La Noix de Muscade

“I think human consciousness is a tragic misstep in evolution.
We became too self-aware; nature created an aspect of nature separate from itself. We are creatures that should not exist by natural law.
We are things that labor under the illusion of having a self; an accretion of sensory experience and feeling, programmed with total assurance that we are each somebody, when in fact everybody is nobody.
Maybe the honorable thing for our species to do is deny our programming, stop reproducing, walk hand in hand into extinction—one last midnight—brothers and sisters opting out of a raw deal.”

—Rust Cole, True Detective

I suppose spring isn’t the right time to be referencing Rust Cole’s doom and gloom, but forgive for today my moody melodrama.
It comes alongside an excellent cookie recipe, so I daresay it’s worth it.
And besides, it doesn’t really feel like the season has changed yet. Winds are still whipping, snow is still falling upstate and in Chicago, blooms are still only mere suggestions of buds, and the sun’s warmth is not yet fully baked.
I, um, think we might need a reiteration of our stage directions here.

Exeunt March, in the manner of a lamb.
Exe! Unt!

On the first day of spring, a nor’easter hit NYC. It was m i s erable.
The day after, a finger of spring light, so faint that it might have been mistaken for an indoor flood lamp slipped out in the early morning and later opened up into a jubilant and blinding day.
I had to go to the NYU hospital for volunteer orientation; it’s a fair hike from my office and requires a long-ish subway ride.
As I have mentioned here before, I do my best people watching when on the subway, particularly when I’m a bit moody and would like to be out walking in the sun rather than hurtling away in damp underground tunnels.

My favorite scene of the day was of two elderly deaf ladies, seated across from one another on the uptown 6, silently gabbing at the speed of light. They paused only when Spring St. shoppers shuffled through their path, craning their necks around skinny teenage-d legs and crisply creased shopping bags to recommence their discussion as quickly as possible.
I also took note of and rolled my eyes at the baseless optimism of the two men who stepped, one in a sweatshirt and other in a proper-looking ivy cap, lockstep onto the subway as they loudly answered phone calls. Both expressed only the mildest annoyance when their signals inevitably dropped. Resigned, they pocketed their iPhones, and the rest of the car sighed in relief.

Today’s day started with a dripping, grey smear of a morning, with a forecast that threatened rain. I was up and out of my apartment earlier than usual—sneakers hitting the pavement at 6:05AM.
It was cold and the sun hadn’t yet bothered to rise, so I hustled towards the gym with my fingers jammed into jacket pockets and shoulders hunched over to ward off the chill.

There are only two people in all of New York City who are fully aware of my comings and goings, of the early trudges to the gym and the exhausted late night slogs home from the office (and, in all honestly, the occasional stumble home on boozy nights).
I have never spoken a word to either.
They are the men who run the coffee/pastry and halal carts on my corner, daily bookends so constant that I’m sure many of my neighbors think they can’t possibly move shop every day.
But I have seen the coffee cart open and the halal cart close.

This morning, through admittedly bleary eyes, I saw someone on the pavement laying out cardboard underneath the bright lights of the coffee cart. I thought, at first, that it was one of the two (friendly) homeless men who frequent the corner, but as I neared, I realized it was the man who runs the cart.
He took careful pains to straighten out the cardboard just-so, and smoothed the corners with the flat of his hand a final time before standing, then bowing and kneeling. He was praying.

I was struck by this intimate moment of humanity; prayers directed towards Mecca on a raft of cardboard in the middle of the dirty, slick sidewalk of 14th St. on a drizzling, cold April morning.

In a jaded way, I have been asking myself lately how much of my observation of others is not exposition, but self-centered projection.
How many of these brief moments of presumed humanness are really nothing worth a second glance—just my nosiness taking over?
I wonder if I only take note and mark them as special in order to feel a rush of omniscience, a weak inflation of my ego. How aware and poignant and poetic am I.
Are we not all just people leading our daily lives? And isn’t my daily life bland and beige from the inside?
By attempting to extract meaning from my examination of perfect strangers, I am selfishly wondering who around me is doing the same to the figment of myself that exists within their view.

Mostly, I think, because it is so hard to accept the routine boringness of everyday life; this has become increasingly true in the age of social media, where highlight reels are curated over days and months, so you can post a perfect throwback of a cake while sitting in your desk chair drinking your fifth black cherry seltzer.
It’s not dishonesty, exactly. It’s something else entirely, and the purpose is not only to impress our followers, but to fool ourselves.
And so I make up backstories in my head and curate my instagram. Hmm.

This cookie recipe is a bit of a throwback, itself.
I developed it for the Feed Feed/Bob’s Red Mill winter cookie giveaway way back in December, which was an altogether excellent time.
(Some cookies that were memorable: Patti’s always intricate decorated sugar cookies, which came in the shape of twee penguins with neck-scarves, ice-skates, and earmuffs; Rachel’s milk masala shortbread cookies; Erin’s vanilla sandwich cookies with vanilla bean marshmallow; Sarah’s pan-banging chocolate chip cookies (!!!), and others. Also, someone made soft gingerbread cookies with a cracklingly tart lemon glaze, and the memory of the cookies apparently has outlasted my good manners/memory of their creator. Oops.)

These little gems have a base of fragrant nutmeg shortbread, which is buttery and rich but not so short that it crumbles before you can get it to your mouth; it provides a sturdy enough base for transport or gifting.
Lashed to the butter cookie with a drop of good dark chocolate are ultra light, melt-in-your-mouth maple meringues. These are so crunchy and crisp and delicate; they really reminded me why meringue is one of my top three favorite desserts.
A dusting of powdered sugar gives them an (un)seasonally appropriate finish (ha, ha, ha, yes this everlasting winter is very funny) and provides nice color contrast to the shades of beige underneath.

These are really a special little cookie, elegant and understated, but with a flavor profile that will pleasantly surprise you, even in its subtlety. Oh, and the French word for nutmeg was too poetic not to provide you a translation of the full title:
Des sablés à la noix de muscade avec des meringues au sirop d’érable. Le sigh.

Nutmeg Shortbread with Maple Meringues
makes 50-60 1.5″ cookies

ingredients:
for the cookies:
225 grams (2 sticks, 16 tablespoons, 8 ounces) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
360 grams (3 cups) flour

for the meringues:
4 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon salt
60 grams (3 tablespoons) maple syrup
15 grams (1 tablespoon) water
200 grams (1 cup) sugar (can sub up to 50 grams (1/4 cup) maple sugar)

for assembly:
30 grams (1 ounce) dark chocolate, melted
Powdered sugar, as needed for dusting

directions:
Make the shortbread: beat butter on high speed for 3 full minutes, until fluffy and softened.
Add the salt, sugar, and nutmeg and beat on high speed for another 3 minutes; mixture should be lightened in color and not grainy.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the egg and vanilla; beat for 3 full minutes.
Scrape the bowl again and add the flour; fold a few times and then stir on low speed for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until the flour is completely incorporated and the dough comes together in a ball.
Turn out the dough and knead into a ball; refrigerate for 15 minutes (and up to 2 days).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness on a lightly floured surface.
Cut out 1.5 inch rounds and place on prepared pans.
Re-roll dough until all has been used up (I filled 3 baking sheets and baked them 1 sheet at a time).
Place in freezer for 10 minutes.
Bake straight from the freezer for 8-10 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned.
Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
Make the meringues: Prepare 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
Place egg whites and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Place maple syrup, water, and sugar in a small pot and place over medium heat.
Begin to whisk the egg whites, carefully watching the syrup.
The syrup needs to reach 240 degrees F (115 degrees C) when the egg whites are at soft peaks; adjust speed of your stand mixer or heat under the pot accordingly.
Carefully pour the hot syrup into the egg whites with the mixer running, avoiding the whisk so that hot syrup does not splash.
Whip on high speed for 3-5 minutes, or until the meringue is fluffy, glossy, and holds stiff peaks.
Fill a piping bag fitted with a jumbo French tip and pipe small dollops on the prepared pans.
If you’re struggling with the parchment paper flying up and sticking to the meringue, just place small smears of meringue on the baking sheet at the corners as “glue” and stick the parchment down.
Once you have piped out your meringues, place them in the oven.
Bake at 275 for 30 minutes, then turn the oven down to 200 degrees and dry for 2 hours, or until the meringues are dry and lift up off the parchment cleanly.
This can take much longer than 2 hours—it depends on the humidity in your home.
If need be, you can leave the meringues in the oven overnight (I left mine for a full 18 hours…!) at 200 degrees.
To assemble, use a small smear of dark chocolate to affix the meringue onto the shortbread and dust with a little powdered sugar for a snowy finish.

Deconstruct

Maple Banana Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I will teach my daughter
not to wear her skin like
a drunken apology.
I will tell her
‘Make a home out of your body,
live in yourself,
do not let people turn you into a regret,
do not justify yourself.
If you are a disaster,
it is not forever.
If you are a disaster, you are
the most beautiful one I’ve ever seen.
Do not deconstruct from the inside out,
you belong here,
you belong here,
not because you are lovely,
but because you are more than that.’

—Azra T., Your hands are threads, your body is a canvas

Maple Banana Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

March! Le Mars! Spring! Semi-warmer weather! Sunrises before 7am!
March is always fun for me as a food blogger: with pi day and St. Patty’s day and spring fruits starting to roll in, there’s lots of fodder for creativity.

It’s Lent right now and I’ve been trying to come up with a treat to send to my best friend, who gave up wheat and chocolate, which is also a good prompt for creativity: dreaming up ways to feed a friend with dietary restrictions.
I welcome it, because it’s a challenge that pushes me outside of my comfort zone, and also because I think everyone deserves to be able to eat delicious food.

I have given up purchased drinks: no boba, no tea, etc., even though I no longer consider myself a Catholic.
(Or maybe I’m just a bad Catholic. Honestly, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree: when asked what he would be giving up for Lent, my dad said “Lent.”)
I was mostly interested in how it would affect my spending habits; I have discovered that I didn’t make as many purchases at Starbucks and the like as I perhaps thought, so maybe I should have challenged myself more.
Still, it’s a good way to inform my budgeting, which I have been attempting to adhere to strictly since moving to the city that never-sleeps-but-still-pays-ridiculous-sums-for-the-apartment-that-barely-fits-its-never-used-bed. It’s all too easy to watch your money fly into the gaping maw of the expensive abyss that is New York City.
Please do not ask me how much I have spent on Ubers/Lyfts/expensive-ass groceries from WF because it’s the only grocery store near me. Le sigh. I miss u everyday, Wegman’s.

Maple Banana Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

This concept of giving things up for a period of time has been increasingly in vogue in the food world: Whole30s abound, juice cleanses proliferate, and soup/broth cleanses have appeared, as well.

As someone who has been plant-based for essentially half of my life, I’m no stranger to needing accommodations.
I have done a juice/smoothie “fast” once before, and my lovely mumma once signed me up for a soup subscription so that I would have nutritious food to eat when I was too busy with school to cook (AKA always). Neither felt like a lifestyle choice, though.

I wonder how sustainable any of it is: how much of “giving something up” is good for the long-term?
I personally think that by framing it as giving something up, one is more likely to feel frustrated by it.
My friend, N, (who did a juice fast recently) and I were talking about this last week. I forget who coined the exact phrase, but we called what she was doing a juice feast. A simple addition, but it sounds heaps less ascetic and much more healthy. She ended up really enjoying her juice feast!
I never feel or felt restricted when I gave up meat and fish, nor when I gave up milk. Increasingly, I have been eliminating dairy and eggs and leather, as well. I mostly only use dairy and eggs when I bake. Instead of feeling limited, I have found that I have gained a sense of purpose and satisfaction in my diet and lifestyle. I don’t mean to sound preachy, of course.
But when you think of what you gain, it’s a lot easier to make a lifestyle choice. You’d be surprised!
If you’re curious, you could try doing Meatless March! Or Meatless Mondays!

Maple Banana Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

More and more, I’ve seen people who give up bananas (not for health reasons/allergies, but because of the sugar).
At the gym the other morning, I heard a très millenial conversation, in which one participant declared that he was only allowed one serving of domestic fruit a day, hence only having 4 strawberries in his smoothie. His friend immediately asked, what about international fruit? He said, sagely, those are too high in sugar, so I don’t eat any: I haven’t had a banana in 7 months.
I had to hold in my laughter. It just seemed like the silliest distinction. I’m all for healthier eating and limiting sugar, because Lord knows we get enough of it, but to use political borders to define your allowed fruits?!

I for one, am never permanently giving up bananas. Ever.
Banana cake is one of the best desserts ever, in my opinion, and you would be hard-pressed to find flavors that don’t go brilliantly with it!

This naked cake has a base of moist buttermilk banana cake, adapted from the dependable Milk Bar cookbook. Honestly, I think you could even add another half a banana in to punch up the flavor, although it is lovely and soft as is. (Too many bananas, and I fear you begin to slide into banana bread territory.)
The frosting is maple Italian meringue buttercream, and it’s all I want to eat for the rest of my life. I want every waffle or pancake I ever lay eyes on to be served with this, in lieu of butter and maple syrup. It is a fluffy cloud of heaven.
A smattering of pecans finishes the cake in a fittingly rustic manner.

Anyways, my friends, love yourselves. Eat a slice of banana cake once in a while. Everything in moderation.
And stop vilifying perfectly good fruits, damn it!


Maple Banana Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Banana cakes, previously:
My 22nd birthday cake, an over the top affair with banana cake, almond dacquoise, coffee pastry cream, and chocolate Italian meringue buttercream
Roasted banana and salted chocolate cupcakes
Classic banana cake with speculoos glaze

Maple Banana Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Maple Banana Cake
makes 1 3×6-inch layer cake
cake portion adapted from Momofuku Milk Bar

ingredients:
for the banana cake:
85 grams (6 tablespoons) butter
200 grams (1 cup) granulated sugar
1 egg
110 grams (1/2 cup) buttermilk
25 grams (2 tablespoons) oil
225 grams ripe (brown) bananas, roughly two
225 grams (1 1/3 cups) AP flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

for the maple Italian meringue buttercream:
2 egg whites
40 grams (2 tablespoons) maple syrup
15 grams (1 tablespoon) water
100 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
225 grams (16 tablespoons, 1 cup) butter

to assemble:
chopped pecans

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 3 6-inch pans.
Beat butter and sugar for 5 full minutes: mixture should be very light and fluffy and not gritty.
Add egg and beat for another 3 full minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add in the buttermilk and oil and stir until just starting to combine.
Mash the bananas very well and add to the mixture, again stirring a few times.
Add the flour on top of the batter, with baking powder, baking soda, and salt on top of the flour.
Stirring slowly at first, then increasing speed, mix batter until fully combined.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix again for 20 seconds to ensure homogeneity.
Portion the batter evenly into the three prepared pans.
Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs and the tops spring back when pressed.
Allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the maple Italian meringue buttercream: place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.
Place maple syrup, water, sugar, and salt in a small pot over medium heat.
Begin whisking the egg whites.
Keep an eye on the syrup and egg whites; when the syrup reaches 240 degrees F, the egg whites should be at soft to barely-stiff peaks.
Pour the syrup into the egg whites while whipping on high speed (careful to pour down the side of the bowl to avoid hitting the whisk).
Whip on high speed until the meringue has cooled to room temperature and is glossy and shiny, about 6 minutes.
Add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time while whipping on high speed.
Whip until the buttercream is fluffy and smooth, about 5 more minutes.
Fit a piping bag with a jumbo French star tip and fill with the buttercream.
Pipe a little frosting on the base of a cake stand, then place the first layer on top.
Pipe a layer of buttercream onto the layer, then top with a second and repeat with the third.
Pipe concentric circles on the third layer, then top with chopped pecans.

Magical Thoughts

Raw Blood Orange and Cranberry Cheesecake | La Pêche Fraîche

We are not idealized wild things.
We are imperfect mortal beings, aware of that mortality even as we push it away,
failed by our very complication,
so wired that when we mourn our losses we also mourn, for better or for worse, ourselves.
As we were.
As we are no longer.
As we will one day not be at all.

—Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

Raw Blood Orange and Cranberry Cheesecake | La Pêche Fraîche

Bienvenue, 2018. You came so quickly, and so slowly, all at once.

2017 was tumult, through and through.
In my mind, this past year really started in November 2016, which seems impossibly far away, though I remember Election Night with a clarity that haunts me.
Before our current President, I really tried hard to keep politics off the blog. Now, I find biting my tongue or deleting paragraphs overwhelmingly difficult.
The America I believe in and was raised in is not a idealistic utopia free from problems and conflict, but it is a place that strives towards truth and equality and justice for all.
I believed America could and would be a leader in the fight against climate change; in the fight against Nazism and terrorism; in the fight against racism and sexism and hunger and poverty. And yet how quickly it feels that the government has slid backwards in time to settle in embarrassingly ignoble positions.
Trumpian America is not an America that believe in; it’s not one where I want to live. I am ashamed and frustrated.
My faith, however, endures. I pray we all have the strength to keep speaking up and acting against racism, sexism, and lies. I pray that we carry every lie, every injustice, every slight, and every hurt with us to the voting booths in 2018. I’m tired of racist, sexist, self-protecting old men, guys. Really, really tired of it.
This weekend was the anniversary of the (very small) inauguration and the (very large and powerful) Women’s March.
Let’s not forget it. Or actually, let’s not let The Man forget it.

Raw Blood Orange and Cranberry Cheesecake | La Pêche Fraîche

Lots of other things changed in 2017, often coming in rapid, nauseous bursts.
In January, I took my MCAT and aced it. Shortly afterwards, in February, cracks began to form in my love life: deep, unfamiliar tremors that terrified me.
In April, my brother and my sister in law got married in Portugal. The weekend was undeniably one of the best of my life and certainly of 2017. My heart fills to bursting thinking about it even now.
Come June, I graduated Phi Beta Kappa from my beloved alma mater, the University of Chicago. It was utterly surreal; it came and went so quickly, as did my entire college experience, I now realize.
The day after, my then-boyfriend left me, ending a three and a half year chapter. That same day, I moved across the country, leaving Chicago behind. Leaving a lot more than just the city behind.
Then, in all truth, the rest of the year sloshed by in waves of sadness and progress. I spent many hours at work. I spent many hours at the gym. I spent many hours relearning how to be myself. How to be alone and functional and whole.
I haven’t written about this much here on the blog because although this is—in theory—an online diary, it is—in practice—more a place of pretty pictures and delicious food. But 2017 is closed. It’s done. The ink has dried, and time enough has passed.

The end of a happy relationship is a very special kind of torment.
The absence of a constant companion is a confusing and complicated mix of grief and mourning.
Their absence is not nothing, per se, but rather an emptiness too uncomfortable to probe at the raw beginnings. Like when you lost a tooth and the resulting hole was tender and seemingly vast and tasted faintly of metallic, bitter blood.

I made the mistake of thinking my relationship was a chrysalis. From the inside, to me, it was radiant and comfortable and safe. When it broke wide open, I was left less as a fully formed being, ready for flight, and more of a fragile, wet, sad little thing.
I made the mistake of being young and foolish and believing wholeheartedly in the future, which is really not a mistake at all.

After the break up, I gave myself time markers, milestones I expected myself to achieve. They more or less came and went and I felt more or less the same, mostly because healing happens gradually, not all at once.
I don’t think I’m strictly happier now, but life isn’t a competition with previous selves for perfection. Life is love, and loss, and growth, organic and slow and complicated and messy.
I regret nothing. I am grateful.
I am, and that’s enough.

Raw Blood Orange and Cranberry Cheesecake | La Pêche Fraîche

Now, 2018 as a mix ungrammatical musings, so far:
An elderly man crying in the subway.
The mailman at 31st and 2nd stopping in the middle of the sidewalk to scratch off a lottery ticket.
Christmas trees, left piled up on the sidewalk, fragrant of pine two weeks ago and now just fragrant of dog pee. Some New Yorkers throw out their lights and ornaments with the tree. Baby with the bathwater.
Looking uptown on 7th avenue in the wee hours of the morning is to be transported straight into a cyberpunk world.
The woman hawking TimeOut magazines in Union Square who looked and sounded just like Kristin Wiig as the tiny-handed Maharelle sister on SNL (Is that unkind? I didn’t say these musings were profound).
7AM sunrises streaking through Manhattan’s grid.
Family.

This raw cake is a wonder, and the perfect compliment to the raw emotional spluttering in this post.
It’s raw, refined sugar-free, gluten-free, and vegan.
Blood oranges and cranberries provide a tart contrast, while maple syrup provides earthy sweetness. It’s an easy but stunning dessert, and piling it high with pistachios and dried blood oranges and stevia sweetened chocolate makes it even better.
It’s the perfect light start to a new year, and it fits in many resolute new lifestyles.
If you haven’t tried raw cheesecakes yet, I really recommend it. They are absolutely delicious, and so easy to make!

Raw Blood Orange and Cranberry Cheesecake | La Pêche Fraîche

Back soon, with lots of butter and refined sugar. Duh.

Raw Blood Orange and Cranberry Cheesecake | La Pêche Fraîche

Raw Blood Orange and Cranberry Cheesecake
makes 1 6-inch cheesecake

ingredients:
for the crust:
150 – 200 grams (1.5 heaping cups) whole almonds
12 dates (or as needed)
big pinch sea salt

for the filling:
500 grams cashews, soaked overnight
big pinch sea salt
100 grams (7 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon) coconut oil
400 grams (1 2/3 cup) full-fat coconut milk
100 – 160 grams (1/3 – 1/2 cup) maple syrup
juice of 2 blood oranges
300 grams (3 cups) cranberries

for the decorations:
1 blood orange
1 tablespoon maple sugar
chopped pistachios
sugar-free chocolate, if desired

directions:
Dehydrate/dry the blood orange for decoration: slice orange extremely thinly and place on a parchment lined baking rack, placed on top of a baking sheet (to allow air flow).
Preheat oven to 200 degrees F (or prepare dehydrator, if you want a truly raw product).
Sprinkle orange slices with maple sugar and bake until crisp and dry, about 1 hour.
Make the crust: pulse almonds with dates and salt until the mixture forms clumps and can be rolled into a cohesive mass.
Press 2/3 of the crust mixture into the bottom of a 6-inch springform pan; use the remaining 1/3 to roll into energy balls/cubes/pyramids for decoration and snacking.
Place pan in fridge while you prepare the filling.
Place all ingredients for the filling except the blood oranges and cranberries in a large blender; start with the smaller amount of maple syrup.
Blend on high speed until smooth and creamy with no lumps remaining, about 5-10 minutes.
Take out half of the filling.
Save approximately 2-3 tablespoons of the white filling and place into a piping bag fitted with a small round tip; pour the remaining amount over the chilled, prepared crust and place in freezer.
Meanwhile, blend the blood orange juice and half of the cranberries into the remaining half of filling; taste and add more maple syrup as necessary.
Adjust the color by blending in more cranberries, being sure to taste and add syrup as you need to balance their tartness.
Fill a piping bag fitted with a star tip with the pink filling; place in fridge.
Once the white filling has completely set, pour the pink filling over.
Using the piping bag filled with the white filling, pipe lines over the top of the pink filling.
Use a knife or toothpick to drag the white filling, creating a combed pattern.
Freeze until fully set.
Decorate with piped stars and swirls of the pink filling; arrange dried oranges, sugar-free chocolate, and pistachios over top as desired.

Golden

Raw Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake | La Pêche Fraîche

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand —
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep — while I weep!
O God! Can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

—Edgar Allan Poe, A Dream Within a Dream

Raw Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake | La Pêche Fraîche

Just a few more days until Thanksgiving!
I can’t believe how quickly November has flown by. I guess this means I should get my shit together and start thinking about the holidays now, but inevitably, I won’t.
Actually, since I’ll be near a Target when I go home (oh baby), maybe I will pick up a few cute decorations to get me ~in the mood.~ We shall see.

I am so excited to be going home. This will be my first vacation time from work since starting in June, and my first time back home for more than two days in over two years. My first Thanksgiving back home without my puppy, Ginger. That will be weird. Who is going to bother me for all of the turkey juices and table scraps?! (And don’t anyone dare suggest the cats. They may be hungry, but even their appetites combined could never match a chocolate lab’s.)

My life has changed rapidly in the last year (just one year ago we were attempting to prep for Thanksgiving in a teeny city kitchen), which I believe is a symptom of being 22 years old, freshly graduated, in a new city. Certainly I am not unique in this.
But even when I was a student and had midterms to worry about and had to bring my homework or lug my MCAT books back home with me for the holiday, or when I was only going “home” to a temporary home, Thanksgiving was a time of grounding. I know many people face holiday-preparation panic, with which I sympathize. For me, however, the crazy antics that go on in the kitchen, requiring careful planning, are a delight.
Stressful, yes, but everything in life that I love is stressful for me. This is a symptom of having a brain and personality like mine.

Raw Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake | La Pêche Fraîche

 Here are some tried-and-true La Pêche Fraîche recipes that are definitely Thanksgiving appropriate:

This pound cake is a perfect base recipe; I’ll be making this in a caramel apple version this year.

Can’t not mention this show-stopping checkerboard pumpkin cheesecake; it’s no-bake, so an option to take pressure off of the oven.

This pumpkin meringue tart with cinnamon toast crunch crust. Oh YES, it’s good.

These brown butter and molasses mini cupcakes. They can be your dessert appetizers. Can we make that a thing?

These sticky sweet pumpkin and condensed milk cakes, which would be fantastic as a sheet cake to serve a crowd.

This apple, pear, butterscotch, and cheddar pie could not be more autumnal and really elevates the apple pie game, y’all.

This double pumpkin (with pumpkin butter and pumpkin purée!) bread is a crowd-pleaser, and can be made dairy-free very easily.

This pumpkin spice, brown butter, chocolate pecan pie is a stunner; what Thanksgiving is complete sans pecan pie?!

Raw Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake | La Pêche Fraîche

Savory things I’m pocketing for Thanksgiving:

This golden fennel and kale chop from Sprouted Kitchen looks a lot like my go-to kale salad recipe; Sara adds fennel where I add raisins, and I love her twist on it! I might have to throw some into my salad this Thanksgiving.

I make an aioli every year to go alongside roasted vegetables; it’s the perfect easy sauce to throw together ahead of time. This year, I’ll be adding curry powder and maybe a touch of tahini.

This is the recipe I’m going to try for our cornbread stuffing this year; it looks solid and I love that it’s simple and vegan to boot!

Pie-inspo, because, duh:

Marbled chocolate cheesecake pumpkin pie from Adrianna: a mouthful, literally and figuratively. Just gorgeous (those swirls!) and I am personally a huge fan of chocolate + pumpkin.

Brownie. Pie. That is all. (Praise be to Joy and Erin for making me aware of this phenomenon.)

Erin made a chocolate cream pie with whipped peanut butter cream, and I think it would make a welcome break from pumpkin, apple, and cinnamon-spiced things at TGives!

Every post Linda creates is pure magic, and this vegan chocolate meringue pie is no exception. So dreamy, I can get lost in her photography!

Erin says, “[a] pithivier is a crispy, flaky alternative to pie.” That is when I stopped reading and started drooling. Her cranberry version looks dope.

Cakes to inspire you this holiday:

Michelle recently celebrated her sixth blog birthday (yay!) and made an autumnal hummingbird cake; it would make a great non-pie addition to the holiday table!

Zoe’s poached pear and ginger chocolate cake is something my mama would love; the flavor combination is elegant and classic and never goes out of style.

Tejal Rao wrote a lovely piece about three very different cakes for the holidays; I’m sure the recipes are bang-on (considering the sources!) and I enjoyed reading this one.

Sweet things that aren’t pie and cake to take notes on:

Jen makes macarons the same way I do (sucre cuit, or Italian meringue) and put together an awesome tutorial. If you’ve been scared to try them, this recipe may just be the ticket!

Alana’s baked apple cider donuts with maple glaze and cinnamon crumbles sound like the best iteration of apple cider donuts other than the original (piping fresh at the orchard). I love the combination of textures!

Raw Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake | La Pêche Fraîche

The recipe I’m sharing today is one that will have a proud place on my family’s Thanksgiving table, and I guarantee you that people will be shocked when they find out it is vegan, raw, gluten-free, and refined sugar-free.
My taste testers, both of whom had just arrived back from separate spinning classes (freaks) ate these with gusto, unbelieving that in spite of the creamy, indulgent taste, these were a virtuous and appropriate choice for a post-workout snack.

These are raw, vegan pumpkin-spice “cheesecakes” and they will convert even the most annoying of carnivores (ya, I said it, you people can be annoying too).
They are creamy and delicately spiced, with a date and almond cocoa crust and a cashew and coconut filling sweetened with maple syrup and given heft and color from earthy pumpkin purée.
They are a breeze to whip together, as long as you have soaked your cashews (overnight, covered in cold water; nothing fancy necessary).
They come together in a little under 15 minutes (no, I’m serious) and just require the freezer, so making these will free up some in-demand oven time!
Here, I’ve used this silicon mold, and it works perfectly.
I’ve been really into making raw cheezcakes lately in all forms, and you can make this in a springform pan as well. If you double this recipe, it will make a very tall 6-inch cake, or a regular 8-inch one.
Be sure to thaw the cake for a few hours in the fridge before serving, so it’s not rock solid.

I hope you all have a most wonderful and delicious Thanksgiving!

Raw Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake | La Pêche Fraîche

Raw Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecakes 

makes 6 small cheesecakes or 1 8-inch round

ingredients:
for the crust:
140 grams (1 cup) whole almonds
8-10 dates, depending on how juicy they are
2 tablespoons cacao or cocoa powder
pinch sea salt

for the filling:
250 grams (15 ounces) raw, unsalted cashews (soaked*)
50 grams (3 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons) coconut oil
150 grams (5.4 ounce can) coconut cream
78 grams (2 tablespoons) maple syrup
60 grams (1/4 cup) pumpkin puree
juice of 1 lemon
pinch sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

directions:
*Soak cashews overnight in cold water.
First, make the crust: place almonds, dates, cacao/cocoa powder, and salt in a food processor or blender.
Pulse until a rough meal forms, then press into tins and refrigerate.
Any leftover crust can be shaped into decorations for the tops of the cakes.
Place cashews into a clean blender with the other ingredients for the filling except the pumpkin and spices.
Blend for 5-8 minutes, depending on the power of your blender; filling should be very smooth.
Portion out 1/3 of the filling and pour over prepared crust; place into freezer until hardened.
Add the pumpkin and spices to the remaining filling and blend to combine.
Once the plain base is set (about 30 minutes to an hour), pour the pumpkin filling over top and freeze again until set.
To serve, allow to thaw for 3-4 hours in the fridge; dust with cocoa powder and top with leftover crust decorations.

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Épicé

 Black Pepper and Maple Syrup Gingerbread | La Pêche Fraîche

“Always winter, never Christmas.”

—C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

 Black Pepper and Maple Syrup Gingerbread | La Pêche Fraîche

If you need some last-minute inspiration for your cookie boxes, I have rounded up some links of cookies that I’ve been stunned by lately. I guarantee we can all find some inspo from these amazing creations!

Cindy @ Hungry Girl Por Vida made really gorgeous and creative linzer cookies—with pistachios and lemon curd! Lemon curd is my favorite, so I’m keen to try this flavor combination out.

I’m sure you already saw these all over Instagram, but Tessa (Style Sweet CA) made perfect (as always!) spritz cookies in a collab with Wilton.

Snowballs—buttery and covered in powdered sugar—are always a weakness of mine. Christina (Dessert for Two) made gluten-free matcha and pistachio snowballs, and I want to try these so bad. I can only imagine how well the bitter, greeny matcha tastes when in a butter cookie!

Elizabeth from Brooklyn Supper made cardamom orange sugar cookies, and I’m intrigued.  They look delicate and lovely.

 Black Pepper and Maple Syrup Gingerbread | La Pêche Fraîche

Jes from Whisk and Wanter made these sparkly, adorable girly evergreen cookies. I’m inspired to step up my sugar cookie game after seeing her gorgeous creations!

These super comforting peanut butter and chocolate crinkle cookies from Tieghan @ Half Baked Harvest are a must! The flaky sea salt on the milk chocolate kisses, swoon.

Last year I made some eggnog roll out cookies which were a hit, as well as chocolate peppermint shortbread, cinnamon toast crunch treats, and Russian teacakes.
The year before, it was honey spice and dark chocolate cookies, among others. You can find links through to years even before that, as well, if you really want to do a deep dive!

The fact that I only made two batches of cookies this year makes me feel like a bit of a loser, ugh. I have to remind myself to step back and enjoy what I can—the holidays are a time to be with family and relax, not worry too much about cooking (this isn’t Thanksgiving, ha!).
Besides, baking in a different (tiny) kitchen can be frustrating.

 Black Pepper and Maple Syrup Gingerbread | La Pêche Fraîche

Still, there is nothing, and I mean nothing, that brings me as much winter cheer as gingerbread, and if there was a single cookie I’d like to make and smell baking in my home, it would be these.
I just love the warm spiciness of gingerbread, whether in a layer or bundt cake or cookies crisp or soft.

These gingerbread cookies are crispy and thin—good for gifting and safe for shipping—and they stay fresh for a long time.
They are made with maple syrup and black pepper for a spicy little twist!
These are very similar to Swedish pepparkakor, or ginger thins—they’re not as dark and spicy as American style gingerbread, but rather a little lighter in color and in the spices added.
I think they’re absolutely addicting and cute, however you choose to decorate them!

 Black Pepper and Maple Syrup Gingerbread | La Pêche Fraîche

Maple Syrup and Black Pepper Gingersnaps
makes ~60 2-inch cookies

ingredients:
3/4 cup (6 ounces) butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup (6 ounces) maple syrup
3 cups all-purpose flour

directions:
Cream butter for 2 minutes to soften.
Add in the spices and sugar and cream for 3 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add the egg and vanilla and cream for 2 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add the maple syrup.
Beat until well combined, about 1 minute.
Scrape the bowl and add the flours.
Mix on low speed until a dough forms.
Knead once or twice, then wrap well in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Roll out dough to 1/4 inch thickness on a well-floured surface and cut shapes as desired.
Place on baking sheets and refrigerate for 15 more minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake cookies for 7-10 minutes, depending on desired level of crispness.
Decorate with royal icing, if desired.

Crunchy

Granola | La Pêche Fraîche

“We’ve got this gift of love, but love is like a precious plant.
You can’t just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it’s going to get on by itself.
You’ve got to keep watering it. You’ve got to really look after it and nurture it.”

—John Lennon

Granola | La Pêche Fraîche

Welcome, brand new baby year, fresh and bright white and snow covered.
Welcome, welcome 2015!!

(I’m back in Chicago, and it’s snowing a fair amount.
Class starts tomorrow.
It’s going to be below 0 deg F on Wednesday.
Le sigh.)

Granola | La Pêche Fraîche

My mama loves granola.  She eats it for breakfast almost every day.
My mama is *ahem* particular about her granola.  She likes maybe one out of every 5 she tries.

So before I left to come back to school, I made a whole bunch of simple, healthy granola for my mom.
Heaps of oats, plenty of maple syrup, rich and buttery coconut oil, a hint of spice.

This batch fills up an entire large canister of rolled oats, and it uses about half of one, so it’s a perfect way to finish off the jar floating around your pantry.

It’s utterly delicious with cold milk—cow’s or otherwise (I recently tried hazelnut-almond-cashew and fell in love)—and fresh raspberries or strawberries, difficult as they are to source in the depths of winter.

Granola | La Pêche Fraîche

This granola is crunchy, sweet, with a whisper of salt.
It’s toasty and full of almonds and coconut.
It’s simple—a hint of cinnamon, maple syrup to sweeten, and that’s pretty much it.
It’s vegan and gluten-free if you want it to be—just make sure all your ingredients are certified vegan or GF either way.

It’s super easy to customize: add a tablespoon of vanilla extract or replace the almonds with hazelnuts or pecans, use coconut chunks or chips instead of flakes, toss in dried mango or raisins or cranberries or banana chips.

Anyways, this is meant to be a nourishing first post of 2015 (!) but also a short one, as I have to unpack and settle into our little home here in Chiberia.

Granola | La Pêche Fraîche

Almond Coconut Granola
gluten-free, vegan
makes ~6 cups of granola

ingredients:
5 cups of rolled oats (certified GF if necessary)
1 cup of sliced almonds
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut (or use unsweetened)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup melted coconut oil (or ghee)

directions:
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Stir oats, almonds, and coconut together.
Stir salt, maple syrup, and coconut oil together, then pour wet ingredients over and stir with a spoon until all is coated.
Spread oats out onto baking sheets and tamp down lightly to pack.
Bake for 15 minutes, then lightly stir with a spatula and rotate sheets.
Bake for 15 more minutes, then stir and rotate again.
Bake for 10-15 more minutes, until evenly and lightly browned and toasted.
Remove from oven and let cool completely on sheets.
Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Une Souche de Noël

Une Souche de Noël | La Pêche Fraîche

 Mais non, mes chéris, pas une bûche!  Vraiment une souche!

That’s right, we just upended the Yule log—literally.
Took the classic bûche de Noël and made it into a souche de Noël.
A stump!  A stump de Noël.

 This cake is an endeavor.  It’s intricate; it’s large.
But while detailed, it’s also charmingly rustic.
It doesn’t have to be perfectly made—rough scratches around the bark make it all the more realistic.
Fallen moss and dirt add character to the forest floor.
Crooked mushrooms—perfect.  They don’t pop out of the ground white and symmetrical, after all.

Basically, this cake can be a little rough around the edges and still sparkle and shine.
The whole is much greater than the sum of the parts.

The first component of the cake is a buttery, yolk-rich eggnog cake, redolent with nutmeg and whiskey (traditionally rum, but peruse your own liquor cabinets for anything boozy).
It comes out of the oven as fragrant as can be.

Brushing with maple-whiskey syrup adds more flavor and ensures that the cake stays moist.
It also adds a nice kick, hey-o!

The whipped ganache that covers the cake is rich and thick, with a touch of salt and deep, dark bittersweet chocolate.
The cream keeps it light and fluffy, so that you don’t have a big brick of solid ganache bark.

The dirt is made from chocolate cookie crumbs and the moss from chopped pistachios.  Both add a little crunch and texture and a realistic touch.
Also, both are good to snack on.  Just saying.

The final touches are the mushrooms and the holly branches.
The mushrooms are made of Italian meringue, dried in the oven until super crunchy and crispy.
They’re sweet and soft on the inside, like marshmallows, but have a crisp shell which is brushed lightly with cocoa powder to mimic real mushrooms.
I got the idea from the wonderful, brilliant Stella of Bravetart.
They’re pretty damn cute, I must say.

The holly branches are made of marzipan, colored with a touch of cocoa for depth and plenty of food coloring.
I’m addicted to marzipan—the sweet almond taste is so good!  When you add a hint of cocoa, it only gets better.
Adding a tiny bit of cocoa is a great way to deepen the color of food coloring and make it seem more realistic.

The end result is five layers of golden cake, wrapped in dark chocolate ganache and garnished with magical little touches of the forest.
A sprinkling of snow brings the whole thing to life—it’s an enchanted cake, really.

It’s also a showstopper.  Definitely worthy of Christmas dinner, the necessary showpiece dessert that sparkles and shines and captures all eyes.
It may be a bit of work, but not much more than any regular layer cake.  And in my humble opinion, it’s worth it.
It’s a cake to show off and take many pictures with; it’s a cake of which to be very, very proud.

“‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads…”

A Visit from Saint Nicholas, Clement Clarke Moore

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!
Love, your resident holiday-crazed blogger.

Souche (Stump) de Noël
cake portion adapted from Joy of Baking
makes 1 large 8-inch cake

for the eggnog cake (you’ll need 1.5 times this recipe, to make 5 8-inch layers and 4 cupcakes):
2 2/3 cup (260 grams) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (40 grams) cornstarch
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup (170 grams) butter, soft
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/3 cups (265 grams) sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
6 large egg yolks (110 grams)
2 tablespoons (30 mL) rum or whiskey
1 tablespoon (15 mL) vanilla extract
1 cup (240 mL) milk

for the maple soak:
1/3 cup (80 mL) maple syrup
2 tablespoons (30 mL) whiskey or rum

for the whipped ganache (may need to double; a reader found she needed approximately twice as much frosting):
18 ounces (500 grams) bittersweet chocolate
2 pinches kosher salt
2 cups (500 mL) heavy cream

for the meringue mushrooms:
3 egg whites
small pinch cream of tartar
3/4 cup (300 grams) sugar
pinch of salt
1/4 cup (60 mL) water
cocoa powder, for dusting

to assemble:
marzipan holly branches
chopped skinned pistachios
crushed chocolate cookies
powdered sugar, for dusting

directions:
Make the cake: grease and flour 4 8-inch round pans and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Beat the butter for 3 full minutes, until light and fluffy.
Scrape the sides of the bowl, add the sugar, nutmeg, and salt and beat for 3 more minutes.
Add in the eggs and beat for 5 full minutes, until mixture is fluffy, shiny, and pale white—it shouldn’t be gritty.
Whisk vanilla extract, milk, and whiskey then beat slowly until partway combined.
Place the flour, cornstarch and baking powder on top of the batter, then gently stir to combine everything, making sure to scrape the sides of the bowl.
Portion batter out into the prepared pans and bake for 20-25 minutes, until springy to the touch and a tester comes out clean.
Allow cakes to cool completely. (You’ll need to make another half-batch of batter, baking 1 8-inch round and 4 cupcakes.)
Meanwhile, bring maple syrup and whiskey to a boil, then immediately remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Brush cooled cakes with the whiskey syrup.
Make the chocolate ganache: chop chocolate finely and place in a bowl with the salt.
Heat cream to boiling, then pour over the chocolate and let sit for 4 minutes.
Whisk the chocolate and cream together, starting slowly, speeding up until the ganache is smooth and shiny.
Allow to cool until room temperature, then whip with a mixer until fluffy.
Frost two cupcakes into a tower to make the small stump; put 1/3 cup frosting between each layer and also place a crumb coat on the cake.
Using the rest of the frosting generously, to frost the cake roughly.
Use a fork to scrape the sides to look like bark, and swirl the top to look like the top of a stump.
To make the meringue mushrooms, preheat oven to 225 degrees F.
Place egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.
Place sugar, water, and salt in a small pot over medium heat.
Start to whisk the egg whites.
By the time the egg whites are at stiff peaks, the syrup should be at 240-245 degrees F.
Pour the hot syrup into the meringue while whisking at high speed.
Pipe the meringue into stem and cap shapes on parchment paper-lined sheets.
Bake for 2 hours, turning the oven to 175 degrees F after 90 minutes.
Allow to dry in the oven until mushrooms peel off the parchment paper.
Dust the caps with cocoa powder and rub in with your fingers.
Use your cocoa-y hands to lightly rub the stems to make them slightly colored too.
Decorate the stump with chocolate cookie crumbs around the bottom, pressing some into the sides of the cake.
Place mushrooms and holly branches around the cake, and press some chopped pistachios into the bark to be “moss.”
Dust a little powdered sugar over the top, and then impress all your friends and family with your very own stump de Noël!

Serendipitous

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Hey there, Autumn.

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I thought I’d share some things that I’m loving and coveting right now.  Some hover on the edge of the seasons, some I share with autumnal intent, and some for plain old adoration.

First off, I cannot stop listening to “I’m Not the Only One.”
It’s been on repeat for 2 full days.
Sam Smith gets me and my current life mood, and this song is soothing but oh-so-sad.
It’s incredibly refreshing to hear his beautiful Adele-man-voice singing something other than “Stay With Me” or “Latch.”

I finally (!) read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Oh!!!!
It was utterly fantastic. I picked it up and didn’t put it down until I finished, 24 hours later.
The attention she pays to details, her nuanced plot implications, and realistic emotional touch add up to quite an addictive read.
And OMG I can’t wait for the movie.

I reallyreallyreallyreallyreally want to read The Hedge Knight (AKA the tales of Dunk and Egg) by GRRM to bide my time until the next GoT book (2015?!?! REALLY?!) but have discovered that it costs $100+ dollars to buy a new copy.
I may have to settle for the kindle version, which is inferior in my humble opinion. Give me a crackling spine and sweet, faintly musty paper pages any day.

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I love the Hunter “Iconic Red” collection, but I really have my eye on some tall black wellingtons.  I have the olive green ones and absolutely adore them, and I think black can only be more versatile!
(Although since I intend to buy these gorgeous black boots in the next few weeks, red wellingtons could be just the ticket to keep my boot collection from looking too monotonous…)

I bought a pair of Lululemon 4-way stretch running shorts about a month ago, and I am about ready to throw out all my “norts” and invest in 4 more pairs of these babies.
They’re fitted without being clingy, so they don’t ride up or stick to you in weird places; they’re stretchy and comfortable, lightweight, and don’t cut in at all at the hips.
I hate having to adjust my clothing in the middle of a workout, which is the main reason why I fell for lulu leggings.  Now, I fear also been converted to their sport shorts…

This bag shall be mine, as soon as it goes back on sale (as Jessica pointed out, Rebecca Minkoff is always on sale).
I have a similar bag (white python, gold hardware) but it’s irritatingly large and due to its poor quality, stained from my blue jeans.  Can’t wait to get rid of it and replace it with a mini Mac!

In the realm of bags, I am coveting this Céline.
Sigh. One day.

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I have more links to share, but I don’t want my varied obsessions to be too long-winded, so I’ll save them for another link love post.
(Although by then I’ll inevitably have racked up another impressive list of randoms…)

Let’s chat about this here cake, y’all.

It started out as a spiced applesauce cake with a heaping ton of streusel on top, but in the heat of the oven, the top of the cake buckled in and ate much of the streusel—when I pulled out the loaf, the top sported an eighth of the original amount of streusel.
I figured it would mostly just melt into the batter, no big deal.

However, something far, far better happened:
a pocket of molten streusel, basically a little river of caramelized sugar and butter with a heavy hit of salt, aka the stuff of dreams aka pinch-me-am-I-dreaming-deliciousness, formed right in the center of the cake.

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The parts of the cake that retained their streuseled top (mostly the edges) were, just as expected, pleasantly moist with a lovely crunch on top.
So, if your streusel doesn’t sink through the cake, don’t worry.  Either way produces a gently spiced, super moist cake that offers a faint suggestion of apples and fall.
Either way, however, you neeeeed to add this glaze.
It’s my go-to: maple syrup, brown butter, salt, a touch of cream. UGH. Could eat with a spoon.

I snuck one two pieces of this cake before I wrapped it up and gave it to my bestfriendinthewholeworld, Gwen.
It’s perfectly comforting, well-suited for stressed out students!
Like a hug in cake form.
It’s a bomb way to start off fall baking—warm and spicy, but decidedly not pumpkin.

(I’m so not ready for that yet.)

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Brown Butter Applesauce Cake
cake portion adapted from Averie
streusel portion adapted from Smitten Kitchen
makes 1 9×5 loaf

ingredients:
for the streusel:
5 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

for the cake:
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground coriander (optional)
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup sour cream
1 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

for the brown butter maple glaze:
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 – 3/4 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
Make the streusel: combine all of the ingredients and pinch with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, set aside.
Make the cake: place the sugars, salt, and spices in a large bowl. Brown the butter in a skillet, then pour it over the sugar mixture.
While whisking, add in the eggs and vanilla extract; whisk until combined, then stir in the applesauce and sour cream.
Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and baking powder, then stir into the batter until homogeneous.
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan, then sprinkle the streusel on top.
Bake for 55-65 minutes, until a toothpick comes out completely clean (you can tent it with foil if the top browns too quickly).
Remove from the oven; while the cake is cooling, make the glaze.
Place butter in a small skillet and brown; remove from the heat and add stir in the salt and maple syrup.
While whisking, add in the powdered sugar, then add heavy cream to thin it to a pouring consistency (if you add too much cream, you can add in a little more sugar to balance it out).
Pour/drizzle the warm glaze over the slightly warm cake, then leave to cool completely.
Serve in thick slices with strong coffee.

Take the Cake

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Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt personally victimized by carrot cake.

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Carrot cakes are (generally) overly sweet and fatty.
Cloying sugar covers up the rich earthy undertones of the carrots.
Oil is added until the batter is slick and shiny, and when baked, greasy.

On top of this, a thick, sugared crust of cream cheese frosting, which is literally just fat and pounds of icing sugar.

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Too much sugar and too much fat—not that anyone is really under the impression that traditional carrot cake is intended to be healthy, but there is such a thing as too much of a yummy thing.

Carrot cakes have all the potential in the world, and too often they fall painfully short of delicious.

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Carrots, after sugar beets, have the most natural sugar of any vegetable.  As root vegetables, this sweetness is accompanied by a rich, round earthiness and, when cooked, a pleasant chewiness.

A whole pound of them form the base of this cake, shredded into tiny threads that all but disappear, leaving a moist, coarse crumb.

Carrots are accompanied by nutty rye flour, sweet, buttery pecans, round coconut oil and peppery olive oil, and shredded coconut that melts into the finished cake.

I reduced the sugar and oil in this recipe, replacing the standard canola oil with olive and coconut and taking the sugar down by 1/4.
Both are supplanted by a mashed up banana, which gives body and sweetness in a more wholesome way.

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This adds up to a carrot cake full of textures and flavors, without the slick of oil and heaps of sugar.
It’s carrot cake, but better.
It’s a touch more healthy, but that’s not the point—the point is to make this cake more respectable, more complex.

Take back carrot cake, people.

IMG_1375_01After reducing the amount of sugar and fat in the cake itself, I made a batch of cream cheese frosting that was on the smaller side, and much less sweet than the standard.
In order to be able to not add 1 1/4 POUNDS of powdered sugar to the frosting, I add in powdered milk, which adds body and extra flavor without the cloying sweetness.

This gets spread in a thin layer all over the cake, making it look a little naked but still pretty, IMHO.  Most of the frosting is saved for the top, and it doesn’t crust over with sugar, but remains creamy.

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Words have escaped me when I sit down to write, lately.
I don’t have much to complain about say.
I suppose I don’t feel much inspired by my life of late—not that it’s boring, but it is rather relaxed and quiet—and it leads me to be quite quiet on the blog.
I realize that many of you don’t come for the words, so I am deciding that whether they flow or not, I shall share the recipes and photos that I have in my (long) backlog.

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Maybe my next post will have more words.  Maybe not.
xx

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Rye Carrot Cake
adapted from Dorie Greenspan
makes 1 4×8 or 3×9 inch layer cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup rye flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 scant pound carrots
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup desiccated coconut (sub shredded coconut)
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 medium banana, mashed
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons maple syrup

for the cream cheese frosting:
12 ounces (1 1/2 packages) cream cheese, softened
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks, 12 tablespoons) butter, softened
pinch kosher salt
1 cup dry milk powder
1 1/2-2 cups confectioner’s sugar

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 4 8-inch round baking pans.
Stir flours, baking powder and baking soda together.
In a food processor with the finest shredder attachment disk or with a cheese grater, shred the carrots as finely as you can; set aside.
Whisk sugar, salt, oils, and banana together very briskly, until completely combined and smooth.
Beat in each of the eggs and the maple syrup; whisk until completely smooth.
Add in the dry ingredients and carrots and stir to combine; when almost combined, add in the pecans, coconut, and raisins.
Scoop even amounts of the batter into the pans and smooth out with a spatula or butter knife.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a tester comes out clean and the tops of the cakes are springy to the touch.
Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes; turn out of pans and allow to cool completely.
Make the frosting: beat butter on high speed until softened and almost white, about 5 minutes.
Add in the cream cheese and salt and beat for 3 more minutes, until completely homogeneous.
Sift the powdered milk and powdered sugar over the mixture in 4 parts, beating on high speed for 1 minute between each addition.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and beat for another minute; taste for sweetness.
To assemble the cake, spread 1/3 cup frosting between each layer and thinly frost the sides; use the remaining frosting to coat the top in a thick layer.
Serve at room temperature.