Quatrième

An Eclectic Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“Recognizing that people’s reactions don’t belong to you is the only sane way to create.
If people enjoy what you’ve created, terrific. If people ignore what you’ve created, too bad.
If people misunderstand what you’ve created, don’t sweat it.
And what if people absolutely hate what you’ve created? What if people attack you with savage vitriol, and insult your intelligence, and malign your motives, and drag your good name through the mud?
Just smile sweetly and suggest—as politely as you possibly can—that they go make their own fucking art.
Then stubbornly continue making yours.”

― Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

An Eclectic Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy birthday to this little blog!
La Pêche Fraîche is four years old.
Which means I’ve been running this blog for 20% of my time on this earth. Don’t ask me how…

The blogiversary rundown:
3 years
2 years
1 year (Oy vey.)

An Eclectic Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

My blog has grown along with me, starting at the tender age of 16 and sticking with me as I graduated high school and left home for the first time to come to UChicago, got my first (and second) real job, moved to NYC all on my own, snagged a wonderful boyfriend etc, etc.
The coming year will see me turn 21, will see me finish up college (yipes), and more. If all goes as planned, there will be many, many sweet treats to share along the way.

You’d think that by now, I’d have gotten the hang of things, but every new post is a learning experience.

Take this post, for example.
Another blogiversary means another pink cake. It’s become tradition for me, although I do suspect that I will, at some point, run out of pink cake ideas. I didn’t have much time to make the cake so I tried to prep ahead; I didn’t have enough egg whites to make an Italian meringue buttercream so I went with American; my macarons were far from perfect (surprise, surprise). My chocolate ganache drip looked a bit wonky and I ended up disliking the minimal frosting look, although the entire cake together had a sort of eclectic charm.
All things to learn from, and not terrible goof-ups.
But then! I managed to leave my camera at 1600 ISO throughout the entire. stupid. shoot. And what’s more, I didn’t notice until the next time I pulled out my camera, meaning half a week later, when the cake was long, long gone. Damn.

And now, the majority of this post is going to be me complaining about this post. Hahahaha.
All in all, I actually prefer last year’s and the year before. Both the aesthetics of the cakes and the words contained within the post. So maybe go read those.

That being said, this cake was a runaway hit with everyone who tasted it, so I’ll count it in the successes, rather than the flops.

An Eclectic Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

This cake is a mix of inspiration from Andy Bowdy, Don’t Tell Charles, and Cordy’s Cakes, all of whom you can find on Instagram, and all of whom make jaw-dropping cakes.

It’s a moist chocolate cake filled and frosted with raspberry buttercream, with layers of almond macaron shells, decorated with a river of toasted Italian meringue, dark chocolate ganache drips, coconut rafaellos, cocoa crumble, more macarons, and strawberries.

There are many components, but most can be made ahead, and it is really a delicious combination.

The macaron shells between the cakes are a magical touch. I had a few people come up to me after eating the cake who asked what in the world was between the layers that made the cake sooo damn good. I had forgotten to tell everyone that there were cookies inside the cake.
Surprise cookies are almost always magical.

An Eclectic Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Thank you all for your continued support, love, and readership.
I appreciate everyone who visits this page, even when nothing exciting or new is happening.

La Pêche Fraîche may be my own folly, but in the end, it is for you.

Here’s to another year of love, happiness, and lots of cake.

An Eclectic Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

An Eclectic Chocolate Cake
makes 1 3-layer 6-inch cake
cake portion from Liv for Cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
90 grams (3/4 cup) cocoa powder
300 grams (1 1/2 cups) granulated sugar
56 grams (1/4 cup) vegetable oil
180 grams (3/4 cup) buttermilk
180 grams (3/4 cup) hot coffee
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
180 grams (1 1/2 cups) AP flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder

for the raspberry buttercream:
225 grams (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
600 gram (5 cups) confectioner’s sugar, as needed
30-90 grams (2-6 tablespoons) half-and-half or whole milk, as needed
1/3 cup freeze-dried raspberries, crushed into powder
drop pink food coloring, if desired

for the meringue:
2 large egg whites
100 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
pinch salt
30 grams (2 tablespoons) water

for the cocoa crumb:
30 grams (2 tablespoons) butter, melted
30 grams (1/4 cup) confectioner’s sugar
20 grams (2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons) flour
15 grams (2 tablespoons) cocoa powder

to decorate:
60 grams (2 ounces) dark chocolate, chopped
60 grams (1/4 cup) heavy cream
sliced strawberries
rafaellos
1 batch macaron shells
crushed freeze-dried raspberries

directions:
Make a batch of macaron shells (I use Annie’s recipe and follow her directions to a T) ahead of time and store in a air-tight container.
To make the cocoa crumb: preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Stir together the melted butter with the sugar, then add the flour and cocoa powder at the same time. Carefully incorporate until the mixture is sandy and crumb-like.
Shake the crumbs onto the prepared pan and separate a little; bake for 5-6 minutes, until dry to the touch; allow to cool.
Crumb can be made up to a week in advance and stored in an air-tight container.
Make the cake: grease and flour 3 6-inch round pans.
Place cocoa powder and granulated sugar in a big bowl; whisk together.
Add the oil, buttermilk, hot coffee, and salt and whisk vigorously until combined.
Add the eggs, whisking after each addition.
Stir in the vanilla.
Add the flour on top of the batter and the baking powder and baking soda on top of that.
Whisk the batter together until it is homogenous; it will be liquidy.
Portion out evenly into the 3 prepared pans and bake for 15-18 minutes in a 350 degree F oven, or until a tester comes out with a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the frosting: place butter and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Beat on high speed for 2 minutes, until very light colored and doubled in volume.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in 4 cups of the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, beating on high speed after each addition.
Add in 2 tablespoons of half-and-half and beat on high speed to incorporate.
Scrape the bowl and taste the frosting; if it is too thin, add the next cup of powdered sugar; if it is too thick, add another tablespoon of half-and-half at a time.
If it is too buttery, add the extra cup of powdered sugar plus 2 tablespoons half-and-half and beat on high speed for another minute.
Add the crushed freeze-dried raspberries and food coloring, if desired, and beat to combine.
To assemble the cake, place 1 layer on serving platter and top with 1/2 cup of frosting; top with a few macaron shells and the next cake layer.
Repeat until last cake layer is used; frost with the remaining icing, leaving it semi-naked if desired.
Place in fridge while you prepare the toppings.
Melt chocolate 2/3 of the way in the microwave; microwave the cream until hot but not boiling.
Pour cream over chocolate and set aside for 1 minute.
Fill a few of the macaron shells with extra frosting; set aside or put in fridge to set.
Whisk the ganache together until very shiny, smooth, and uniform; set aside while you make the meringue.
Place egg whites and a pinch of salt in the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Place sugar and water in a small pot over medium heat; begin whipping the egg whites.
When syrup reaches 240 degrees F, the egg whites should be at soft peaks.
Carefully pour hot syrup into whipping egg whites and whip on high speed until cooled, fluffy, and shiny, about 2-3 minutes.
Remove cake from fridge and decorate with a mound of meringue.
Arrange cocoa crumbs around the bottom, pour a little ganache down the sides to create a drip, and arrange sliced strawberries, more cocoa crumbs, macarons, and rafaellos around the meringue.
Torch meringue and sprinkle a little freeze-dried raspberry powder over the cake.
Serve within the day.

Lumi

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

Hospital gowns never fit like they should
We yelled at the nurse, didn’t do any good
More morphine, the last words you moaned
At last I was sure
That you weren’t far away from home

—The Lumineers, Long Way From Home

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

Ho! A blogger returns!

And I come with spring tidings, because it finally seems like we have changed seasons for good.

Two weeks ago we were still getting intermittent snow storms, a cruel reminder that March doesn’t always go out like a lamb.  This year, she left as an unchanged lioness.
Today, the lake is turquoise like the Caribbean, the sky is cloudless and baby blue, and the weather is a balmy 65 degrees.
The tiniest yellow daffodils nod their heads along the path to our library, and even the rhododendron saplings have fuchsia buds delicately emerging.  April pulled through in a big way.

P.S. Lumi really is a fun word.
In Finnish and Estonian, it means snow. But in Romanian, it means worlds. In Latin, it means lights.
And in Yoruba, it means hit me.  Cool.
Thank you Google Translate.

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

In other April news, have you heard the Lumineers’ new album, Cleopatra?
Some real gems on it. I recommend Ophelia, Cleopatra, and Long Way From Home. I just love their band!

More importantly, Game of Thrones is coming back in 7 short days. I am freaking out, to put it mildly. The show has now managed to overtake the books’ timeline, so some of what happens this season will be material even I have never seen.
~*fangirling~*~**~*

Less awesome news: I fucking got shingles this week.
If you are thinking, what the fuck?! you’re not 70 years old yet, then we share very similar sentiments, my friend.
Not only do I rarely get very sick, which I attribute to growing up in Ithaca and putting lots of dirt in my mouth, but I am 20—20!!!—and yet I got shingles, AKA a super painful, non-contagious reawakening of the varicella (AKA chickenpox) virus in your dorsal root ganglion (nerve roots) that emerges as an excruciating and somewhat debilitating rash (that can be very dangerous, even deadly, for immunocompromised individuals).
Luckily for me, work just started picking up (hi, UChicago) so this is totally the ideal time to feel simultaneously and relentlessly exhausted, itchy, and in pain.
But seriously, Universe. WHY.

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

I haven’t been feeling exactly bright and alive lately, but I’m trying to get in the kitchen as often as I can.
This, primarily, is because I haven’t been baking as much as I really like to, and because I have no clue as to how much I’m going to be able to do over the summer.

I’m also feeling the call to the kitchen because of my cravings for humongous, fresh salads, which require some time and patient chopping. Trying to dive into as many spring vegetables as I possibly can and saying Bye Felicia to winter squash and citrus.
Like, I love you. But it’s past time for you to go.

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

Today, I’m sharing a pretty little tart that has virtually no bake time and minimal effort required.
It’s totally adaptable—use whatever bounty of fruit you can get your hands on.
This could be made (and deliciously, I might add) with poached rhubarb or sliced plums or apricots.
Lemon and cream cheese never fail as a delicious backdrop.
Strawberries are cheap and abundant right now, as spring has long been arrived in more verdant parts of the globe (looking at you, California).
This tart would be fabulous with just strawberries.

You can check out another riff on lemon+strawberry (plus one of my most favorite poems that I’ve written) from eons ago two summers ago, here.

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

The base of this tart is my beloved pâte sucrée. It’s like a buttery shortbread cookie, but not quite as sweet, and it holds its shape perfectly when frozen and weighted with some dry beans (my ceramic pie weights live at home).
The filling is smooth and rich—lots of lemon zest and juice is thrown in with cream cheese and powdered sugar. Equally delicious would be a substitution of mascarpone for the cream cheese. Nom.
On top, a bounty of berries, juicy and colorful, brushed with a little apricot jam for extra shine and dusted with a shower of powdered sugar, if you should so desire.

Perfectly low-key, full of fresh fruit and flavor, this tart is a perfect way to officially ring in spring!

*Please don’t let this post jinx our beautiful weather, please don’t let this post jinx our beautiful weather…*

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

Cream Cheese Berry Tart
makes 1 13×4 inch tart

ingredients:
for the crust:
112 grams (1 stick, 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, soft
100 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
120 grams (1 cup) flour, plus 2 tablespoons if needed
1 egg yolk

for the filling:
120 grams (4 ounces) cream cheese, soft but still chilled
zest of 1 whole lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon heavy cream
200 grams (1 1/2 cups) powdered sugar, sifted

to assemble:
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 cup blackberries
1/2 cup raspberries
1/2 cup blueberries
1 tablespoon apricot jam
powdered sugar, as desired

directions:
Make the crust: place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high until doubled in size, about 4 minutes.
Add in the sugar, vanilla, and salt and beat on high for another 3 minutes.
Stir in the flour and egg yolk slowly until a cohesive dough forms.
Press into the tart pan with your fingers and prick with a fork.
Freeze for at least an hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Cover tart shell with foil and weight with pie weights or dry beans.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and fully set.
Allow to cool fully.
Meanwhile, make the cream cheese filling: beat cream cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice, and heavy cream on high for 2 minutes, until light and fluffy.
Add in the powdered sugar and stir slowly until incorporated; increase speed to high and beat for another minute.
Filling should be thick.
Spread into the cooled shell.
Decorate with berries, then brush hot jam over the berries with a pastry brush.
Dust with powdered sugar if desired.

Stand Up

Roasted Banana and Salted Chocolate Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

WE CAN BE but partially acquainted even with events which actually influence our course through life, and our final destiny.
There are innumerable other events, if such they may be called, which come close upon us, yet pass away without actual results, or even betraying their near approach, by the reflection of any light or shadow across our minds.
Could we know all the vicissitudes of our fortunes, life would be too full of hope and fear, exultation or disappointment,
to afford us a single hour of true serenity.

—Nathaniel Hawthorne, David Swan

Roasted Banana and Salted Chocolate Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

LPF isn’t a whole digital diary.
I don’t come here to grouse about my own personal failures and hardships often.
This is not to say that these words are misleading or untrue or that this space is not filled with intimate parts of my thoughts.
(Or that I don’t whine about things…)

But who likes to describe their own missteps, shortcomings, their own defeats, to the black void of the internet?
How often do I share “flop” recipes or tell you about a royal Fuck Up in my relationship?
It is difficult to allow yourself to be seen as a loser to your readers, even for an instant.
This is Social Media 101 in 2016: share what’s picture perfect and keep the little bits of your soul that have shriveled in disappointment off the screen, for God’s sake.

Roasted Banana and Salted Chocolate Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

And in reality, I practice this careful shielding of the things that make me cry in my daily routines, too.
You wouldn’t have known Friday that I had been at the library until 3:30am the night before; that I had been informed of my falling short in a big way that morning.
No. I washed my face with cold water and put on my sturdiest pair of corduroys with which to pull myself up by the pant loops (as my boots have no straps).
I went back to the library and started what had been a very long, endurance-heavy process again.

It’s hard to talk about failures.
I don’t like to talk about them with anyone.  The worst is being probed in your sensitive spot by caring friends who couldn’t possibly know better because you haven’t told them!
When it is fresh, I allow myself the comfort of vagueness, giving myself room to breathe and recenter.

Really, you don’t have to know the details of someone’s stumbles to at least understand their willingness to try again; the number of times someone falls down only matters in the face of how many times they stood up.

Roasted Banana and Salted Chocolate Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

 But OK.  Rant over.  Now let’s talk about something that was a smashing success.
Namely, these cupcakes.

What do you do when you have a craving for banana cake but you have no old, brown, wizened bananas on hand?
We all know green around the edges or even perfectly blemish free bananas are more starchy than sweet and don’t make the best banana baked goods.

These cupcakes have the answer: roast the living heck out of peeled, bland bananas and they will make the fruitiest, sweetest dessert of your dreams.

Roasting is minimal effort: 30 minutes, tops.
The now flavorful bananas are mashed and then combined into a moist buttermilk batter that bakes up into dense, sweet and fruity little cakes.
Topped with a generous swirl of salted chocolate frosting, these cupcakes make for the perfect four bites of chocolate plus banana!

Roasted Banana and Salted Chocolate Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

P.S. #Banana, previously.

Roasted Banana and Salted Chocolate Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Roasted Banana and Salted Chocolate Cupcakes
makes 18 cupcakes
cake portion adapted from Epicurious

ingredients:
for the roasted banana cupcakes:
3 bananas, peeled
150 grams (1 1/4 cup) flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
113 grams (1/2 cup) butter
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
150 grams (3/4 cup) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1 egg yolk
120 grams (1/2 cup) buttermilk or sour cream

for the chocolate buttercream:
175 grams (1 cup chopped or chips) bittersweet chocolate
225 grams (2 sticks, 1 cup) butter
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, to taste
500-625 grams (4-5 cups) powdered sugar, as needed
30-60 grams (2-4 tablespoons) cream, as needed

directions:
Make the cakes: preheat oven to 375 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment.
Place the peeled bananas on the sheet and roast for 30 minutes, until slightly brown around the edges and very fragrant.
Remove from oven; mash and let cool.
Turn the oven to 350 degrees F and line 20 muffin cups with liners.
Beat butter on high speed until very light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add the salt, sugar and vanilla; beat for 3 more minutes.
Once again scrape the bowl and add the egg and yolk; beat for a full 5 minutes.
Stir in the buttermilk or sour cream until half incorporated; add the mashed bananas and stir a few times.
Stir the flour and leavenings together; then add into the mixture slowly as you stir together.
Once the dry ingredients have been mostly incorporated, beat on high speed for 30 seconds to structure the batter.
Portion into the 20 prepared cups (you will use 2 of the cupcakes to decorate the others).
Bake for 15-18 minutes, until a tester comes out just clean.
Allow to cool.
Make the frosting: place the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high for 4 minutes.
Add the cocoa powder and beat for 30 seconds.
Add in the chocolate in a slow stream while beating on high.
Scrape the bowl and add the 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt; while mixing on medium speed, add in the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time.
Taste and adjust the salt as you like.
If the frosting is too thick, add in up to 4 tablespoons of cream while whipping on high.
If it is too thin, add up to another cup of powdered sugar to thicken.
Decorate cupcakes as desired; if you want, you can cut up 2 of the cupcakes roughly to make little pieces to stick on top.

Auspicium

Chocolate and Candied Kumquat Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

And now we welcome the new year.
Full of things that have never been.

—Rainer Maria Rilke

Chocolate and Candied Kumquat Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy 2016!
I’m a cool seven days late, but no worries—that means we only have 51 weeks left of this year.
That’s not me being eagerly pessimistic, people.

It’s just a f-a-c-t.

Chocolate and Candied Kumquat Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Impossibly, it seems, I’m back at school.
Finishing up my first week of classes, actually.
From the outset—and let’s pray for the sake of my sanity and the number of delicious things I manage to make and photograph for the blog—it seems like this quarter will be less busy.

Of course, as I have probably stipulated before, this often has no correlation with how relaxed I feel.
The brain is a wondrous thing, isn’t it?!
…says the neuro major…

Chocolate and Candied Kumquat Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Starting the year off with chocolate all but guarantees a pleasant January, which can be an altogether bleak and dreary month (it’s already abnormally slushy here in Chicago).

Today, I’m sharing a dark, moist sour cream chocolate bundt cake: it’s one bowl, it comes out of the pan looking simply magnificent and just as tender as a steamed pudding.
It stays soft and has a tight crumb, even over the course of a few days.
A few light lashings of vanilla cream glaze offset the chocolate nicely, although I could definitely see this paired with an equally chocolaty ganache.
Finally, the cake is topped with a golden crown of candied kumquat flowers, an auspicious, chewy, bitter, sweet, sour, and traditional treat for the Lunar New Year, which I have appropriated for this (Western) New Year cake.
Kumquat trees are a sign of prosperity and good luck in Chinese and Vietnamese New Year celebrations, and it couldn’t hurt to have some more of that in 2016, right?
Find more in depth (and a very detailed recipe) at the Kitchn.  I halved the recipe (I only made a couple handfuls of kumquats) and followed the instructions to a T and they were delightful.

Chocolate and Candied Kumquat Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Stars when you shine, you know how I feel
Scent of the pine, you know how I feel
Yeah, freedom is mine, and I know how I feel..
It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me
And I’m feelin’ good.

—Nina Simone

Chocolate and Candied Kumquat Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Chocolate Sour Cream Cake
cake portion adapted from Food52; kumquats from the Kitchn
makes 1 10-cup bundt

ingredients:
for the cake:
400 grams (2 cups) sugar
210 grams (1 3/4 cups) flour
90 grams (3/4 cup) cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
240 grams (1 cup) sour cream
240 grams (1 cup) black coffee
112 grams (1/2 cup) vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

for the glaze:
2 tablespoons cream
225 grams (2 cups) powdered sugar
pinch salt
drop of vanilla extract

directions:
Make the cake: spray a 10-cup bundt pan with baker’s spray and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Place sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine.
Make a well in the center and add in the eggs, the coffee, the sour cream, the vegetable oil, and the vanilla extract.
Carefully stir to incorporate the wet ingredients, then whisk vigorously a few times to ensure homogeneity.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until a tester comes out with a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool 10 minutes in the pan before turning out and allowing to cool completely.
To make the glaze, whisk all ingredients together until no lumps remain and pour over the cooled cake.
Decorate with candied kumquats or orange rind.

Underwater

Apple, Pear, Butterscotch, and Cheddar Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Underwater basket-weaving: (noun)

Used as the type of college course that is thought to be without any practical or professional value.

Apple, Pear, Butterscotch, and Cheddar Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

This whirlwind of a quarter has finally drawn to a close.
My daddy told me, as I arrived home (Nati in tow) to be glad that I simply survived.
And how right he is.

(“Promise me you will not spend so much time treading water and trying to keep your head above the waves that you forget, truly forget, how much you have always loved to swim.”
—Tyler Knott Gregson)

I still need to get myself employed, but for now today, I’m content to have survived my craziest academic quarter yet (and hopefully ever) and be home in my wonderful house with my parents and boyfriend (and animals, of course), with my head above water and still planted firmly on my shoulders.

Apple, Pear, Butterscotch, and Cheddar Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

I have been so so so in and out with meager offerings in my posts on the blog, which is something that irritates me to no end, but which was an unfortunate consequence of working tirelessly on school.

Next quarter will be different.
Also, I have so many ideas for holiday baking and I’m just praying I have enough time to fit them all in during break.

This pie is from Thanksgiving, and it would be an utter shame if I didn’t get this post together whilst we are still in pie season.

Apple, Pear, Butterscotch, and Cheddar Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

This pie is a delicious endeavor and a total showstopper.
It features a gloriously brown and shiny, crackling crust chock full of sharp cheddar cheese and sweet cream butter.
The inside is comprised of layers upon layers of cinnamon-poached pears, soft and sweet, and tart, spiced apples, with more bite and brightness, all lacquered and laced with brown butter butterscotch, a salty, profound, caramel sauce that really takes the pie to the next level.

There are a few components, but three of them (the poached pears, the butterscotch, and the dough) can be made ahead of time and store beautifully, so that when pie day rolls around, you will be prepared and calm and ready to make the most beautiful, bad-ass pie of your life.

Apple, Pear, Butterscotch, and Cheddar Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

When making pie, my best advice is as follows:
Keep everything cool.  Your flour, your butter, your fillings, your mentality.
Read the recipe very well beforehand.  Make sure you have all of your ingredients on hand and prepped.
Relax!  A rustic pie tastes just as good alone with a perfect lattice, and any pie is better than no pie.  People will love you and you should be proud.
Pie will always make you friends.

Apple, Pear, Butterscotch, and Cheddar Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Apple, Pear, Butterscotch, and Cheddar Pie
makes 1 large pie

ingredients:
for the poached pears:
1 lemon, zested in large strips and juiced
1 stick cinnamon
2 pounds hard pears, peeled, cored and sliced
1 cup white wine
1 1/3 cups sugar

for the pie filling:
2 lb. granny smith and golden delicious apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
juice of ½ lemon
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch cloves
pinch allspice
pinch ginger
pinch coriander
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch

for the butterscotch:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup (about 109 grams) packed dark or light brown sugar (I used dark)
1/2 cup (118 ml) heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt, to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons (8 ml) vanilla extract

for the cheddar pie crust:
360 grams (3 cups) AP flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoon cane sugar
170 grams shredded cheddar cheese
170 grams (1 1/2 sticks) frozen butter, grated
1 1/2 teaspoon vinegar
60 to 90 grams ice water

directions:
Make the dough: whisk flour, salt, and sugar together.
Cut and mix the grated cheese and butter until the largest piece is pea-sized.
Add in the vinegar, then sprinkle on just enough ice water so that you can gather the dough into a cohesive mass.
Divide dough into two balls.
Refrigerate 1 ball.
Roll the other ball out very gently into a 12 inch round.
Lightly drape over a pie dish and crimp gently.
Refrigerate or freeze.

Poach the pears: peel, core, and slice the quinces fairly thinly.
Place lemon zest, juice, cinnamon stick, sugar, wine, and quince into a sauce pot on medium high heat.
Bring mixture to a hard simmer, then reduce heat to a bare simmer.
Simmer for 10 minutes, then place lid on pot and allow to cook for 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the moisture has been mostly absorbed and the quince is rosy toned.
Allow to cool completely.

Make the butterscotch: brown butter in a saucepan.
Add sugar, cream, and salt and whisk to combine.
Bring to a very gently boil and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat, stir in vanilla, and carefully taste to adjust salt and vanilla.
Allow to cool at room temperature.

To make the pie, toss thinly sliced and peeled apples with lemon juice, salt, and spices.
Whisk sugars together with cornstarch; stir into apple mixture and set aside.
Remove the top portion of the pie dough from the fridge; allow to thaw until it is workable.
Roll out to ¼ inch thickness and cut out shapes or lattices; refrigerate.
Remove bottom part of dough from freezer or fridge.
Place 1 thin layer of pears on the bottom of the pie.
Top with a layer of apple mixture and a drizzle of butterscotch.
Repeat until pie is full.
Top the pie with the lattice or decorations as desired.
Brush with egg wash or cream and sprinkle on turbinado sugar.
Bake at 425 for 10 minutes, then lower heat to 375 and bake for 45 minutes, covering crust if necessary.

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.

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.

Fizz!

Coca cola cake with caramel and vanilla bean | La Pêche Fraîche

File this one under: Anything But Vegetables.

Coca cola cake with caramel and vanilla bean | La Pêche Fraîche

A certain blonde with whom I live is going to be very happy to see this post be published—

that’s right, friends, this is Alexa’s birthday cake.

Remember last year?  Of course you do, I link back to that post ALL the time.  Lauren Conrad pinned it, for God’s sake.

It’s been a bit more than a year, now, that Alexa and I have been friends.  Miraculously, we are both still alive and have, for the most part, all of our limbs (Grandma, I’m kidding).

Who knew that the gals I met on the first day of O-week would be my roomies, my #1 wingwomen, my comfort blankets and tissue fetchers and popcorn sharers and best friends?

Coca cola cake with caramel and vanilla bean | La Pêche Fraîche

Spoiler: Alexa definitely didn’t.  She was fairly certain I hated her…
(She still hasn’t gotten the hint, guys. I think she’s following me.)

Anyways, it’s been quite an eventful year+ and I couldn’t be more grateful to have spent it with such good people.

I couldn’t have asked for a better house-mate, better roommate, and better friend.  Alexa is such a giver and can ALWAYS put a smile on my face or at least a blanket round my shoulders.
She knows what to say, who to hate, how to make popcorn the best, and how to be the most loyal, loving friend out there.
Ugh. So much love.

Coca cola cake with caramel and vanilla bean | La Pêche Fraîche

To celebrate her birthday, I made an over-the-top cake, obviously.

Alexa loves diet coke, as a sorority girl should.
Alexa loves chocolate and vanilla bean, like normal people do.
Alexa thinks that salted caramel is the stuff of gods (she is right).

Alexa is looking over my shoulder and drooling wishing for another cake right now—
“Please? I ate this for all three meals.”

Alexa is going to kill me for putting that up on the internetz but it’s ok friends I will survive because I am holding birthday cake oreo cupcakes hostage right now.
(Look for those here in the coming weeks!!!)

Coca cola cake with caramel and vanilla bean | La Pêche Fraîche

I knew I had to make a chocolate coca cola cake, and I wanted to incorporate a fat vanilla bean and some gold and sparkly caramel in there somewhere as well.

The end result is a rich, moist chocolate cola cake with vanilla bean buttercream swirled with heaps of salted caramel glammed up with gold luster dust and chocolate sprinkles.

It’s sparkly and gooey and sweet and salty and I think it was just about a perfect way to celebrate my BFF’s birthday.

Coca cola cake with caramel and vanilla bean | La Pêche Fraîche

Some notes on the cake:
you can make the cake portion and the caramel ahead, but make the frosting right before you are going to decorate the cake; the finished cake can be stored in a cool place at room temperature overnight.
The luster dust is optional, but a very nice glam touch to the caramel on top of the cake.
This caramel recipe is good for pouring, so if you don’t want to smudge it on the sides, just pour it over the top and let it drip down!

Coca cola cake with caramel and vanilla bean | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy belated birthday, darling girl.
You’re wonderful.

Coca cola cake with caramel and vanilla bean | La Pêche Fraîche

Alexa’s Birthday Cake
Coca cola + chocolate + caramel + vanilla bean
makes 1 3-layer 6-inch cake
cake portion adapted from Confessions of a Cookbook Queen

ingredients:
for the cake:
1 cup (240 mL) Coca cola
1/2 cup (120 mL) vegetable oil
1/2 cup (113 grams) butter
1/4 cup (30 grams) dark cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup (120 mL) buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups (240 grams) flour
1 teaspoon baking soda

for the salted caramel:
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
30 grams (2 tablespoons) water
1 tablespoon corn syrup
90 grams (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon gold luster dust, if desired

for the vanilla bean frosting:
1 1/2 cups (350 grams) butter, soft
1 whole vanilla bean, scraped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup (30 mL to 60mL) half-and-half

directions:
Make the cake: grease and flour 3 6-inch round pans and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Place butter, oil, coca cola, cocoa powder, and salt in a large pot.
Heat over medium heat, whisking, until it comes to a boil.
Pour the hot mixture over the sugar and whisk to combine.
Whisk in the eggs vigorously.
Stir in the buttermilk and vanilla extract.
Whisk flour and baking soda together, then stir into the batter.
Portion batter out into the prepared pans and bake for 20-25 minutes, until springy to the touch and a tester comes out clean.

Make the caramel: heat the sugar, water, corn syrup, and salt together, whisking at the beginning until they dissolve.
Stop stirring and allow to caramelize into an amber color, then remove from heat and quickly whisk in butter and cream, being careful of the splattering.
Whisk until completely smooth, adding luster dust if desired, then allow to cool before using.

Make the frosting: place butter and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high for 6 full minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add the vanilla bean and powdered sugar; stir on low speed until powdered sugar is incorporated, then beat on high while slowly drizzling in 2 tablespoons of half and half.
If the frosting is too thick, add more half and half until the proper consistency is reached.
Beat on high speed for 2 minutes, then use immediately to frost the cake as desired.

Better Late

Dairy Free Pumpkin Bundt | La Pêche Fraîche

“Your problem is you are too busy holding onto your unworthiness.”

Ram Dass

Dairy Free Pumpkin Bundt | La Pêche Fraîche

It must seem as if I’ve fallen off the face of the earth, or dived to the depths of the sweet, cold ocean only to resurface, gurgling and apologetic, every fortnight.

Autumn has blown right past this blog.
Thanksgiving is right around the corner, WHAT!?
It’s not that I don’t have things to complain about, good lord you know it’s not, but that I don’t have time to type up my complaints.

Far easier to light a few million candles and wallow about when given a moment of free time.
Actually, most of my free time is spent doing more work. (Note: this definition of “free time” only applies to UChicago students.)
Yes. Yes indeed, I’m ready for Thanksgiving, people.

Dairy Free Pumpkin Bundt | La Pêche Fraîche

Sometimes I feel guilty for setting certain things aside while my life continues on its hectic hurricane path.
Plenty of people juggle it all, balancing this or that on all ten fingers and their nose, too. (see: This poor puppy.)

But I’m not them. And for me, trying to stay on top of things in one part of my life means sacrificing in other places.
I promise this space will never be my sacrificial lamb.
I will always come back.
I promise to bring good food and real talk and always, always love.

As life changes, so does my relationship with my family, my friends, my readership.
But they are always constants.  I know that.

Big hugs and kisses!  Thank you for reading my blog.  Thank you for your appreciation for this space.

Dairy Free Pumpkin Bundt | La Pêche Fraîche

Big bundt!
I’m jumping back on the pumpkin bandwagon.
It’s been far too long, and I’ve been eating pumpkin pancakes too often to not share a treat here of the same nature.

This is a great cake for the hollydaze.
It’s easy easy easy, and saves marvelously.
It’s chockfull of spices, reminiscent of gingerbread, with a punchy lemon glaze to awaken your tastebuds from the sugar- and fat-overload that is soon to come.

Dairy Free Pumpkin Bundt | La Pêche Fraîche

The cake itself is moist, spicy, and perfect for nibbling on with a cup of tea.
Lemon and gingerbread are one of my favorite combinations.
Lemon and anything, but you know that already!

P.S. it has been snowing here.
Winter is coming.

(What, that’s not an appropriately cheery way to sign off?)

Dairy Free Pumpkin Bundt | La Pêche Fraîche

Dairy Free Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Lemon Glaze
cake portion adapted from Taste of Home
makes 1 10-cup bundt plus 3-4 muffins

ingredients:
for the cake:
170 grams (1 1/2 sticks, 6 ounces) Earth Balance butter
60 grams (1/4 cup) coconut oil
500 grams (2 1/2 cups) sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons molasses
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3 eggs
420 grams (15 ounces,1 standard can) pureed pumpkin
360 grams (3 cups) flour
2 teaspoons baking soda

for the glaze:
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon (~3 tablespoons of juice)
tiny pinch salt (1/16 of a teaspoon)
1-2 cups confectioner’s sugar, or as needed

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour a 10-cup bundt pan very well (you may want to have some muffin liners in a muffin tin as well, for extra batter).
Place Earth Balance and coconut oil in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on high for 3 minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add sugar, salt, molasses, and spices.
Beat for a full 5 minutes on high speed.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the eggs.
Beat for 3 more minutes, until very fluffy, light colored, and smooth and shiny.
Stir in the pumpkin part-way (leave some unmixed).
Place the flour on top of the batter, then the baking soda on top of the flour; mix on low speed to combine.
Scrape the sides of the bowl to ensure the batter is homogeneous, then mix for 1 more minute.
Pour into prepared pan, scooping extra batter into the muffin tin.
Bake for 60-70 minutes, until a tester comes out completely clean (the muffins will be done in 18-20 minutes, so check on them early).
Allow cake to cool for 10 minutes, then turn out of its pan onto a cooling rack.
Meanwhile, make the glaze.
Zest a lemon into a bowl, then get all the juice out of it that you can.
Add the salt and begin adding the powdered sugar 1/4 cup at a time, while whisking to prevent lumps.
The glaze should have a thick consistency, similar to honey or molasses.
Add powdered sugar as necessary to reach this consistency (if you go too far, add 1 tablespoon very hot water and whisk), then use a spoon to pour over the barely-warm cake.
Allow cake to fully cool and glaze to set.
Serve at room temperature.