Je Dépars

Giant Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookie | La Pêche Fraîche

“It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends.
I can remember now, with a clarity that makes the nerves in the back of my neck constrict, when New York began for me, but I cannot lay my finger upon the moment it ended, can never cut through the ambiguities and second starts and broken resolves to the exact place on the page where the heroine is no longer as optimistic as she once was.”

—Joan Didion, from Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Giant Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookie | La Pêche Fraîche

This is where I say farewell.
Where I blow a kiss to the sparkling, blinking city lights that create a starry night all on their own.
Wave to the hustle and flow; the life that pulses, steady and indefatigable, through every street and avenue alike.
Bid adieu to the City of New York and watch as it shrinks to a speck in the rearview mirror.

Giant Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookie | La Pêche Fraîche

Ten weeks flew by faster than I thought possible.
They also trudged along very slowly, slower than I thought possible.
Hindsight makes this paradox possible.
I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to spend a summer in NYC at a great job, play acting an adult.
But I was ready to come home.

Giant Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookie | La Pêche Fraîche

Stepping out of the car into the lush greenery was just as refreshing as I had hoped.
The air is so clean and fresh and green smelling here.
The water tastes very different, and will hopefully do good things for my messy mop of hair.
The sounds of night are crickets and birds and rustling leaves, instead of honking and screeching and the steady drone of AC.
It’s very cool in Ithaca right now, which is the cherry on top of leaving the hot, gritty city to come home.
Low humidity with a breeze that elicits just the slightest shiver in the evenings.  Heavenly.

I get to see Gwen, whom I hadn’t seen in what felt like years and what was certainly far too long.
I could not be happier to see my best friend, my soul sister, my forever.
It makes home that much sweeter.
In fact, she is, intractably, a part of my very definition of home.

I finally got to see my pup, too, who is no longer really a pup but a very old, creaky dog but who will always be my puppy.
Again, it had been too long.

Giant Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookie | La Pêche Fraîche

In case it wasn’t painfully obvious, I’m sharing a giant cookie here today—other than a quick loaf of banana bread, the last thing I baked in New York City.
A skillet cookie, if you will, but it’s made in a cake pan because I didn’t have a skillet and all it really requires is something round.

A buttery, soft cookie dough, heavily spiced with cinnamon and generously studded with dark chocolate chunks is pressed into a round and baked until the center is just barely set and the edges are golden brown.
You can slice it into pretty little cookie bars, or you can scoop some vanilla ice cream over it while it’s hot and go to town with a few friends.
Either way, it’s all the simple pleasures of chocolate chip cookies, just in a more convenient and quick form.
(Seriously, no scooping and freezing? Sign me up.)

Giant Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookie | La Pêche Fraîche

This would be good with any kind of mix-in, not just chocolate chips and cinnamon.
Take out the aforementioned spice and chips and add in a heaping handful M&Ms for a classic skillet cookie.
Brown the butter, add some rosemary and white chocolate chips for an herby, intriguing twist.
Keep the cinnamon and chips, lose a 1/4 cup of flour and throw in some raisins and a 1/4 cup of oats (if you’re like me and love raisins).  If you do this be sure to include a disclaimer while serving, or there will almost certainly be friends feeling betrayed.

Let your imagination go wild.
It’s just a giant cookie, AKA an endlessly customizable canvas for whatever your particular cravings may be.

Giant Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookie | La Pêche Fraîche

Giant Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookie
adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

makes 1 9- or 10-inch cookie
ingredients:
225 grams (1 cup, 8 ounces) butter, soft
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
200 grams (1 cup) brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons cinnamon
300 grams (2 1/2 cups) AP flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup dark chocolate chunks

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease an oven-proof cake pan or skillet.
Cream butter and sugars together for 5 minutes, until pale and fluffy.
Scrape the bowl and add the eggs and vanilla extract and salt.
Beat for 5 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add the flour, cinnamon, and baking soda on top.
Slowly stir to incorporate.
When homogeneous, mix vigorously for 30 seconds to ensure homogeneity.
Stir in the chocolate chunks and press the dough into the skillet.
Bake for 45-50 minutes, until set and golden brown (careful not to overbake).
Slice as desired and serve with vanilla ice cream or chocolate ganache.

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.

More Better

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 Hello, hello, hello!  Long time no post, I know, I know.

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I was in Chicago visiting N since last Friday–it was a lovely, restorative, relaxing, and much needed weekend with him.
Today, it’s back to the real world.
Oh, just kidding, because today marks the beginning of Grassroots!
(I know, I’m leading quite the lazy, cushy life over here.  Don’t judge me too much; it’s Summer, after all.)

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I am working, albeit at a turtle’s pace, on furnishing and decorating my apartment in Chicago. (À la IKEA.)
I put together a sweet little white wicker chair and painted a TARVA dresser a beautiful pale celadon-y grey.
It needs some gold knobs and it will be done.

I’m totally excited to build a little home with my best friends.
Feelin’ all grown-up and shit, ya know.
I will undoubtedly share photos here. (Exciting, I know: a college student’s apartment!  Don’t hold your breath!!!!!!)

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Anyways, it’s Summer full-swing in the Northern Hemisphere.
Summer = fresh fruit, BBQ, red white and blue, yadda yadda yadda.
Summer really = S’MORES.

Today, I have a flat s’mores tart for you.
It’s got a relatively even ratio of crust:filling, making it super rich and decadent.

All the flavors and textures are here: lovely graham crust made from real graham crackers, with a hint of cinnamon and a slight crunch, sweet, creamy milk chocolate ganache with a hint of deep cocoa, and puffy, browned marshmallows to round it out.

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This tart is like a giant s’more, upgraded a bit with some extra butter and cream (of course).

Okay, I am late and S is waiting for me in the driveway to head to Trumansburg to start the grassroots festivities, so I’m signing off.

I’ll be back soon with a no-bake treat and another tart.
Xx

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{Happy Grassroots to all my Ithacan readers!
Have a safe, fun, and enjoyable weekend!}

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Flat S’mores Tart
makes 1 9-inch tart

ingredients:
for the crust:
2 sleeves (18 whole) graham crackers
1/2 cup flour
10 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 egg yolk
scant teaspoon kosher salt
pinch cinnamon

for the milk chocolate ganache:
5 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
pinch of kosher salt
1 tablespoon corn syrup, optional
1 cup heavy cream

to finish:
mini marshmallows, or large marshmallows torn into pieces, or meringue, etc. etc.

directions:
Make the crust: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and ready a 9- or 10- inch springform pan.
Blitz the graham crackers into fine crumbs in a food processor; they should be the texture of fine flour (this may take a while).
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat with the paddle attachment for 3 minutes to soften.
While beating on high speed, slowly stream in the sugar; beat for 4 minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add the egg yolk, kosher salt, and cinnamon.
Beat for 3 more minutes, then scrape the bowl once more.
Add in the flour and stir until combined; scrape the bowl.
Start adding the graham cracker flour 1/2 cup at a time, while mixing on low speed.
You will likely need all of the graham crackers, but keep an eye on the dough; when finished, it should clump together easily but not be so dry that it cracks when you press it together.
Press the dough into the bottom of your springform, keeping it mostly flat with a small rim to prevent the ganache from leaking out.
Prick all over with a fork and bake for 20 minutes, until firm and golden–the crust should be very fragrant.
Remove from oven and let cool while you prepare the ganache.
Place the chopped chocolate, kosher salt, and corn syrup in a bowl and heat gently until 1/3 of the chocolate is melted—do this in short bursts in a microwave or over a double boiler.
Remove the chocolate from heat.
Heat up the cream until boiling; pour over chocolate and let sit for 3 minutes, undisturbed.
Begin to whisk the chocolate mixture slowly at first, then speeding up until the ganache comes together and is shiny and smooth.
Pour over the cooling crust and place in the fridge until set, about 4 hours (you can leave it in there overnight).
To assemble, place marshmallows all over the tart and place under a broiler for 2 minutes, keeping a careful eye to ensure that the marshmallows don’t burn.
Enjoy in fat wedges on a summer night!

All Hail

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My good lords and ladies, would you care for a bloody poofy woolly biscuit?

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What, that doesn’t sound appealing to you?!
Allegedly, that’s what Lord Lamington, after whom these little confections may or may not be named, was fond of calling them, and not exactly lovingly.

The history of the lamington is a bit convoluted, with different stories attributing its origin to various sources.
They’re quite widely popular, so there must be something behind them.

Lamingtons are enjoyed from Queensland to Toowoomba to South Africa to… Cleveland.

(In other Australia-related news… more weird ass marsupials discovered on the only freaky continent to boast marsupials!)

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When I found some desiccated coconut in the famed and fabled land of Hyde Park Produce, I knew instantly I had to make lamingtons. (After, of course, I stirred heaps of it into this cake and this cake, too.)

The traditional form is a cube of vanilla sponge cake, sometimes split in two and filled with jam, dipped in chocolate glaze and covered with coconut.
I didn’t deviate too much, because I’ve never tried a real lamington!

Here, a moist, light vanilla sponge cake is filled with rich, thick coconut pastry cream, coated in a dark bittersweet chocolate glaze and dusted with plenty of chewy, nutty desiccated coconut.

Lord Lamington must have been crazy, because these treats are fabulous.
They’re really not sweet, with a myriad of textures: the sponge cake is fluffy, the coconut cream buttery, the glaze melty and the coconut shreds are chewy.
The flavors meld beautifully, with the coconut pastry cream giving an aroma of coconut to the interior as well as the exterior, the thin shell of chocolate not overpowering the delicate vanilla or coconut.

These were snapped up from my house table ridiculously quickly; people remarked how pretty and how delicious they were.
(Nary a “bloody poofy wolly biscuit” to be heard!)

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A few notes about making these poofy little delights:

Trim the edges off your sponge cake! This keeps it moist and allows you to level any imperfections off.
Don’t worry too much if your cubes are kind of wonky, mine were like that too.  They taste just as good.

If your pastry cream is a bit thick, just stir it around vigorously, or fold in stiffly whipped cream.
The pastry cream recipe unavoidably makes more than you’ll need, but you can use it to sandwich more cakes, or thin it with a bit of milk or cream for coconut pudding!
To pipe it into the cake, don’t be shy.  Stick the tip of your pastry bag into the center of the cake and apply pressure.
As the crevices in the sponge cake fill up, the tip will be shoved out of the cake, and you’ll know that it’s full!

When covering the cakes with the glaze, less is more.  Scrape off as much as you can, leaving only a thin lacquer of chocolate.  Otherwise a lot of it will drip into your coconut, and the cakes won’t be as neat.

Desiccated coconut may be a little difficult for some to locate; look for it in ethnic sections or ethnic supermarkets (mine was an Arabic brand).
If you can’t find it, it seems that flaked or even shredded coconut does the job well enough.
Don’t let the coconut hold you back from trying lamingtons!

As always, serve with a good strong cup of milky English tea.
(Yes, Australians have teatime too, thank you O Great British Empire.)

P.S. I’m back in the States.  Woohoo. So glad…  I can feel my tan fading already.  Great.

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Coconut Cream Lamingtons
makes 16
cake portion adapted from Saveur
pastry cream adapted from the Kitchn

ingredients:
for the sponge cake:
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

for the pastry cream:
3/4 cup full fat coconut milk, well stirred
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
big pinch kosher salt
2 egg yolks

for the ganache:
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (approximately 1 cup)
scant cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3 tablespoons milk (feel free to use coconut milk)
pinch salt
1 1/2 tablespoons butter

to assemble:
1- 2 cups desiccated coconut

directions:
Make the cake: grease and flour an 8×8 pan.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Place eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment.
Whip on high for 3 full minutes– set a timer.
With the mixer running, add the salt and slowly stream in the sugar.
Beat for another full 3 minutes– set a timer.
Whisk the vanilla extract into the melted butter, then pour it into the whipped eggs.
Dump the flour (gently) on top, then add the baking powder to the flour mound.
Gently, using folding motions, incorporate the butter and flour into the eggs.
The batter should be homogeneous– you will have to mix thoroughly yet gently– but not completely deflated.
Spread the batter into the pan.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a tester comes out clean and the cake is golden.
Allow to cool completely, then slice off the edges and top so that it’s all level.
Meanwhile, make the pastry cream: blend all ingredients except vanilla together, either with an immersion blender or in the canister of a regular blender.
Pour into a small saucepot and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until thickened to a pudding-like consistency.
Remove from heat, blend again if there are chunks, and allow to cool before filling lamingtons.
Make the ganache: melt the chocolate, gently, in a double boiler or in the microwave.
Add in the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, milk, salt, and butter, and blend with an immersion blender (or, again, in a regular blender or food processor) until shiny and smooth.
Ganache should be thin enough that it will not pull many crumbs off the cake, so add another tablespoon or two of milk if need be.
To assemble lamingtons, slice cake into 16 cubes.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip with the coconut pastry cream; stick the tip into the center of a cube of cake and fill until the pressure forces the tip out of the cake.
Dip the cakes into the ganache, being sure that the chocolate coat is very thin, not thick and heavy.
Brush any excess ganache off, then roll the wet cube in coconut.
Set on a parchment-lined baking sheet to set for at least 2 hours.

Waiting, Wishing

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“into a star splintered
silence
I reach
with hopeful fingers
into the light
of distant
mornings
captive in the
unbloomed
flower.”

Paul Matsumoto

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Here is my feeble attempt to feed my soul warmth, sunshine, and goodness while the cold continues to bring Chicago Chiberia to its sorely frozen knees, joints creaking and complaining on the way down.
While the cold continues to send me racing in search of a hot tea, a hot coffee, a hot salted soy mocha steamer, prepared slowly, lingered over, enjoyed, a hot drink in a cold cold room.
While the cold continues to keep me bundled up, wool socks, shearling lined boots, down vests, coats, giant woolen scarves, thick mittens, layers layers layers for survival.
While the cold continues to leach any pleasure I derive from the weak winter sun that has been shining more often, that has been teasing, teasing always, fickle and teasing.

It’s so fracking cold here, y’all.

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Yes.  It’s cold.  And I’ve been busier than ever, nonstop work nonstop studying nonstop demands to be alert awake alive enthusiastic, wishing no more than sleep and rest and relaxation.

School has been overwhelming, with one big assignment following on the heels of the last: midterms, papers, psets, reading.  Labs, responses, eating (?), sleeping (?).
Last weekend was crazy.  My dad was visiting (lovely), there were big social events (that’s a nice change), and I had a million and one academic demands on my plate (which has become a miserably constant equilibrium).

I survived, though.  I survived.  And then came the cold.
And then came the weekend of 8th/9th week, when course requests are due, final midterms are spoken about in hushed tones, the whisper of finals and final papers forms on the tongue.

School, man.  It never ends here at UChic.  It’s like we like it or something.  I dunno.  Don’t ask me.

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Planning my schedule=major stress.
Finishing up big assessments=major stress.
Trying to make sense of my major= major stress. (lol)

All of these are acting as the boot behind me, as the sweet, crunchy carrot of SPRING BREAK entices me forward, forward, forward.

I am going somewhere warm, damn it.
Forget Chiberia and this ridiculous winter.  It’s time for me to revel in Vitamin D and wear less than 4 layers of clothing at any one time.
Forget UChicago and this ridiculous winter quarter.  It’s time for me to sleep and nap and read a book on a beach.

Where, I don’t yet know.  Somewhere southron.

This cake allows me to focus on something other than tropical dreams, one bite at a time.
This cake is my tropical dreams, lush and rich and satisfying.

(Here, listen to this while you read this post.)

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This cake embodies all the sunny flavors for which I am so desperate.

The cake base is not a pound cake.  Rather, it’s a supremely light and fluffy cake, made sans butter, but oil for moisture and whipped eggs for lightness.  (I wish I had had coconut oil!  I was all out when I made the cake, but the coconut flavor still came through.)

A spot of creamy coconut milk, threads of lime zest, and chewy, finely shredded coconut are stirred into the batter.  Tangy lime syrup is poured over the hot cake, then it’s topped with swirls of cream cheese frosting.

I’ve never met a loaf cake with better texture than this one.  It’s got a firm bite, soft crumbs, and manages to hold together well while still maintaining plenty of moisture, thanks to the lime syrup.
Where the syrup pools, the cake turns into luscious soaked bites, full of flavor and fall-apart-tender in your mouth.

This cake is easy, pretty, and delicious.  It’s exciting and enticing, and conjures up feelings of sandy toes, warm sun, and tanned skin.  You should try it.

Lime in the coconut, baby.

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Lime and Coconut Soaked Cake
adapted from Ad Hoc at Home
makes 1 9×5 or 10×4 inch loaf cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
240 grams (2 cups) flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon kosher salt
zest from 3 limes
370 grams (1 2/3 cups) granulated sugar
240 mL (1 cup) coconut milk
180 grams (3/4 cup) canola oil, or coconut oil, melted but cool
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4-1 cup finely shredded coconut

for the lime soaking syrup:
120 mL (1/2 cup) lime juice
70 grams (2/3 cup) granulated sugar

for the cream cheese frosting:
60 grams (4 tablespoons) butter
170 grams (12 tablespoons) cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
30 mL (2 tablespoons) coconut milk
150 grams  (1 1/2 cups) powdered sugar
70 grams (2/3 cup) nonfat powdered milk

directions:
Make the cake: line your loaf tin with parchment paper, then grease and flour the parchment.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Whisk flour and baking powder together.
Place eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment with salt, lime zest, and sugar.
Whip on high speed for 5 minutes, until the mixture has tripled in size and is pale yellow.
Stir in the coconut milk, oil, and vanilla; when partially incorporated, place flour mixture on top and coconut on top of that and use gentle folding motions to fully homogenize the batter.
Pour into prepared pan and bake for 1 hour on a baking sheet, checking for doneness at around 50 minutes.
A tester should come out with just a few crumbs.
While the cake is baking, make the syrup: place the lime juice and sugar in a small pot and bring to a boil; allow to simmer for 3 minutes.
Make the frosting: whip butter on high speed until it is completely soft, about 5 minutes.
Add in the cream cheese and beat for at least 4 more minutes.
Add in the rest of the ingredients and slowly mix to combine; beat on high for a few minutes to ensure that everything is incorporated and prevent lumps.
Refrigerate until ready to use to allow it to set up.
As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, poke it with a skewer or thin chopstick all over, about halfway through the cake.
Pour the syrup all over the hot cake, and allow it to cool completely.
Frost the cooled cake with the chilled cream cheese frosting.
Serve in generous slices.

MTL

I’m posting this from the internet void… Spooky, huh?
Well, actually, I am just in Montreal, for the weekend.
(It’s still my summer, ok?  I can do what I want on a whim.  Labor Day be damned.)
But I didn’t want to leave you guys with that last post, which didn’t even have a recipe (the nerve!) for the next few days or so.
Thus, I am here.  Sort of.  Here in spirit.
I love writing posts ahead of time and then scheduling them.
I usually forget about them… but then, when I come back to blogger, it’s like I gave myself a gift!
Surprise!!!
The Blog Fairy came and left you a nice little Post Present!
I’m going to do another (shorter) link-peppered post.
Similar to this one, but more rushed and with fewer links.
Sounds great, right?  Let’s get into it then!
 
I’ve just started reading A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin.
(The books are gigantic.  Holy mackerel!)
Obviously, I’ve watched all the seasons of the HBO show, which I am completely obsessed with (currently rewatching season 2), but now I’m getting into the books.
Mostly because I’m impatient and greedy, and waiting until next year to find out what happens next will literally kill me.
 
Speaking of literally, they augmented the definition in Merriam-Webster.
Now, literally means literally, as well as virtually.
Which doesn’t make much sense, but whatever.
I have listened to this poem about OCD around 50 times.  
No, I’m not joking.  It moves me.  I cry every other time.  It’s haunting.
 
Have you heard this remake of Miley’s song?  
It makes me actually like the darn song, and not be afraid to admit it.
Soooo good.  On repeat.
 
How about this parody of Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines video?
I’m literally dead from laughing and smiling so hard.
Go, girls!
 
I’ve lost/misplaced one of my camera lenses.
I’m worried I did something like Heather did!
(How crazy is it that that post is from 3 years ago?!  I remember when she first posted that…  Yes, I have stalked her blog for that long.)
Speaking of SprinkleBakes, did you see these cookies?
OHMAGAH.
This tart was inspired by the 8-inch cast iron pan I found at an antique store the other day.
Up in the attic, they had hundreds of antique cast iron pans.  
Since I’m wistful that I don’t have a cast iron pan handed down for generations (I don’t even get a wok.  Like, come on.), I of course snatched one up.
It didn’t need much seasoning; I cleaned it with a little bit of vinegar/water, then rubbed it with coconut oil and set it in a hot oven briefly.
I then recoated it in more coconut oil, and made this crostata/tart/galette.
 
It’s a buttery shell filled with sweet-tart Italian prune plums, which I topped with lemon thyme infused sugar.
It’s divine still-warm (or reheated), topped with a fat dollop of unsweetened whipped cream.
Italian Prune Plum Galette
ingredients:
1 pound Italian prune plums, halved and pitted
3 tablespoons sugar
1 cup flour
8 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons sugar
big pinch salt
1/4 cup buttermilk
directions:
Cube the butter into tiny pieces.
Toss with the flour, sugar, and salt, and then smash all the little cubes with your fingers, kneading and tossing all the while.
Once they are the size of peas and smaller, switch to stirring with a wooden spoon.
Add in the buttermilk and stir until dough comes together.
Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead once or twice.
Refrigerate until ready to use.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Grease an 8-inch pan, or prepare a sheet pan with parchment.
Roll out the dough and place it in the pan.
Arrange the plums on top, and sprinkle them with 3 tablespoons sugar.
Fold the dough over the plums, and bake until golden and bubbling, about 45 minutes in a cast-iron pan.
Enjoy while warm!

Peachy Keen

 
Okay, I left you again, my beloveds.  But I am back, and I am not leaving in the foreseeable future (until college.  Eep!!)
(And I brought pie!)
 
 
I was in NYC and also Connecticut at the ESPN campus (so cool!), tagging along with my dad for the last half-week.
Then, I was enjoying a beautiful, sunny day and evening with friends at Taughannock.
Now, I am here.
Home.  And back on le blog.
 
^The always beautiful S and the charming français, Emile.
(That last link is scary… two birthdays ago!  Laughing/cringing at the photography.  Don’t laugh at me.  
On second thought, don’t click through that link.)
Um, with lack of anything more interesting to say about my trip, here are some things I observed, because I love lists:
 
Things I Saw in Park Slope and Beyond:
a discarded and seemingly brand new cherry wood spoon
a dozen oyster shells, mixed with
broken ceramics of many colors
an unattended child, sitting quietly in a stroller
thirty thousand vespas
a stroller with 12 wheels (12!)
a sizeable bamboo grove on West 14th, with canes that were 20 or so feet tall
killer fro-yo at Culture (two words: mochi topping)
and a million and one other things but I’m tired of this list so let’s move on.
 
Highlight of my day: I discovered that two of my photos got published on Tastespotting!
I am very pleased.
However, these exact same photos were rejected on foodgawker.
I am not pleased.
“Composition too tight.  Please make more room around the ____ and resubmit.”
If I had more room, don’t you think I would have already tried to cram it into that tiny little square?
Wah.
Okay I’m tired of whining so let’s move on.
(Wait… that’s a first.  Tired of whining?  Me?  NEVER.  Can’t stop won’t stop.)
 
These photos being published on Tastespotting have only aided in my ever-expanding online sharing of photos.
I now have a flickr, facebook, twitter, instagram, blog, and Tastespotting account, through all of which I share photos of food. (I rarely put food photos on twitter or facebook, though.)
And I guess I have a foodgawker, but EVERY PHOTO I have ever submitted gets instantly rejected.
Like this.
My instagram is all food and cats and up-close selfies of my face.
Stop judging me.
 
Let’s talk about pie.  
Pie, pie, pie pie.
Pie pie pie.
Peach pie.  Om nom nommedy nom.
We’ve talked about peach pie once before.
As well as peach pie cake
and two peach tarts.
But when I discovered 7 very ripe-borderline too ripe-peaches in the back of my fridge today, I knew the universe was telling me something important.
And it involved pie, so.
See, the most recent Cook’s Illustrated (I have a love/hate/love relationship with this mag, but let’s not get into that) featured their most recent recipe for peach pie.

Obviously, I had to make it/test it for myself.
Fussy magazine instructions be damned.
So let’s talk about this pie.
 
It ain’t easy, that’s for damn sure.  But then again, of course it’s not.  
It’s Cook’s Illustrated, for God’s sake, and they can never let anything be easy.
There’s always ten million steps and I usually find there are ways to improve upon what they have given, despite all of their in-depth testing in their test kitchen.
(This may a poorly timed question… but that job sounds awesome.  Where do I apply?)

Thus, another list: Things I Wish I Didn’t Have to Do to Make This Pie:
peel the peaches (Said it before, and I’ll say it again: I never peel peaches for pie.  I love that fuzzy skin, and I totally approve of this message what it does texture-wise when cooked)
use 3 pounds of peaches (this just seems excessive because you have to peel each one like WHAT)
quarter and then thirds all the peaches (there has to be a more efficient way to do this.  Peeled peaches are so very slippery and go shooting off the cutting board like soap)
macerate the peaches (I thought we wanted the juice to stay in)
cook down the resulting juice with pectin (thank God we canned the other weekend… or I would have been out of luck)
mash some of my macerated peaches that I worked SO HARD cutting up (not that hard, but whatever I’m trying to make this list long and dramatic)
use cornstarch (jk I love cornstarch)
ok I’m done

Plus, they gave me some lame-ass pie crust with shortening, giving an excuse about lattice pie crusts needing to hold up or something along those lines. I’m not sure ’cause I stopped reading when I saw Crisco.  
I don’t know about you but I am really not down with shortening in pie crusts, but you probably know that because one of my earliest posts was dedicated just to all-butter all-good pastry doughs.
The low down: you can make flaky, flavorful, workable, pliable, tender pie crusts with just butter.  You just gotta have the right technique.  
And I’m going to share my super-secret method for getting flaky, flaky, flaky pastry.
(Scroll down through the recipe and you’ll see it, as well as a poorly-lit shot meant to demonstrate how flaky the crust is.)

So to wrap this up:  their pie filling was good.  The texture was perfect, the flavor was too lemony and too sweet for my palette. 
I generally use next to no sugar in my pies, but since I was trying to review the recipe, I made no changes to the filling and how it was prepared.
I used my own crust recipe, which has taken a lifetime to develop (practically), because I will always stay loyal to butter and buttermilk.

This was a fussy recipe.  But altogether, I would recommend it.
I think I have to say that, because I had two fat wedges of this pie today.
Om nom nommedy nom.

 

^I ate that piece.  Without a fork.
 
Cook’s Illustrated Peach Pie (with my flaky buttermilk pie crust)
for the buttermilk crust:
makes enough for a double or lattice crust
ingredients:
2 1/2 cups flour (315 grams)
1 tablespoon (15 grams) sugar 
1 heaping teaspoon kosher salt
16 tablespoons (225 grams) unsalted butter, cold and cut into chunks
1/2 cup to 3/4 cup buttermilk, cold (leave it in the fridge until just before you need to use it)
directions:
Place the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. (Or whisk them together in a large bowl)
Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture and pulse until the mixture has small chunks of butter the size of peas, about 5 2-second pulses or so. (Or cut the butter into the flour with a pastry blender.)
Slowly drizzle 1/2 cup of buttermilk into the mixer while giving 1 second pulses. (Or drizzle it over the butter/flour mixture and fold with a spatula)
Feel the dough- when you’ve added adequate liquid, it should be slightly tacky and hold together.
Add up to 1/4 cup more buttermilk if necessary.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll it into a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick.
Fold the rectangle into thirds and reroll into another rectangle.
Fold the new rectangle into thirds and reroll into another rectangle.
Fold the rectangle once more into thirds and then roll it into a rough rectangle.
Cut the block into two pieces, one slightly smaller than the other.
Chill for at least 30 minutes, wrapped well in plastic.
When you are ready to use the dough, roll the larger piece out until its diameter is about 4 inches larger than your pie pan, then gently place it in the pan, allowing the excess to drape off the edges.
Roll out the other chunk of dough into a rectangle and cut it into long strips.
Chill the strips and the dough in the pan before filling (roll them out before you start the filling).
Once filled, weave the strips into a lattice over the filling. (here is a picture tutorial)
 
for Cook’s Illustrated Peach Pie Filling:
ingredients:
3 pounds peaches, peeled, quartered, and pitted, each quarter cut into thirds
1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons low- or no-sugar-needed fruit pectin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
1 tablespoon cornstarch
directions:
Toss peaches, 1/2 cup sugar, lemon zest and juice and salt in a bowl; allow to sit for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour.
Combine pectin, 2 tablespoons sugar, and spices in a small bowl.
Transfer 1 cup of peach mixture to a bowl and mash into a coarse paste.
Drain the remaining peaches and measure out 1/2 cup of the liquid; discard the rest.
Place the juice into a pan with the pectin mixture and cook over medium heat until thickened and pectin has dissolved (3-5 minutes).
Toss the remaining peaches with the cornstarch, then add in the peach paste and the peach juice.
 
to assemble and bake the pie:
ingredients:
cream
turbinado or coarse sugar, or regular sugar
directions:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Remove the chilled bottom crust from the fridge and pour the filling into it.
Weave the chilled lattice strips over top of the filling.
Brush cream gently over the pie top and sprinkle liberally with coarse sugar.
Bake for 20 minutes at 425, then lower the temperature to 350 and bake 35-40 minute more, until the top is deeply golden brown and the filling is bubbling in the center.
 

Zaftig

 Zaftig blueberries, people.  Get your minds out of the gutter.
 
I think zaftig is the perfect adjective to describe blueberries, especially those which have been blanketed in delicious crumbles and baked until just about ready to burst.
Pleasantly plump.
Outrageously juicy.
This is a vegan, gluten-free, refined-sugar-free, white-tee-staining, antioxidant-bursting, blueberry crisp.
(Well, vegan until I added a dollop of cold and creamy Greek yogurt.  Sue me.)

This crisp is sweet enough, even without any refined sugar, to serve with unsweetened plain Greek yogurt.
Forget the crisps and crumbles served with ice cream.  
 
This one is healthy enough to eat for breakfast, 
satisfying enough to eat for lunch (ahem), 
moreish enough to eat for a snack during a movie, and 
tempting enough to still call you back for an evening sweet.
 
It’s good.  Real good.
The only sweetener in this crumble is maple syrup, a few good glugs of it.
I was just in Vermont/New Hampshire and bought some maple syrup.  I promptly came home and put it to good use in this crisp.  
JK I used my already opened quart of syrup that was in the fridge.  Let’s just say it was inspired by my trip.
 
(Note: I still haven’t found/bought/even tried any Grade B… Who knows where I can get my sticky, grubby paws on some?)
While in New Hampshire/Vermont, I went on a long hike in the pouring rain.
Pouring as in so wet that you throw out your socks after the hike.
Pouring as in so wet that your baseball hat had its own rain cloud directed straight in between your eyes.
Pouring as in so wet that everything in your waterproof backpack is soaked.
I wrapped my camera up in two plastic bags and braved the cold, bone-soaking rain.
I loved it!  I love the rain; I figure, once you’re wet, you’re wet.
My camera… not so much.  Although the body didn’t get wet at all, there were a lot of raindrops that I ended up having to edit out of my photos.  Some were too impossible for even the clone tool to fix.  Sigh.
 
(I was right along the Connecticut River, and was in both states multiple times.  I don’t know whether to say VT or NH.  Both seem misleading.  I’ll go with NHVT.  Nahv-t.  Then I’ll sound really intelligent.)
 
The photos you see here (photovomit, sorry!) were taken in the Quechee State Park, which has a breathtaking gorge.
Unfortunately, later in the day, just as I was driving out of Vermont, the sun came out and the lighting was perfect, unlike earlier, when it was raining buckets.
That’s life for you.
The park is gorgeous- I found a large swath of dead forest, which seems to have been burned out.
It was hauntingly beautiful in all the mist.
I also found a lot of discarded garbage from disrespectful campers.
Seriously?!  Take out what you bring in.
I was immensely saddened by all the rubbish lying about.
How could such a pristine place be downgraded like this?
Pick up after yourself.  Nature doesn’t appreciate slobs.
Dietary-Restriction-Friendly Blueberry Crisp
ingredients:
2+ pounds (900 grams) fresh blueberries, picked over (enough to fill/heap up in your baking dish)
drizzle of maple syrup (depends how sweet your berries are)
100 grams hazelnut flour
100 grams oats (make sure they’re certified gluten-free if you intend on serving this to gluten-free guests/friends)
80 grams cornmeal
120 grams maple syrup
80 grams coconut oil
pinch kosher salt
directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Place the blueberries in a 10×6 inch pan.
Drizzle maple syrup over them, if desired (I used 2 tablespoons or so).
Stir the hazelnut flour, oat, cornmeal, and salt together.
Add the maple syrup and coconut oil and stir until combined.
Sprinkle the crisp topping over the berries.
Bake for 25 minutes, until the top begins to brown deeply.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 15 more minutes.
Allow to cool slightly.
Serve with plain Greek yogurt.

La Mer, Mon Amour

I love the sea.
 
That said, I am not one of the lucky few who feel most comfortable in the ocean. 
It should be noted that they are a subset even of those who feel at home in the water, because the ocean, in its unending vastness, in its power and unfathomable profundity, is incomparable to pools and ponds.  
It is a special person, indeed, who is a creature of the sea.
 
 
 
Moral of the story, I’m more of a sea-groupie.
I love the smell and the sound, love the taste and feel, I love to lounge and laze at the edge, to dip in and quickly back out, indulging myself in my briny coat.

I love that whether you look up or out, you can see for miles.
The sky seems to stretch near the sea, sensing its competition, bending past the horizon, swelling upward like a filling balloon.
The sea is content to swish around, stealing the show with its quiet confidence.
The sky is threatened by its more brilliantly azure sister, and produces sun shows indescribable in their beauty.
Pale pastels contrast with the darkening sky and silvery waves, trailing the blazing sun as it passes out of sight.
The most radiant, I think, are sunsets where the sun peeks out from holes in pillowy clouds, streaming forth in great, illuminating rays.
I’m not religious, but these are the times when I look up at the sky and see a god beaming down.

 Back very soon with food-related posts and pictures.  
Sorry for the travel-photo-vomit.