Never Too Late

Strawberry Cream Sheet Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit—stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it.
I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view.
I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”

—Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Strawberry Cream Sheet Cake | La Pêche FraîcheStrawberry Cream Sheet Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Consider this an end to the radio silence that has dominated since La Pêche Fraîche turned four (still a crazy number to me)…

So much has happened since then.

I moved to a different city (hello, NYC friends, let’s play!) where I’m living with my BFF, started an amazing job at a new firm, AND flew back to Chicago to celebrate my awe-inspiring big’s graduation; I’ve even traveled to Washington for work!

My job keeps me busy, busy, busy, and my new kitchen is  much smaller than my kitchen at school, which is smaller yet than the kitchen in my parents’ home.

This means I haven’t been baking at all; in fact, I’ve barely even been cooking.

But I planned ahead and stockpiled photos and posts for the summer. 3.5 weeks is bad enough; 3 months without stepping on my soapbox would be torturous.

Strawberry Cream Sheet Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy summer everyone! We’ve made it, miraculously!

I hope your days have been filled with the juiciest, sweetest produce imaginable.
I hope you’ve been reveling in sunshine ands greenery.

I made this post in the throes of spring, when the lilacs were fragrant and abundant and ripe strawberries few and far between; one has since disappeared for the year and the other, become ubiquitous and innumerable.

Lilacs are a Benjamin Button type of flower. The bushes erupt in tight buds that are small and brown-ish rather than green—wizened before they even bloom.
Eventually, their beautiful purple flowers open, perfuming the air and driving everyone crazy with spring fever, only to droop and fade as quickly as they appeared.

Strawberry Cream Sheet Cake | La Pêche FraîcheStrawberry Cream Sheet Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

The good news is that this sheet cake can be a spring or summer affair, provided you can find some fresh, ripe fruit to decorate.

The cake itself is an unbelievably moist vanilla Texas-style sheet cake, buttery with a soft crumb.
It’s the perfect base for a thick layer of barely sweetened whipped cream, spread on in giant spoonfuls, and then a heap of ruby red, fresh and bright strawberries.

It’s a perfect treat to bring along to a picnic or barbecue, and it hold up pretty well for a few hours in the fridge.
Serving this with a mix of fruit—raspberries, strawberries, and fat peach wedges—would be next level.

Throw some fresh edible flowers or lilac sugar on top and you have a picture perfect summer cream cake!

Strawberry Cream Sheet Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Who else wants to sleep in that whipped cream cloud?!

Back sooner than later with pie! xo

Strawberry Cream Sheet Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Strawberry Cream Sheet Cake
makes 1 13×9 inch cake
cake portion adapted from Taste of Home

ingredients:
for the cake:
240 grams (2 cups) AP flour
400 grams (2 cups) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
225 grams (2 sticks, 16 tablespoons) butter
240 grams (1 cup) water
2 large eggs
120 grams (1/2 cup) yogurt, buttermilk, or sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

for the whipped cream:
360 grams (1 1/2 cups) heavy or double cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar

to finish:
1 1/2 pints of strawberries
edible flowers, if desired

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour a 9×13 inch baking pan.
Stir flour, sugar, baking soda and powder, and salt together.
Place butter and water in a pot and bring to a simmer.
Remove from heat.
Whisk eggs, yogurt, and vanilla together and alternate adding to the dry mixture with the butter.
Stir batter vigorously for a few seconds to ensure homogeneity.
Pour into prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a tester comes out with a few crumbs attached.
Allow to cool completely.
To finish the cake, whip the heavy cream with the powdered sugar to stiff peaks.
Spread all over the cake, then decorate with lots of sliced strawberries and edible flowers.
Serve with extra powdered sugar and strawberries.

Gateaux À Gogo

Cupcakes Galore! | La Pêche Fraîche

Did you think I was a city big enough for a weekend getaway?
I am the town surrounding it, the one you’ve never heard of but always pass through
There are no neon lights here, no skyscrapers or statues
but there is thunder, for I make bridges tremble
I am not street meat, I am homemade jam thick enough to cut the sweetest thing your lips will touch
I am not police sirens, I am the crackle in a fireplace
I’d burn you and you wouldnt take your eyes off me
I am not a hotel room, I am home
I am not the whiskey you want. I’m the water you need
Don’t come here with expectations and try to make a vacation out of me.

Rumi

Cupcakes Galore! | La Pêche Fraîche

Hello friends!

Since we last connected, I escaped Chicago to warm, sunny California for the best spring break ever with my parents.

We first went to LA and stayed in Venice Beach for a few days—right on the ocean.  It was beautiful, and the food we had was generally spectacular.
It’s much easier to find fresh produce and food when you live in California, where essentially everything grows!

We managed to go to Gjelina twice, once for brunch and the other for our last dinner in Cali.  It is (mostly) as amazing as everyone says it is.  I had 1 (one) disappointing squash blossom scramble that had too much mint for my taste, but that being said, my parents liked it.
The goat and cow labneh on toast with jam, olive oil, and sea salt was an absolute knockout of a dish: creamy, fatty, crunchy, salty, sweet, fruity etc. etc.
The lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberry compote are another must.
My favorite from dinner was the charcoal gemelli, which was outstanding and incredibly well balanced despite being quite rich.

We also went to the Rose Café and tried boba from a few different places.  Even the mediocre places were leagues above any Hyde Park slushie impostors.
(On that note, my wonderful boyfriend just bought me some dried boba and stainless steel straws so that I can make my own at home… Dangerous!)

Cupcakes Galore! | La Pêche Fraîche

We had a rented grey Mustang convertible, which we drove to the Coachella Valley.  We stayed in Palm Springs, at the Saguaro, which is a fabulously retro motel-turned-hotel painted in all neon hues.
Our favorite breakfast place was definitely Cheeky’s, which seemingly always has a very long queue, but is totally worth it.  The crispy buttermilk waffle tasted just like an ice cream cone and the cheddar scones were more like biscuits, with buttery, flaky layers that easily soaked up runny egg yolks.

We had date shakes at Great Shakes, because I was dying to try a date shake (the California desert has lots of date farms). Talk about dangerous—each shake comes with a mini cake donut on the straw, and the store front is filled with retro candies for just a few quarters each.

We headed back to LA the day before our departure.
I got to have lunch with lovely Courtney from Fork to Belly at Mendocino Farms, which has dooope sandwiches.
She’s in Iceland right now! I feel like Iceland is so photogenic, with all I’ve seen from Linda and Betty and Ashlae. I’m looking forward to seeing her photos, for sure.
Anyways, she’s the first blog friend I’ve met in person, and it was so fun! In a weird sense, it’s a novel way of interacting with people whom I already respect and in whom I take interest and, often, laugh along with weekly as I read their writing.

Definitely a great part of the trip.

Cupcakes Galore! | La Pêche Fraîche

Also during this trip, I found out that my Shamrock Shake Cake was chosen as a finalist in @feedfeed ‘s Bob’s Red Mill best home baker contest!
I didn’t end up winning, sadly, but I want to give a huge thank you to everyone who took the time to vote for me, and, of course, all of you who support me here by reading my blog!

Amazingly, the picture I shared on Instagram of these cupcakes to encourage my followers to vote for that contest garnered 735+ likes… Like, whoa.
Not that Insta is the best—really, it’s actually among the worst—metric of happiness, but that’s never happened to me before, so I was pretty excited.

I guess people still like cupcakes, even though they’ve been out of vogue for some time now.

Cupcakes Galore! | La Pêche Fraîche

The cupcakes shown are a sampling of the 200 I made for my sorority’s annual fundraiser for our sister charity, CASA (just like I did last year).
Lord, having done it once before did not make it that much easier this year—except that I had the foresight to buy an extra cupcake tin so I could make 24 at once.

Other tips if you ever want or agree to make an obscene number of cupcakes or baked goods for an event:

First of all, numbers are everything. Type or write out everything you need to make in recipe form, exactly how you’re going to make it (i.e. some of my recipes were for 12 cupcakes, I doubled them and wrote down the doubled recipe for 24).
Next, multiply each recipe by however many times you need to make it (I had to make 3×24 vanilla cupcakes) to calculate how much of each ingredient you’ll need for that particular flavor/recipe.
Doing this for all your recipes gives you the exact amount of flour/butter/sugar etc. you’ll need in total, so you can purchase just the right amount—not too much and not too little!
For example: I needed 64 ounces of buttermilk/sour cream/yogurt for the cupcakes, so I purchased a 64 ounce container of plain yogurt.  I scraped it to the last gram on my last batch of cupcakes. So satisfying!

Secondly, plan ahead. When are you going to make everything? What can be made ahead? When does butter need to come out of the fridge to soften?
When things are made, where will I store them prior to the event or while other components are prepared?
How will I transport all these goodies?
I rely on my trusty plastic cupcake containers: they have very high domes, so no frosting ever gets mussed up in travel.  They also seal very tightly, so cakes don’t dry out if made ahead.
They also are washable, so you don’t have to dispose of them after one use.  Instead, you can use them over and over (they come in handy when gifting cupcakes!).
When they have reached the end of their lifecycle, you can recycle them.  Perfect.

Third, make like a Top Chef and do your mise en place. Take out the flour, sugar, vanilla, salt, baking powder and soda before you start making your recipe.
If you’re using a scale, keep it out and turned on. Don’t bother putting away any of your ingredients until you’re done cooking for the day—fumbling in cabinets wastes time.

Cupcakes Galore! | La Pêche Fraîche

The flavors I chose to make were as follows:

vanilla sprinkle,
vanilla chocolate,
thin mint,
triple chocolate,
red velvet,
banana cream cheese,
lemon, and
caramel.

(Not pictured: lemon and caramel.)

I’m sharing the vanilla chocolate recipe today, because it’s my own perfected version (I’ve made a lot of vanilla cupcakes in my short time here on Earth) and I felt as though these came out the best out of all.  I’m picky, though.

Recipes/references for some of the other flavors will follow.
The caramel cupcakes were the vanilla base with a vanilla frosting that had half of this caramel recipe mixed in, and more drizzled over top.
I used this recipe for red velvet cupcakes (doubled).
I used this recipe, which is perfect, for the chocolate cupcakes.
These banana cupcakes are wonderfully moist and save well, to boot—so they’re my recipe of choice.

The mint frosting was similar to this cake.
The cream cheese frosting I used on the red velvet, banana, and lemon cupcakes was similar to this cake or this one.

Cupcakes Galore! | La Pêche Fraîche

So I made these cupcakes for the pre-event, which leads up to the actual Mr. University talent show that we host; it’s meant to heat up interest and donations the week before.

Nati kindly drove me, chattering and sweating and shaking with nerves—the cupcakes carefully laid out in the trunk of the car—to the event, where I unloaded box after box with mounting relief.  Not a single smashed cake or a single errant swipe of frosting.

The event itself was hilariously fun, as always, and was more successful than ever: two years ago, Theta raised 40K for CASA of Cook County.  Last year, 46K.
This year, we raised an astonishing 65,000 dollars in two and a half short, frenzied weeks.
We are so grateful for everyone who donated.  More importantly, though, the kids whom this will benefit will be grateful, and more will have the chance to have an advocate in the court system, as they search for a forever home.
Everyone needs a measure of stability and warmth and love in their lives, especially in chaotic, lonely times like moving through the foster system. CASA provides this. And I’m proud to have been part of an event that supported such a fantastic organization.
Brava!

Cupcakes Galore! | La Pêche Fraîche

This post has been lengthy, so I’ll leave you with the recipe.
These cupcakes are moist from the yogurt, bake up without any domes or uneven surfaces, are a one-bowl affair, and are just plain dependable.  It’s hard to beat a good yellow cupcake with sweet and a little salty chocolate frosting.
The frosting has a generous amount of dark chocolate and cocoa powder in it; you can add up to 1/2 a cup of Nutella to it if you want to amp up the flavor even further.

These are simple but well-loved.
The recipe is tried and true—I hope you like and use it as much as I have!

P.S. The sprinkles are, IMHO, a necessity.

Cupcakes Galore! | La Pêche Fraîche

Perfect Vanilla and Chocolate Cupcakes
makes 24 cupcakes

ingredients:
for the cupcakes:
300 grams (2 1/2 cups) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 eggs
300 grams (1 1/2 cups) sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
225 grams (1 cup) vegetable oil
227 grams (1 cup) plain yogurt or buttermilk

for the frosting:
560 grams (2 1/2 sticks, 10 ounces) butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
15 grams (2 tablespoons) cocoa powder
112 grams (8 ounces) bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
400 grams (3 cups) powdered sugar
30-60 grams (2-4 tablespoons) half-and-half or milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

directions:
Make the cupcakes: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line 2 cupcake tins with cupcake papers.
Whisk the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and vegetable oil together.
Add in the yogurt and whisk to combine.
Add the flour, baking powder, and salt on top and carefully stir until homogeneous.
Portion out in 1/3 cup scoops into the papers and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until a tester comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached.
Allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the frosting: place the butter and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Beat on high for 3 full minutes.
Add in the cocoa powder and beat for another minute, until no lumps remain.
With the mixer beating on high, stream in the melted and cooled chocolate; when incorporated, start slowly adding in the powdered sugar (turn down the mixer if the sugar is flying out).
Add the vanilla extract when the sugar is incorporated.
If the frosting is too thick, add in the half-and-half one tablespoon at a time until it is the appropriate thickness.
Frost cupcakes as desired (add sprinkles)!

Shamrock Shake

Shamrock Shake Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

If a man who cannot count finds a four-leaf clover,
is he lucky?

—Stanislaw Lem

Shamrock Shake Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

 Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!

Also, happy last day of finals for me!  I’ll be taking my last test (neurobiology) this afternoon and then packing up to fly to California on Friday with my parents!
I’ll be spending a few days in L.A. (Venice) and then going to Palm Springs for the rest of the week.
I’m excited for rest, relaxation, and sunshine.

(Any restaurant/sightseeing recommendations would fall on eager, grateful ears!)

Two holiday posts in one week, with Pi Day being only 3 days ago.
It’s feeling like Christmas or Valentine’s Day all over again!
I do become frustrated that my blogging occasionally morphs into this frenzy: bake bake bake right before a big day, barely and frantically squeezing every post out that I want to get to so I don’t miss it and have to wait a year.

It’s by virtue of my schedule and how activities have been prioritized in my life lately.  At the beginning of this quarter, I promised things would be different and more regularly scheduled.
That didn’t exactly happen, although my post frequency has been decidedly more consistent than the end of last year.

My frustration doesn’t stem from obligation—this is my space, it conforms to fit my needs and abilities, etc. etc.—but rather, from the fact that this journal is a part of myself, and neglecting it for too long leaves me itchy and antsy to create and indulge my suppressed artistic side.

Shamrock Shake Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I’m sharing something a little trashy with plenty of food dye in it today, because I’ve been plotting of this cake for ages and I’ll be damned if I miss St. Paddy’s again this year (as I did in 2014… Sigh).

Since Nati has a car at school now, I accompany him on his occasional late night McDonald’s runs.
I’m a strict vegetarian and eat fairly healthfully, so there’s nothing I get there (although I do usually mooch some fries, as is a girlfriend’s duty); about a month ago, though, I received some serious inspiration from none other than our local Mickey D’s.
That’s because early in the spring, the infamous harbinger of the change in seasons appeared on the drive through billboard:
the Shamrock Shake.

I’ve never had one (apparently it has 54 ingredients, which is a little scary considering it’s a milkshake), but I know its premise: a mint shake with a little cream and a cherry on top.

I knew it had to be cake.
Specifically, a St. Patrick’s Day cake.

Shamrock Shake Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

This Shamrock Shake cake (Shamrock Cake?) was thus conceived and created.
It’s a dense, vanilla white cake, moist and dependable (and made with the reverse creaming method), frosted with an light ombré wash of pale, pastel green buttercream with a hit of salt and mint.
A drip of creamy white chocolate adds some sweetness and cuts the mint, and eight bright red maraschino cherries, dusted with a few gold stars for good luck, finish the cake perfectly.

It’s actually a very simple cake, but looks extremely pretty and appropriate for the time of year.
If your friends like mint flavored treats, then they’ll love you forever if you share this with them.
It got good feedback from mine, certainly.

In fact, my Irish friend Peter told me I could reference his praise and his homeland as testimony.
So, in spite of the somewhat trashy, very American origins of this cake, a real live Irishman appreciated and approved of it.
I call that a victory.

Shamrock Shake Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Shamrock Shake Cake
makes 1 3-layer 6-inch cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
240 grams (2 cups) flour
30 grams (1/4 cup) cornstarch
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
350 grams (1 3/4 cups) sugar
5 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
240 grams (1 cup) milk
160 grams (1 1/2 sticks, 6 ounces) butter, cut into cubes

for frosting and assembly:
270 grams (2 1/2 sticks, 10 ounces) butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon table salt
460 grams (4 cups) powdered sugar
30-60 grams (2-4 tablespoons) cream, as needed
1 teaspoon mint extract or oil
green food coloring

white chocolate

maraschino cherries
gold luster stars

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 3 6-inch round pans.
Place butter in a bowl and microwave for 30 to 45 seconds, until very slightly melted and soft.
Place flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix until combined.
Whisk milk, vanilla extract, and egg whites together in a measuring cup.
With the mixer running, add the melty butter into the flour mixture a few tablespoons at a time; allow the mixer to run for about a minute, until the batter is coarse and sandy and no visible pieces of butter remain.
With the mixer running on low, stream in the milk and egg mixture; increase speed to high and beat for 1 minute until homogeneous and smooth.
Divide into prepared pans.
Bake for 16-20 minutes, until a tester comes out with only a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool completely.
To make the frosting, beat the softened butter for 3 minutes, until light, fluffy, and doubled in volume.
Add in the salt and sugar and mix on low speed until combined; add cream slowly (spoonful by spoonful, mixing after each one) if the frosting is too thick.
Add the mint extract.
Divide the batter into two bowls; add a little bit of green food coloring to one of the bowls.
To decorate the cake, place one layer on a cake stand and top with 1/2 cup frosting.
Repeat until all 3 layers are stacked.
Working with just the green frosting, add it on in a thick layer to the bottom half of the cake.
Repeat with the white frosting for the upper half of the cake, saving 1/2 a cup for later.
Use a large spatula to blend and smooth the frostings together.
Once smooth, place in the fridge to chill.
Melt the white chocolate very gently in the microwave; pour or pipe over the edges of the chilled cake.
Using the extra white frosting, pipe some poofs on top of the cake with a french tip or a star tip.
Place a cherry on top of each poof and follow with some edible gold star glitter.

Bonne Maman

Decorated Rose Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

And the Wild Things said,

Oh please don’t go—
we’ll eat you up—
we love you so!

—Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are

Decorated Rose Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

March—in like a lion, out like a lamb.
We hope, at least. It’s been both warm and sunny and frigid, snowing, and icy. And it’s only the 8th!
The weather is sending some seriously mixed signals to Chicago.  But then again, what’s new about that?

I disappeared for the second half of February, but I’m back with spring-y feelings and and lots of bright whites and pastels. My holiday Pinterest board is flooded with delicately dyed eggs and bunnies. I’m really, really ready for spring.

I do wonder about these 3 weeks—the blog lying fallow and outdated dressed in its Valentine’s day best—because I’ve had pictures and recipes to post, but an absence of words to fill the blank space. Three weeks of quiet silence, of empty, unremarkable days and hands folded on top of my keyboard. Nothing to type.
Somehow my silences are always precipitated by a lack of words, rather than a dearth of new recipes.

Decorated Rose Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Anyways, as I mentioned in my long-forgotten last post, Hana’s birthday is at the end of February.
Her 21st birthday cake is one of my favorites ever—a little 6-inch number completely covered in happy sprinkles.

She’s totally the best friend/big/Theta mama in the world and she definitely deserves treats on her 22nd birthday!
Here’s the thing: she’s in France right now, and has been for this whole quarter. *pouts*
I did NOT want her to go but she’s been having an absolutely fabulous time in Paris and Europe and I can’t fault her for that, even with how much I miss her.
I guess I’ve forgiven her for leaving me!

My solution to not being able to give her a cake and gift in person was to bake and ship her some sturdy cookies, which still only had a small shot in making it there unharmed.

Good news! My plan worked! These cookies, carefully packed, made it all the way across the Atlantic without breaking into a thousand million crumbs. Thank goodness.

Decorated Rose Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

To make these, I whipped up a half batch of my perfected roll-out sugar cookie recipe: buttery, a little salty, and cut thick so as to not break any teeth.
You’ve seen it before, in many forms. It’s pretty failproof—doesn’t spread, keeps in the freezer for an eternity, etc.

To decorate them, I used egg white royal icing. Instead of just flooding them with thin icing, I kept a small portion very thick. I used a tiny French tip to pipe the most minuscule of roses, then I set them to dry while I decorated the cookie base.
I’m not totally happy with how my watercolor rose effect came out and I think my technique needs some perfecting before I share it here, but the whole set together had the look I was going for. In the future, I’m going to experiment more with wet-on-wet icing techniques.
A little “H” and a few roses and leaves on each one rounded them out nicely.

These would be perfect for a baby or bridal shower, Easter or anything springy, and the birthday of someone special, of course!

Decorated Rose Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy March, everyone. May spring come soon.
And a very happy belated birthday to Hana! May Spring Quarter come so I can hug you, friend.

Decorated Rose Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Perfect Roll-Out Sugar Cookies
makes 10 2 1/2 inch cookies

ingredients:
112 grams (1/2 cup) butter
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 medium egg (or half a large, whisked and weighed)
180 grams (1 1/2 cups) flour

directions:
Beat butter on high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add in the salt and sugar and vanilla and beat on high for another 3 full minutes.
Add the egg and beat for another 2 minutes; scrape the bowl and beat until homogeneous again.
Mixture should be light and fairly fluffy.
Add in the flour and stir on low speed until fully combined.
Roll out to 1/4 inch-3/8 inch thickness on a lightly floured surface.
Cut into desired shapes and bake for 8-10 minutes.
Decorate with royal icing.

Garden of Thorns

Ginger Malted Vanilla and Hibiscus Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

This is the miracle that happens every time to those who really love:
the more they give, the more they possess.

—Rainer Maria Rilke

Ginger Malted Vanilla and Hibiscus Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy Valentine’s Day, dearest readers!
Today, I am feeling lazy and so I want to share some links that I’ve been loving this year.

As some of you might remember, way back in the day, I made conversation heart cookies.  I’m not posting a link because it was 1) before I knew how to make decorated cookies and 2) before I knew how to use a camera in any sort of appetizing way.
Better than those, then: Stephanie made ombre conversation hearts with CUTE AF messages.  I die.  I want to add, like, a million emojis to emphasize my point.

Molly’s annual almond Valentine’s cake with its trail of marzipan hearts has the best backstory and gets more adorable every stinkin’ year.

Remember how I said that V-Day is the perfect excuse for gold leafing everything?  Well, Heather went and added pink champagne AND gold leaf to a cake and truly perfected the pink + gold + white color scheme!

Ginger Malted Vanilla and Hibiscus Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Alana poured blood orange glaze over a double chocolate loaf cake and made me drool all over my keyboard.  She is carving wooden spoons with her beau to celebrate Valentine’s Day and now it is all I want to do in life, along with smushing chocolate orange cake into my face, of course.

Sarah dressed up a cake in pretty two-toned pink ruffled frosting.  Such a simple yet elegant way to decorate.

Courtney made croissant dough into cinnamon buns which is one of the most brilliant mashups I’ve heard of AND they’re heart shaped. I mean come on. 10/10 would prefer a crinnamon bun over a cronut.  Dominique Ansel, I’m lookin’ atchu.

Jen’s classic chocolate souffles with raspberry puree are swoon-worthy—and a perfectly light + chocolaty way to end a meal!

Ginger Malted Vanilla and Hibiscus Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

My sweet contribution of the day is this little pink and white number accompanied by the most jaw-droppingly gorgeous garden roses I have ever laid eyes upon.
I had never seen them in person before and they remind me of a peony mixed with a standard rose.
Those ruffled petals!  Be still my heart.

The cake itself is a lightly spiced and toasty ginger malted vanilla cake, dense and buttery, frosted with a super fluffy and subtle hibiscus-ginger Italian meringue buttercream and topped with drippy white chocolate ganache and every manner of bit and bob I had—light, crispy white and pink meringues, pink sugar pearls, white chocolate, and creamy, coconutty rafaello truffles.

It really is stunning.  And how could anyone NOT love a pink and white cake on this holiday?
The hibiscus ginger frosting is the product of using a Bang Candy simple syrup in my Italian meringue buttercream.  When poured into the whipping meringue, however, it turned blue (!?!), so I had to add a drop or two of pink food coloring to get it back to a rosier hue.  You could easily use a few tablespoons of strong hibiscus tea in its place, but keep the food coloring unless you want blue frosting!

The cake looks a lot more complicated than it really is, because the toppings make it looks fussy and fancy—but they really only require a trip to the baking aisle of a supermarket.
The cake and frosting, for their part, come together very quickly.

This is a happy little cake for a happy holiday: consider it a token of all my love and appreciation for all who visit my humble little corner of the internet.
Gros bisous pour tous!

Ginger Malted Vanilla and Hibiscus Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Valentine’s, previously:

2016:
Baby pink salty sugar cookies dressed up in Xs and Os are very giftable and quite moreish.
Raspberry white chocolate and Nutella éclairs are the most silly, sinfully indulgent pastries, dotted with gold leaf because all I see are dolla signs.
Brown butter and vanilla bean teacakes.  Fragrant and light—the perfect accompaniment to tea!

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

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

Ginger Malted Vanilla and Hibiscus Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Love is a garden of thorns, and a crow in the corn
and the brake growing wild
cold when the summer is spent in the jade heart’s lament
for the faith of a child
my body has a number and my face has a name
and each day looks the same to me
but love is a voice on the wind, and the wages of sin
and a tanglewood tree

—Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer, Tanglewood Tree

Ginger Malted Vanilla and Hibiscus Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Ginger Malted Vanilla and Hibiscus Cake
makes 1 3-layer 6-inch cake, or 2-layer 8-inch cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
113 grams (1/2 cup, 1 stick) butter
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
2 eggs plus 2 egg yolks
150 grams (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) buttermilk
3 tablespoons malted milk powder
1/2 teaspoon dried ginger (or a small grated fresh piece)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
180 grams (1 1/2 cups) flour
1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder

for the frosting:
3 egg whites
150 grams (3/4 cup) sugar
3 tablespoons hibiscus syrup or tea
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
335 grams (3 sticks, 1 1/2 cups) butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
few drops pink food coloring

for decorating:
112 grams (4 ounces) white chocolate, chopped
30 grams (2 tablespoons) heavy cream, hot

rafaello truffles
chopped white chocolate
meringues (use your favorite recipe)
pink sugar pearls

directions:
Make the cake: grease and flour 3 6-inch round baking pans and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Beat butter on high speed for 3 minutes, until completely fluffy and no lumps remain.
Add the salt and sugar and beat for 5 full minutes; the mixture should be very light and fluffy.
Add the eggs and the egg yolks and beat for another 3 minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in the buttermilk, malted milk powder, ginger, and vanilla extract; gently stir with a spoon until about half is incorporated.
Add in the flour and baking powder and stir until incorporated; beat for 30 seconds on high to ensure homogeneity.
Spread the batter into the prepared pans.
Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a tester comes out with a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the frosting: place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Place sugar, salt, and hibiscus syrup/tea in a small pot.
Begin to heat the sugar mixture on high as you whip the whites on medium speed.
When the syrup reaches 245 degrees F, your egg whites should be at firm soft peaks (almost hard peaks, but not dry).
Drizzle the syrup into the meringue with the mixer running; whip on high until cooled to body temperature.
Beat in butter one or two tablespoons at a time.
Beat buttercream on high speed until thick, glossy, and fluffy, about 4 minutes, then beat in pink food coloring until tint is as desired.
If buttercream is too soft, refrigerate for 20 minutes.
To frost, place 1 layer of cake on a serving platter, then top with 3/4 cup of frosting; repeat twice.
Crumb coat the cake with a thin layer of frosting, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Finish icing the cake, then refrigerate for at least 30 more minutes.
Meanwhile, make the white chocolate ganache: Heat chocolate and cream together until 1/2 melted; then stir vigorously until a glossy ganache forms.
Carefully pour over the chilled cake sides, being careful not to put too much in one spot (it will melt the frosting).
Allow to cool/set, then top with whatever you desire!

XOXO

XO Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Fear is dark but my love is a lantern
Shining up like coins in a fountain.
Hope is a tree sitting on a mountain where the grass don’t grow
There’s a sad old sea but my love is an island
Wild and free like the hills in the highlands
Hope is a breeze that brings me back to dry land
Where the flowers grow…

—Passenger, Coins in a Fountain

XO Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

In the last week, I’ve rediscovered the luxurious pleasure of a long, piping hot bath.
My bathtub is pitiful—so short that it only really fits half of me and I’m forced to clamber up and down to wet my feet or my hair—and yet the ritual of taking time to sit and soak in solitude still feels like a sort of radical self love.

It’s the dead of winter, and nothing takes the edge off like sliding into water that instantly warms you through and relaxes tired, shivering muscles.
Afterwards, I swipe on my richest lotion to fend off dry skin, leaving me a toasty little shea nut.

Someday, I’ll have an enormously oversized claw-foot tub, and I will take quiet, steaming baths filled with lavender and almond oil until the water goes cold, and I will feel altogether like a Roman goddess.  How’s that for self love?!

XO Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

These lovely cookies are delicious in their simplicity: tanned to a fragrant, slightly nutty golden brown, they are crisp and an addictive buttery vanilla flavor with a generous hit of salt.
Slightly lemony royal icing, sweet and crunchy, tinted the palest of baby pinks, makes these all the more adorable and utterly giftable.

I packaged each XO set up into sandwich baggies and attached a little note (written on homemade, linoleum stamped Valentine’s Day cards from when I was in fourth grade! Totally amazing find/save by my mom, who also, by the way, made me the cutest quilted heart coasters—see above…), to give to my friends.
Because I’m all about spreading pinky cheer and love and sweet little cookies!

XO Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

321 Sugar Cookies
makes 30 2-inch cookies

ingredients:
225 grams (1 cup, 2 sticks) butter
2 scant teaspoons kosher salt
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
360 grams (3 cups) flour

royal icing or buttercream for decorating

directions:
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Beat on high speed for 2 full minutes, until light and fluffy.
Add the salt and sugar and beat for 3 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add in the egg and vanilla; beat for 2 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add in the flour; mix until combined and the dough has come together into a cohesive ball, about 1 minute.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface; roll out to 1/4 inch thickness and cut shapes as desired.
Place cookies onto a parchment lined baking sheet; freeze until solid, at least 45 minutes and up to a month, very well wrapped.
To bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden at the edges and set in the center.
Allow to cool completely before icing.

Venus

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

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

—Catherynne M. Valente

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

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

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

Snog

Eggnog Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

“Mistletoe,” said Luna dreamily, pointing at a large clump of white berries placed almost over Harry’s head.
He jumped out from under it.
“Good thinking,” said Luna seriously.
“It’s often infested with nargles.”

—Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
J.K. Rowling

Eggnog Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

I told you I had many holiday posts to share, even in the short time we have before Christmas day.

There’s lots I’ve been trying to fit in during my break; it feels quite truncated because when compared to my friends who are on the semester system, it’s 3 weeks shorter!
I reread one of my favorite series (the Inheritance cycle), chewed through a mystery book (Girl on the Train), and have watched 3, count ’em, 3 of the Star Wars movies.
(Not to mention catching up on Top Chef and RHOBH.
P.S. Just watched this week’s episode, Lisa Rinna is definitely my favorite housewife this season.
Okay I’m zipping it shut now; I purposefully never ever discuss reality T.V. on this here website.)

Eggnog Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Anything else I must get to over break during my luxurious free and empty afternoons and evenings?
I am intending on reading Sellout by Paul Beatty next; I’m seeing Star Wars VII on Christmas Eve, I think.

Eggnog Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Virtually all of my cut-out cookies are based on the most simple recipe since pound cake.
If you can count to 3, you can make this recipe.
And if you can make this recipe, you can adapt it in an infinite number of ways to create whatever cookie your heart so desires.

3 cups of flour, 2 sticks of butter, 1 cup of sugar. 1 egg, 2 teaspoons coarse salt (to taste), 3 teaspoons vanilla.
So simple.  Swap out some of the butter for coconut oil; some of the flour for cocoa; brown sugar for white, etc.
Make it your own; change it to suit your tastes.

Eggnog Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Today, I’m sharing eggnog sugar cookies.
To make these, I swapped out the egg for 3 yolks, added brown sugar and a heap of fragrant, freshly ground nutmeg.
If I had some on hand, I would have swapped a couple of the teaspoons of vanilla for something boozier.
I guess these are virgin eggnog sugar cookies, as it were.  But methinks that’s unnecessarily wordy.

These are crisp but not too crunchy; the brown sugar keeps them slightly softer than some other cut-out cookies.
The extra egg yolks make them a lovely golden color, as well as making them even butterier than usual (if possible…!).
The nutmeg is fragrant even days later, post-icing; it really makes these taste like eggnog in a cookie form.

Eggnog Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

I save the whites from these cookies in order to make the royal icing necessary for decorating.
More often than not, I use raw egg whites for making my decorated cookies; if this gives you the creeps, feel free to use meringue powder instead.

The recipe I use for raw egg whites is from Joy of Baking; it’s simple and effective.
The recipe I use for meringue powder is from Bake at 350; I use whatever brand of powder I have on hand.

Be patient and go slowly while tinting your icing and decorating your cookies!
This is definitely not a process to rush.
One of my best tips (which I did not actually use this year) is to add a tiny pinch of cocoa powder to colors to make them a little more realistic.
I prefer gel colors for tinting royal icing, but liquid works too (just don’t add as much water as you go).

Finally, have fun.
We all learned this as little kids decorating cookies by slopping icing and candies and sprinkles everywhere, but the ugly cookies in a batch taste just as good as the pretty ones.  And so it goes.
Except if you like to add red hots.  Those are gross, seriously… What’s wrong with you?!

Eggnog Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

I’ve linked back to all my other Christmas posts in my last two posts, so I’ll just copy and paste in case you’ve only found your way here.

This year: chocolate peppermint cloud cake
chocolate peppermint shortbread, 5-spice snickerdoodles, Russian teacakes, and cinnamon cereal marshmallow treats
festive marshmallow ropes

1 year ago: honey spice and dark chocolate roll-out cookies
chocolate, sour cherry, and coconut cookies, grapefruit butter cookies, and dark chocolate pecan snowcaps.
peppermint and chocolate cupcakes
souche de Noël (eggnog layer cake with ganache)

2 years ago: pepparkakor
candy cane and chocolate macarons,
Nutella and various fruity jam Linzer cookies,
maple, nutmeg, and rye roll-out cookies
gingerbread layer cake

Eggnog Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Eggnog Sugar Cookies
makes 36 2-inch cookies

ingredients:
225 grams (1 cup) butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
3 egg yolks (save the whites for icing)
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
360 grams (3 cups) flour

royal icing for decorating, if desired

directions:
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place butter in bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment and beat on high for 2 minutes.
Add in the salt and sugar and beat for 3 full minutes.
Add in the egg yolks, nutmeg, and vanilla and beat for another 3 full minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add in the flour; stir until dough comes together.
Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness.
Cut into shapes as desired and place 1/2 inch apart on the baking sheets.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, until just golden on the edges.
Allow to cool completely before icing.

A Covey of Cookies

Chocolate Peppermint Shortbread | La Pêche Fraîche

“Today, me will live in the moment
unless it’s unpleasant, in which case
me will eat a cookie.”

—Cookie Monster

Russian Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche5-Spice Snickerdoodles | La Pêche Fraîche

For me, baking Christmas cookies for all my loved ones is a necessity as much as a tradition.
As I said in my last post, I usually make quite a mélange so that in case someone doesn’t like {peppermint, crunchy cookies, soft cookies, spicy cookies, sweet and salty cookies, etc.} they can find at least a couple goodies in their box.

Cinnamon Crunch Toast Marshmallow Treats | La Pêche FraîcheChocolate Peppermint Shortbread | La Pêche Fraîche

Recap (same as last post):

Last year, I made honey spice and dark chocolate roll-out cookies, decorated in many different shapes.
I also made chocolate, sour cherry, and coconut cookies, grapefruit butter cookies, and dark chocolate pecan snowcaps.
All were a big hit, and they made for a very nice assortment in my cookie gifts.

The year before, I made pepparkakor, beautifully decorated Swedish gingerbread cookies, as well as
candy cane and chocolate macarons,
Nutella and various fruity jam Linzer cookies,
and maple, nutmeg, and rye roll-out cookies.

Russian Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

This year, I’m gifting Russian teacakes, 5-spice snickerdoodles, chocolate peppermint shortbread, cinnamon toast crunch marshmallow treats, and eggnog sugar cookies!

Today, I have 4 of those 5 recipes.

5-Spice Snickerdoodles | La Pêche Fraîche

Russian teacakes have just about a million and one alternative names.
You might know them as butterballs, snowballs, Mexican wedding cookies/cakes, polvorones, Italian wedding cookies.
No matter what you call them, they’re little powdery spheres of über rich butter cookie dough.
The dough contains no eggs and barely any sugar—the main flavor is really of the butter.
Flour acts as a binder to keep them from crumbling on the way to meet your mouth, but once on your tongue, they melt like so many snowflakes.
They are utterly delightful and seriously dangerous.
I make them extra small and poppable, but other than that, the recipe is consistent across generations, cultures, and nearly every food site on the internet.
Simple, delicious.

Chocolate Peppermint Shortbread | La Pêche Fraîche

I haven’t ever made snickerdoodles.
I rarely have even eaten them—for some reason, I fear biting into just one more dry, crumbly cookie with no flavor other than sugar and cinnamon would end my love of spiced cookies right then and there.
Snickerdoodles should be chewy and soft—not as soft as Lofthouse, but more like a chewier version of a chocolate chip.
Here, I’ve taken a very good base recipe, chewy and soft and spicy and made it a tad bit more interesting with a few pinches of 5-spice.
This ups the intrigue just a little, and makes you seem superfancy to boot.

Cinnamon Crunch Toast Marshmallow Treats | La Pêche Fraîche

The chocolate peppermint shortbread goes marvelously with a cup of tea or hot cocoa to dip; dark, fruity chocolate cookies that are crunchy around the edges and studded with many little pieces of peppermint bark.
(You can buy these as Andes peppermint chips to save yourself needing to chop up the bar.)

For a twist on rice krispies treats, I subbed out the puffed rice for Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, which is way too sugary and addictive to keep in the house for any significant period of time.  I could eat a boxful without blinking (and then have a terrible stomachache, but whatevs).
The result is a cinnamon-y, chewy, soft, crunchy marshmallow treat that is comforting and cozy.
You can use a little less cereal if you want a more pillowesque treat; you can also use homemade marshmallows if you’re really going for the jugular.

Russian Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

But wait!  There’s more… I still have 2 cakes and 1 batch of cookies to share with you!
The crazy week of baking continues—I hope you’ll stick around to see what I have in store!

P.S. Shoutout to Courtney from the wonderful Fork to Belly, who made the absolute dreamiest variety of cookies for the holidays.  Sign me up for 2 of those boxes, plznthx.

Chocolate Peppermint Shortbread | La Pêche Fraîche

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Marshmallow Treats 
makes 1 9×9 inch pan

ingredients:
5 tablespoons butter
pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
10 ounce bag marshmallows
6 cups Cinnamon Toast Crunch (or other type of cereal)

directions:
Lightly grease a 9×9 pan.
Place butter, cinnamon, and salt in a microwave safe bowl and microwave until fully melted.
Add the marshmallows and microwave until the marshmallows are melted.
Stir to combine the butter and marshmallows and then gently stir in  the cereal.
Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and press down to compress it slightly.
Allow to set completely (a few hours), then cut into squares.

Chocolate Peppermint Shortbread
makes 24-30 2 inch cookies
adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

ingredients:
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, soft
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup peppermint bark pieces

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high for 3 minutes.
Add the sugars and beat for 3 minutes.
Add in the egg and salt and vanilla and beat for another 4 full minutes.
Stir together the flour, baking soda, and cocoa, and then stir into batter, increasing speed until homogenous.
Stir in the peppermint bark pieces, then portion out with a cookie scoop onto the baking pans.
Bake for 10 minutes, or until puffed and fragrant, then remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Russian Teacakes
makes 36 1 inch cookies
adapted from Betty Crocker

ingredients:
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, soft
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 cup powdered sugar, for rolling

directions:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
Place powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high for 5 minutes, until extremely light and fluffy.
Add in the flour and almond meal and stir to combine.
Scoop out in 1 teaspoon portions, roll into little balls, then roll in a bowl of powdered sugar.
Bake for 8 minutes, then remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before re-rolling in the powdered sugar and allowing to cool completely.

5-Spice Snickerdoodles
makes 30 2 1/2 inch cookies
adapted from Averie Cooks

ingredients:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, soft
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon 5-spice

1/4 cup sugar (for rolling)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (for rolling)
1/4 teaspoon 5-spice (for rolling)

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat for 3 minutes.
Add in the sugars and beat for 3 more minutes.
Add in the egg and vanilla and beat for a full 5 minutes, until extremely light and fluffy.
Stir flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, and spices together, then stir into the dough until homogenous.
Scoop out 2 teaspoon sized portions and roll into even balls.
Stir the sugar and spices for rolling together, then lightly coat each cookie by rolling it around.
Place on baking sheet.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, until puffed and golden.
Allow to cool on a wire rack.