All of It

Whole-Wheat Strawberry Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“That was the year, my twenty-eighth, when I was discovering that not all of the promises would be kept, that some things are in fact irrevocable and that it had counted after all, every evasion and every procrastination,
every mistake, every word, all of it.”

—Goodbye to All ThatJoan Didion

Whole-Wheat Strawberry Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Oh, friends.
(Spoken with a heavy sigh threaded through each looping letter.)

There’s nothing harder and more painful than saying goodbye—or even “see you later”—is there?
Say no, please.  Indulge me.

Whole-Wheat Strawberry Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Exams ended a mere week ago, and I uprooted myself only four days ago and have gone and moved a thousand miles away from what I have now begun to consider my home.
1000 miles away from my other half—my partner in crime and most closely held confidante—my best friend.
Why in the world did I willingly do that?

Four days and I have started at an exciting, challenging new job in an exciting, challenging new city.

One thousand lonely miles and four lonesome days and my heart feels as if it has been rent in two.
Who knew you could drown in tears cried in your deepest, quietest dreams?

Is this too much for a blog where I only refer to my beloved by the first letter of his name, out of some unspoken fear that typing it in full will cause him to disappear, a smoke-and-screens magician chased away at the mention of himself?

I fear this is the type of weepy writing that we as Modern Humans like to hold at full arms’ lengths, prefer to keep, safely, in quickly-closed tabs, away from eyes and clicks and minds.
It is too much, simply.

Whole-Wheat Strawberry Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

And yet, I have to tell you: I have puddled to the floor like a scoop of cool, smooth ice cream in the wavering New York heat.
It took mere minutes removed from the comfort of the envelope of his arms and impossibly soft skin for my constitution to soften, and weeping and melting followed suit.

I scratch messy notes on scrabbled pages of a journal, and live for the dreams where he lays next to me.
I count the days feverishly, feeling like a madwoman.
I cry to my daddy, because I’m hundreds of miles from my steadiest rock, and he, poor thing, can do nothing to console his daughter who has lost her mind in loneliness and love.

Too young, half of my readers will scold and shake their heads, and here is where I can only try to explain how my heart feels so tight when I lay my head on the pillow at night that I can’t breathe in fully without risking a few tears being squeezed out, and all because I cannot see and hear and feel him next to me.

Do I sound like a teenage melodrama?
Pish on that.  I’m terribly lonely, and deservedly so—I feel like I am only a half in what has been a constant whole.

Whole-Wheat Strawberry Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Okay, okay. I get it. Enough.
Since it’s summer, and not a single one of us can be bothered to spend extended periods in the kitchen tending to complicated things without running the risk of puddling to the floor (pining heart or no), I have a simple, elegant, summery cake today.

The batter comes together quickly, and a handful of strawberry slices take no more time to be thrown haphazardly on top.

Strawberries are ludicrously in season, little juicy ruby red jewels that burst on the tongue and coyly reveal sweet-tartness.
When baked on top of a soft, gently vanilla-scented whole-wheat butter cake, they soften and melt and meld with the cake, edges crisping ever so slightly while getting syrupy in their centers.

Baking it is easy—just stick it in the oven and wander out of the kitchen to a room with a fan, or better yet, aircon, for a little less than an hour.
The scent of strawberry-vanilla will draw you back in at just the right moment.

A few lashings of good quality dark melted chocolate, and you have a weeknight-approved cake that is glamorous with its bejeweled, striped top, and yet is deceptively unfussy and simple in the best way possible on the inside.

Definitely serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
That is not optional, people.
(P.S. Is it true that ice cream helps to soothe desolate long-distance relationship participants who miss their partner?
P.P.S. Scratch that. N is dairy free. Sorbet it is.)

Whole-Wheat Strawberry Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Whole-Wheat Strawberry Loaf Cake

makes 1 9×5 inch loaf cake
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

ingredients:
130 grams (9 tablespoons) butter, soft
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
300 grams (1 1/2 cups) sugar
2 eggs
180 mL (3/4 cup) milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
280 (2 1/4 cups) white whole wheat flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
6 large strawberries, hulled and sliced
pinch of sugar, for topping
1 ounce melted dark chocolate, for topping

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and butter a loaf pan well.
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high for 3 minutes.
Add in the sugar and salt and beat on high for another 3 minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add in the eggs; beat on high for another 3 minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add in the milk and vanilla; stir gently just to begin to combine.
Add the flour and baking powder on top, and slowly stir until the batter starts to come together; increase speed and beat on high for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until fully homogenized.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, layer strawberry slices until the top is covered, and top with a sprinkle of sugar.
Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out with only a few crumbs.
Allow to cool completely, then drizzle melted chocolate all over.
Serve with a giant scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Jewelled

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

 “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the
most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”

—Roald Dahl

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I’m writing this during the first thunderstorm of the season.
The kind of storm with big claps of thunder, early in the morning—great cymbals crashing in the sky—while a grey drizzle settles slowly down into dry winter bones.

The kind of storm after which, later in the day, the sun comes out and the heady scent of rain soaked earth fills the air.
The storm that reminds the trees why they’re budding, that urges grass to turn green.

One deep breath to fill your lungs with springtime.

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Sixty degrees F todayyesterday, and marvelously humid from the rain.  My skin and hair are in happy places.

Little purple crocuses have popped up, seemingly overnight, fanning their petals wide and showing off their bright yellow centers for the world to see.

Back home, spring is the sunny daffodils that grow tall and strong up and down our block; it’s the budding of all the oaks and the giant melt, as the land thaws out, that leaves the waterfalls fuller than any other time of year.
Spring is the chirpy birds that flit around, robins and tiny chickadees and oh!—those cardinals, with nests being built in trees just outside my bedroom window.
Gosh, guys, I do miss having trees that greet me first thing in the morning with a long-branched windy wave.
(I’m afraid home is still blanketed with snow, though.  Oh, Upstate, you fickle lover, you.)

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I suppose spring means something different to each person (how bad are your allergies?) and is unique in each place.
I wish my spring had more flowers, more time in the sun, and, importantly, more baby goats.
Can I move to Ireland and live on a dairy farm? Please?

Don’t know if I could ever live in an environment that doesn’t have all four seasons.  I could do with a shorter winter, yes, and sure, a more temperate summer than Chicago boasts, but I can’t imagine not experiencing the changing of each season every year.

There’s something about the way our earth turns around the sun, slowly but surely, that makes you feel extra small
and extra alive, doesn’t it?

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Also HAHAHA did you see this article from the New Yorker?
“…Meanwhile, sprinkle each couple’s speech with “we” statements, adding a subtle flavor of competition to the mélange…”
Literal tears were cried while laughing at this one, folks.

Or this prank?  Reminds me of the similar Pepsi/Jeff Gordon one from a few years back
Girl power!

Opinions on the new Amazon Dash Buttons?
While they seem useful, they strike me as a bit unnecessary and seem to make online shopping that much more intrusive.

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Speaking of shopping, at Whole Foods the other day (did I mention the mangoes!?!  My goodness gracious, those were just the most perfect mangoes in the world.), I saw some pretty sprays of purple hyacinths perfuming the flower section.
I snatched them up, brought them home, and placed them in a jar on my desk so that my whole room smells sweet.
Their springy feel and sweet smell sowed little seeds of seasonal inspiration in my mind.
An entire stalk was sacrificed for this cake, because I wanted some flowers for decoration.
No, I am not completely sure whether hyacinths are edible. I picked them off directly after the photos.
#trueconfessions

I also picked up some berries (and asparagus), because I am overly eager for spring produce and I frankly don’t give a damn if they are in season at this exact moment, because they’re too juicy and tempting to resist!

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

While rooting around in my pantry for brown sugar to make muffins, a little tin of matcha powder fell from the heavens and bonked me on the head.

Matcha, bright green and perfect for a springy cake with its grassy undertones!  The Gods were telling me something.
Thus was this cake born.

See matcha previously on this blog in this Chocolate Matcha Mochi cake (so chewy and moist!) or this Matcha Marzipan roll cake (so light and fluffy!).

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche
This is a cake perfect for noshing—little slivers taken repeatedly over the course of a slow afternoon—and goes brilliantly with a hot cup of any sort of tea, green or otherwise.

It’s delightfully dense, like a tightly crumbed, firm poundcake, but avoids the usual pitfall of dryness with a touch of cream, which keeps it moist even on the second day.
The matcha in the cake is not overpowering at all.  It adds a whisper of green tea, a little kick of grassy, springy brightness, but isn’t overwhelmingly bitter.
This is a perfect pound cake, buttery and not-too-sweet; little ruby berries and a dusting of matcha powdered sugar make the perfect accompaniment.

It can be on your table ready to be served in less than 45 minutes, and keeps brilliantly.  The last slice was that much better on the second day, as the cake had lost none of the flavor but become more moist overnight.

I could also see this being served with lashings of chocolate ganache or good honey, with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla bean ice cream.

For now, I kept it springy, simple, and light.

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Matcha Butter Cake
makes 1 6×3 inch cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
170 grams (3/4 cup) butter, soft
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
3 eggs
10 mL (2 teaspoons) vanilla extract
30 mL (2 tablespoons) heavy cream
1 tablespoon matcha powder
120 grams (1 cup) flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

for decorating:
1/2 teaspoon matcha powder
1/4 cup powdered sugar
fruit and flowers, as desired

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour a 6×3 inch pan liberally.
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer with the sugar and salt and beat on high speed for 5 minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in the eggs.
Beat on high for 5 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add the cream and vanilla extract; mix only until partially incorporated.
Add in the matcha, flour, and baking powder.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix to ensure homogeneity.
Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top is puffed and springy and a tester comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes; invert onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
To decorate, mix matcha and powdered sugar together very well.
Dust over the top of the cake and decorate with fresh fruit as desired.
Serve in repeated thin slices with hot tea!

Ad Lucem

Fluffy Coconut Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

“One star in the sky leads sailors home.
A butterfly can start a hurricane.
A grain of sand begets a landslide.
You are important, and the universe is empty without you.
Believe me.”

—Abigail Cicero

Fluffy Coconut Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

After a thorough routing from my finals, and a great lack of sleep and bruised tailbone ego, I have made it to spring break.

How lucky!  How blessed and grateful I am!
For I am in Playa del Carmen, México, with my mama.
It is 86 degrees F and we must take breaks from the all-powerful sun to ensure that we do not get fried to little frico crisps like parmesan cheese.  As greedy as I am for the sun, I must remind myself not to sit and bake for too too long.

Taking breaks from the sun.
How different from in grey Chicago…

Fluffy Coconut Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

I’ve been eating heaping tons of fresh fruit (all the sweet pineapple! all the sour guavas! all the fuschia prickly pears!) and enjoying every bite of their sun-infused tropical flavors before I have to head back to cold, fruit-barren, snowy Chicago.
Uchhhhh.

Someone sitting next to me at the pool today kindly informed me that it snowed 4 inches + flurries in the last few days back home.  The thought of having to slog through that to classes again makes me weepy and whiny.
Do I really have to leave the luxury of Mexico to go back?!

(I can already hear my daddy’s resolute “Yes.”)

Fluffy Coconut Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

If you want to infuse wherever you are with a little sunshine, try out one (or a few, or all…) of these bright, summery recipes that I’ve been eyeing:

Pineapple sangria from Jessica—can I have a poolboy please please get me one of these, stat?!

Banana buttermilk bread from Beth—beautiful as always! (Wow, that alliteration.)

Chocolate passionfruit cupcakes (my favorite combination!) from Laura.  Cake is always the best way to celebrate, and congratulations are in order for her!

Key lime pie.  Probably my favorite kind of pie, and this cream-cheesy one looks especially delicious.  Bless you, Zoe.

And if you want to be transported to Méx sans fruit, try Sam’s droolworthy pepita/honey/orange caramels or Kylie’s chocolate and cinnamon donut muffins.
Either way, make extra 4 me plz.

Fluffy Coconut Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Do you think me lazy for posting lists two posts in a row?
Then you thought right, friend.
Between finals and vacation, I’m checked out.
Link love lists it is!

At least the last one was more about clothing and cosmetics, and this one is all about food.

#dealwitit

Fluffy Coconut Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Anyways, to add another item that you could make to take your tastebuds away to the tropics…

These adorable double coconut vanilla cupcakes.
The coconut flavor is super subtle, with just a tiny, non-offensive hint playing in the foreground of each bite.

The cake itself is supremely soft and moist, thanks to the coconut oil infused batter—the crumb is tight and each bite is meltingly tender.  You could toss in 1/2 cup of shredded coconut, unsweetened or sweetened, to up the coconuttiness.

The frosting, piled high in great swirly mountains, is very fluffy and very buttery, with a hint of coconut murmuring through it.  Vanilla and cream and a pinch of salt claim the loudest notes, but the coconut oil woven through plays off them in a delicate balance that becomes addictive after the first taste.
More is more, here.  Trust me.

I added a fresh strawberry for a bright note, but topping these off with another fruit or a shower of toasted coconut or lashings of ganache, white or dark, would be equally wondrous.
The subtlety of these cupcakes goes with anything.

Fluffy Coconut Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Anyways, I’m off to edit GoPro videos (yes!!  I got one!! And we love it!) and then to slather myself in aloe and then climb into a soft, fluffy, hotel bed.
Hopefully I will have soft, fluffy dreams about cupcakes with clouds of coconut frosting.

Hasta pronto! x

Fluffy Coconut Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Double Coconut Vanilla Cupcakes
makes 12 cupcakes

ingredients:
for the cakes:
175 grams (1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons) flour
1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
70 grams (5 tablespoons) butter, soft
45 grams (3 tablespoons) coconut oil, solid
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs
120 mL (1/2 cup) milk
2 teaspoons vanilla

for the frosting:
180 grams (12 tablespoons) butter, soft
30 grams (2 tablespoons) coconut oil, solid
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
500 grams (4 cups) powdered sugar, sifted
60 mL (4 tablespoons) heavy cream, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla

directions:
First, make the cakes: preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line 12 muffin cups with liners.
Whisk flour and baking powder together.
Place butter and coconut oil and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high for 2 minutes.
Stream in the sugar and beat on high for 5 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add in each of the eggs.
Beat on high for 5 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add in the milk and vanilla.
Mix until partially mixed in, then add the flour mixture.
Beat on high for 30 seconds, until fully homogeneous.
Scoop in 1/3 cup portions into the muffin tin.
Bake for 18 minutes, until fluffy and a tester comes out with just a few crumbs.
Allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the frosting: beat butter, coconut oil, and salt together for 10 minutes, until super fluffy and light.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and sift in the powdered sugar.
Mix in halfway, then stream in the heavy cream.
Beat on high for 1 more minute.
Pipe onto cooled cupcakes as desired, and top with toasted coconut or fresh fruit!

Trending

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“As the winter winds litter London with lonely hearts
Oh, the warmth in your eyes swept me into your arms
Was it love or fear of the cold that led us through the night?
For every kiss your beauty trumped my doubt.”

—Mumford and Sons, Winter Winds

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Current mood: ecstatic.
Reasons: Game of Thrones Season 5 trailer was released.
The Game of Thrones Season 5 trailer was released two days ago and I have watched it 19 and a half times.
Despite the half foot of snow that smothered Chicago on Sunday and the reading and pset sitting in my “to-do” pile, I am very, very happy.

(I just watched episode 2 of season 1 for, incidentally, the 19th time…  Am I obsessed yet?  Yes.)

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

If you’re anywhere on Pinterest or instagram (hey, you! Go follow me. The link in under that picture –> over there), you know about the naked cake boom that has been taking over weddings, pastry, and the food-blogosphere.
They’re trending.
#nakedcake

What is a naked cake?  It’s a cake whose layers show through the (minimal) frosting.  They’re often topped with berries or flowers, and they are so so so pretty as big tiered towers.

Here, check out this beautiful board of cakes.  OMg.

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I thought a ~naked~ cake would be perfect for Valentine’s day.
Did I just say that?  Oh, God.  I was joking.
(My dearest father is cringing somewhere.  Sorry family.)

This is the first one I made.
I learned some lessons along the way.

First, choose a sturdy cake.  You don’t want a ton of crumbs.
Second, also use a thick, sturdy frosting.  You want it to hold up even in a fairly thin layer.
Third, berries always look amazing on top of a cake.  And they would be delicious inside of the cake, provided that you don’t have a roommate who is averse to fruit.

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

The cake base for this cake is my absolute go-to chocolate cake; it’s a recipe I’ve been working on and modifying slightly as time progresses. It’s perfectly moist and finely-crumbed while staying sturdy and not falling apart.
It slices like a marvel and is deeply chocolaty with a hint of balancing salt and a firm bite.

The frosting is a traditional American buttercream with a twist: a touch of goat cheese gives it creamy tang, with an earthiness that pairs well with cocoa.  A touch of cream keeps it soft and spreadable, and a shower of powdered sugar plays the foil to the deep, damp cake.

The chocolate covered strawberries on top make the cake extra special, and seriously…
Who doesn’t love chocolate covered strawberries?! 
They make pretty much anything that much better.

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

For my first naked cake, I’m pleased with how it turned out.
Soon, I want to try a vanilla cake so I can frost it even more sparsely (less worry about dark crumbs).

Also, after I just wrote that, I realized I have made one naked cake before: this rouge-fruited beauty.

Anyways, in keeping with the February spirit aka oh-god-it’s-almost-Valentine’s-day panic, I’m leaving you with this cake.
It’s got chocolate, and cheese, and chocolate-covered strawberries; it’s naked and surprising; it will win over any Valentine whom you desire*.
*results may vary

xx

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Chocolate Cake with Goat Cheese Frosting (and Chocolate Covered Strawberries)
makes 1 6-inch 3-layer cake

ingredients:
for the chocolate cake:
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg
1 1/4 cup hot water
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

for the goat cheese frosting:
8 ounces (2 sticks) butter, soft
3 ounces soft goat cheese, warmed to room temp
1/4-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, to taste
3-4 cups confectioner’s sugar, to taste
2-4 tablespoons heavy cream

for the chocolate drizzled/covered strawberries:
8 ounces strawberries, smaller is better
3 ounces dark chocolate
(sliced strawberries, optional, for between the layers)

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and butter and flour 3 6-inch round pans.
Whisk the oil, sugar, salt, and egg together vigorously until lighter in color and fully homogeneous.
Whisk the cocoa powder and vanilla extract into the hot water, then slowly stream it into the sugar mixture while whisking quickly.
Dump the flour on top of the batter and the baking soda on top of the flour.
Gently beat/stir to incorporate all of the flour evenly.
Portion batter out into prepared pans (you may have a little extra).
Bake for 18-22 minutes, until the tops are springy and a tester comes out nearly clean.
Allow to cool completely before frosting.
Make the frosting: beat the butter on high speed for 5 minutes, until super fluffy and light.
Beat in the goat cheese and salt until completely homogenized.
Sift the confectioner’s sugar over the butter and cheese and slowly stir to combine; increase speed until completely mixed in and the frosting is fluffy.
Pour in cream 1 tablespoon at a time while whipping at high speed until the frosting is a pipeable consistency.
To frost the cake, place 1/3-1/2 cup frosting between each of the layers, then use the remaining frosting to crumb coat/frost the outside and top of the naked cake (optional: layer sliced strawberries over the frosting between the layers).
To make the chocolate covered strawberries, melt the chocolate over low heat, either over a bain marie or in a microwave.
When 3/4 of the way melted, whisk vigorously until the rest of the chocolate is melted and is shiny and smooth.
Dip or drizzle the strawberries as desired (do this over a piece of parchment paper).
Allow to cool and harden completely, then top the cake with the strawberries.

Rouge

IMG_1665_01

 You will hear thunder and remember me,
And think: she wanted storms. The rim
of the sky will be the colour of hard crimson,
And your heart, as it was then, will be on fire.

–Anna Akhmatova

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Color of passion, anger, love, luck. Of seduction and danger and courage. Of fire and blood and the book on my bedside table.
(A Feast for Crows, obviously.)

Color of summer—raspberries, strawberries, cherries, red currants, tomatoes.
Just take a peek over on the right sidebar for proof.
(This post will soon be added to my little collection of summer’s bounty.)

Walking through the farmer’s market last weekend, ruby jewels in two forms caught my eye: lovely tart little red currants and fat, sweet cherry tomatoes in a veritable rainbow of shades.
This weekend, I’m hoping to get my grubby paws on some of the local corn that’s just now bursting onto the scene.

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Lots of photographs today.
I simply couldn’t bear to cut any more from the hundreds I took; I was taken with the drama of the scene.

I took these photos during a fortuitous break in the rain on a grey day; it started drizzling again right as I packed up and came inside.
I stepped on a snotty, slimy slug while shooting.  Panic and terror-stricken screaming ensued.
Still, I persevered, and I’m quite smug pleased with the outcome.

I just love how striking les fruits rouges are, both under the snowy blanket of powdered sugar and unadorned, in all their ripe, natural, juicy glory. (I do not love, however, how crooked my favorite cake stand is.  I am realizing why all my photos with this thing seem so off-kilter.  Sigh.)

I’ve been struggling to write lately.  I have photos, recipes, ideas to share and the words refuse to come.
So I’ll let these photos, of which I am so proud, speak for themselves.
I’m doing my best to be patient with this temporary frustration.
These things always come to pass.

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Victoria sponge cake—a classic for a proper English tea.
Layers of fluffy sponge, filled with jam and whipped cream.

Here, the typical sponge cake is kept dead simple: eggs, sugar, butter, flour, salt, baking powder.
Tangy and rich goat cheese cream fills the center, accented with strawberry preserves and fresh strawbs.
Finally, the cake is piled high with des fruits rouges and showered with plenty of powdered sugar.

The cake gets better as it ages, as it soaks up the flavors and moisture and everything softens and melds together.
I won’t lie, this kind of sponge cake is not as moist as, say, a nice devil’s food cake, but then again, it’s not supposed to be.
It’s supposed to be eaten with a nice spot of tea, little chickens.  Serve it with good, hot, black tea (this tea from Taylors of Harrogate is my absolute, unequivocal favorite) with cream and a touch of sugar.

Cheers, loves.

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Victoria Sponge Cake
cake portion adapted from Leite’s Culinaria
makes 2 6-inch layers

ingredients:
for the cake:
6 ounces (12 tablespoons) butter, very soft
6 ounces (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) sugar
pinch of kosher salt
3 eggs, room temperature
6 ounces (1 1/3 cup) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

for the goat cheese cream:
3 ounces goat cheese, soft
5 ounces (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) sour cream
3 ounces (3/4 cup) powdered sugar
2 ounces (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) powdered milk

to assemble:
1/4 cup good quality strawberry preserves
strawberries, cherries, redcurrants, etc.
powdered sugar

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and liberally grease and flour 2 6-inch round pans.
Beat butter, salt, and sugar together until very fluffy and nearly white, about 4 minutes.
Add in the eggs one at a time and beat for 5 more minutes on high speed, until the mixture is totally smooth (it will be somewhat runny).
Sift the flour and baking powder over the mixture and gently fold in; mix until the batter is homogeneous.
Divide the batter into the two pans and smooth the top.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until the golden and the center is springy—a tester should come out clean.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pans; once partially cooled, flip onto racks and allow to cool completely.
Once your cakes are cooled, make the goat cheese cream: beat goat cheese and sour cream together until smooth and soft, about 3 minutes.
Sift the sugar and powdered milk over the mixture and stir together until homogeneous.
Level the cakes if need be, then spread the bottom layer with strawberry jam.
Spread the cream over (be generous, it will spill over but its moisture is needed in the cake) top and layer with some sliced strawberries.
Place the top layer on and decorate with fruits as desired; finish with a heavy handed sprinkle of powdered sugar.
Eat as part of a proper tea!

Tårta

IMG_0076_01

O, Pivoine

From verdant buds they did erupt;
from tight globes came flowers flush.
O, the peonies blossomed,
fat and full,
on a day that promised rain.
A hundred thousand petals unfurled
as a misty dawn hid the moon away.
Their silken scent clung to the breeze;
the honeyed air wound in my hair
and the sultry day perfumed.
Now they droop under heat and sun
and wish they were not troubled so.
But I still love their burdened blooms
and kneel to smell them all.

–6/9/2014

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A poem shared for spring, for summer, as the seasons transition like sand slipping twixt our fingers.

Flowers have bloomed and trees have greened; buds become fruits slowly but surely.
The bounty of summer prostrates itself beneath our greedy, hungry fingers as a fat, juicy, sprawling spread.
I mean, have you seen the peaches coming in right now?

To market, to market, to pick the reddest fruits.
To market, to market, for armfuls of darkest greens.
Here’s to fresh produce and to the beginning of a fruitful (vegetal?) summer.

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Yes! The summer solstice has come and gone.  It’s officially summer!
It’s sunny and hot and green!
(Can I be tanned yet?!)

I have no real responsibilities (Scary that I’m feeling a little… bored?) and am able to spend the day daydreaming about pastries and makeup and shoes and big salads.
I can get my nails done, oh luxury of luxuries, and–soon–my hair cut.

It will be my first time getting a real haircut in so so long.  I’m scared to cut off too much!  I recently took off an inch and half (thanks to my mama), so I’ll probably take off another inch and a half and call it quits.
My mermaid hair is definitely my security blanket– anyone else feel this way?

I’ve also been watching the World Cup and really enjoying it.
This is my first time seriously following along.
Fuuuutbol, y’all.

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This luscious tart was inspired by a great trio of flavors: strawberry, lemon, and black pepper.

I originally wanted to garnish with candied celery leaves, but decided against it when they came out a little wonky and far too sugar-coated.  Celery+strawberry+black pepper is a bomb-ass combination though, so keep it in mind.

I also played with the idea of a lemon-ricotta filling, which would be marvelous if you want to give it a try, but I didn’t want to bake twice–it’s summer, after all, and my kitchen is hot as hell as is.

One tip that I wish I had foreseen: add a few extra grinds of black pepper to your crust than you think are necessary.
That way, you ensure that you’ll get a burst of gentle heat in each bite.
It’s a perfect foil to the sweet strawbs and tart lemon.

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In the end, the tart is made up of a black pepper crust, buttery and a hint spicy, filled with a rich, round lemon curd filling and topped with as many of the season’s reddest, juiciest strawberries as can possibly fit. 

The whole thing is utterly divine, each mouthful embodying the fresh, bold flavors of summer.
Tart, sweet, spicy, buttery, crisp, lush, juicy.
(Adjective addict.)

This tart is, quite possibly, my ideal.
You know I prefer fruit over chocolate, and citrus is arguably my favorite.
While it’s often showcased in the winter, with the addition of summer-sweet strawberries, lemon launches fully into the appropriate season.
It lasted <24 hours in my household– always a good sign!

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“In case you ever foolishly forget, I am never not thinking of you.”

–Virginia Woolf

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Strawberry, Lemon, and Black Pepper Tart
makes 1 14×4 inch tart

ingredients:
for the black pepper shell:
8 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8-1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 egg yolk
1 cup flour

for the lemon curd filling:
2 lemons
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
pinch kosher salt
1 teaspoon corn starch
4 tablespoons butter

to assemble:
27 small to medium strawberries
lemon marmalade, optional

directions:
Make the tart crust: beat butter on high speed in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 2 minutes.
Stream in the sugar and salt slowly, then beat for another 2 minutes.
Add in the black pepper and egg yolk, scrape the sides of the bowl, and beat for 2 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl, add in the flour, and mix on low until the dough forms– it should be clumpy but not 1 cohesive mass.
Press clumps evenly into tart pan; prick all over with a fork.
Freeze for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line the tart shell with aluminum foil, then fill it with pie weights or beans.
Bake for 15 minutes, until set, then remove the foil and pie weights carefully.
Return to oven for 5-7 minutes, until lightly golden.
Remove tart shell from oven and let cool.
Meanwhile, make the filling: zest 1 of the lemons and set the zest aside.
Juice both of the lemons to obtain 1/4 cup juice.
Place juice, eggs, sugar, salt, and cornstarch in a sauce pot.
Whisk vigorously to combine, then cook over low heat for 15 minutes, or until thickened enough that a finger dragged along a spatula leaves a trail.
Remove from heat and whisk in butter and zest.
Place hot curd in a food processor and pulse for 30-45 seconds, until lightened in color and slightly cooler.
Pour warm curd into warm tart shell, smoothing the top.
Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to one night.
To assemble the tart, hull the strawberries.
Line them up next to the tart shell to judge how they will fit.
Cut off small slices from the strawberries on the side if they will not fit, then snuggle them into the center strawberry.
Heat up a few tablespoons of lemon marmalade, then brush over strawberries if desired.
Best if enjoyed the day it is made, but it will save reasonably well overnight in the fridge.

FOTA

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CHIAROSCURO

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

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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

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

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

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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

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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?!)

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

Sakura-iro

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Oh, I know how it is in the spring
when Japonica’s in bloom
and rivers of many waters bring
life to the unplucked fruit.
Then the vineyards of the Maidens flower
on every shaded vine;
all flourish in that restful hour—
but, oh, this can’t be mine!
All seasons are the same to Love,
it’s always time to storm;
thunder is always flashing over
my head, and there’s a swarm
of desiccating furies in my mind.
Love chews away my heart
from the roots, in the dark.

Ibycus, Fragment 286

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It makes me sad when people say they hate Valentine’s day.

I love Valentine’s day!  Not because I spend it with anyone special (womp womp) but because I love the idea.

I love love.

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I guess I can see the strikes against Valentine’s day (too mushy, too commercialized, too silly, too much effort) BUT my gosh just how wonderful of a concept is it, honest and truly?

A day to celebrate love: a day to show your appreciation to those who make your life a little bit better every day.
A day to share tokens, sweets, and affection with your sweetheart, with your friends, with your family.
A day to honor a man who accepted illicit love, who just wanted people to be happy and content.

Appropriate, with all that’s going on in Sochi at the Winter Olympics.

People are people.  Love is love.
Everyone deserves to be loved; everyone deserves to give love.

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Regardless of whether you like Valentine’s day or not, I know y’all like cake.

And so that is what I’m bringing you.
I’m sharing love and cake.  Doesn’t that just sound like the best combination ever?

Cake, love, and pocky.  Sign me up.

Isn’t this little cake the cutest!  Oh!  It makes me so happy.  Happy cake love.  Happy, pinky, red velvet cake love.
It abounds.

Pink for all!  All the pink.  This cake doesn’t have to be only for Valentine’s day.  Pink is a year-round color
(Although perhaps especially appropriate for Wednesdays.)

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Speaking of pink…
Have you ever had Japanese Pocky?
They’re little biscuit sticks, dipped in chocolate.  They’re crunchy, creamy, and utterly addictive.

In fact, true story: I have been planning on making this cake for ages, not even necessarily for Valentine’s day.
I purchased a bunch  of Pocky from Amazon, but kept stalling making the cake (and munching on Pocky).
Eventually, I had eaten all the Pocky!!!!!
So, another bulk order later, I decided to make the cake ASAP.
Since we’re in the depths of Valentine’s day themed posts on this blog, I knew the pink would be perfect.

And what a pink it is!  Pale and not too orangey, it’s the color of cherry blossoms (sakura-iro).
A lovely contrast to the vivid cake within.

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Red velvet brownies, rich and a touch chocolaty, are dense and moist, somewhere between a cake and a true brownie.  They make a perfect base for our cake.
They get a generous swirl of cream cheese frosting, fluffy, tangy, and sweet, and a heap of fresh sliced strawberries, which are a nice foil to all the richness going on in the cake and frosting.

The whole deal is ringed with strawberry/white chocolate pocky sticks and tied with some baker’s twine.

A bite with a little of everything is a myriad of flavors and textures:
toothsome and rich brownies
tangy and soft cream cheese frosting
fresh, bright strawberries
crunchy sprinkles
crisp, creamy pocky!

Cuteness (and deliciousness) to the max!

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All the red and pink going on in this cake make it quite fun; the pocky sticks are visually exciting and make this cake a real statement piece.
This is a bold cake.
Cutting into it is a surprise; the bright red velvet is a stark contrast to the pastel exterior.
It would make a great birthday cake, especially for a little girl who loves pink. Omg.

If you can’t tell, I’m mildly obsessed with this cake.  I can’t stop using exclamation points.
IT’S JUST SO CUTE!!!!!!!!!

I want to stick Pocky on the outsides of all my cakes, from now on.
(Another perk: no need to worry about the neatness of your frosting job.  Score.)

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Anyways, be mine?

Parce que je te kiffe!

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Red Velvet Brownie Cake
ingredients:
for the red velvet brownie layers:
8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons red food coloring
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder

for the cream cheese frosting:
8 tablespoons (1 stick, 1/2 cup) butter
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
8 ounces (1 package) cream cheese
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, or as needed
1/4 cup powdered milk
drop of pink or red food coloring
to assemble:
7 or 8 packages of strawberry pocky, inspected for broken sticks
10 strawberries, sliced thickly
sprinkles, for the top (I used sugar pearls)
directions:
Make the cake layers:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 2 6-inch pans.
Beat butter with sugar and salt until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
Add in the eggs and yolk and beat for 4 more minutes; mixture should be very glossy and not grainy.
Whisk the buttermilk, food coloring, and vanilla together.
Whisk all the dry ingredients together.
Scrape the bowl with the butter and add in the wet and dry ingredients while mixing on low.
Beat on high to fully homogenize the batter, then spread into prepared pans.
Bake for 20 minutes, until a tester comes out with only a few crumbs.

Make the frosting: beat butter and salt on high speed for 5 minutes, until fully softened and fluffy.
Add in cream cheese and beat for 4 more minutes; the mixture should be very fluffy, light colored, and homogeneous.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and beat for 2 more minutes; add the powdered sugar and powdered milk and slowly beat to combine.
Add more powdered sugar if the consistency is too runny still (up to another 1/2 cup).
Tint frosting to desired shade with food coloring.

Assemble the cake:
Place a dollop of frosting on cake plate, then place first cake layer on top.
Spread a thick layer of frosting onto the top of the first cake layer, then arrange strawberry slices over.
Spread a thick layer of frosting on the bottom of the second layer, then gently place it over the strawberry slices.
Frost the rest of the cake generously, making sure the sides have plenty of frosting to stick the pocky to.
One at a time, press the pocky sticks into the side of the cake, biscuit side up.
Add sprinkles to the top, if desired, and tie with a ribbon (remove to cut).
Serve with cold milk and extra strawberries!

Janvier

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“There are many things we would throw away if we were not afraid that others might pick them up.”

-Oscar Wilde

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January is a fragile month.
The new year is only just hatching, stretching its wings, ruffling its feathers, blinking awake.
The sun is slowly becoming stronger, the days longer.

It is the month of resolutions, ever so delicate, easily crushed in their nascence.

We are all only dipping our toes in the cold, cold new waters.
Not a one of us knows what the year will bring—a terrifying and invigorating prospect.

How has it come to pass that the end of this first month of 2014 is nigh?
January has flown by in a blur, spinning me around in a whirled frenzy of snow and wind.
I shiver to think of what this year holds—whether it is borne from excitement or dread, I cannot say.
It could also be the ungodly cold here in Chicago.  I don’t know.

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January is a month of citrus.
Though, I must admit, you cannot tell as much from my archives.

January 2013: puff pastry tutorial, coconut mochi, s’mores cake, conversation heart cookies, nutella-raspberry-brown butter crumb bars, maple-bacon and Vietnamese coffee doughnuts, gâteau des rois.  Only one had citrus…
January 2014: Peppermint-chocolate cookies, PB cupcakes, pear-cranberry-ginger crisps, earl grey cupcakes.  Ahem.  Still none.

This pavlova is my answer, my remedy, then, to the absent citrus in what I have just declared to be a month of citrus.
Specifically, lemon.
January is a lemon month.

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Lemon.  Perky, bright, sunny.
Lemon.  Tart, balancing, acidic.
Lemon lemon lemon, I’d choose over chocolate any day.  (Freak.)

The first time I met a meyer lemon was 2006.
I received the January issue of Martha Stewart Living.
As I tore through it, my 11 year old self soaking in every hit of inspiration, I fell upon this cake.
I wanted to cry.  I wanted to make this cake so incredibly badly, but knew it was out of my reach.

This cake prominently featuring these mysterious meyer lemons was all I wanted.  And I couldn’t have it.
I begged my parents to let me make it.
They said, “um… no. We don’t need a 3 foot high, 3 tier meyer lemon cake.  Stop reading Martha Stewart, you little weirdo.

Everything was so beautiful and yellow and happy and lemony.
It was torture.
And what the hell was a meyer lemon, anyway?

Can you tell what a strange, disturbed child I was?  A Martha Stewart addict from a young age.
It explains so much, don’t it?

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In a month where stagnation is banished, where the wheels are turning and the world is changing, lemon is ideal.
It’s fresh and lively, something which I appreciate when the fresh produce situation is somewhat abysmal.
Lemon never fails to awaken the palette.
It’s a clean flavor, and after all the heavy desserts of December, we can all use a flavor boost.

Pavlova.  Also perfectly suited for January, with its light airiness and minimal sweetness.
Good for resolution breaking, but not resolution destroying, ja feel?

It’s probably my favorite dessert.  Which is a big, big deal.
I wrote a sonnet inspired by rhubarb, which was featured in my first pavlova. (I have no words for the white balance in those photos.  Please accept my apologies.)
I had pavlova for my 18th birthday cake, a simple one-layer affair, covered in coconut/mascarpone fluff, passionfruit sauce, and tumbling raspberries.

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And now, here we are.
This pavlova focuses on tartness, allowing the meyer lemons to shine.

A supremely light meringue base, crispy and crackling on the exterior, pillowy marshmallow on the inside, is
layered with barely sweetened Greek yogurt,
thick and luscious meyer lemon curd,
fresh bites of strawberries and raspberries, and
finished with a sprinkle of earthy, grounding thyme and
tart, chewy candied meyer lemons.

My pavlova cracked, pretty badly.  I ain’t stressed about it.
See, I thought it would be genius to layer the yogurt and curd onto the layers before stacking them.
What anybody with a shred of common sense would quickly see is that the meringue was too delicate and fragile to stand up to the thick sauces and promptly crrrrrraacked.  *shit shit shit*
Oops.  It’s okay.  Pavlovas crack and crumble; it’s part of their personality, their patina.
Get over it.

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Once I was done photographing the cake, I realized how futile it would be to try to keep it on the cake pedestal.
It was already slip sliding around, as I didn’t secure it to the stand with a daub of lemon curd, as I should have.
Things were cracking, falling, toppling.
So, I plopped it into a bowl, shoved the leftover fruits on top, and called it a day.

The secret?  It tastes just as good smashed up, packed into a bowl, smashed to bits and spooned straight into your mouth as it does dressed up, stacked, and eaten from a proper plate.

And thank goodness for that.

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Meyer Lemon, Berry, Thyme, and Yogurt Pavlova
meringue base from Donna Hay
lemon curd adapted from Use Real Butter
ingredients:
for the meringue base:
4 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons white vinegar

for the lemon curd:
1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons cornstarch
4 egg yolks, beaten
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup meyer lemon juice
zest of 2 meyer lemons

for the candied lemons:
2 meyer lemons, sliced very thinly
2 cups sugar
2 cups water

to assemble:
3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 pint strawberries, 1/2 hulled and sliced, 1/2 whole
1 cup raspberries
Fresh thyme

directions:
Make the meringue base:
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment.
Trace 2 6-inch circles (you could do 8- or 9-inch, but it won’t be as tall.) with pencil, then turn the paper over.
Begin to whip egg whites with a stand mixer.
When soft peaks are just starting to form, stream in the sugar very slowly, one tablespoon at a time, until the meringue has reached very stiff peaks.
Gently fold in the vinegar and cornstarch.
Spread the meringue out around the traced circles.
Bake for an hour and a half, then turn off the oven and allow the pavlova to cool completely inside the oven.

Make the lemon curd:
Place water and sugar in a large pot.
Bring to a boil, then whisk in cornstarch.
Bring to a boil; mixture will be very thick and gloppy.
While whisking egg yolks, take a spoonful of the cornstarch mixture and quickly combine; continue to add, by the spoonful, until about 1/3 of the hot cornstarch mixture has been added.
Whisk the egg yolk mixture back into the corn starch mixture, and return to very low heat.
Whisk in the butter, then, off the heat, carefully whisk in the lemon juice and zest.
If any lumps are present, blitz the curd in a blender until smooth.

Make the candied lemons:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and prepare an ice bath.
Place the very thinly sliced lemons in the boiling water and cook for 20 seconds.
Remove to the ice bath and allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, add 2 cups sugar and 2 cups water to the pot and bring to a simmer, until the sugar is dissolved.
Add the lemon slices and allow to simmer for 45 minutes, until softened and no longer bitter.

Assemble the pavlova:
Whisk the yogurt and confectioner’s sugar together.
Spread a thin layer over the first pavlova layer, then spread half of the lemon curd onto the yogurt.
Top with the sliced strawberries and a sprinkling of thyme.
Add the second meringue disk, and top with the remaining yogurt and lemon curd.
Arrange the fruit on top of the lemon curd, and sprinkle more thyme leaves over.
Serve with a spoon, in bowls.