Venus

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

That’s Venus, September thought.
She was the goddess of love.
It’s nice that love comes on first thing in the evening, and goes out last in the morning.
Love keeps the light on all night.

—Catherynne M. Valente

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy February!
Here in Chicago, the month eased in with uncharacteristic rainy, warm days, leaving us wondering what Winter had left with which to rattle our bones.

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

February will start out with two exams and my little’s birthday, for which she demands cake but I have promised bran muffins.  Can’t spoil them too much, right?!

Later, there is Valentine’s day and my big’s birthday—she’s in France, and I’m going to have to figure out how to ship presents, edible and not, across the ocean.

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

I truly love Valentine’s Day, and so I am beginning to post appropriately adorable, twee, and chocolaty things here—we only have two weeks left, after all!
I’ve made, precisely, a ton of treats geared for this holiday.  There is a ridiculously long list that I’ve linked to below.

To start out this year’s desserts, I chose these brown butter and vanilla bean teacakes, decorated with dark chocolate and sparkly almond sanding sugar.
They’re light and airy, with crispy edges and nibbly insides; they’re mildly flavored with a whole vanilla bean and brown butter; the dark chocolate on the top adds a sweet contrast and the almond sanding sugar is the perfect crunch! (Plus, just look at those vanilla flecks inside!)

These are impossibly fast to pull together, and they store fairly well in an airtight container (up to 3 days, but by day 2, they’ll be crying out for a cup of tea to dunk in).
I actually had a few for breakfast with my morning tea—they are very light, a bit like madeleines.
Buttery, a little crumbly, and a very sweet little treat.

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Brown Butter and Vanilla Bean Teacakes
makes 12 small cakes; easily doubled

ingredients:
85 grams (3 ounces, 3/4 stick) butter
3 eggs
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
scrapings of 1 vanilla bean
pinch sea salt
70 grams (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) flour
melted dark chocolate for decorating, if desired
almond sanding sugar for decorating, if desired

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour (I use baking spray) 12-15 little tins, whether they are mini muffin or mini tart pans.
Place butter in a saucepan over medium heat and cook until browned and fragrant, about 6 minutes.
Remove from heat and let cool.
Meanwhile, place the eggs, sugar, vanilla bean, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Beat on high for 10 minutes, until extremely light and meringue-like; mixture should be airy and glossy and no longer gritty.
Carefully fold in the flour; once it is half incorporated, pour the brown butter over top and once again carefully fold in.
Batter will fall; be sure to be gentle but completely incorporate all of the butter (this make take a little while).
Portion out into the prepared pans and bake for 10 minutes, until the center springs back and a tester comes out with only a few moist crumbs.
Turn out from pans and allow to cool completely before decorating with melted dark chocolate and sanding sugar.
Serve with tea (of course)!

Aux Myrtilles

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

“Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not.”

–Pablo Picasso

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Can I tell you a secret?

Oh, bother—of course I can. I do it all the time, don’t I?
The rush—the relief—of spilling inky, irreverent and inwardly-felt thoughts into the incontrovertibly stained internet drives the very heart and soul of the blogosphere. I think.

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

The writing of this post began with sadness and loneliness pouring forth from a disquieted mind, with introspection and frustration and words that were important—questions about growing older that, inevitably, must be asked—but it fizzled, never reaching a boil but a rather disappointing simmer that belied the troubles beneath.

It took me so long to eke out a few tortured words.
The sentences clashed, metallic and hard-edged, and rather than producing the profound music I had hoped to hear, begat only dissonance and off-tune complaints.
Somewhere along the way I lost my thread of consciousness and the subtlety of the emotions thus came undone.

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Without it, I was uncertain of the questions I was even trying to ask, or the tone I was trying to set.
This is just an elaborate way of saying: the writing sucked. It was bad. It was melodrama without substance and it was destined to develop into nothing. A half-assed staircase to understanding.

It’s not like I knew, firmly, what I wanted to write about. I was exploring as I wrote, as I often find myself doing in this space.
I just couldn’t quite put my finger on it; couldn’t quite convince each finger to tap out the required letters.

So I erased it, and sat in front of my computer, vexed.
I also simply don’t feel like putting effort into editing recent photos since I’ve moved (again)—it is such a pain, trying to document pretty food without any props and poor lighting and without my tripod.
It’s far more frustrating than not being able to articulate my anxieties, and that’s reflected in the photos.

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

I’m annoyed that my blog is lingering, stale crumbs lying stagnant.  The same post to see every time you click back. Boring!
I want freshness and excitement and movement, and yet I am swimming against what feels like an insurmountable tide of writer’s and photographer’s block to deliver even a single post.

I can’t wait to go back to Ithaca, where I have pretty linens and lots of plates and a huge oven etc. etc., if only to glean a little inspiration and rediscover myself in the big jars of flour and sugar.
Even if the trees cast green on everything up there.  Even if I have no pastry bags and piping tips or cake stands.  Even if there is a lot of cat and dog hair floating around in the summer air.
Even if these are all complaints I have lobbed previously, in indignant validity, they will vanish away when I’m back in the heart of my home—the kitchen. (Do I say this every time before I return home? Maybe.)

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

I’ve been waiting to share these enchanting little cakelets with you, as I felt them deserving of more than just a rant.
Whatever.  I gave up, I gave in, and I realized that they were plenty good on their own.  Rant be darned.
Some pretty, flowery words would have been a lovely accompaniment to these ruffled pound cakes, but a cup of tea does just as well in their stead.  Take it from me.

In truth, these photos are old enough to go back to Chicago, where the lighting was good and I had all my favorite kitchen tools.
This might be the real reason why I am feeling almost reluctant to release them!

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

I have so many posts highlighting summer’s produce to share with you all!
I really must make haste, because at the rate at which I am posting, it will be pumpkin-spice-latte season and I will be shit out of luck with a bunch of purply-stained blueberry posts lurking in my drafts folder.
I’ll start here, with these lovely mini pound cakes.
The base is a dense lemon yogurt cake, fragrant with zest and moist and buttery–in spite of the lack of butter in the batter–the texture is all due to a generous scoop of yogurt.
Each mini cake is studded with a few juicy blueberries, which, as they bake, collapse in on themselves to become sunken craters of sweet, sticky fruit.
Each cake is dusted with a little powdered sugar; in just two bites, tangy lemon and sweet berries are brought together in the best of summer pairings.

These would be magnificent if made with raspberries or blackberries, and I can imagine that they would also behoove themselves to a ripe wedge or two of peach or apricot.
These are a perfect accompaniment to summertime tea–sweet or unsweetened.
They’re adaptable to whatever summer fruit you have in your pantry (a few white chocolate chips would also sub brilliantly) and simple to make, and they bake so quickly that you won’t even notice that your oven is on!

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cakes
makes 15 mini cakes

ingredients:
2 eggs
135 grams (2/3 cup) sugar
150 grams (2/3 cup) yogurt
75 grams (1/3 cup) canola oil
zest of 1 lemon
120 grams (1 cup) flour
1 1/4 baking powder
5/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup blueberries
powdered sugar, for dusting

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour 15 mini muffin tins or mini tart pans.
Whisk eggs briskly with sugar.
Add yogurt, oil, and lemon zest and whisk briskly until fully combined.
Add in flour, baking powder, and salt, and stir until the batter comes together.
Portion the batter out evenly into the prepared tins and press 2 or 3 blueberries into the top.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the edges are golden and the blueberries have released their juices.
Allow to cool completely, then sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Enjoy with a tall glass of iced tea.

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.

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!

An Occasion

Dairy-free Lemon and Champagne Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“In his blue gardens,
men and girls came and went like moths
among the whisperings
and the champagne
and the stars.”

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 3

Dairy-free Lemon and Champagne Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“Every Friday
five crates of oranges and lemons
arrived from a fruiterer in New York—
every Monday
these same oranges and lemons
left his back door in a pyramid of pulpless halves.”

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 3

Dairy-free Lemon and Champagne Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Gosh, it seems like ages ago now, but Valentine’s day was only a month ago.
(I know, I know, we’re already gearing up for the next holiday, but this cake is from February, so deal with it.)

It’s warm here, and the shiverings of winter seem far away, now that we’re enjoying balmy 50 degree weather.
50 degrees!  Hallelujah.

You can see (dead) grass and hopeful little snow drops poking their dainty white petals out of the grey brown earth.
I heard a bird the other day singing its heart out, beak wide open and chest puffed up (exactly how I look while singing in the shower).  Shocking how we take birdsong for granted.

My daddy just visited me and brightened the gray skies.
We had dinner at Sunda (amazing! really amazing! those brussels sprouts… omg…) on Friday, Indian takeout from a Nepalese/Indian place on Saturday (having those leftovers for lunch today, yum.  Naan. Naaaan.), and an absolutely exquisite meal on Sunday at the Green Zebra, which is hands down one of Chicago’s best restaurants.  
We agreed that we have never had a bad dish from Green Zebra, in all the times we’ve been.
In fact, the food has only gotten better. (Cannot highly recommend enough! Get there if you can!)

Dairy-free Lemon and Champagne Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

In two weeks time, I’ll be in Mexico with my mama.
I am so excited! We’re going to have lots of mother-daughter time on the beach and spa (hint. hint.) and possibly hike a bit!  We are going to read ALL THE BOOKS.

I’m thinking of buying a GoPro for the trip/just to have (read: cute sorority videos!)—I’ve been looking at the (discontinued) Hero 3+ Black edition, but it’s pricy ($300-$400 with a monopod and SD card added).
Have any of you loved your experiences with GoPros?
Have you found them worth the money?
Heeeellllppp. I really really really really want one, but I want to feel like my purchase is justified.

Dairy-free Lemon and Champagne Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

So why did I start this post with Great Gatsby and champagne and Valentine’s day?

Because at the end of Valentine’s day, after having split a bottle of very, very nice champagne, N and I fell asleep and I awoke to find I had an oxymoron come true mournfully sitting on my counter—leftover champagne.
I needed to do something delicious with the leftover Veuve other than letting it sadly fizzle out before pouring it down the drain, so I made a cake that N could partake in, too.

Dairy-free lemon and champagne pound cake, with a dense, tight crumb delightfully laced with bright lemon and fruity champagne.
This cake had the best pound cake texture I have ever tasted or seen or cut in my life.  So smooth and dense.
It’s topped with a boozy champagne and lemon glaze, as well as a thick, drippy vanilla glaze that’s sweet and salty all at once.

It’s quick and easy to make, and makes for perfect afternoon slices with tea.  It’s a cake made for noshing—thin slice after thin slice.
The glazes are finger-licking good, and there’s nothing quite like the mouthfeel of a good pound cake, toothsome and dense.

Dairy-free Lemon and Champagne Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Dairy-Free Lemon and Champagne Pound Cake
makes 1 10-cup bundt cake

for the cake:
225 grams (16 tablespoons) Earth Balance buttery sticks or other dairy-free margarine
400 grams (2 cups) sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
5 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
zest of 2 lemons
juice of 1 lemon (about 45 mL=3 tablespoons)
360 grams (3 cups) flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup champagne (I used Veuve Cliquot, but the quality is not of great importance here)

for the lemon-champagne glaze:
juice of 1 lemon (45 mL=3 tablespoons)
30 mL (2 tablespoons) champagne
tiny pinch salt
125 grams (1 cup) (or as needed) powdered sugar, sifted

for the vanilla icing:
3-4 tablespoons almond milk or coconut cream (or heavy cream, if not dairy-free)
125 grams (1 cup) (or as needed) powdered sugar, sifted
pinch salt
splash vanilla extract

directions:
Make the cake: grease and flour a 10-cup bundt pan very well and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Beat margarine on high speed for 3 minutes until very fluffy.
Add the sugar and salt and beat for another full 3 minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add in the eggs one at a time while the mixer is running; after all are added, increase speed and beat for 5 full minutes.
Add in the vanilla, lemon juice and lemon zest and mix slightly.
Dump the flour on top of the batter and the baking powder and baking soda on top of the flour.
Begin to mix slowly; after the flour is halfway worked in, begin adding the champagne in a steady stream.
Increase speed and beat for 30 seconds, or until just homogeneous.
Scrape the bowl and mix for 15 more seconds.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until a tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
To make the lemon-champagne glaze, whisk lemon juice, champagne, and salt together, then sift the powdered sugar over while whisking vigorously to prevent lumps.
Add more powdered sugar if the glaze is too thin, then pour over the cake, being sure to cover the entire surface.
To make the vanilla glaze, whisk milk/cream, vanilla, and salt together, then sift the powdered sugar over.
If the glaze is too thin, again add more powdered sugar (and maybe a small pinch of salt).
Spread/pour the vanilla glaze over the lemon/champagne glaze and allow to set before cutting cake.

Wait For Me

IMG_3948

Wait for me and I’ll come back,
Dodging every fate!
What a bit of luck! they’ll say,
Those that would not  wait.
They will never understand
How amidst the strife,
By your waiting for me, dear,
You had saved my life.
Only you and I will know
How you got me through.
Simply—you knew how to wait—
No one else but you.

—Konstantin Simonov, 1941, to Valentina Serova

IMG_3904

I refuse to accept the fact that it is nearly November.
I mean, if it is, then
where are the Halloween spooks haunting my blog?
And where are the many festive fall recipes that surely I’ve shared on this page?

And why aren’t there cakes like this (bloody amazing, if I do say so myself) one or this (OCD-tic-inducing) one, or non-pumpkin treats like these cookies or even pumpkin treats, for God’s sake, because even a cliché is better than utter silence and the cold shoulder, isn’t it?!

Where in the world have I been?
Well, this last week I had 2 p-sets, a double lab report, 2 midterms, and a paper due.
Twice this week I have gotten 3 hours of sleep because there is simply too much organic chemistry and cell biology to learn.
Far, far too much. 

IMG_3943

I’m humbled by this year.

I haven’t quite bitten off more than I can chew, but my mouth is certainly full.

I know the blog has been sadly neglected, but it’s not just because I’m busy.  I promise I haven’t forgotten, either.
The developer I hired has fixed the Pinterest issue, I think, and if that’s true, I’ll be unreasonably happy and grateful.
I have a bunch of new, delicious cakes to share with you, and one of them is (ya, Alexa, this is your shoutout) this gal’s birthday cake.

For now, I’ve brought something comforting and cozy and warm.
Something buttery, full of warm spice, and covered in crackling glaze.  Brown butter and banana and speculoos.

This is a classic banana cake, made with a combination of butter and coconut oil along with greek yogurt to keep it moist and tender, with four wizened old bananas to give it the most concentrated banana flavor.
It’s a go-to.

The glaze is bananas… Unbelievably addicting.
You will spoon it straight into your mouth, unless you have a remarkably ascetic type of willpower.  Ahem.
Butter is browned until it’s fragrant, then showered with lots of fat flaky sea salt shards.  A few spoonfuls of cookie butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon are whisked in; next comes milk (or cream, you minx) and a pile of powdered sugar.
The whole shebang is glossy, shiny, and sexy.
It’s thick and pourable and cools into a shattering glaze that perfectly complements the soft banana cake underneath.
You must use all of it.  It seems like a lot.
You must persevere, friends.

Happy Halloween! Let’s eat some cake.

IMG_3929

Classic Banana Cake with Speculoos Glaze
cake portion adapted from Hummingbird High

makes 1 bundt cake
ingredients:
for the cake:
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
4 ounces (8 tablespoons) butter
4 ounces coconut oil
2 cups sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 blackened bananas
1 cup greek yogurt

for the glaze:
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt (Maldon)
3 tablespoons cookie butter (speculoos, biscoff)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup milk
~1 cup powdered sugar, or as needed

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter and flour a bundt or tube pan very well.
Place butter and coconut oil in the bowl of a stand mixer; beat for 3 full minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl, add the sugar 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.
Mash the bananas with the yogurt and vanilla extract, then add them into the bowl (don’t mix yet).
Place the flour and baking soda on top of the bananas, then gently stir to combine everything, making sure to scrape the sides of the bowl.
Pour batter into pan and bake for 60-70 minutes, until a toothpick comes out completely clean; allow to cool.
Meanwhile, make the glaze: brown the butter in a sauce pot, then add in the salt and speculoos and whisk vigorously to melt the speculoos.
Remove from heat and stir in cinnamon and milk; whisk in powdered sugar until no lumps remain (you may want to sift it in).
While cake is just barely warm, pour the warm glaze all over it.
Allow to cool to room temperature, then cut into fat wedges and serve with milk and tea.

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.

Pas de Cadeaux

IMG_3145

Ceci n’est pas un cadeau.

Oh, the treachery of cake.

IMG_3207

I must tell you, at once, of a miracle that has been flying well under anyone’s radar for some time:
my petite Korean grandmother has ceased aging.

People! Pay attention!
It seems the antidote for age is simply refusing, in a classic Chang woman manner, to acknowledge your birthday.
Like so:
when anyone asks you what you want for said day, explain, only mildly peeved, that material goods are, in so many words, worthless and, additionally, take up too much space, do not buy me anything I do not want it;
when anyone asks you what kind of cake you want, respond, as if it is the most logical answer in the world, that you want whatever cake they want to make (bonus points if your granddaughter is a food blogger, because then you can reason that you want her to be able to document the cake).
An elegant and difficult solution—yes, that seems about right.

IMG_3152

My mama urged me to write a blog post for September 8th.
I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish the photos for this post by then, but I didn’t expect it to be SO LATE coming.

If you’re shaking your head at the screen because of my ridiculously long absence, I understand.

But don’t leave just yet. I have cake, fwiendz. I have cake.

IMG_3198

Sitting down to finish writing this post has been one of my very first moments of leisure in the last few crazy weeks.

I have officially moved to Chicago, into a very large and very beautiful apartment with three of my very best and very closest friends.
I have built an outrageous amount of Ikea furniture and scrubbed and mopped and organized until I can do no more.
As of right now, we have 3 bookshelves that need 1 more coat of paint, and we’re fiiiinally done done done.
It’s a great feeling to finally begin to make a place your home.
(Of course, as soon as I feel settled and cozy here, classes will start and then living in the library will start and I will be thrown into the real world at an uncomfortably high speed.)

IMG_3170

I don’t have gas in my apartment yet (tomorrow is the big day!), so I haven’t been able to bake or cook while here.
Alexa (of popcorn cake fame) is not happy about the lack of cake being produced in the apartment; she asks once a day (even though she is also living sans cooking gas) when the heck I’m going to start feeding her yummy things again.
*eye roll*
People have even come up to me and asked me to please please post again, which is a bad sign for me.
Bad blogger, bad.

This is one of the last posts I have photographed from while I was still at home, but don’t worry. The lighting in our apartment is fab and a half and as soon as we get cooking gas, I’ll bake something yummy and share it with you (and Alexa, I suppose…) promptly.

IMG_3142

This was the cake I made for September 8th, a completely innocuous and otherwise boring day.

I knew it couldn’t be too sweet, and something with an intriguing flavor or texture, even better.
It couldn’t be too fancy, but couldn’t be jejune either.
A bundt cake seemed to fit the bill, and the jar of green tea powder was calling my name.
(As it often does… I do adore matcha!)

The end result is a half matcha, half chocolate bundt cake, hiding a bright green surprise within it’s simple exterior; the cake is made with sweet rice (glutinous rice) flour, so it benefits from the same thick, chewy texture of traditional mochi.
It’s not too sweet, rather allowing the two flavors to really sing; the chocolate is dark and a touch fruity, while the matcha is bitter and a tiny bit floral.
The texture is something special; super dense and chewy, just right for taking tiny slivers of all day. (I do believe this is called noshing, according to the lovely Molly.)

It’s an extra-special everyday cake; it doesn’t take a lot of effort or time but produces quite the stunner.
And that’s exactly the type of recipe I can get behind after making this crazy cake.

IMG_3158

Anyways, happy birth— September 8th, Grandma.
I love you, and I hope your day was special.

IMG_3214

Chocolate and Matcha Mochi Bundt
adapted from Sara Yoo
makes 1 bundt

ingredients:
1 cup (16 tablespoons) butter, melted
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 box (16 ounces, 1 pound) sweet (glutinous) rice flour (Mochiko brand comes in 16 ounce boxes)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup extra dark cocoa powder
1/4 cup matcha powder

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour a bundt pan very well.
Whisk together butter, sugar, salt, evaporated milk, and vanilla until homogeneous.
Whisk in the eggs one at a time, making sure each is fully incorporated before adding the next.
Add in the rice flour and baking powder and whisk to combine.
Add half of the batter into another bowl and stir in the cocoa powder.
Stir the matcha into the other half of the batter.
Pour the chocolate batter into the pan, evenly covering the bottom.
Gently pour/scoop the matcha batter on top, smoothing the top.
Bake for 45-55 minutes; a toothpick should come out completely clean.
Allow to cool slightly in the pan; turn it out onto a serving platter or cooling rack while still warm to prevent sticking.
Serve with powdered sugar.

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

IMG_1620_01IMG_1681_01

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.

IMG_1685_01IMG_1658_01IMG_1692_01

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.

IMG_1682_01IMG_1715_01IMG_1698_01

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.

IMG_1724_01IMG_1625_01IMG_1673_01

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!