Lovers’ Eyes

Raspberry White Chocolate and Nutella Éclairs | La Pêche Fraîche

Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme;
But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone besmear’d with sluttish time.
When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
And broils root out the work of masonry,
Nor Mars his sword nor war’s quick fire shall burn
The living record of your memory.
‘Gainst death and all-oblivious enmity
Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room
Even in the eyes of all posterity
That wear this world out to the ending doom.
So, till the judgment that yourself arise,
You live in this, and dwell in lovers’ eyes.

—Shakespeare, Sonnet 55

Raspberry White Chocolate and Nutella Éclairs | La Pêche Fraîche

If ever there was a time for overly fancy desserts, it would most certainly be Valentine’s day.
If ever there was a time for edible gold leaf, it would also accordingly be this holiday.

I can think of little else as fussily indulgent as a delicate french pastry crowned with little sheets of glittering gold.

Raspberry White Chocolate and Nutella Éclairs | La Pêche Fraîche

I’m trying very hard to squeeze in the ideas I’ve been amassing for this holiday, but I’ve had little opportunity to get into the kitchen.  Still, I haven’t lost hope, and if all goes as planned you will see some cookies and a cake by the time the fourteenth of February rolls around.

By the way, I have been trying to figure out how in the dickens it is already Janu February 9th.  Anyone with more insight into where the first 1/12 of 2016 went is welcome to drop a line in my inbox with details about the January that I apparently missed.

Raspberry White Chocolate and Nutella Éclairs | La Pêche Fraîche

I’ve made éclairs before (along with choux puffs), but they tend to come out a bit misshapen and lumpy.
This makes them slightly less evenly pretty, but does nothing in terms of taste.  Still—for fancy ones, I needed perfect shells!
I found Iron Whisk’s in-depth perfected recipe and knew it was the one I had to use.

It’s very easy and the shells that come out are much closer to bakery type status than any others that I’ve seen!
Click here to jump to her blog and get the recipe.  Honestly, she put so much effort into her tutorial that there’s little point in me rewriting it.  Just go check hers out!

Once I had my shells on lock, I piped them full of rich chocolate Nutella, and then I just needed to figure out what pretty pink things I wanted to go on top.

I chose an indulgent white chocolate and raspberry buttercream, silky and milky-sweet; dotted in the open space are ruby red raspberries, gently pulled apart into little fruity morsels; little pieces of 24K gold foil finish the top, making them wink and blink in the most beautiful way.

The whole effect is utterly gorgeous and quite delicious; the pastry strikes a perfect mix between white chocolate, raspberry, and Nutella; the shells are crisp and light but strong enough to hold in your hand while eating the éclair.

The pink and red and gold color scheme alone is enough to make me swoon; the chocolate and hazelnut center is a divine and decadent surprise!

Raspberry White Chocolate and Nutella Éclairs | La Pêche Fraîche

Valentine’s Day, previously (I will leave these links at the bottom of all my coming V Day posts):

2016:
Brown butter and vanilla bean teacakes.  Fragrant and light—the perfect accompaniment to tea!

2015:
Fluffy, buttery copycat Lofthouse cookies, with swirls of pink buttercream and handfuls of sprinkles!
Chocolate covered strawberry cake—sinfully dark chocolate layer cake with goat cheese buttercream and chocolate covered strawberries on top.
A dolled-up red velvet cake: with cream cheese meringue buttercream and malted milk candies.
Perfectly pink princesstårta—sponge cake with whipped cream and marzipan.

2014:
The cutest, most pin-able pink grapefruit possets, with salty and buttery Ritz crunch and pistachios.  One of my favorite recipes ever!
Dark and white chocolate French mendiants, quick and healthy and pretty.
Strawberry pocky cake—love this idea, didn’t love the red velvet recipe I used.  Would recommend the link above for dolled-up red velvet if recreating this idea!
Salty dark chocolate tarts—the perfect balance between flaky salt and dark, fruity chocolate.

Raspberry White Chocolate and Nutella Éclairs | La Pêche Fraîche

Raspberry White Chocolate and Nutella Éclairs
makes 10 large éclairs

ingredients:
10 éclair shells (1 batch of Iron Whisk’s choux batter, baked)

for the white chocolate buttercream:
112 grams (4 ounces) white chocolate
112 grams (4 ounces, 1 stick) butter
pinch salt
2-3 tablespoons powdered freeze-dried strawberries or raspberries

to decorate:
1 cup Nutella
raspberries
gold foil

directions:
Poke a few holes into the bottom of your cooled shells.
Fill a pastry bag with Nutella and fill the shells.  Set aside.
Melt the white chocolate and butter together; whisk in the salt and sift in the freeze-dried berry powder.
Allow to cool until solid but scoopable, then whisk on high until fluffy and shiny.
Fill a piping bag with the buttercream and pipe a few star shapes onto each éclair.
Carefully separate the raspberries into 2-3 pieces and fill up the negative space on the éclairs with raspberries.
Finally, using tweezers, place small pieces of gold foil on top of the éclairs.
Serve the day they are filled!

Holy Grail

The Ultimate Chocolate Cake| La Pêche Fraîche

“Decide to be one of those people who pull it off.
Do what you say you’re going to do.
Don’t let us down.
Decide to rise…
Devote to Done.”

—”The Grand Peptalk,” Danielle LaPorte

The Ultimate Chocolate Cake| La Pêche Fraîche

It’s about this time of year,
when They roll out the thick grass carpets,
perfectly—exactingly—covering up last year’s dead brown sod,
that I long for the entropy of fields left to seed,
of forest floors covered in disordered brush.
When They plant the tulip bulbs, exactly 9 inches apart,
I miss the mess that is our garden,
or the crowded daffodils that line our block,
or the tiny blue flowers that pop up in our uncut lawn.
It’s not quite spring, back home, but the melt has happened,
the waterfalls are bursting and the creeks are coursing through the gorges.
I miss the water, and the hills, my God,
and I miss the redbuds that bloom so bright,
and the oak pollen that makes Mama sneeze.

—4/27/2015

The Ultimate Chocolate Cake| La Pêche Fraîche

…It’s been a while.
And I didn’t mean for it to be, but here we are and we shall have to make do.
I’ve been a busy little bee trying to keep up with the glories of biochem, which is going to be a recurring theme in these next six weeks, I’m sure.
I’ve had my head down, methodically crossing things off my to-do lists, only to look up and realize I have 4 more assignments to add on.  So it goes, as a second-year here at UChi.
So it goes.

My FOTA project goes live next week!
Which is exciting and stressful and surprising, since I have an eerie feeling that I only just applied yesterday (yesterday being, of course, 8 weeks ago).

I’m hosting a pop-up bakery, and all of the proceeds are going to the ASPCA.  Pretty pumped, people.

The Ultimate Chocolate Cake| La Pêche Fraîche

Another chocolate cake?
There are quite a few on this site, I know:
Modern Black Forest (mocha-mayo cake)
Coca-cola Caramel (coca-cola cake)
Mint Chocolate (vegan chocolate cake)
Mocha Nutella (mocha cake)
Goat Cheese/Strawberries (simple chocolate cake)

And now, another one.  And I’m not sorry at all.
This could be the best one yet.
The chocolate cake to end chocolate cakes.

The Ultimate Chocolate Cake| La Pêche Fraîche

I’ve taken the best parts of some of my favorite chocolate cakes and combined them into this recipe.
Extra-dark cocoa powder because chocolate, people.  It’s bloomed in boiling water to bring out the most flavor possible.
Plenty of coffee, to enhance the flavor of the cocoa.
The ease of a 1-bowl cake, with an added egg or two to keep a tight crumb and firm bite.
Buttermilk, to keep the cake damp and dark.
A tiny tiny touch more sugar than some of my other cakes, since some sweet teeth occasionally find dark chocolate cakes to not be sweet enough.

The Ultimate Chocolate Cake| La Pêche Fraîche
Here, I’ve paired this super moist, rich and chocolaty cake with a modified version of my beloved, addictive Nutella buttercream, with an extra few minutes of whipping and a touch more Nutella to make it even lighter and fluffier.
It’s like a soft, fluffy chocolate buttercream cloud, with enough salt to make itself known and lots of melted dark chocolate to ensure plenty of cocoa flavor.
No wimpy buttercreams over here.  No sir.

The salty-sweet buttercream is a fantastic foil for the dark chocolate cake, which isn’t too sweet.
Contrary to what you might think upon first glance, this isn’t too much chocolate.
The flavors are distinct enough that each bite of cake+frosting is in harmony, rather than one-note (which gets boring after the first few bites, let’s be honest).

This all boils down to the ultimate chocolate cake: of course there’s Nutella, and dark chocolate, only one dish to clean, not too much sugar, and sprinkles.  Always sprinkles.

The Ultimate Chocolate Cake| La Pêche Fraîche

The Ultimate Chocolate Cake
makes a 3 layered 6 inch cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
330 grams (1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons) sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cornstarch
180 grams (1 1/2 cups) AP flour
65 grams (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) extra dark cocoa powder
2 tablespoons instant coffee or espresso
120 grams (1/2 cup) boiling water
85 grams (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) vegetable/canola oil
2 eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
160 grams (2/3 cup) buttermilk OR 145 grams (2/3 cup less 1 tablespoon) milk plus 15 grams (1 tablespoon) apple cider vinegar

for the buttercream:
285 grams (2.5 sticks, 10 ounces) butter, soft
generous 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
215 grams (3/4 cup) nutella
112 grams (4 ounces) chocolate, melted and cooled
625 grams (5 cups) powdered sugar, or as needed
3 tablespoons heavy cream, or as needed

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour 3 6×2 inch pans.
Place sugar in a large bowl, followed by salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cornstarch; whisk together briefly.
Add the flour on top of the mixture, then the cocoa powder, then the instant espresso on top of that.
Slowly stream the boiling water over the cocoa powder; once it’s all added, whisk vigorously while you add in the oil.
Add in both of the eggs and the vanilla extract, then stream in the buttermilk while whisking.
Scrape the bowl to ensure homogeneity, then portion evenly into the three pans.
Bake for 18-22 minutes, until a tester comes out with a few crumbs and the tops are springy.
Allow to cool completely before frosting.
To make the buttercream, whip the butter with the salt for 5 full minutes (set a timer!).
Add in the Nutella and whip for 2 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl and while whipping on high speed, stream in the melted but cool chocolate.
On low speed, begin adding in the powdered sugar a little at a time.
Once the powdered sugar has been added, whip on high for 3 minutes and add heavy cream a tablespoon at a time if the frosting is still a little thick (if it is too thin, add powdered sugar as needed).
Scrape the bowl to ensure homogeneity.
Decorate cake as desired!

Waste Not

Vegan Banana Muffins | La Pêche Fraîche

Or, the infamous “Trash Muffins” of 2015.

Vegan Banana Muffins | La Pêche Fraîche

Let me explain:

 The making of these muffins was prompted upon my discovery of 3 sad, brown bananas that had been discarded into our trash (in a ~new~ trash bag, friends.  Worry not.).
I snatched them up, whispering sweet reassurances of grand destinies, and these (vegan! whole wheat! wholesome!) muffins were born.

Vegan Banana Muffins | La Pêche Fraîche

I am so not ready for life to have begun again.
I wish I were back in spring break mode, chilled out and tanned and full of fresh fruit and contentment.
(Side note: I bought some ataulfo mangoes, which come from Mexico, on sale at Whole Foods the other day and they are the MOST delicious mangoes (ataulfo or otherwise) I have ever tasted.  Talk about transporting me back.)

Now that I’m back at school, anxiety has begun to sink its sharp little claws into my brain.
It’s only the third second day of school, for crying out loud.
But I have constant fears that I’ve forgotten an assignment, or left something somewhere etc. etc.
(I’ve already been at the library for, like, 5 total hours and it’s only day 2!!!!!!!!)
Do I need some sort of intervention?  Maybe…

Vegan Banana Muffins | La Pêche Fraîche

 Anyways, back to the banana muffins.
I used a recipe from the fantastic blog Minimalist Baker.  They looked so crumbly and so delicious.
The catch is that I found them to be not sweet enough.
I only used 3 large bananas, and I felt like they were needing the recommended fourth, or another 1/3-1/2 cup sugar.
They were a bit too bland for my taste.
(This may be due to the fact that I’m used to in-your-face banana bread.  These were very subtle.)

I recommend, if you make the recipe, to add 1/3 cup more sugar, plus all 4 bananas.

Vegan Banana Muffins | La Pêche Fraîche

The crumb topping was divine—sweet and salty and buttery—and the texture of the muffins was great—firm bite, but not rubbery, crumbly but not fall-apart dry, and a slathering of Nutella not only remedied the sweetness issue, but also added Nutella into the mix, hellooooo duh always delicious.

With a few small tweaks, this may become a winner in my book.
Head over to Minimalist Baker (gosh, I love their site) to get the recipe!

Back soon with a very exciting cake! xx

Vegan Banana Muffins | La Pêche Fraîche

CASA x Theta!

CASA Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

 The mission of the National Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Association, together with its state and local members, is to support and promote court-appointed volunteer advocacy so that every abused or neglected child can be safe, establish permanence and have the opportunity to thrive.

CASA Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Why on earth, you might ask, would a single girl, in the middle of midterm season, undertake the making of 200 cupcakes for a seemingly random Thursday night event?

I’ll tell you: because I love my sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta.
It’s the sisterhood that I never had growing up as the only girl in my family.  It’s the best friends I could have ever asked for, and the most steady, supportive sounding board I could have imagined.

I’ll tell you why else: because I love our philanthropy, CASA.
Having grown up in such a steady, loving family, I cannot fathom what it’s like to experience truly being alone; to not have a rock to cling to in hard times; to have to fend for yourself before you’re all grown up.

CASA Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Court Appointed Special Advocates provides mentors and advocates for at-risk, underprivileged children in the court system.

Volunteers become a child’s anchor as they are thrown into the milieu of the foster system.
CASA helps kids who otherwise wouldn’t have a chance to thrive and flourish with an adult’s love and guidance.
If you’re curious, read more about CASA and the work they’re doing for underprivileged children here.

Seriously, guys—how important and special is that?

Theta’s goal this year is to raise $25,000 for CASA of Cooke County.  The pre-event tonight is a fun way to raise awareness and garner attention to our fantastic philanthropy.

CASA Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Making cupcakes, logically, is one of the best ways I could think of to help with tonight’s pre-event.
200 cupcakes doesn’t seem like so many when you’re doing it to raise money for a good cause.

The flavors pictured here are:
vanilla sprinkle
chocolate nutella
salted caramel
red velvet

I donated 2 cakes to the raffle prizes, so tonight, two people will win the cakes of their dreams!

CASA Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

If you’re interested in donating (even 1 dollar makes a huge difference, but don’t feel pressured), the link is here:
Donate to Theta x CASA!

CASA Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

I used this recipe for chocolate cupcakes and this recipe for nutella buttercream.
This recipe for red velvet cupcakes (I winged the cream cheese frosting).
And finally, this recipe for the vanilla and funfetti cupcakes.
Caramel from here.

xx

Just Like You

Mocha Cake with Nutella Italian Meringue Buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

“There’s no one just like you,” she said.
“That’s why we need to celebrate.”

—Karen Kingsbury
FAME

Mocha Cake with Nutella Italian Meringue Buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

“A party without cake is just a meeting.”

—Julia Child

Mocha Cake with Nutella Italian Meringue Buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

A birthday without cake is just another dreary day.
A birthday without cake, loves, is not a birthday at all.

Birthdays are for cakes.
(Note: cakes are definitely not only for birthdays, however.)

Mocha Cake with Nutella Italian Meringue Buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

I’m slowly curating the birthday cakes of my roommates (Daly’s birthday is 3 days before mine, so it always happens before we get to school, but a half birthday, perhaps?).
Alexa will love this—it tickles me pink how much she loves her birthday posts.  She also, for the record, loves pink.

Just for reference, here’s Alexa’s cake from last year, and the one from this year.

Dunno if I can possibly link back to that caramel popcorn cake one more time, but oh well.

Mocha Cake with Nutella Italian Meringue Buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

But this is a birthday cake (and post) for a girl who loves the color mint and Paris, soy lattes and Back to the Future, the Old Major sandwich at Z&H and puppies.
Who embodies the Duchess Kate Middleton and has the most brilliant hair and sleeps like Sleeping Beauty (yes, that deeply).

The one who inspired these whole wheat peppermint mocha brownies with her love of Starbucks.

Betsszzyyyy!

Mocha Cake with Nutella Italian Meringue Buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

Elizabeth made it through 2 decades of life.

Obviously, we needed to celebrate with a very big, very chocolaty cake.
Thing is, her birthday was the day after we got back from winter break!  So I hadn’t prepared anything (usually I’ll bake the layers a day ahead or something along those lines, since the days can get so excitingly monotonously busy around here) the day of.
Still, I poked around in my kitchen for ~2 seconds and knew exactly what I had to make her.

A cake tailored to a few of her favorite things.
A cake just like her.

Mocha Cake with Nutella Italian Meringue Buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

This cake is really easy, and miraculously fast.
I had it imagined, made, decorated, and photographed within 2 and a half hours.  Not too bad, especially when you consider that the photography took longer than any of the other processes.

The cake itself is a springy dark chocolate and coffee—mocha—cake.  It’s soft and feels light yet rich at the same time, with a good balance of sweet and bitter from the coffee and cocoa.
It’s a one bowl, one whisk, and one measuring cup kind of recipe, perfect when you need a cake, stat!

The frosting is a Nutella Italian meringue buttercream, so conceived because I had no confectioner’s sugar but lots and lots of bittersweet chocolate.
It’s impossibly light and buttery while still maintaining plenty of chocolate flavor, which I always find is missing in chocolate egg-based buttercreams.
First, a plain Italian meringue buttercream is whipped up, one big glossy cloud.  Then heaps of cooled chocolate get whisked in, and a fair dollop of Nutella, too.
The color change is mesmerizing: from the palest yellow to a red-brown cocoa.

The end result is seriously amazing.
It’s salty and sweet, chocolaty and a little bit nutty.
Italian meringue buttercreams are so silky—they pair perfectly with a cake that has a soft, tight crumb.

Mocha Cake with Nutella Italian Meringue Buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

 This is a cake that’s perfect for a birthday.
It’s fun (sprinkles!), has flavors that everyone will like, and makes the right size cake for sharing with friends.

It frosts like a dream and will look impressive no matter how you decide to finish it up—just don’t forget the candles.

But seriously—don’t the adorable candles on this cake practically beg for extra sprinkles?!

Mocha Cake with Nutella Italian Meringue Buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy belated birthday, Elizabeth darling.
xx

Mocha Cake with Nutella Italian Meringue Buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

Mocha Cake with Nutella Italian Meringue Buttercream
makes 1 3-layer, 6-inch cake

ingredients:
for the mocha cake:
1 2/3 cups (190 grams) flour
1 1/2 cups (300 grams) sugar
1/2 cup (60 grams) cocoa powder
1 5/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5/8 cup (200 mL) buttermilk (or milk plus 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar)
1/2 cup (120 mL) coffee (or hot water plus 1 tablespoon espresso powder)
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons (105 mL) vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

for the Nutella Italian meringue buttercream:
3 egg whites
3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
3 tablespoons (45 mL) water
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups (345 grams) unsalted butter, soft but cool
8 ounces (200 grams) bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1/2 cup (~120 grams(?)) nutella

sprinkles, for decorating

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 3 6-inch baking pans.
Whisk flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together.
Whisk buttermilk, oil, coffee, eggs, and vanilla extract together, then whisk wet ingredients into dry.
Portion batter out evenly into pans and bake for 18-22 minutes, until a tester comes out nearly clean and the cakes are springy to the touch.
Allow to cool completely.
Make the icing: place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Place sugar, salt, and water in a small pot over medium heat, fitted with a candy thermometer.
Begin to whisk egg whites while syrup heats up.
Once syrup reaches 245 degrees F, the egg whites should be at semi-stiff peaks.
Pour the hot syrup into the meringue while beating at high speed.
Whip until the meringue is glossy and cooled to body temp.
Whisk in 1 tablespoon of the butter at a time, beating until the frosting comes together into a glossy, fluffy, light mixture.
Slowly add in the cooled chocolate while whipping, then add in the Nutella.
Scrape the bowl and whip for another minute to ensure homogeneity.
Frost cooled cake as desired, and add sprinkles!

Holidazed

IMG_6621_01

All the cookies!

IMG_6574_02

‘Tis the season for cookies.
We alllll know it.
And you know, I ain’t mad at it.  Cookies and I get along very well.

Anyways, this year we’re stepping up our cookie game.  Right?
Let’s give away cookies that take the lackluster cookie platter to the next level.

We started with nutmeg, maple, and rye sugar cookies.
Now, we’re doing traditional, but we’re doing it a better way.

IMG_6581_01

Linzer cookies are totally a staple on holiday cookie platters.
Butter cookies with a cut out, filled with jam.  You’ve seen ’em.  You’ve enjoyed eaten them.

Here’s the problem: too often they are dry and crumbly, sucking the moisture right out of your mouth and leaving a telltale trail of crumbs down the front of your ugly sweater. (What?! We all do it.)

Or, they’re utterly boring.  Not enough punch; plain Jane fillings and plain Jane casings.
Not so with these Linzer cookies!  They’ve got a hefty pinch of salt, a touch of spice, and fillings with body.

IMG_6537_01_01_01

These cookies are made with almond flour and minimal sugar, which means the flavors stay clean and un-muddled on your tongue.
To ensure that they have a good bite, not too crumbly nor too firm, we use a technique most often utilized in making fluffy cakes with tight crumbs: reverse creaming.

Reverse creaming involves whisking all the dry ingredients together, then beating in soft butter followed by the wet ingredients.  It creates a dough with minimal air pockets, meaning your cookies will be nice and flat and less prone to crumbling.

We’ve got a good base going: lightly spiced and sweetened, with hints of almond and a firm, crisp bite.

Don’t mess it up with the fillings!  Use good quality jams.
My favorite was the D’arbo sour cherry jam, which went well with the almond undertones (almonds+stone fruit=magic), and also offset the butteriness of the cookies masterfully, what with its tart, fruity self.
I highly recommend choosing fillings with a little kick.
In the future, I’d add a pinch of cayenne to the Bonne Maman strawberry jam, and a sprinkle of salt to the Nutella.  I’m partial to apricot as is, but I bet an extra touch of nutmeg would work wonders.

IMG_6591_01

Sorry that my posts haven’t been very wordy.  It’s the holidays, and my brain is fried.
Holidazed and confused…

More cookies coming your way in a day or so.
Hint: there’s peppermint involved.  Get excited.

IMG_6604_01

Linzer Cookies
adapted from Martha Stewart
makes approximately 20 large sandwich cookies
ingredients:
5 ounces (1 cup and 3 tablespoons) almond flour or finely ground almonds
3.6 ounces (1/2 cup) sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder
big pinch kosher salt
9 ounces (2 cups plus 2 tablespoons) flour
8 ounces (16 tablespoons) butter, softened and cut into small chunks
1 egg
splash vanilla extract
confectioner’s sugar, for dusting
fruit jams or Nutella, as desired

directions:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, add the almond flour, sugar, spices, baking powder, salt, and flour and mix to combine.
Add in the softened butter and paddle until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
Add in the egg and vanilla and mix until a dough forms.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to 1/4 inch thickness.
Cut out circles, and cut a small shape out of half of the circles.
Place onto parchment lined baking sheets and freeze or chill for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake the frozen/chilled cookies for 9-11 minutes, until set and lightly golden.
Allow to cool completely.
Spread 1 1/2 teaspoons of filling of choice onto the cookies without cut outs.
Dust the cookies with the cutouts with plenty of confectioners sugar, then sandwich them on top of the filling and uncut cookies.

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

Short and sweet today, y’all.
(I have a nap penciled in in about 15 minutes.  I’m very busy.  Island time.  It happens.)
This is a cake I made a few months back, to celebrate (mourn?) the end of my basketball season.
Yes, it’s taken me that long to get around to writing this post.  I’m a little slow on the uptake.
  
It was pretty ridiculous, ridiculously indulgent, and indulgently delicious.  
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like the combination of chocolate and orange.
Seriously.  One of my favorite things in the entire world, ever, is those chocolate-orange things.  You know, the chocolates which look like oranges and have orange in them and separate into little orange wedges?
Chocolate and cheesecake, a match made in heaven, is only made better by the addition of orange.
But I didn’t stop there.  I have no self-control, remember?  
Nay, I kept going.  “What else can I add into this cake?”
Well, nutella… 
Ugh.  Dead.  I’m dead.  That’s it.  There’s no going back; my tastebuds will no longer accept anything but this.
Here’s a secret, just between you and me:
These photos were taken the night before our last practice, meaning that I cut a slice out of the cake just to take photos- not the most, erhm, proper behavior in the world.
How rude!  I do de-clay-uh.
So, I took the photos, and slid it back in place.
Spackled the frosting back together, strategically placed some chocolate curls over the evidence, and served it the next day.
No one noticed.  
Victory!
 
Can you tell how badly I want to be a southern belle?  
(The font I always use, for the record, is Georgia.)

Mouthful (Chocolate-Nutella-Orange-Cheesecake) Cake
For the cheesecake layer:
(from Piece of Cake via RecipeGirl)
ingredients:
16 ounces of cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
pinch of salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
directions:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. 
Place a large roasting pan on the lower third rack of the oven. 
Place a kettle of water on the stove to boil. 
Spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick spray and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper. 
Wrap a double layer of foil around the bottom and up the sides of the pan (you want to seal it so the water from the water bath doesn’t seep into the pan). 
In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to mix the cream cheese- blend until it is nice and smooth and creamy. 
Mix in sugar and salt and blend for 2 minutes, scraping down sides of the bowl as needed. 
Add eggs, one at a time, blending after each addition. 
Finally, mix in sour cream, whipping cream and vanilla. 
Mix until smooth. 
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. 
Set the pan into the roasting pan in the pre-heated oven. 
Carefully pour the hot water from your kettle into the roasting pan (it will fill the pan surrounding the cheesecake). 
Pour enough water so that there is about an inch of water coming up the foil along the sides of the cheesecake pan. 
Bake the cheesecake for 45 minutes. 
It should be set to the touch and not jiggly. 
Remove the cheesecake from the roasting pan and let it cool on a wire rack for at least an hour. 
When it has cooled, place the pan into the freezer and let the cheesecake freeze completely. 

For the cake layers:
adapted from Gourmet via epicurious
ingredients:

2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup cornstarch (you can also use 2 3/4 cups cake flour, omitting the cornstarch and AP flour)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large whole eggs
zest of one entire orange
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/3 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed
1/3 cup sour cream or buttermilk
1/3 cup milk
handful of mini chocolate chips; enough for a healthy sprinkling on two 9 inch layers
directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans.
Rub the sugar and zest together with your fingers until very fragrant.
Beat the butter until softened, then add in the orange sugar.
Cream together until very fluffy and light, about 3 minutes.
Beat in eggs one at a time, scraping after each addition, then add in the vanilla.
Stir the sour cream, juice, and milk together.
Stir the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt together.
Either alternate adding the wet and dry or slowly dump them in at the same time (my preferred method… Just go slow so the flour doesn’t go all over).
Mix just until homogeneous, then pour into prepared pans.
Sprinkle the mini chocolate chips over the batter, and bake until golden and springy to the touch, about 20-25 minutes.  A cake tester should come out nearly clean, with perhaps just a few crumbs sticking on.
Allow to cool completely before assembling the cake.
For the frosting:
ingredients:
2 sticks butter
1 3/4- 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
big pinch salt
3/4 cup Ovaltine
1/2 cup nutella
splash vanilla extract
splash cream, if needed
directions:
Beat butter until soft, about 2 minutes.
Add in the ovaltine, nutella, salt, and vanilla, and beat to combine.
Slowly add in the powdered sugar, tasting to check the sweetness. (If you need more powdered sugar to thicken the consistency, be sure to add in a pinch more salt; you can also add in some more ovaltine for thickening.)
Play with the amount of powdered sugar to thicken the frosting; environments differ and really affect the thickness/pipeability.  If you need it to really thicken, don’t add too much more sugar or ovaltine, instead, stick it in the freezer for a few minutes to firm up.
If your frosting is too thick, add a splash of cream, about 2 teaspoons at a time, to thin it out a bit.  Don’t add too much, and wait between additions, because if it becomes soupy, there’s no going back.
To assemble:
Apply a thin layer of icing on the chocolate chip side of the first layer.
Place the frozen cheesecake layer on top, and spread another thin layer on top of that.
Place the second cake layer, chocolate chip side up, on top of the cheesecake.
Crumb-coat the whole cake in a thin layer of frosting, then chill it, either in the freezer or fridge, for 10-15 minutes in the freezer or 15-20 in the fridge.
Take the cake out and generously frost it with the remaining icing.
To smooth out the sides, dip an offset spatula in hot water, wipe it off, and gently run it on the outside of the cake.

Top with chocolate curls, if desired.

Asisium

Somehow, coming round in a full circle can be both comforting and disconcerting.
 
One encounters things familiar, even soothing, yes, but with this familiarity often comes a sense of stagnation, of dejà-vu.
 
Il faut qu’on se demande pourquoi on y est arrivé encore une fois: par mégarde ou délibérément?
One must ask oneself why one has arrived there yet again: by accident or on purpose?
As I breezed through these photos, tweaking the too-bright exposure and blue tints that were the result of reflections off of the snow the day that I shot them, I had a strange sense of already having edited them.
The coloring, and, in truth, the plating, of this dessert were similar to those of the first one I ever attempted.
I was struck by it.  
I asked myself, is your project becoming prosaic?  Are your desserts becoming less and less distinctive?
(Sounds like I’m doubting myself a lot in these WISE posts, don’t it?)
I realize that the desserts are different; in fact, I cringe looking back on my first dessert.  
Nowadays I can (usually) bear to look through the photos.
 
I say usually because there are times when I look down at a plate and hate it.
 There are times where I redo said plate, look down, and hate it even more.
There are plates that are messy, cluttered, ugly.
There are ice creams that become soup in the time it takes me to lift up my camera.
There are mousses that don’t set and there are mealy caviar.
There are desserts that are contrived from their very conception.
Before I made the dessert that you see here, I had a failed experiment which involved nearly all of those situations.
The flavors (olive oil, orange, almond, and dark chocolate) paired beautifully, but the ways I chose to present them just didn’t click.
The burnt-orange ice cream recipe, which I got from Gourmet, was quite tasty, but didn’t set when I spun it in my ice cream maker.
It didn’t set when I tried to freeze it solid.
So, I whipped some cream and folded it into the base to make a mousse.
And hey! look! it froze!
And hey! look! it melted upon first contact with ambient temperature!
And hey! look! I made soup!
Needless to say, that dessert was a messy, soupy disaster.
I was unhappy with the photographs and unhappy with the presentation.
I felt I used too many components and didn’t put enough thought into the plating beforehand.
(I had a meltdown… Get it?!)
 
I set out to make a new dessert, with ideas of clean, simple plating floating around my brain.
In light of the new Argentinian pope, I decided to utilize a very popular Latin American flavor combination: chocolate and passion fruit.  (Also happens to be one of my personal favorite flavor combinations).
 
(Don’t ask me where these weird ideas come from. There is a small, wizened, and mostly blind old man somewhere in a dusty control room in the back of my brain pushing and prodding on the decidedly wrong buttons and these are the thoughts that result.)
 
Ah.  Anyways.  Latin American.  Yes.
I decided I wanted to bring some Italian influence into the dessert.
(The pope chose an Italian saint’s name… It all makes sense.)
I had just bought a gigantic bulk bag of hazelnuts, so hazelnuts it was going to be.
(Apparently hazelnuts equate Italian.  I don’t know.)
 
In using this so-called “Italian” influence, I now get to use fancy names for things… 
Nocciola gelato?  Hazelnut ice cream (with a lower fat content but, whatever, get over it.  Gelato and ice cream are just short of identical when homemade.)
Gianduja? Nutella.
 
Vive le pape!
Asisium:
gianduja ganache
passion fruit crème
roasted milk and white chocolate mousse
dark chocolate and passion fruit bonbons
nocciola gelato
Why Asisium?  It’s Italian for Assisi, as in St. Francis of Assisi, as in Pope Francis’ namesake. Plus, it sounds grand.  Can’t you just hear Pavarotti singing it in the background?


Asisium:
for the roasted milk and white chocolate mousse:
ingredients:
100 g milk and white chocolate; I went almost exactly halfsies
1 egg yolk
110 g cream
12 g sugar
1/8 tsp gelatin bloomed in 1 teaspoon cream

directions:
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
Place chopped chocolate in a baking pan and bake, stirring vigorously with a spatula every 15 minutes, until extremely fragrant, about 40 minutes.
The chocolate will have caramelized; you won’t see much of a color change because there is milk chocolate in addition to the white chocolate, but if you taste it, you will notice a distinctly more complex flavor.
Pour into a bowl; you should have about 85 g of chocolate. If you have more, eat it!
Heat cream, yolk, sugar until 175 d F.
Strain over chocolate.
Allow to sit until chocolate is melted.
Stir in bloomed gelatin and pour into molds.
Freeze until use; place on plate to temper at least 5 minutes before service.


for the nocciola gelato:
ingredients:
1/2 cup milk
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch salt
1/4 cup chopped, toasted hazelnuts
directions:
Heat the milk until simmering. Pour in hazelnuts and steep for at least 2 hours and up to a few days, in the fridge.
Strain and discard the hazelnuts.
Blend all ingredients together with an immersion or regular blender, then pour into a pot and heat gently, stirring constantly, until custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon.
Let cool completely, then spin in an ice cream maker.


for the dark chocolate bonbons:
adapted from Elizabeth LaBau

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, tempered
1 tablespoon cream
1 teaspoon glucose
1/3 cup passion fruit pulp (find it in the frozen section with other Goya products)
4.5 ounces white chocolate, chopped
directions:
Bring passion fruit purée, glucose, and cream to a boil.  
Place the white chocolate in a heat-safe bowl and pour the cream mixture over.  
Allow to sit for 2 minutes without touching, then stir gently until the ganache is smooth and homogeneous.  
Allow to cool.
Coat your molds with the tempered chocolate, then pipe in a little of the ganache.  
Seal with more chocolate and allow to harden.

for the passion fruit crème:
adapted from Milk Bar
ingredients:
65 g passion fruit puree
35 g sugar
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon gelatin
6 tablespoons butter, cold
1 g kosher salt
directions:
Blend the puree and the sugar and egg together until the sugar granules have dissolved and the mixture is smooth.  
Pour into a pan; clean the blender.
Bloom the gelatin in 1 tablespoon cold water.
Heat the passion fruit curd over low heat, whisking constantly, until it comes to a boil.  
Remove from heat and add it to the cleaned blender.  
Add the gelatin, butter, and salt, and blend until the mixture is “thick, shiny, and super-smooth.”
Allow to cool completely.

for the gianduja:
ingredients:
roughly 1 2/3 cups hazelnuts
scant 1 1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
big pinch salt
1/3 cup milk powder (or more, to taste)
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
directions:
Prepare a baking sheet with a silpat.
Bring the sugar to a boil in a dry saucepan, and allow to cook until it reaches a golden-amber color.  
Immediately stir in the hazelnuts, working quickly.
Spread out the brittle onto the silpat as thinly and evenly as possible.
Allow to cool completely, then break into chunks.
Pulverize the praline with the grapeseed oil until liquidy and almost entirely smooth.
Add the rest of the ingredients and mix to combine.
Taste and adjust for your preferences; I wanted this spread to be a deep, dark, chocolate, so I didn’t add much sugar, but I did add a nice big pinch of salt.
Can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 weeks (But it won’t last that long…)

to assemble:
Plate the gianduja first; use a chilled plate.
Pipe a few dots of passion fruit cream around the plate.
Place the bonbons where you would like, then follow with the mousse.
As soon as the mousse is out of the freezer/mold, work quickly, as it will melt.
Next, quenelle a scoop of the gelato and place in the center of the plate.


Please Sir

Can I have s’more, sir?
No recipe for this cake, today.  
 
I’ve been writing up blog posts for the past 2 hours and I’m getting lazy.
(Tutorial for something time-consuming exciting coming soon… Stay tuned!)
 
I made this cake for a good friend’s 18th (eep!) birthday.
 
It consisted of three dark chocolate cake layers, sandwiching milk chocolate ganache, toasted marshmallows, and an adapted graham crust/crumb from Milk Bar.
I frosted it with a nutella buttercream, and topped it off with more of the same: a mountain of toasted marshmallows, graham crumbs, and a drizzle of ganache.
 
A wonderfully childish cake, reminiscent of campfires, to welcome her into adult life.
Youth may not last forever, but immaturity the affinity for s’mores does!
 
I used my dad’s giant industrial blow torch to toast the lil’ marshmallows.  Poor guys didn’t stand a chance.  Flames and fire ravaged their ranks, I’m afraid to say.  
 
I hope she enjoyed it.  
I certainly enjoyed making it.
Happy 18th, S!  Love you!