Brandy Alexander

Brandy Alexander Tiramisu | La Pêche Fraîche

Though I’d like to be the girl for him
And cross the sea and land for him
On milky skin my tongue is sand until
The ever distant band begins to play

He’s my Brandy Alexander
Always gets me into trouble
But that’s another matter
Brandy Alexander…

—Feist, Brandy Alexander

Brandy Alexander Tiramisu | La Pêche Fraîche

Do you know this song?
If not, go listen now: here’s the weird 2000s video, complete with wacky, sharpie eyebrows and way too many cut shots.

I love Feist; she’s got such a cool, easy vibe going.  Soft and breezy vocals with a touch of soul.
Brandy Alexander is one of my favorites.

Brandy Alexander Tiramisu | La Pêche Fraîche

Where in the dickens have I been?!
The last time you heard from me, I was dusting green powder on a beautiful little cake and shouting for Spring!
I’m back, more than a week later, with my tail between my legs and a more muted color palate, to say the least.

Spring quarter is shaping up to be a tough one, folks.
I’m still wobbly-kneed, trying to get my balance back as I adjust to my new (increased) workload.
I’m also working hard on a project for UChi’s Festival of the Arts (FOTA), the products of which you’ll see soon.  They may or may not include a multitude of layer cakes and a video(!).

On top of the rigorous demands of biochem/other classes, I have to prep for my summer job (that means shopping for pencil skirts, right?) and God, I have realized, I have to go outside this quarter.
Because, despite the fact that I’ve been in the library 24/7 over the last week, it’s been gorgeous in Chicago.
Sunny, not too hot, not too cold.  Magnificent spring weather.
My skin definitely needs the vitamin D this quarter.
(Hey, skin, remember what a revelation Mexico was, just, oh, 2 weeks ago?  Where did you put all my tan?????)

Brandy Alexander Tiramisu | La Pêche Fraîche

Tiramisù is derived from the Italian phrase pick-me-up (literally, tira-mi-sù), and I would agree wholeheartedly with that translation.
Inspired by this one-bowl tiramisu, I set my heart on making mini tiramisus in tiny bowls.

I was inspired by the flavors of a Brandy Alexander, which is made of crème de cacao, cognac, and cream, and are quite similar to traditional tiramisu.

In order to do so, I made the tiniest, twee-est savoiardi, less than an inch long each.
A nip of espresso to dip your ladyfingers in gives a nice bracing ripple of coffee to the dessert.
Each lightly soaked ladyfinger was layered with ultra creamy, egg-yolk rich mascarpone cream spiked with cognac and coffee liqueur, not too sweet and with a touch of salt.
Each layer was dusted generously with cacao powder, giving a necessary whiff of chocolate to each bite.

Tiramisù, if you haven’t indulged recently, is one of the most magnificent desserts ever created.  The ladyfingers soften under the espresso and become cake-like, the mascarpone cream is ridiculously rich and creamy; the alcohol and cacao cut through everything, giving each bite utmost clarity and leaving you drooling for more.

Because I’m sharing a tiramisu recipe, I have to give a health hazard warning:  (no, not the egg yolks… If you’re nervous, you can cook them lightly.  More on that from the Pioneer Woman) please DO NOT breathe in while stuffing your face with this creamy delicacy.  You will inhale cacao and cough for 10 minutes straight while looking ashamed in front of your dinner guests.  Best to hold your breath while you spoon the entire thing into your maw.  Much more elegant.

Brandy Alexander Tiramisu | La Pêche Fraîche

Tiramisu
makes 6 large-ish portions, 8 reasonable

ingredients:
for the lady fingers:
2 eggs, divided
60 grams (1/3 cup) sugar, divided evenly
pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
40 grams (1/3 cup) flour
3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

for the mascarpone cream:
225 grams (8 ounces) mascarpone
240 mL (1 cup) cream
4 egg yolks
50 grams (1/4 cup) sugar
30mL (2 tablespoons) cognac
30 mL (2 tablespoons) Kahlua
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

to assemble:
120 mL (1/2 cup) espresso
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
cacao powder, for dusting (sub cocoa powder if need be)

directions:
Make the lady fingers: preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and fit a piping bag with a small round tip.
Separate the eggs and beat the egg yolks with half of the sugar, the salt, and the vanilla for 3 minutes.
Add the flour to the yolk mixture and fold it in until it is half mixed in.
Whip the egg whites to stiff peaks with the other half of the sugar.
Once they reach stiff peaks, fold 1/3 of the whites into the yolk/flour mixture.
After the first 1/3 is fully incorporated, fold in the rest of the egg whites until the batter is homogeneous but still very fluffy (don’t mix too hard!).
Fill the piping bag and pipe tiny, 1 inch lines about 1/4 an inch from one another.
Dust completely with confectioner’s sugar
Bake for 7 minutes, until lightly golden, then remove from oven, peel off of parchment, and allow to cool.
To make the mascarpone cream, whip mascarpone and heavy cream until they reach stiff peaks.
Meanwhile, whisk the yolks, sugar, alcohols, vanilla, and salt together until fully homogeneous.
Pour into the whipped cream mixture slowly, and beat until it is all incorporated (the mixture will thin out).
To make the tiramisu, mix espresso and vanilla together and dip the bottom of the lady fingers into the mixture before placing them in serving dishes.
Layer 2 tablespoons of mascarpone cream over the lady fingers, then dust with cacao.
Repeat the layering 3 times for each tiramisu, smoothing the top and dusting generously.
Chill for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight before eating.

Chuchote

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Soft does spring press on,
by briefest glimpses of the sun.
And eagerly do buds break,
warm winds whisp’ring them awake.
Quiet pinks and palest yellows
shade the undersides of petals.
The breeze is scented, sweet,
caressing the world out from its sleep.
Life unfurls far as the eye can see;
birds and blooms fill every tree.
Warbling melodies call from above,
honeyed confessions of new love.

–4/21/14

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Mother Nature has spread her arms, her wings, and enveloped my world in a deeply perfumed embrace.

I am humbled by and grateful for the beauty of spring.
Winter brought me to my knees, yet the long, dark months have served to make the sunshine even brighter, the flowers even sweeter, the buds even more promising.
I am doing my best to welcome life back in.

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Forgive me my long absence, I am aware that a week is an uncharacteristically long break between posts.

Life has been crazy lately.
Assignments, papers, reading, problem sets, events, deadlines, on top of socializing and trying to let loose– they all pile up like pollen, itching the OCD part of my brain and making it sneeze with fear and dissatisfaction.
As I was falling asleep last night (around 3 am…), I tried to remove myself from the pile-up, to look at it from an external point of view.
To let my mind float up, extended from my body, and look down at myself and the growing number of duties beside me.

It did not go as planned.  You know what happened?  I had a panic attack.
I couldn’t help but think about all the things that were due, all the sleep I wouldn’t get, all the little things I do and have done wrong.
How I can’t and won’t be able to do everything I need and want to.
How I have over-scheduled myself, over-promised my time, over-stretched my mind.
How fine of a wire I am balancing on, eternally teetering between breakdown and triumph.

I know it’s a part of life to be challenged and be forced to keep on pushing through; I’m trying enormously to keep that in mind.
The funny thing is how well so many things have been going.  I’m happy.
Life is so so good.  Busy can be good.

We live in a busy, productive society– but sometimes I just feel terribly overwhelmed by the culture of stress that prevails, especially here at UChicago.
It’s easy to fool yourself into thinking that you should be busy busy busy all the time, but it’s not sustainable.
I’m glad I only have 10 weeks of this, because I’m not sure how much longer I could realistically survive.

Downtime is just as important as the pep and the pomp.

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This crepe cake celebrates the fresh berries that are beginning to call out in the markets.
By late spring, our baskets will be brimming with the first crop of sweet, juicy local raspberries.

The ones that topped this cake were perfect, but they came from California.
Those lucky bastards are spoiled with luscious local produce all year long.

The cake itself is a stack of simple crepes that melt on your tongue, thin and lacy with crisped edges, spread with sweet, rich mascarpone cream and sea-salted caramel with just a whisper of darkness, a near-burnt profundity that adds complexity; tart, juicy raspberries and a shower of powdered sugar complete it.

The sum is greater than the parts– it ends up looking quite fancy for being a no-bake affair!

My friends and I each enjoyed a slice as we sat around a table catching up.
A wonderful slice of relaxation.

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A few tips and tricks for making this beautiful cake:

Don’t panic while making crepes!
Invest in a nonstick skillet– a small one will do.
Even if you avoid nonstick for fear of flaking coating, it’s worth having such a skillet for making crepes.
You won’t really need to butter your pan, which prevents weird fried edges and allows the crepes to cook evenly.
It also takes the hassle out of flipping the crepes– just slide a spatula or fork around the edges, and carefully pick up the crepe with your fingers to flip it quickly.

Keep your heat on medium-high.
Too cold, and the crepes will take forever and will not brown correctly.
Too high, and you’ll get bubbles that eventually burn.

Do the prep in pieces.
Make the crepes a day (or two!) ahead.  Lay them out on a baking sheet with parchment in between the crepes, wrap them in saran wrap and refrigerate them.
Make the caramel the night before– just leave it on the counter in a bowl to cool.
Make the mascarpone cream right before you use it; it takes all of five minutes to whip together.

Once the main components are all in place, it’s a breeze to stack up.  Methodical, really.
A spoonful of cream, a drizzle of caramel, another lacy crepe.
Rinse and repeat.

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Caramel Mascarpone Crepe Cake
crepe portion adapted from Poires Au Chocolat

ingredients:
for the crepes:
50 grams (4 tablespoons) butter, melted
220 grams (1 3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon) flour
pinch of sea salt
4 eggs
400 mL (1 2/3 cups) milk
100 mL (7 tablespoons) water

for the salted caramel:
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
30 grams (2 tablespoons) water
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt

90 grams (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) heavy cream
25 grams (2 tablespoons) butter

for the whipped mascarpone:
228 grams (1 cup) mascarpone
180 grams (3/4 cup) heavy cream
115 grams (1 cup) powdered sugar
tiny pinch sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

to assemble:
1-2 pints raspberries
powdered sugar

directions:
Make the crepes: combine all ingredients in a blender canister or in a large bowl with a hand blender.
Blend on high for 1 full minute, until no lumps remain.
In a hot nonstick, 7-inch skillet, brush a tiny (1/2 a pea) amount of butter.
Pour 1/4 to 1/3 cup of batter into the skillet and swirl quickly to create an even, thin layer of batter.
Allow to cook for 3 minutes, until golden and browned, then flip the crepe with a spatula and your fingers.
Allow the other side to cook for 2 minutes, then remove the crepe and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.
Continue to make crepes until all the batter is gone; you should have 20 or so crepes.
After you have filled up one layer of crepes on the baking sheet, place another layer of parchment on top, then continue to layer crepes as they are made.
Next, make the caramel: combine sugar, water, corn syrup, and salt in a small pot.
Heat on medium-high heat, swirling but not stirring, until a deep golden color.
Remove the pan from the heat and, moving very quickly, whisk in the heavy cream and butter.
Whisk until very smooth, then pour into a container and set aside to cool; caramel will be exceedingly hot.
While the caramel cools, make the mascarpone mixture: beat mascarpone until very soft, then add in the heavy cream and beat until fluffy.
Add in the salt, powdered sugar, and vanilla, and beat until mixture is light and fully combined; there should be no lumps.
To assemble the cake, layer the first crepe with a spoonful of mascarpone and a heavy drizzle of caramel.
Layer the next crepe on, carefully and gently smoothing on the mascarpone and caramel.
Stack up all the crepes, saving a small amount of mascarpone for the top crepe; spread it thinly and use it to attach the raspberries.
Dust with powdered sugar, and serve in generous wedges.

Let It Snow

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

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

It’s the most wonderful time of year…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

감사합니다

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I’m thankful for home.

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I’m grateful to be surrounded by love and warmth and family.

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This brief respite has been much needed, and much appreciated.

It saddens me to leave (tomorrow), but I am comforted with the knowledge that I will be back in just a few short weeks.

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I love my home: my house, my friends, my family, my town.

I love this place.

I was dearly missing this place.

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I thought I’d share some snapshots of home with you; the first photo is of my beloved bed, where I haven’t been spending enough time this break. (Too many things to do!  People to see!  Places to go!)

You get a preview of our holiday cards (blech) and some cute photos of my kitten and pup.

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Also, THANKS GUYS, for being awesome and reading these stupid posts of mine on this silly little blog.

You rock.  Thanks for that.  I sure do appreciate you.

Now, food.

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Thanksgiving Menu 2013:

Roasted roots: herbed sweet potatoes, parsnips, and carrots with honey mustard aioli (GF)

Roasted brown butter and maple Brussels sprouts (GF)

Honey glazed turkey with giblet gravy (GF)

Maple and apple cranberry sauce (GF)

Cornbread stuffing with spiced sausages, pecans, sage, and celery (GF)

Goat cheese, buttermilk, and olive oil mashed potatoes (GF)

Whole wheat butternut squash mac and cheese

Mixed green salad with pomegranates, walnuts, shaved fennel, apples, and Parmesan with pomegranate dressing (GF)

Butterscotch and thyme apple pie (GF)

Maple kefir brûlée tart (GF)

Pumpkin roll with Frangelico and mascarpone whipped cream, brown butter glaze, chopped pecans (GF)

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Yes, I made all of that myself.  Boy, was it a marathon.  A very, very, very, long and delicious haul.

My photos were all very rushed and poorly lit; I had hoped to show you pictures of all the gluten free goodies I made, but no such luck.

At least I got a picture of the pumpkin roll cake… So I can torture you with yet another pumpkin recipe!

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This will be the last pumpkin recipe of the year.

It’s one to remember: light, fluffy pumpkin sponge cake rolled around mascarpone and maple whipped cream, topped with brown butter and Frangelico glaze and chopped pecans.

You might just be inspired to pull out one last can of pumpkin.

Happy Thanksgiving (weekend), y’all.

Thanksgiving (scaled)

 Pumpkin Roll Cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
powdered sugar, for sprinkling on towel
90 grams (3/4 cup) flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, pepper, coriander
pinch salt
3 large eggs
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
for the filling:
1 cup whipped cream
1 cup mascarpone
¼ cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
pinch salt

for the glaze:
4 tablespoons butter, browned
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup powdered milk
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons Frangelico (optional)

For garnish:
Chopped pecans

Directions:
For the cake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour a sheet pan very well; line with parchment paper.
Sprinkle a dishtowel with powdered sugar.
Whisk the flour, leaveners, spices, and salt together.
Beat the yolks and ¼ cup of the sugar very well, then stir in pumpkin.
Sift the flour mixture over the yolks and fold in gently.
Whip the egg whites and remaining sugar to stiff peaks.
Fold into the pumpkin mixture, then spread the batter out onto your prepared pan.
Bake for 15 minutes, until set.
Flip over onto towel and let cool for 5 minutes.
Gently roll up the cake and set aside to cool completely.
For the filling, beat the whipped cream to soft peaks, then gently beat in the other ingredients.
Spread onto the cooled, unrolled cake, then reroll the cake.
For the glaze, mix everything together until no lumps remain; drizzle over the rolled cake.
Garnish with chopped pecans.

Gadzooks!

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Hello! Welcome to my first post on my “new” blog!

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I’ve spent a bunch of time designing this new website- what do y’all think?

I think it’s pretty shmancy, and I’m glad to have my own domain!

You can still access any/all of my posts (yes, even the really old embarrassing ones, though the formatting of those is a bit wonky- it didn’t transfer smoothly) and you can search for any items/ click through the tag cloud down at the bottom of the page.

Things should be quicker and less difficult, and hopefully prettier around here!

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Not much else will change- I’m still going to be posting about yummy treats like these cupcakes.

These little guys make use of something that most people are drowning in this time of year- zucchini!

Instead of baking it into a bread, I made tender little cupcakes.   Zucchini bread tends to be dense, which doesn’t translate well into cakes.

Luckily, these are soft and light, with a tight crumb and slightly crispy exterior.

I topped them with a fluffy lime cream frosting, made with mascarpone cheese.

The recipe is quite easy- it’s a two bowl, no mixer, 10 minute prep kind of cake.

In addition, it only makes 6 perfect little cakes!  Lovely when you don’t want an army of cupcakes to decorate, or you need a quick, sweet fix.

Enjoy, and, again, welcome to the new site!

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Zucchini Cupcakes with Lime Cream frosting

makes 6

for the cupcakes:

adapted from Chow

ingredients:

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons AP flour

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 egg

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3.5 ounces zucchini (about 1 small/medium squash), grated on a box grater (scant 1 cup grated)

directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Line 6 muffin tins with papers, or grease and flour them.

Whisk the flour, cornstarch, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together.

In another bowl, whisk the oil, egg, sugars, and vanilla together.

Whisk the two mixtures together, then whisk or fold in the zucchini.

Portion the batter out into your muffin tins and bake for 16-18 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Allow to cool before frosting.

for the lime cream frosting:

ingredients:

6 tablespoons butter, softened

6 tablespoons mascarpone cheese (you can substitute cream cheese here)

zest of one lime

juice of 1/2 a lime

1/3 cup nonfat milk powder

1 2/3 cup powdered sugar

directions:

Beat the mascarpone and butter together until fluffy.

Add in the lime zest and juice and mix until combined.

Add in the milk powder and powdered sugar slowly, while beating.

Continue to beat until frosting is fluffy.

Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 1 day.

Charred

 To be honest, more than charred, I’m fried.
 
I’m dragging my feet, so much so that the edges of my toes are burned and my shoes have holes in them.
Or, they would, if I were wearing shoes.  The past two days, it has been scorchingly hot.
Like, dash-reads-100-degrees hot.  
Like, yes-absolutely-let’s-go-to-the-grocery-store-it-has-AC hot.
Like, why-the-f@&#-did-I-turn-on-the-oven hot.
 
It’s cooled down, now.
This morning/midday was Sahara desert-esque (right when I was making ratatouille AND savoiardi like wat why me), but this afternoon and evening…
Well, holy monsoon Batman!!
All that rain practically sizzled off of the sidewalks, but eventually drowned out the heat.
I mean, phew, cause I’ve started cooking with apples and pears already, and there’s no turning back.
I just ain’t got time for no more summer, let me tell you.
Ah, yes.  What am I dragging my feet for, you say?
Well, I have 9 8 more days left here in Ith, and I haven’t started packing!!
I have shit to do, guys!  And I can’t bring myself to do it.
It’s just like, ugh, it’s so hot and like I don’t really want to think about like organization and fitting my closet into my dorm room, let alone my kitchen.
Those are the two largest entities in my house.
 
Because, yes! 
Surprise (or, rather, less than a surprise) surprise, this blog is not stopping here.
I’ll have access to a kitchen…
Which means baking and blogging and sugar and butter and flour.
Comin’ at yo face.
In turn, this means that I have to make a packing list for normal living things- linens, clothing, cosmetics, decor, etc., but also for kitchen supplies.
I can’t bear to think of the beloved appliances I’ll have to leave behind.
Examples: my ice cream behemoth machine
my pro WOLF convection oven
my big food processor
my stand blender
copper pots, wok, little pots, little saucepans, omelette pan, panini pan, roasting pan, all MY PANS
random prop materials- china, silverware, fabrics, wooden pieces, marble, much of my mason jar collection
… Pour one out for da homiez.  Seriously.
On a less dour note, this is a lovely little charlotte that I’m sharing today.
Get it?!?!?! Charlotte- charred
No? Damn, and I thought I was being a clever little monkey. (Insert that cute emoji here, you know the one, the little monkey with its little hands over its mouth.)
A charlotte is a molded cake, usually with savoiardi, or ladyfingers, around the outside.
(There are a few variations on what is on the exterior.)  
Where the imagination and difference comes in is the interior.
You could make a charlotte with literally any flavor or idea.
I chose tiramisù, because ladyfingers. 
And because I had never made tiramisù before.
It’s incredibly simple- just 3 components to the dish- savoiardi, coffee/liqueur to soak, and a cream/zabaglione/mascarpone mixture to add richness.
So simple, in fact, that I undertook to make my own ladyfingers, which may seem imposing, but are, in actuality, very simple.
This is a cookie that’s been around for 600 or so years.  How hard can it be?  Fo’ realz. 
 
On the inside is a classic tiramisù, except that I used whiskey, which is, erm… not traditional.
But to hell with it.  Use whatever liqueur tickles your fancy.
The ladyfingers are sponge cake’s sister, just piped out.
They’re layered with coffee/whiskey/vanilla (can I have that as my morning pick-me-up?!) and a deeeeelicious mascarpone/heavy cream/zabaglione mixture (wait no I want that…), topped with a mountain of raspberries, then chilled until set.
 
Wrap a ribbon around the whole shebang and give it to someone as a present!
HA just kidding.  
Untie the ribbon, cut yourself a fat wedge, watch the raspberries tumble out like so many ruby jewels, and MANGIA! 

Tiramisù Charlotte
makes 1 6×3 inch cake
note: brew some strong coffee before starting, then allow it to cool.  If you are making ladyfingers, make those right after the coffee and let them cool as well.  You can always use store-bought.
for the savoiardi (ladyfingers):
makes 1 1/2 sheet pans of 4×1 inch savoiardi
ingredients:
3.5 egg yolks (1/2 yolk is approximately 1 1/2 teaspoons, or 0.3 ounce)
3 tablespoons sugar
3.5 egg whites (1/2 white is approximately 1 tablespoon, or 0.5 ounce)
pinch cream of tartar
4 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 cup cake flour
directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Draw out 4×1 inch grids on two sheets of parchment paper; place them on two sheet pans, pencil or pen side down.
Have a pastry bag fitted with a 1 inch tip at the ready.
Place the egg yolks in a bowl with 3 tablespoons of sugar.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer with the cream of tartar.
Whip the egg yolks briskly (or with a hand mixer) until they become pale, thick, and double in size.
Meanwhile, whip the egg whites, slowly streaming in 4 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar once they begin to foam.  
Beat the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks.
Sift the cake flour over the egg yolks, but don’t mix in, then fold the egg whites into the egg yolk/flour until homogenous; be careful not to overmix.
Place into pastry bag and pipe out finger shapes, approximately 4×1 inch tall/wide.  (They will touch each other during baking.)
Bake for 8-10 minutes, until they are golden and puffy but not particularly hard. (They should not feel raw or look runny, but should still be slightly spongy to the touch.)
Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

for the mascarpone cream:
adapted from Chef Dennis via Bake and Bait
ingredients:
3 egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons mascarpone
scant cup heavy cream
directions:
Whisk yolks and sugar together very well; place in a small pot over low heat and cook until sugar is completely dissolved.
Remove from heat, pour into a different bowl, and whip until thick and about doubled in size.
Whisk in mascarpone.
In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream to stiff peaks, then fold it into the zabaglione/mascarpone mixture.
Set in fridge until ready to use (but not for too long; an hour at most before you should use it).

to assemble:
ingredients:
1/4 cup coffee, cold but strong
1 tablespoon liqueur (Marsala, Kahlua, etc.  Go nuts.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
cocoa powder, for dusting
1 pint of raspberries, optional
mascarpone cream, recipe above
ladyfingers (about 30 small ones, less if you have larger), either store bought or homemade, recipe above
directions:
Line a 6×3 inch pan with ladyfingers standing upright.
Place a cake board in the bottom, then place as many ladyfingers as can fit along the bottom, using torn pieces to fill in gaps.
Stir the coffee, liqueur, and vanilla together.
Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the coffee mixture over the ladyfingers- they should absorb it, but do not add so much that they are soaked.  
Smooth 1/3 of the cream mixture onto the soaked ladyfingers.
Layer more ladyfingers over the cream mixture, brush with coffee, and layer with cream.
Repeat layering once more.
Dust the top of the tiramisu with cocoa powder, and top with raspberries, if desired.
Refrigerate for at least 1 1/2 hours before unmolding.
Tie a ribbon around the outside for clean presentation.
Enjoy!

Olive Yew

Olive trees’ lifespans, on average, are between 300 and 600 years; the oldest known tree is 2000 years old. (!!!)
But… and there’s always a but… I hate olives.  I’m sorry.  I do.  
I just can’t bring myself to like them… They’re sort of slimy, very squishy, and all together too salty.  
That being said, I love olive oil.  I’m not kidding.  The stuff runs through my veins.
Olive oil is liquid gold; the specialty stuff, even more so.
One of the most heavenly things on Earth is a fresh, hot baguette dipped in olive oil+Parmesan.  
There is nothing like it.
For those of you who live in Ithaca, you may have been to the little specialty olive oil and vinegar shop downtown, in the commons: F. Oliver’s.
Talk about wonderful olive oils.  I was in there the other day, recycling old bottles (If you have empty bottles from their store, don’t recycle them the regular way!  Take them down to the store and they will refill them for you or recycle and reuse them.), when I stumbled upon what may possibly be my favorite oil ever- even more so than coconut or toasted sesame- their fresh pressed blood orange olive oil.
Laaaaaawd is it good.  Mix it with some pomegranate molasses and you have the most deliciously tangy salad dressing ever.
I also got some Tuscan garden olive oil.  Gorgeous in a balsamic vinaigrette.
And no, unfortunately enough, I am not getting paid to say these things.
I wish.
Anyways, in addition to picking up some fancy schmancy new oils, I learned that F. Oliver’s is having a recipe contest.
Basically, you develop your best recipe using their oils or vinegars, send it in, and keep your fingers crossed.
The winner gets a free bottle of vinegar or oil every month for the rest of the year!
Obviously, I want to win.  Come on… Imagine all the avocado oil I could get. 
So I made a cake with blood orange olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar.
 
The cake itself is super soft, with a very fine, tight crumb.  The edges and top are ever so slightly crispy, which is a wonderful contrast to the tender interior.
It’s redolent with orange and almond, and it’s made with whole wheat flour.  
It’s a very virtuous cake, dairy-free, whole-wheat, with lots of healthy fats from the olive oil and almonds.  
I’ve paired it with fresh berries that have been roasted into a sticky, syrupy treat with a touch of sugar and a splash of balsamic vinegar that is older than I; they’re complex and balance out the sweetness of the cake wonderfully.
Taming the sweetness even further is a simple whipped mascarpone that I dolloped on top.  It’s plain and unsweetened, but gives richness and body to the dish.  
I ate could eat it by the spoonful.
 
This is a lovely, quick cake, perfect for a brunch (Mother’s day, anyone?) or quick weeknight dessert.  
It’s also classy enough for a light dinner party finisher, sure to leave everyone’s sweet tooth satisfied without weighing them down.
When I say quick, I mean that this is a 2 bowl dessert; the cake is made with one utensil and the batter comes together in 5 minutes if you know your kitchen well; the strawberries roast at the same temperature as the cake and give you just enough time to prep and throw them in and then take them out at the same time as the cake, preventing unnecessary energy waste from an idle oven.
You can serve the cake and compote warm from the oven, so you don’t have to bother with cooling times, and the mascarpone takes all of 30 seconds to whip.
Olive this cake.  Eye really dew.

Orange Almond Olive Oil Cake with Balsamic Roasted Strawberries and Whipped Mascarpone
(that’s a mouthful)
for the cake:
ingredients:
175 g white whole wheat flour (1 1/3 cups)
75 g almond meal (2/3 cup)
12 g baking powder (2 teaspoons)
8 g kosher salt (1 heaping teaspoon)

80 g granulated sugar (1/3 cup)
120 g brown sugar (very loosely packed 2/3 cup)
zest of one orange
135 g F. Oliver’s fresh pressed blood orange extra virgin olive oil (2/3 cup)
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
140 g freshly squeezed orange juice (2/3 cup), from about 1 1/2 oranges
directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease a 9-inch springform or regular cake pan with 2 inch sides.  (Alternatively, you could use an 8-inch with 3 inch sides or a 10-inch with 1 1/2 inch sides.)
Whisk the flour, almond meal, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl.

In another bowl, place the sugars, orange zest, olive oil, and eggs, and whisk vigorously to combine, about 2 minutes.  Mixture should lighten in color.
Whisk the vanilla extract and orange juice into the sugar mixture.
Whisking constantly, slowly add in the flour mixture.
Mix until batter is homogeneous.  
Pour into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, until cake is deeply golden and springy to the touch, and a tester comes out with only a couple crumbs.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then unmold from pan and allow to cool fully.
Dust with powdered sugar and serve with balsamic roasted strawberries and whipped mascarpone.

for the strawberries:
ingredients:
260 g chopped strawberries (2 cups)
15 g granulated sugar (1 tablespoon)
20 g F. Oliver’s 18-year old special reserve balsamic vinegar (1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon)
splash vanilla extract
directions:
Preheat oven to 350 (or make these simultaneously to the cake).
Toss strawberries with sugar, vinegar, and vanilla.
Spread out in an even layer over a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake for 20-24 minutes, until softened and caramelized.  
Strawberries should be slightly sticky.
Stir around to fully coat each strawberry with the sauce, and serve slightly warm.

for the whipped mascarpone:
ingredients:
5 tablespoons mascarpone
3 tablespoons half and half
directions:
Using an immersion blender, food processor, or stand- or hand-mixer, beat mascarpone and half and half together until very fluffy and light.
Store in refrigerator until use; serve chilled.

O.C.D.

Or, alternately, Why I Shouldn’t Be Left Alone In the Kitchen.

 Or perhaps, Why I Shouldn’t Be Allowed on the Internet.

 Hello, my name is Rachel, and I am a perfectionist and an obsessive-compulsive, bossy, unstable control freak.
Doesn’t that just make you want to live with me forever and ever?
Don’t answer that.

Alas, I admit it, I am.  I’m so glad I have you all here to support me.  
The thing is, when I get an idea up in my head, I can’t let go of it.  I saw a picture on the dreaded interweb the other year day of little rosettes made of mangoes.  On a pie.
I died.

In addition, my mind was wrapped around the idea of marrying nectarines and gingersnaps.
Oh yeah, and I was so very intrigued by peach pits that I wanted to do something with noyaux, à la Bravetart.
Besides, I had already been hoping to freeze some peaches, what with the abundance right now, to save for winter. 

Oooh! Also, croissants.  For tea.  With company.

So yes, today I am presenting you with not only a laminated dough, but also a labor intensive tart. 

If, by the off chance, you aren’t as… shall we say, crazy… as me, feel free to dump the nectarine slices on haphazardly.  It tastes good.  That’s what matters.
I suppose I understand if you don’t want to undertake making croissants, but please, put them on your bucket list.  They aren’t half as hard as they’re made out to be, and they will impress your friends and terrify your enemies.  

And as for the peach pits?  I managed to crack two open, using a giant mallet and some pliers, but gave up when I discovered that I had rent a gash in my favorite bamboo cutting board.  (Damn pits!)  While I possibly could have done something with those two measly noyaux, when I awoke the next morning, all the peach pits had been trashed.  Ah, well.

 

Nectarine, Lemon, and Gingerbread Tart
For the crust: (adapted from The Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts)
Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
BIG pinch each of ginger, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, sea salt, and cardamom
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick very cold butter, cubed
1 tablespoon molasses
ice water as needed
Directions:
Put the flour, sugar, spices, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse to combine.  Pulse in the butter and molasses until there are small bits of butter, ranging from sandy to pea-sized.  If the dough is too dry, add in ice water, a tablespoon at a time, until it can stick together when pressed.  Press the dough into a buttered tart pan, prick with a fork, cover with a sheet of aluminum foil that has been buttered (press the foil right down into the pan), and freeze, for at least 30 minutes, or up to 1 day.  When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, put some pie weights (you won’t need as many because the shell has been chilled) on top of the foil, and bake until deep golden brown and fragrant, 20-25 minutes.  Allow to cool.
For the filling:
Ingredients:
3/4 cup lemon curd 
1/2 cup to 2/3 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons powdered sugar (or to taste: it doesn’t need much)
Directions:
Whip the heavy cream and mascarpone and powdered sugar together (I used an immersion blender because it is super fast and effective).  Fold in the lemon curd.  I actually made this in two parts, folding the lemon curd into some of the whipped mixture, then layering that into the tart with the plain whipped cream/cheese on top of that.
To assemble:
Ingredients:
5 or 6 nectarines, sliced as thinly as possible
Directions:
Pour the whipped filling into the tart shell, and smooth the top.  To make nectarine rosettes, gently curl the thinnest pieces of nectarine you can find, and stick them into the filling.  Then begin to place other pieces around, with less curl.  Once you are sick of rosettes, you can just place gently curled pieces around and in between, to take away the white space and act as filler.  

Whole Wheat Sourdough Croissants:
adapted from Christina Tosi’s Momofuku Milk Bar
Ingredients:
for the dough:
550 g white whole wheat flour
12 g kosher salt
3.5 g active dry yeast
370 g water, at room temperature
for the butter block:
2 sticks butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Directions: 
Mix all the dough ingredients together with a dough hook in a mixer, until smooth and supple.  Place in an oiled container that is covered but still has air flow (like a bowl with a damp dish towel cover, or a plastic bucket with a top that has a few holes poked in it).  If you want the sourdough component, stick the dough in your fridge for at least 2 days, but up to a week, then pull it out and let it come to room temp, then rise in a warm place until double its original size.  If you don’t, allow the dough to rise to at least double its orignial size, then begin to make your croissants.  When you’re ready to make the croissants, beat your butter in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment until fluffy.  Pat it into a 8 x 12 rectangle between two sheets of parchment paper.  Put it in the fridge to firm up.  Meanwhile, punch down the dough on a smooth, floured countertop, and roll/stretch it gently into  a rectangle 16 x 24 inches, and even in thickness.  Put your slightly firm butter block on one half of the dough, then fold the other half of the dough over and pinch the edges shut.  Let rest for 10 minutes.  Now, you must do 3 double book turns to create the layers.  Here’s how:  Roll the the dough out again to a rectangle of 16 x 24 inches and even in thickness.  Be gentle, so that you don’t have any butter mushing out.  Visualize your dough divided into 4 quarters.  Fold the outer two quarters to the center, then bring one edge over to meet the other (Tosi says: When I’m showing someone how to make a double book turn, I stretch my monkey arms out wide like I’m going in for a big hug, then I fold my arms at the elbow, so my fingers are touching my armpits, and fold my elbows in to touch one another.)  Now transfer your dough to the fridge to rest, wrapped loosely in plastic wrap, for 30 minutes.  Repeat the double book turn twice more.  After the final rest in the fridge, roll your dough out to a 16 x 24 inch rectangle, then cut the dough into 10 triangles (like a backgammon board), putting a small notch on the base of each Isosceles triangle.  Roll em up, allow to rise for about 45 minutes, or until puffed up, then brush them with an egg wash (1 egg+1 teaspoon water), and bake for 20-25 minutes at 375 degrees F.