world.

I personally read the news constantly.
In truth, the news is literally the only thing of which I have become an increased consumer lately.
In all other aspects of my life, I am trying to focus on what is, rather than what if.
That is to say, not many shiny new purchases to show off. Just more knowledge in my noggin’.

Dairy- and Gluten-Free Citrus Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Oh! Also speaking of watching, I have finished the Handmaid’s Tale.
I felt satisfied having completed it.
I don’t really know how much I want another season—I know some people are chomping at the bit for one, but although I did enjoy the show fully and sincerely, I feel lukewarm about seeing the series continue.

I met a colleague of mine whose name is Hannah (and as some of you may know, my middle name is Hannah) and she was joking that we pretty much have all the biblical names in the office.
I said that we just needed Rachel’s handmaid, and neither of us could remember her name despite having both watched the damn show.
The day I finally remembered to look it up—Bilhah—and tell her, the show was nominated for an Emmy.
What a funny coincidence.
The Emmy nom leads me to believe there will be more seasons; our society does tend to milk until dry, it seems.

Dairy- and Gluten-Free Citrus Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

In food-related news, I have been sticking almost exclusively to a dairy-free + largely egg-free diet (except for Halo Top, cause oh my GOD that stuff is good and I am irrevocably hooked) since I discovered that dairy might not sit well with my skin. I cut it out last summer, but it has become much easier and practical now that I am a Real Adult and cooking 98% of my meals.
I do miss cheese, like, a lot. I’ll be honest.

I’ve been meal prepping my breakfasts, lunches, and snacks for the work week, and it feels great.
The shopping on Sundays is not the most fun, but getting it all out of the way and not worrying about planning or lugging groceries daily through New York makes it worth it.
I eat the same things happily every day. I am the most staid creature of habit.
As long as I get my favorite foods in (cruciferous vegetables, preferably kale, usually twice a day and strawberries, often frozen and slightly thawed so that they’re like sorbet), I am content.
Since I added seafood into my (as I mentioned above) essentially vegan diet, I’ve found protein to be a lot easier to come by. I still stick to my vegan staples of seitan and tofu, though. I love bouncy, chewy foods, so those come more naturally to me than they may to others.
By the way, did you know that some people consider mussels and oysters to be vegan? We all have to make our own choices, of course, and I am less concerned with perfect labels than I once was. But it is an interesting ethical question to ponder.

Dairy- and Gluten-Free Citrus Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

This cake is a luxurious experiment in dairy- and gluten-free baking.
My last post was also dairy-free: these little strawberry orange shortcakes.
Although neither is vegan (both contain eggs), don’t worry, because I have a vegan cake coming very soon. Watch this space!

Today’s cake is a citrus and almond affair, dense and plush and delightfully tangy.
It is lightly spritzed with lemon syrup, moistening it and bringing it one step closer to a melt-in-your-mouth pudding. The top is finished with powdered sugar, chopped pistachios, sweet juicy blackberries, and candied lemons.

This cake is bursting with flavor and texture, and is made with the most simple ingredients—you can garnish it a lot more minimally if you desire. Overall, it is much greater than the sum of its parts.
It is light without being wishy-washy, and it is a great choice if you need to serve people with varying food allergies. The only fat in the recipe comes from the almonds and egg yolks—no oil!
And no one will miss the dairy or gluten… My taste testers didn’t even blink or pause between inhaling bites when I told them.

Dairy- and Gluten-Free Citrus Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I think this would be fabulous with orange zest, topped with a little dark chocolate ganache and whipped (coconut) cream; or served warm with raspberry sorbet or pistachio ice cream.
Add some fresh rosemary to the batter and serve it with vanilla crème anglaise and a drizzle of good olive oil and a pinch of flaky sea salt, if you want to get really fancy.

That does sound good… I rather wish I was in a lovely garden enjoying a slice right now. Hmm.

Dairy- and Gluten-Free Citrus Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“I’ve known a great number of clever men. I’ve outlived them all.
You know how?
I ignored them.

—Lady Olenna Tyrell, S7 E2

Dairy- and Gluten-Free Citrus Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Dairy- and Gluten-Free Citrus Almond Cake
makes 1 8-inch cake
ingredients:
for the citrus almond cake:
4 eggs
zest of 2 limes
zest of 2 lemons
100 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar, divided in two
150 grams (1 1/2 cups) almond flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

for the candied lemons:
1 lemon
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
240 grams (1 cup) water

to assemble:
2 tablespoons lemon syrup, reserved
powdered sugar, as desired
blackberries
chopped pistachios
edible flowers, as desired

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour (with GF flour) an 8-inch pan.
Separate the eggs; whisk the yolks with half the sugar and the citrus zests until lightened in color.
Add the other portion of sugar to the egg whites and whisk until soft peaks form.
Add the almond flour, baking powder, lemon juice, and salt to the yolk mixture and stir until homogeneous.
Gently fold in the egg whites, then pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a tester comes out clean and the center springs back.
Allow the cake to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the candied lemons: slice the lemon into very thin slices.
Bring a pot of water to a boil, then blanch the lemon slices.
Empty the pot of water; add the sugar and cup of water and stir over low heat just until the sugar is dissolved.
Add the blanched lemon slices and allow to simmer until the rind is translucent, about 45 minutes.
Reserve 2 tablespoons of the syrup.
Lay onto parchment paper and allow to cool.
To assemble, brush the cake with the reserved syrup.
Roll the blackberries in a little bit of powdered sugar, and dust the cake with powdered sugar.
Decorate the cake with chopped pistachios, candied lemons, blackberries, and edible flowers, if desired.
Serve at room temperature with tea.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

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.

Lumi

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

Hospital gowns never fit like they should
We yelled at the nurse, didn’t do any good
More morphine, the last words you moaned
At last I was sure
That you weren’t far away from home

—The Lumineers, Long Way From Home

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

Ho! A blogger returns!

And I come with spring tidings, because it finally seems like we have changed seasons for good.

Two weeks ago we were still getting intermittent snow storms, a cruel reminder that March doesn’t always go out like a lamb.  This year, she left as an unchanged lioness.
Today, the lake is turquoise like the Caribbean, the sky is cloudless and baby blue, and the weather is a balmy 65 degrees.
The tiniest yellow daffodils nod their heads along the path to our library, and even the rhododendron saplings have fuchsia buds delicately emerging.  April pulled through in a big way.

P.S. Lumi really is a fun word.
In Finnish and Estonian, it means snow. But in Romanian, it means worlds. In Latin, it means lights.
And in Yoruba, it means hit me.  Cool.
Thank you Google Translate.

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

In other April news, have you heard the Lumineers’ new album, Cleopatra?
Some real gems on it. I recommend Ophelia, Cleopatra, and Long Way From Home. I just love their band!

More importantly, Game of Thrones is coming back in 7 short days. I am freaking out, to put it mildly. The show has now managed to overtake the books’ timeline, so some of what happens this season will be material even I have never seen.
~*fangirling~*~**~*

Less awesome news: I fucking got shingles this week.
If you are thinking, what the fuck?! you’re not 70 years old yet, then we share very similar sentiments, my friend.
Not only do I rarely get very sick, which I attribute to growing up in Ithaca and putting lots of dirt in my mouth, but I am 20—20!!!—and yet I got shingles, AKA a super painful, non-contagious reawakening of the varicella (AKA chickenpox) virus in your dorsal root ganglion (nerve roots) that emerges as an excruciating and somewhat debilitating rash (that can be very dangerous, even deadly, for immunocompromised individuals).
Luckily for me, work just started picking up (hi, UChicago) so this is totally the ideal time to feel simultaneously and relentlessly exhausted, itchy, and in pain.
But seriously, Universe. WHY.

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

I haven’t been feeling exactly bright and alive lately, but I’m trying to get in the kitchen as often as I can.
This, primarily, is because I haven’t been baking as much as I really like to, and because I have no clue as to how much I’m going to be able to do over the summer.

I’m also feeling the call to the kitchen because of my cravings for humongous, fresh salads, which require some time and patient chopping. Trying to dive into as many spring vegetables as I possibly can and saying Bye Felicia to winter squash and citrus.
Like, I love you. But it’s past time for you to go.

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

Today, I’m sharing a pretty little tart that has virtually no bake time and minimal effort required.
It’s totally adaptable—use whatever bounty of fruit you can get your hands on.
This could be made (and deliciously, I might add) with poached rhubarb or sliced plums or apricots.
Lemon and cream cheese never fail as a delicious backdrop.
Strawberries are cheap and abundant right now, as spring has long been arrived in more verdant parts of the globe (looking at you, California).
This tart would be fabulous with just strawberries.

You can check out another riff on lemon+strawberry (plus one of my most favorite poems that I’ve written) from eons ago two summers ago, here.

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

The base of this tart is my beloved pâte sucrée. It’s like a buttery shortbread cookie, but not quite as sweet, and it holds its shape perfectly when frozen and weighted with some dry beans (my ceramic pie weights live at home).
The filling is smooth and rich—lots of lemon zest and juice is thrown in with cream cheese and powdered sugar. Equally delicious would be a substitution of mascarpone for the cream cheese. Nom.
On top, a bounty of berries, juicy and colorful, brushed with a little apricot jam for extra shine and dusted with a shower of powdered sugar, if you should so desire.

Perfectly low-key, full of fresh fruit and flavor, this tart is a perfect way to officially ring in spring!

*Please don’t let this post jinx our beautiful weather, please don’t let this post jinx our beautiful weather…*

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

Cream Cheese Berry Tart
makes 1 13×4 inch tart

ingredients:
for the crust:
112 grams (1 stick, 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, soft
100 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
120 grams (1 cup) flour, plus 2 tablespoons if needed
1 egg yolk

for the filling:
120 grams (4 ounces) cream cheese, soft but still chilled
zest of 1 whole lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon heavy cream
200 grams (1 1/2 cups) powdered sugar, sifted

to assemble:
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 cup blackberries
1/2 cup raspberries
1/2 cup blueberries
1 tablespoon apricot jam
powdered sugar, as desired

directions:
Make the crust: place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high until doubled in size, about 4 minutes.
Add in the sugar, vanilla, and salt and beat on high for another 3 minutes.
Stir in the flour and egg yolk slowly until a cohesive dough forms.
Press into the tart pan with your fingers and prick with a fork.
Freeze for at least an hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Cover tart shell with foil and weight with pie weights or dry beans.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and fully set.
Allow to cool fully.
Meanwhile, make the cream cheese filling: beat cream cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice, and heavy cream on high for 2 minutes, until light and fluffy.
Add in the powdered sugar and stir slowly until incorporated; increase speed to high and beat for another minute.
Filling should be thick.
Spread into the cooled shell.
Decorate with berries, then brush hot jam over the berries with a pastry brush.
Dust with powdered sugar if desired.

Gateaux À Gogo

Cupcakes Galore! | La Pêche Fraîche

Did you think I was a city big enough for a weekend getaway?
I am the town surrounding it, the one you’ve never heard of but always pass through
There are no neon lights here, no skyscrapers or statues
but there is thunder, for I make bridges tremble
I am not street meat, I am homemade jam thick enough to cut the sweetest thing your lips will touch
I am not police sirens, I am the crackle in a fireplace
I’d burn you and you wouldnt take your eyes off me
I am not a hotel room, I am home
I am not the whiskey you want. I’m the water you need
Don’t come here with expectations and try to make a vacation out of me.

Rumi

Cupcakes Galore! | La Pêche Fraîche

Hello friends!

Since we last connected, I escaped Chicago to warm, sunny California for the best spring break ever with my parents.

We first went to LA and stayed in Venice Beach for a few days—right on the ocean.  It was beautiful, and the food we had was generally spectacular.
It’s much easier to find fresh produce and food when you live in California, where essentially everything grows!

We managed to go to Gjelina twice, once for brunch and the other for our last dinner in Cali.  It is (mostly) as amazing as everyone says it is.  I had 1 (one) disappointing squash blossom scramble that had too much mint for my taste, but that being said, my parents liked it.
The goat and cow labneh on toast with jam, olive oil, and sea salt was an absolute knockout of a dish: creamy, fatty, crunchy, salty, sweet, fruity etc. etc.
The lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberry compote are another must.
My favorite from dinner was the charcoal gemelli, which was outstanding and incredibly well balanced despite being quite rich.

We also went to the Rose Café and tried boba from a few different places.  Even the mediocre places were leagues above any Hyde Park slushie impostors.
(On that note, my wonderful boyfriend just bought me some dried boba and stainless steel straws so that I can make my own at home… Dangerous!)

Cupcakes Galore! | La Pêche Fraîche

We had a rented grey Mustang convertible, which we drove to the Coachella Valley.  We stayed in Palm Springs, at the Saguaro, which is a fabulously retro motel-turned-hotel painted in all neon hues.
Our favorite breakfast place was definitely Cheeky’s, which seemingly always has a very long queue, but is totally worth it.  The crispy buttermilk waffle tasted just like an ice cream cone and the cheddar scones were more like biscuits, with buttery, flaky layers that easily soaked up runny egg yolks.

We had date shakes at Great Shakes, because I was dying to try a date shake (the California desert has lots of date farms). Talk about dangerous—each shake comes with a mini cake donut on the straw, and the store front is filled with retro candies for just a few quarters each.

We headed back to LA the day before our departure.
I got to have lunch with lovely Courtney from Fork to Belly at Mendocino Farms, which has dooope sandwiches.
She’s in Iceland right now! I feel like Iceland is so photogenic, with all I’ve seen from Linda and Betty and Ashlae. I’m looking forward to seeing her photos, for sure.
Anyways, she’s the first blog friend I’ve met in person, and it was so fun! In a weird sense, it’s a novel way of interacting with people whom I already respect and in whom I take interest and, often, laugh along with weekly as I read their writing.

Definitely a great part of the trip.

Cupcakes Galore! | La Pêche Fraîche

Also during this trip, I found out that my Shamrock Shake Cake was chosen as a finalist in @feedfeed ‘s Bob’s Red Mill best home baker contest!
I didn’t end up winning, sadly, but I want to give a huge thank you to everyone who took the time to vote for me, and, of course, all of you who support me here by reading my blog!

Amazingly, the picture I shared on Instagram of these cupcakes to encourage my followers to vote for that contest garnered 735+ likes… Like, whoa.
Not that Insta is the best—really, it’s actually among the worst—metric of happiness, but that’s never happened to me before, so I was pretty excited.

I guess people still like cupcakes, even though they’ve been out of vogue for some time now.

Cupcakes Galore! | La Pêche Fraîche

The cupcakes shown are a sampling of the 200 I made for my sorority’s annual fundraiser for our sister charity, CASA (just like I did last year).
Lord, having done it once before did not make it that much easier this year—except that I had the foresight to buy an extra cupcake tin so I could make 24 at once.

Other tips if you ever want or agree to make an obscene number of cupcakes or baked goods for an event:

First of all, numbers are everything. Type or write out everything you need to make in recipe form, exactly how you’re going to make it (i.e. some of my recipes were for 12 cupcakes, I doubled them and wrote down the doubled recipe for 24).
Next, multiply each recipe by however many times you need to make it (I had to make 3×24 vanilla cupcakes) to calculate how much of each ingredient you’ll need for that particular flavor/recipe.
Doing this for all your recipes gives you the exact amount of flour/butter/sugar etc. you’ll need in total, so you can purchase just the right amount—not too much and not too little!
For example: I needed 64 ounces of buttermilk/sour cream/yogurt for the cupcakes, so I purchased a 64 ounce container of plain yogurt.  I scraped it to the last gram on my last batch of cupcakes. So satisfying!

Secondly, plan ahead. When are you going to make everything? What can be made ahead? When does butter need to come out of the fridge to soften?
When things are made, where will I store them prior to the event or while other components are prepared?
How will I transport all these goodies?
I rely on my trusty plastic cupcake containers: they have very high domes, so no frosting ever gets mussed up in travel.  They also seal very tightly, so cakes don’t dry out if made ahead.
They also are washable, so you don’t have to dispose of them after one use.  Instead, you can use them over and over (they come in handy when gifting cupcakes!).
When they have reached the end of their lifecycle, you can recycle them.  Perfect.

Third, make like a Top Chef and do your mise en place. Take out the flour, sugar, vanilla, salt, baking powder and soda before you start making your recipe.
If you’re using a scale, keep it out and turned on. Don’t bother putting away any of your ingredients until you’re done cooking for the day—fumbling in cabinets wastes time.

Cupcakes Galore! | La Pêche Fraîche

The flavors I chose to make were as follows:

vanilla sprinkle,
vanilla chocolate,
thin mint,
triple chocolate,
red velvet,
banana cream cheese,
lemon, and
caramel.

(Not pictured: lemon and caramel.)

I’m sharing the vanilla chocolate recipe today, because it’s my own perfected version (I’ve made a lot of vanilla cupcakes in my short time here on Earth) and I felt as though these came out the best out of all.  I’m picky, though.

Recipes/references for some of the other flavors will follow.
The caramel cupcakes were the vanilla base with a vanilla frosting that had half of this caramel recipe mixed in, and more drizzled over top.
I used this recipe for red velvet cupcakes (doubled).
I used this recipe, which is perfect, for the chocolate cupcakes.
These banana cupcakes are wonderfully moist and save well, to boot—so they’re my recipe of choice.

The mint frosting was similar to this cake.
The cream cheese frosting I used on the red velvet, banana, and lemon cupcakes was similar to this cake or this one.

Cupcakes Galore! | La Pêche Fraîche

So I made these cupcakes for the pre-event, which leads up to the actual Mr. University talent show that we host; it’s meant to heat up interest and donations the week before.

Nati kindly drove me, chattering and sweating and shaking with nerves—the cupcakes carefully laid out in the trunk of the car—to the event, where I unloaded box after box with mounting relief.  Not a single smashed cake or a single errant swipe of frosting.

The event itself was hilariously fun, as always, and was more successful than ever: two years ago, Theta raised 40K for CASA of Cook County.  Last year, 46K.
This year, we raised an astonishing 65,000 dollars in two and a half short, frenzied weeks.
We are so grateful for everyone who donated.  More importantly, though, the kids whom this will benefit will be grateful, and more will have the chance to have an advocate in the court system, as they search for a forever home.
Everyone needs a measure of stability and warmth and love in their lives, especially in chaotic, lonely times like moving through the foster system. CASA provides this. And I’m proud to have been part of an event that supported such a fantastic organization.
Brava!

Cupcakes Galore! | La Pêche Fraîche

This post has been lengthy, so I’ll leave you with the recipe.
These cupcakes are moist from the yogurt, bake up without any domes or uneven surfaces, are a one-bowl affair, and are just plain dependable.  It’s hard to beat a good yellow cupcake with sweet and a little salty chocolate frosting.
The frosting has a generous amount of dark chocolate and cocoa powder in it; you can add up to 1/2 a cup of Nutella to it if you want to amp up the flavor even further.

These are simple but well-loved.
The recipe is tried and true—I hope you like and use it as much as I have!

P.S. The sprinkles are, IMHO, a necessity.

Cupcakes Galore! | La Pêche Fraîche

Perfect Vanilla and Chocolate Cupcakes
makes 24 cupcakes

ingredients:
for the cupcakes:
300 grams (2 1/2 cups) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 eggs
300 grams (1 1/2 cups) sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
225 grams (1 cup) vegetable oil
227 grams (1 cup) plain yogurt or buttermilk

for the frosting:
560 grams (2 1/2 sticks, 10 ounces) butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
15 grams (2 tablespoons) cocoa powder
112 grams (8 ounces) bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
400 grams (3 cups) powdered sugar
30-60 grams (2-4 tablespoons) half-and-half or milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

directions:
Make the cupcakes: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line 2 cupcake tins with cupcake papers.
Whisk the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and vegetable oil together.
Add in the yogurt and whisk to combine.
Add the flour, baking powder, and salt on top and carefully stir until homogeneous.
Portion out in 1/3 cup scoops into the papers and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until a tester comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached.
Allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the frosting: place the butter and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Beat on high for 3 full minutes.
Add in the cocoa powder and beat for another minute, until no lumps remain.
With the mixer beating on high, stream in the melted and cooled chocolate; when incorporated, start slowly adding in the powdered sugar (turn down the mixer if the sugar is flying out).
Add the vanilla extract when the sugar is incorporated.
If the frosting is too thick, add in the half-and-half one tablespoon at a time until it is the appropriate thickness.
Frost cupcakes as desired (add sprinkles)!

Suprème

Brûléed Citrus and Lime Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Cosine, secant, tangent, sine,
Three point one four one five nine,
Square root, cube root, BTU,
Sequence, series, limits too. Rah.

—Unofficial UChicago football cheer

(See here for a fantastically written article about a very nerdy tradition at my school, which is the nerdiest of the nerdy)

Brûléed Citrus and Lime Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

(Themistocles, Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War,
X squared, Y squared, H2SO4.
Who for? What for? Who we gonna yell for?
Go, Maroons.

Logarithm, biorhythm, entropy, kinetics,
MPC, GNP, bioenergetics!
Maximize and integrate, titrate and equilibrate—
Go, Maroons.)

Brûléed Citrus and Lime Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy Pi Day!
3.14, and I’m posting this at 1:59 so we get 3.14159.
(Last year, 3/14/15, at 9:26:53, the date was 10 digits of Pi!)

Pretty much every baking/food blogger is sharing a pie today.  It’s only right, right?
Shamefully, I’ve never shared a pie on Pi day.
I haven’t shared many pies at all, truth be told.  Which is weird, because I really like making and eating pie.
My last pie was made at Thanksgiving, and it was this insane apple, poached pear, butterscotch, and cheddar cheese beaut.  It was even shared on Buzzfeed (woot!) but has since faded into the recesses of my mind/tastebuds/blog archives.

If you want real (and regularly scheduled) pie envy, go see Michelle, who has undertaken a pie a month for 2016. Color me inspired! Her pies are gorgeous and her photography of late has been b o m b.
High fives, Michelle! Keep being the most impressive, please and thank you!

Brûléed Citrus and Lime Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

The pie I’m sharing today is definitely worthy of reviving the pie portion of my site.
It’s a creamy, custardy lime pie, full of sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks in a crunchy, buttery, toasty graham cracker crust topped with brûléed suprèmes of white and ruby red grapefruit and a navel orange.

It’s mostly the classic key lime pie (less the key limes) from the back of the sweetened condensed milk can, with the addition of a non store-bought graham crust and a heap of torched, bittersweet citrus segments.
The creamy filling contrasts brilliantly with the slightly bitter, sour fruit and the sweet, wheat-y crust.
Key lime pie has always—and will always—be in my personal favorite top 3 pie flavors.

I dropped this off at N’s fraternity house, and it was demolished. According to one ~taste tester~, my good friend Colton, it was “unreal” and “like an addiction,” as in, none of them could stop eating it, even if they tried.
Not only does this make me very happy, but it’s also a good indication of how yummy this combination is!

Brûléed Citrus and Lime Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

One last note about this pie…
In spite of the title of this post, there is no need to suprème your fruit. Seriously.

Unless you’re thinking to yourself: “YES. this is what I went to culinary school for 2 years for!  My time to shine!” or
“what’s the big deal about suprèming? I do it every Sunday for my weekly goat cheese, blood orange, and arugula salad!”
then it’s probably not worth it.
Slice up your peeled fruits like this, or cut ’em like this.

If, like me, you’ve seen this technique done on T.V. but have never had any formal knife skill training and are still silly enough to want to try it, please buy extra citrus fruits.
Because it’s kind of a pain and you’ll probably mash a lot of segments along the way. I know I did.

No matter how the citrus is arranged on top of the pie, it will be delicious and beautiful.  Just a word of warning advice.

Brûléed Citrus and Lime Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Brûléed Citrus and Lime Pie
makes 1 9-inch pie

ingredients:
300 grams (2 cups) graham cracker crumbs
112 grams (4 ounces, 1 stick) butter, melted
pinch salt
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar

for the filling and topping:
400 grams (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
135 grams (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) lime juice (I used 2 limes and 1 lemon)
5 egg yolks

1 white grapefruit
1 ruby red grapefruit
1 navel orange
turbinado sugar, optional

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and ready a 9-inch pie dish.
Stir graham cracker crumbs, butter, salt, and sugar together until sandy and coarse.
Firmly press into pan using your fingers and a measuring cup.
Bake in preheated oven for 8 minutes, then remove and let cool slightly.
Meanwhile, whisk the sweetened condensed milk, lime juice, and egg yolks together vigorously until a smooth and homogenous mixture forms.
Pour into cooling pie crust and bake for 15 minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool completely, at least 1 hour + some time in the fridge.
In the meantime, suprème your grapefruits and orange and arrange on a plate the way you want them.
When the pie is cool, lightly dry each slice of citrus with a paper towel and arrange on top of the pie.
Sprinkle some turbinado sugar on top (liberally) and brûlée with a blow torch.
Serve chilled or at room temperature.

My Dog

Ginger | La Pêche Fraîche

If Weenie hadn’t died he’d be purring beside her, his ears flattened against his skull and his tail curled like a hook around her bare ankle, his eyes slitted across the dark lawn at the restless, echo-ranging world of night creatures that was invisible to her: snail-trails and cobwebs, glassy-winged flies, beetles, and field mice and all the little wordless things struggling in squeaks or chirps or silence.  Their small world, she felt, was her true home, the secret dark of speechlessness and frantic heartbeats.

— Donna Tartt, The Little Friend

Lemon Cream | La Pêche FraîcheGinger and Rach

You weren’t really a Great Lover or, for that matter, listener.
And that used to frustrate me to no end when I still believed I could influence and control you and have you wear a tutu and jump through hula hoops (literally).
I mean, I was six.  Still a puppy, too, and ever the dog-idealist, despite your clear departure from Normal Doghood.

Gingey, you weren’t like Bambi, Mama’s childhood dog.
Try as I might have to show you my tears and demonstrate how you ought to have sat by me and comforted me, or to hug you close and attempt to teach you how to snuggle, any discomfort or indeed, all-too-discernable display of emotion made you awkward and unbearably antsy.
(But darn it all if I don’t often feel like your nervous younger self now, enduring wild-eyed bouts of panic over minutiae, over things that have negligible impact on my life as a whole.
A leaf blowing in the street; a forgotten homework, etc. etc.)

ginger as a puppyLemon Cream | La Pêche Fraîche

No, you were very much you.
Uniquely neurotic and uncomfortable around humans and other dogs, and cats, and spooks, of course.
Always, you were a lemon.
You loved us in a very non-obvious, difficult to discern manner.  Ever the lemon.  But always my girl.

Anyways, as I have oft-declared, lemon is the best flavor.
I wouldn’t want you to be any other dog or have any other type of manners.
As weird as you were, you fit perfectly into our dysfunction.  You were our dog and we loved you no less for your dislike of affection and attention.  You were different but sweet.

Lemon Cream | La Pêche Fraîcheginger as a puppy and rach

My dog was born on January 6th or 8th (we could never remember) in 2002, somewhere obscure in North Carolina.
She didn’t come to us until she was 8 weeks old, a terrified, lanky little bundle of sable fur with a uniquely unbecoming patch of orange hair splashed between her soft little ears (think: Bozo the clown).
She would have been 14 this coming January.
Some part of me wanted to wait until her birthday, but that’s the selfish human in me talking, so I could quantify just how old my pup was when it was her time.  So that the length of the years we spent together could, in a meager way, demonstrate how important she has been to my childhood and my family to anyone, even those who don’t know.
Dogs don’t have a sense of future time.  Ginger certainly never understood the fuss over her birthday and she couldn’t see her own grey hair spreading across her snout.
She knew, though, that she was old.  She felt the aches and pains, even through the medication.
We could all see that she was weary and uncomfortable.

Yet it is so hard to say goodbye.
She will be greatly missed.

ginger rach first communionLemon Cream | La Pêche Fraîcheginger and rach pigtails

Thank you for being my unwilling and willful companion and our family’s scaredy-cat guard dog.
I am sorry for being stubborn and impatient and altogether too cuddly of a playmate.
And I’m sorry that everyone was so sorrowfully ignorant of your pains as you grew older.  We tried to understand.
And always, we loved you.

On her last morning, Ginger had steak for breakfast, and she got to have some peanut butter as her last snack.
And so it goes that this afternoon, my big, fat, goofy chocolate lab passed into the infinite and left us mortals here feeling very terribly, awfully small.
But Ginger, if even a single iota of your complicated happiness could be attributed to me and my love for you, I am content.

ginger on the porch

Rest easy, good girl.  I love you.

rachel walking ginger

Lemon Cream
adapted from Tartine Bakery
makes 1 1/2 cups

ingredients:
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 grams) lemon juice
3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
pinch salt
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup (113 grams) butter, cut up

directions:
Place lemon juice, sugar, salt, eggs, and egg yolk in a small pot.
Whisk vigorously over medium-low heat until combined; whisk every 30 seconds or so to prevent lumps from forming.
Cook for 7-10 minutes, until thickened and at a low boil.
Remove from heat and pour into a blender canister or another bowl if you have an immersion blender.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then add the pieces of butter in and blend on high speed until light in color and thick.
Pour into desired vessels and chill.
Serve with blueberries and powdered sugar.

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.