Everything But

Healthy Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“Please understand that I am in
full rebellion
against my own mind; that when I live
I live by impulse, by emotion,
by white heat.”

—Anaïs Nin, Henry and June

Healthy Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

The French, in their effortless elegance, make a difference between kitchen and bathroom sinks.
Un évier et une lavabo.

They draw the line at owl’s ears: ones with visible ears are les hiboux, while ones without are les chouettes.
There are three words for frost, seven for ice.
Five for window, four for wall.
There’s even a phrase in French for the phenomenon of the urge to jump off of tall buildings/cliffs/balconies/heights:
l’appel du vide.
(Literally: call of the void.)

There are other nuances threaded into the language that make translation tricky; this is one of the most fascinating parts of non-native languages, I think.
Idioms and untranslatables that might confuse anyone hearing them for the first time.

Healthy Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

This cake is totally autumnal, so in the same vein, here are some fantastic fall links for you to peruse.

OMgomgomg. Michelle made brown butter pumpkin cinnamon rolls with crème fraîche glaze and they are so fluffy and beautiful I am seriously losing my mind.

These ultra healthy sugar free apple, almond, and buckwheat muffins from Green Kitchen Stories look so comforting (that applesauce center wooooow) and I want to eat 3 for breakfast like, right now, please.

On the savory side, stew is my favorite kind of meal.
Customizable, easy, makes leftovers.
I gravitate towards middle Eastern flavors (za’atar is my go-to spice blend) when I’m cooking, and this squash and bean stew over brown rice is my idea of a perfect fall meal.
Side note: I really want SK’s Bowl + Spoon because, like I said, that’s the kind of cuisine/meal that just gets me.

See also: this butternut squash chili. Oyyyyyy so warm and spicy and squash-y.

Last one: drooling over this dutch apple pie with muscovado toffee sauce.  Crumbly and salty-sweet and layers upon layers of apple drenched in toffee sauce…
I am quite partial to a good apple pie.

Healthy Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Where to start with this carrot cake…

First of all, it is remarkable how well the mélange of ingredients mesh in this cake.
The sheer number of mix-ins might make one wary, but you absolutely must trust me, because the resulting cake is nothing short of phenomenal.

It is exactly how I like my carrot cake: moist, dark, spicy, fruity, and chock full of little surprises in each bite.
And lots and lots of carrot!

The cake is healthier than most carrot cakes, which are always touted to be calorie bombs in disguise.
The amount of refined sugar is drastically reduced by using coconut sugar, which is dark and a little smoky tasting.  It lends the cake an extra deep, caramel flavor.
The cake itself is dairy free, with MCT-rich coconut oil standing in for butter.

The frosting has a cracked, shiny, swirly top.
It’s lusciously rich on the tongue, with butter and brown sugar creating an extremely rich caramel flavor.
It’s good while soft and melty and fantastic when cold, which firms it up into a fudgy consistency.
It’s a rich frosting to pair well with the dense, moist cake beneath.  A wimpy frosting would have no impact and no chance of competing with the cake.

Healthy Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

The cake is filled with grated carrots and apples for earthiness and a firm bite; coconut sugar and flaked coconut add a whisper of the tropics and a hint of caramel and smoke; candied ginger and a pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves add a spicy note; juicy golden raisins are sweet and unexpected; finally, toasted chopped walnuts give an ever-so-slight bitter nuttiness to each bite.

The frosting deserves a whole host of adjectives of its own.
This is seriously the best frosting of this sort (spread over warm sheet cake) I have ever in my life tasted or imagined.
Unlike the cake, it is in no way healthified.

It’s made of copious amounts of butter and brown sugar, and is literally liquid fudge that is spread over the warm cake and then allowed to set into luscious, creamy goodness.
It’s sweet and salty and a little caramel-esque, with a crunchy, shiny top layer and a buttery center below.
I want to spread it on every single sheet cake I ever make.
This would be incredible with applesauce cake, or chocolate cake, or caramel cake, or coconut cake… or a spoon, or cardboard.  You get the point.  It’s good.

Healthy Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake with Brown Sugar Fudge Frosting
makes 1 9×9 inch cake
frosting adapted from KAF

ingredients:
for the cake:
2 eggs
100 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
75 grams (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
170 grams (3/4 cup) coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon kosher salt
120 grams (1 cup) flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
200 grams (1 1/2 cups grated) carrots
2 small granny smith apples, grated
1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup candied ginger, chopped
1/2 cup golden raisins

for the brown sugar fudge frosting:
100 grams (7 tablespoons) butter
130 grams (2/3 cup) brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon plus big pinch kosher salt
60 grams (1/4 cup) milk
275 grams (2 1/4 cup) confectioner’s sugar

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 9×9 inch pan; line with parchment and grease the parchment as well.
Whisk eggs, sugars, oil, and salt together until homogeneous and light in color.
Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and spices on top.
Fold in until halfway incorporated, then add the grated carrots and apple on top and fold until completely uniform.
Stir in walnuts, coconut, raisins, and candied ginger.
Pour batter into prepared tin and bake for 30-40 minutes, until a tester comes out with a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool while you prepare the frosting.
Make the frosting: melt butter, brown sugar, and salt together until completely incorporated.
Whisk in the milk and powdered sugar until a thick frosting comes together.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then spread over the partially cooled cake, swirling with a palette knife as desired.
Serve cake room temperature or slightly chilled for denser cake.

Droopy Drupes

Seriously Easy Stone Fruit Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

They had been elegant in the tree, tiny coquettes
blushing more and more until I picked them,
then they were minimalist and matte-colored
in wooden bowls, so barely furred one couldn’t
help but clothe them, enclose them with your hand,
caress each one thoroughly before taking a bite,
exploring the handsome freckles left
from some minor blight.

—Jennifer Grotz, Apricots

Seriously Easy Stone Fruit Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

This is an interruption of the berry desserts that have smartly marched across your screen for what must feel like ages.
(Chocolate, long forgotten, is making an appearance soon.  Promise.  And then at least one more berry post. Oops.)
But this post...This post is devoted to stone fruits.

Peaches and drupes (stone fruits) are some of my most favorite fruits… of course, La Pêche Fraîche is a dead giveaway.

There haven’t been an overwhelming number of peach/apricot/plum posts, however.
(The last I mean to remedy when plums charge in in all their autumnal glory.)

Seriously Easy Stone Fruit Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

There was this (pin-happy) celebration of 100 posts, an ombréed, OCD tart filled with all of the sweetest, ripest stone fruits I could find.
Or this giant slab pie, perfect for feeding a crowd, complete with an utterly absorbing, fun-to-make lattice and homemade vanilla ice cream (le duh).
This simple peach tart, made and shot quickly.  Very much a throw-together tart, skin-on, that comes out as a whole much greater than the sum of its parts.
This old (old!) rendition of Cook’s Illustrated’s perfect peach pie.  It was delicious, but still didn’t manage to convince me that peeling peaches for pie is utterly necessary (such a headache!).

So… This is not very many posts, seeing as I’ve racked up nearly 250 over the lifespan of the blog.  Eeep!

Seriously Easy Stone Fruit Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

I don’t quite have enough of my own links to really devote a link-love post to stone fruit, but fear not!
I have compiled a few absolutely mouthwatering peachy bits and bobs from around the blogosphere.

Let’s start with the unfairness that is Laura’s glut of peaches, no?
*Pouts* whyyyyyy don’t I have such beautiful peach trees bursting with life around me?!  Add to those ripe peaches her maple coconut granola and that right there is a proper summer breakfast.

More elegant simplicity with the seasonal fruits: Kristin’s olive oil pound cake, tinged with citrus and served simply with fresh peaches and coconut whipped cream is a dream come true.

Uggghhh. Slay me, Michelle.
Bourbon + brown sugar + peach pie.  Give me the pie and 5 minutes and you will regret giving me the pie at all.
That thang is a work of beauty right there.

More bourbon + peaches, with brown butter and maple and melty vanilla ice cream, too.
Alanna always has the best photographs.
These in particular left me salivating and wondering why in the heck I haven’t made a thousand crisps and eaten them all hot with cold ice cream.  This must change.

Be still my beating heart.
Custard cakes have been on my mind (read: pinboards) lately.
Then Sam went and added ripe, custardy in their own right apricots and my world turned upside down.
OMG. That vanilla bean custard layer…
(P.S. Can’t wait for that prune cake.  I looove prunes.)

Seriously Easy Stone Fruit Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

Today, I’m sharing a cheater’s simple stone fruit tart with you without a modicum of shame.
Yep, I used purchased puff pastry for the first time.  And its convenience and dependability were awesome.
No fuss, stupid fast, beautiful, tasty, and simple.

5 ingredients, if you count the egg wash and pistachio garnish.
If you thaw your puff pastry the night before, you can have this beauty on your table in 25 minutes flat.
This really lets the fruit shine—there’s virtually no added sugar or other ingredients to distract.

For this reason, it’s vital to choose ripe fruits—a little bruise or droopy skin here or there is a-OK.
It will intensify the flavors of the tart.

If you find yourself in a situation where you need a quick, sweet and fruity fix, or you want a fool-proof yet impressive dessert to serve to friends, or you have some droopy, slightly sad little drupes that are a day away from necessitating jam, this is the recipe to reach for.

Infinitely adaptable.  Unendingly forgiving.

Seriously Easy Stone Fruit Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

You can use any stone fruit or sliceable fruit that you wish, really: plums, apples, dry pears, peaches, apricots, nectarines, pluots, cherries… all fair game.
Nothing too juicy or acidic, and you’re pretty much set.

The (store-bought!) puff pastry rises up, golden and shiny, in the oven; the weight of the fruit prevents it from getting too airy, which allows for a sturdy crust that can be eaten by hand.
The fruit becomes syrupy in the hot oven, bathing itself in sweet, sticky juice.
A smattering of pistachios provides crunch, and a cool, creamy dollop of crème fraîche ties this simple summer treat together.

The tart comes out looking quite beautiful for the minimum amount of effort put in, with the bright, warm colors of the fruit foiled by green pistachios and pure, snow-white cream.

This, I think, is the definition of keeping it simple (stupid).
Don’t mess too much with perfectly ripe/slightly overripe summer fruit.
Let it pop against the backdrop of buttery pastry.
Highlight it only with a conservative touch of sugar and a few crunchy pistachios.
Indulge in a spoonful of cream to add richness and I think anyone would agree that this is a far more exciting use for droopy, tired fruits than jam…

Seriously Easy Stone Fruit Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

Seriously Easy Stone Fruit Tart
makes 1 10×10 tart

ingredients:
1 sheet all-butter puff pastry, thawed overnight in the fridge
4-6 pieces of very ripe stone fruit, of your choice, sliced thinly
1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water
3 tablespoons of sugar
2 tablespoons chopped pistachios
crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream or sour cream, for serving

directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
On a very lightly floured surface, gently roll out the puff pastry until it is approximately 11×11 inches.
Trim the edges carefully , being sure not to rock the blade, to make an even square of 10×10.
Carefully transfer the puff to a baking sheet lined with parchment.
Brush an inch border with the egg wash, and lightly sprinkle 1 tablespoon over the center part of the pastry.
Carefully arrange your sliced fruit over the pastry.
Choose any design you like, but avoid layering one slice completely on top of another.
Sprinkle the tart with 1-2 more tablespoons of sugar, depending on how sweet your fruit is.
Pop in the oven for 25 minutes, until the crust is puffed and golden and the fruit is slumped and juicy.
Remove from oven and sprinkle with pistachios; serve warm with cold crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream.

Grey Matter

Apricot Pistachio Lemon-Chamomile Scones | La Pêche Fraîche

All we have to decide
is what to do
with the time that is given to us.

—Gandalf the Grey

Apricot Pistachio Lemon-Chamomile Scones | La Pêche Fraîche

Nary a single complaint nor excuse will I launch about how long I’ve been away from this space.
It’s been ages. Epochs.  I know.
But I’m not going to harp on the time that has passed.
Know that I wanted to be here and know that I was thinking of it constantly.
OK, I can’t resist: I just got wifi back, friends. I wasn’t just being neglectful.

I fear my mind is wasting away, lately.
The part of my brain that is fed by my own explorations, that is fattened by a good story or a poignant quote or a resonating piece of music, is greying at the edges, fading in a most unpleasant and quiet manner, so that I barely even notice it.
The encyclopedic filing cabinet of my mind that is more full up with facts that I love, rather than mandated ones, is seeming barren as a field left to fallow.
That part.  That wild, soulful, curious part.
I worry.

I need a good book to soothe my soul; I need more classical music and less coffee in the mornings.
I mean, good Lord, I sit in front of a screen all day.  I know this isn’t ideal.
I think that in order to return to balance and some sort of an even keel, some serious non-screen time is necessary.
I took a nap outside on Sunday, which was heavenly even if I was laying on the hardest lounge chair of all eternity.
Next weekend I intend to do the same, with a book thrown in the mix.
And sometime between now and then I’m going to get in the kitchen and make a wonderful mess.

Apricot Pistachio Lemon-Chamomile Scones | La Pêche Fraîche

I have things I want to share with you—photos, too.
I have willful thoughts and questions that I am trying to coax out of my brain by smashing words together, head-on.

Today, I’m hopping on the scone wagon.
I actually made these scones a while ago, and now would you just look at THAT everyone and their mother posted a scone recipe last week.  Fantastic timing on my part.
And everyone else’s are so beautiful and delicious and photogenic.
Mine are a bit craggier and are up to their necks in a pool of glaze, but trust me—flavor-wise, they’re well up to snuff.

Apricot Pistachio Lemon-Chamomile Scones | La Pêche Fraîche

These have the most ridiculously long name (even longer than the kingly titles of Game of Thrones…) but they need it because they are a little self-conscious of their cracked, flaky tops, okay??!!

Whole-wheat apricot pistachio lemon-chamomile scones.
Whole wheat pastry flour, soft-milled and nutty, meets butter in the best way possible, becoming a flaky, sweet, slightly-crumbly base.
Each bite is studded with chopped pistachios, the grassiness of which offsets the pieces of sweet Turkish apricots that are strewn throughout the dough.
A generous coat of egg wash and even more generous sprinkling of sparkly sugar and the scones are ready to meet an extremely hot oven, which puffs them up proudly and creates the craters and canyons that will secret away rivers of glaze until bitten into.
The glaze itself, poured over the cooled pastries generously, is made of delicate floral chamomile tea and tart lemon juice.  A pinch of salt tempers the sugar, as always.

Persian flavors are very subtly melded into these scones, which last for days and make for a fantastic breakfast or tea.
You can make the scones ahead and freeze them like you would cookies.  When you want a hot, buttery scone with a cup of tea, you can simply pop a few in the oven straight from the freezer.

Apricot Pistachio Lemon-Chamomile Scones | La Pêche Fraîche

Whole-Wheat Apricot, Pistachio, Lemon-Chamomile Scones
scone portion adapted from Food.com
Makes 8 large scones

ingredients:
for the scones:
2 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt
8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) butter, cubed
1/3 cup granulated sugar, plus more for topping
2/3 cup milk (I used almond milk)
1 egg plus 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
10 dried apricots, chopped
1/4 – 1/3 cup pistachios, chopped

for the glaze:
1 tablespoon hot water
chamomile tea
juice of 1/2 lemon
3/4 cup powdered sugar, or as needed
pinch or two coarse sea salt or kosher salt

directions:
Make the scones: preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Put flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and add the cubed butter.
Using a pastry blender or your fingers, smash the butter into small pieces until the largest bits are the size of a pea.
Add the sugar and stir gently.
While stirring, pour in the milk of your choice.
Before the milk is completely incorporated, add in the apricots and pistachios and gently fold to incorporate.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently pat into a circle.
Cut the dough into 8 wedges and place on the baking sheet.
Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, or freeze for up to a month, well-wrapped.
When ready to bake, whisk the egg and water together and brush over the tops of the scones.
Generously sprinkle sugar all over the scones, and bake for 12-14 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.
Allow to cool.
To make the glaze, brew a very strong (and tiny) amount of chamomile tea—I used about a tablespoon of hot water and a tea bag that I allowed to steep for 10 minutes.
To the tea, add in the lemon juice and the salt.
While whisking, add in the powdered sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, until the glaze reaches a pourable but thick and opaque consistency.
Drizzle or pour the glaze over the scones and allow to set completely before serving.
Scones keep for up to 4 days, tightly sealed.

Pure Comfort

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cake Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

“What’s comin’ will come
and we’ll meet it when it does.”

—Hagrid

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cake Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Because peanut butter is like a big hug.
And because I need a big hug (it’s finals, oh yes it is).

My brain is too fried to tell you about the hell that are finals here at good old UChicago.

Instead, I’m going to share with you some things I’ve been loving lately; things that are so nice they wrap me up in a big hug all on their own.

First of all, these soft silk camisoles from J. Crew. I have three of them, and wear them under sweaters or blazers with pants or skirts or whatever I so please.
Ridiculously versatile, unbelievably soft and well-made.
Love them.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cake Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Secondly, I purchased these konjac face sponges from Sephora on a whim, because they intrigued me, and because I never feel like washing with just my fingers gets my face completely clean after a long night.
They’re magical—they puff up and become soft and supple, and they are gentle but effective at removing dirt and grime.

Speaking of clean and fresh, my Pinterest “Space Inspiration” board is leaving me with white-washed dreams, full of greenery and subway tile.  I could get lost in any of those homes.

This butternut mac and “tease” is all I want in my life.
It looks so, so good—like WOW.

I’ve been making baked sweet potato fries as a quick meal lately—a bunch of sweet potato, cut super thin and rolled in lots and lots of coconut or olive oil with a heavy sprinkling of salt, tossed onto a foil lined baking sheet in the oven for 15 minutes at 450.
After you’re done, turn the oven to 350 and bake kale chips while you eat your sweet potatoes.
Double yum!

And since today’s recipe involves PB, I have to link to Mandy’s jaw dropping sticky rice balls in green tea—stuffed with runny peanut butter!  Now I’m craving sticky tang-yuan, too.
(Or mochi.  We had killer mochi ice cream at Sunda the other day.  I could live off of mochi, no lie.)

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cake Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Anyways, for the peanut butter sweets included in this post:
These cookies are really tiny little cakelets—like whoopie pies, but eensy-meensy.
Each little cookie sandwich is a soft and fluffy dream.
The base is a rich, chocolate butter cake with a fine crumb and the perfect amount of dark cocoa flavor—there’s just enough of it surrounding the cloud of peanut butter frosting to make you take another bite, and then another cookie.
The combination of chocolate and peanut butter is timeless—talk about a comfort combo.
There’s plenty of salty-sweet action going on in these cookies, and a they strike the perfect balance between fluffy rich cake and fluffier, salty-sweet frosting.

Plus, I love that they’re only two-bites big.
It gives you an excuse to eat 5.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cake Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Some notes:

I used an oversized French pastry tip to get the starburst pattern on my frosting dollops.
This is by far my favorite pastry tip right now—you’ll see it in action on some cupcakes very soon!

I got my cookies to be perfectly even by using a small round cookie cutter to trim the edges of each cookie as it emerged from the oven.  You don’t need to do so if you don’t want to—just match up your cookies by approximate size and wonkiness.

The peanut butter frosting has a nearly equal ratio of butter to PB—you need to whip this mixture up wildly in order for it to be totally fluffy and amazing, so just set a timer and let your mixer do the work.  And don’t forget the salt!

The consistency of the frosting, due to all that PB, is really dependent on what type of peanut butter you use.  Be ready to add in an extra few tablespoons of powdered sugar or heavy cream, since your PB might be runnier or thicker than mine was.
(Oh, and if you use natural peanut butter?  Please don’t forget to stir, or you’ll have an oily mess on your hands!)

I need to go finish writing a paper and begin studying for Genetics, so wish me luck and send me positive vibrations and brainwaves.
I’ll pay you back in cupcakes next week.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cake Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Mini Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cake Cookies
cookie portion adapted from Saveur
makes 24 cookie sandwiches

ingredients:
for the cakes:
8 tablespoons butter, very soft
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour
3/8 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup milk

for the peanut butter frosting:
6 tablespoons butter, very soft
5 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups (or as needed) powdered sugar
2 tablespoons cream

directions:
Make the cookies: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high speed for 2 minutes.
Add in the sugar and beat for 2 more minutes.
Add in the egg and vanilla and beat for 4 full minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in the cocoa powder.
Beat on high speed for 30 seconds.
Scrape the bowl; add in the flour, baking powder, and baking soda; only stir until half combined.
With the mixer running on low, stream in the milk.
Once fully incorporated, beat on high speed for 15 seconds to ensure homogeneity.
Scoop out portions of the batter with a 2 teaspoon (or whatever size you want) scoop.
Make sure to leave plenty of room between cookies.
Bake for 11 minutes.
Immediately after removing from oven, use a small round cookie cutter to clean up the sides if you desire.
Allow to cool while you make the frosting.
To make the frosting, place butter and peanut butter and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high for 5 minutes (set a timer!).
Sift in the powdered sugar, add the cream, and stir slowly until fully incorporated.
If the icing is too runny (the consistency is dependent on your peanut butter), add in up to 3/4 cup more powdered sugar.
If it is too stiff, add in up to 3 more tablespoons of cream.
To frost the cookies, flip half over onto their backs and, using a pastry bag filled with the peanut butter frosting or just a butter knife, dollop a generous amount of frosting on each cookie.
Place the top cookie on the sandwich and enjoy!

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!

Naughty To Nice

Holiday Cookie Platter | La Pêche Fraîche

Where do you stand with Mr. S. Claus?

Chocolate, sour cherry, and coconut cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Worry not, my friend.
Though I have been a bad blogger and neglected to share any holly-day recipes around here (Oreo cupcakes?! In December? Ugh!), I am now swooping in clutching everything you need to go from the Naughty list to the Nice.

Say farewell to Santa’s shit list.
These cookies are a guaranteed hit.

Grapefruit Butter Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

These cookies (and the caramels pictured, too) were bundled up and gifted to friends, all a jumble of holiday cheer and spirit sugar.

The first are grapefruit butter cookies, crinkled and cracked and crisp in their sugary coating.  They’re ever so slightly fragrant thanks to grapefruit zest and juice, which cuts gently through their buttery richness.

Holiday Cookie Platter | La Pêche Fraîche

Next come soft and chewy dark and white chocolate, coconut, and sour cherry cookies.  They’re full of brown sugar and stay soft for days (the trick is the cornstarch!).  They strike a perfect balance between salty and sweet, and are chockfull of bits and pieces without being overwhelmed by additions.

Finally, my favorite, and arguably the most interesting cookies I’ve made in a while: dark chocolate pecan snowcaps.
These cookies are made without butter or flour or any fat or grains—choose your chocolate correctly, and these are gluten and dairy free.
They’re dead simple: powdered sugar and dark cocoa powder, salt, pecans, chopped chocolate, egg whites.
The batter looks like thick black sludge, but once each piece of dough is rolled in Swedish peal sugar, it looks like a little snow ball.
Once baked, they’re crispy and ethereally light on the exterior, but soft and chewy on the inside.  The chopped milk chocolate is sweet and a good contrast to the deeply chocolaty exterior; the pecans add a wonderful toasty flavor, and the sugar-coated, crackled outside is tempered by a pinch of salt in the cookie itself.
This is cookie perfection, guys.
Simple and surprising!

Holiday Cookie Platter | La Pêche Fraîche
Here’s to cookie-filled holidays!
Stay posted for more giftable treats…

Holiday Cookie Platter | La Pêche Fraîche

Chocolate, Sour Cherry, and Coconut Cookies
adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction
makes 24 cookies

ingredients:
2 1/4 cups (280 grams) flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
3/4 cup (170 grams) butter, melted
3/4 cup (135 grams) brown sugar
1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup sour cherries
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
1/3 cup white chocolate chips

directions:
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Whisk melted butter, sugars, and salt together.
Vigorously whisk in egg and egg yolk, then whisk in the vanilla.
Batter should be light colored and smooth.
Place flour, baking soda, and cornstarch on top of batter and stir to combine.
Stir in coconut, cherries, and chocolates until mixture is homogeneous.
Scoop out 2 tablespoon size balls and roll to uniform size.
Place on baking sheets and chill/freeze for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake each sheet straight from the freezer for 12 minutes.
Remove and let cool for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Grapefruit Butter Cookies
adapted from Cooking Classy
makes 30 cookies

ingredients:
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
10 tablespoons butter, soft
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
zest of 1 grapefruit
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
juice of 1/2 grapefruit (1 1/2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
granulated sugar, for rolling

directions:
Place butter, sugar, salt, and the grapefruit zest in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Beat on high for 5 full minutes, until very light and fluffy and not gritty.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in the egg and egg yolk; beat for 5 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add the grapefruit juice and vanilla extract; mix briefly to combine.
Add in the flour and baking powder and stir until homogeneous.
Scoop out 2 tablespoon portions and roll to uniform size; gently roll in granulated sugar to coat.
Chill for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and bake straight from the fridge or freezer for 12 minutes.
Move to wire rack immediately to cool.

Dark Chocolate Pecan Snowcaps
adapted from Kim Severson
makes 30 cookies

ingredients:
3 cups (300 grams) confectioner’s sugar
3/4 cup (90 grams) dark cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
5 ounces (135 grams) chocolate, chopped (she suggests dark, I used what I had—milk—and they turned out fabulously)
1 1/2 cups (135 grams) chopped pecans
4 large egg whites
granulated and Swedish pearl sugar, for rolling

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Whisk confectioner’s sugar, cocoa powder, and salt together.
Stir in the chopped chocolate and chopped pecans.
Using a wooden spoon, stir in the egg whites—keep stirring until the batter comes together in a very thick, shiny mass (this is an arm workout!).
Scoop out 2 tablespoon portions and roll in a 1/2 and 1/2 mixture of pearl and granulated sugar; shape into a uniform ball once the sticky dough has been rolled in sugar and is easier to handle.
Bake the cookies from room temperature for 12 minutes.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes on the sheet pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

The Long and Short

Pine Nut and Vanilla Bean Shortbread | La Pêche Fraîche

misty blue + white rose too.
eleven moons above me and you.
golden rose color of the dream I had, this timeless day,
you stole my heart away.

—from a tatine tisane candle wrapper

Pine Nut and Vanilla Bean Shortbread | La Pêche Fraîche

My new room is filled with candles.
The gleaming gold bookshelf is teeming with flickering flames,
dispersing their sweet burnt smell and comforting yellow light.

This house is starting to feel like home; there are paintings on the walls and placemats on the dining room table; china in the built-in, keys hanging on hooks, and clothes in closets.
There’s Latin translations and Foucault readings and all manners of chemistry problems strewn about our study area.
The sound of keys tapping and voices mingling fills our apartment at night, as we share bowls of popcorn and commiserate about the trials of second year at UChicago.

Has it really only been a week of classes?
Lord almighty.

It feels like it’s been forever and yet, paradoxically, it feels like it’s been 2 seconds.
How how how how how.

Pine Nut and Vanilla Bean Shortbread | La Pêche Fraîche

This is the first thing I baked in my apartment.
As soon as we had gas, I was lighting that baby up to bake some shortbread. I had been dreaming of it.

(Our oven doesn’t have numbers on the dial, doesn’t indicate when it’s heated, and is generally a scary health hazard. Oh well.)

We brought some of this shortbread to our upstairs neighbor-friends as a reverse housewarming gift.
Easy way to make friends: bring cookies.

Pine Nut and Vanilla Bean Shortbread | La Pêche Fraîche

This shortbread is so good, it was gone in a day.

Slightly crumbly, melt-in-your-mouth buttery, faintly sweet with a hit of flaky sea salt.  Savory, smoky pine nuts accentuate the richness of the butter, and a whole vanilla bean adds the sweetest perfume to the cookies.
They’re addicting, to say the least.

The recipe produces something quite similar in texture to Walker’s, but with a more complex flavor profile.
You must serve it with hot tea with cream, and definitely share it with new (and old) friends.

Pine Nut and Vanilla Bean Shortbread | La Pêche Fraîche

Pine Nut and Vanilla Bean Shortbread
makes 1 12-inch round, or 2 thicker 6- or 8-inch rounds

ingredients:
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
scrapings of a vanilla bean
heaping 1 1/2 teaspoons flaky sea salt, or a slightly heaped teaspoon of kosher salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup pine nuts, roughly chopped

directions:
Grease and flour a 12-inch round pan.
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Beat on high speed for 3 minutes, until fluffy and light.
Add in the slat and vanilla bean and beat for 2 more minutes to further aerate it.
Scrape the bowl and add in the confectioner’s sugar and cornstarch.
Stir on low speed until combined.
Scrape the bowl and add in the flour; again, stir on low speed until fully combined.
Add in the chopped pine nuts.
Scrape the dough into the prepared pan and gently press it into an even layer (dough will be slightly sticky and very soft).
Place in the fridge to chill for at least 1 hour and up to 1 night.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Score chilled dough and prick all over with a fork.
Bake for 50 minutes-1 hour, until toasted and fragrant and a toothpick comes out clean.
Remove from oven and rescore lines with a sharp knife.
Allow to cool, then remove from the pan with a very sharp knife and a cake server (some will inevitably crumble).
Serve with cream tea.

FOTA

Chiaroscuro LARGE

CHIAROSCURO

blackberry caviar, coconut mousse, coconut crumb, coconut yolk, blackberry puree

Chiaroscuro SMALL II

Hi!  To any newcomers, welcome to my blog, and welcome to my project for UChicago’s spring Festival of the Arts!

(I’ll post more explaining this post-presentation, for all you laypeople.)

////// Okay!  SO Hi!  Yes!  Presentation went off without a hitch. \\\\\\

I gave a 7-ish minute spiel about molecular gastronomy, this here blog, my weird love of reverse frozen spherification, and the three desserts you see here, which were funded by FOTA.

Hopefully I didn’t embarrass myself too badly (I definitely did).Chiaroscuro SMALL I

Contrast, made edible.  Fruity, creamy, crunchy, chewy.

Why are there so many seeds in blackberries?  Getting ultra-smooth puree is a pain in the ass.

Fragola LARGE

FRAGOLA

black pepper cheesecake, lemon curd, lemon sorbet, ginger black pepper sand, walnuts, candied lemons, creme fraiche, honey

Fragola SMALL I

Early summer on a plate.  Spicy, sour, rich, fresh.

PSA: candied lemons are so incredibly addictive.  So is lemon curd.  OMg.

Fragola SMALL II

For my live presentation, I made a deconstructed strawberry pie: strawberry yolk, yogurt cream, 5-spice milk sand.
Simple, delicious.

Tuolo LARGE

TUORLO

mango yolk, watermelon tartar, avocado mousse,  lime curd, creme fraiche, grapefruit

Tuolo SMALL I

A play on tuna tartare with raw egg yolk.  Tropical, crunchy, herb-y, tangy.
(There is nothing quite like cold watermelon on a hot day, amirite?!)

Tuolo SMALL II

Happy to provide any of the recipes pictured for my fellow molecular nuts!