Golden

Raw Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake | La Pêche Fraîche

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand —
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep — while I weep!
O God! Can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

—Edgar Allan Poe, A Dream Within a Dream

Raw Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake | La Pêche Fraîche

Just a few more days until Thanksgiving!
I can’t believe how quickly November has flown by. I guess this means I should get my shit together and start thinking about the holidays now, but inevitably, I won’t.
Actually, since I’ll be near a Target when I go home (oh baby), maybe I will pick up a few cute decorations to get me ~in the mood.~ We shall see.

I am so excited to be going home. This will be my first vacation time from work since starting in June, and my first time back home for more than two days in over two years. My first Thanksgiving back home without my puppy, Ginger. That will be weird. Who is going to bother me for all of the turkey juices and table scraps?! (And don’t anyone dare suggest the cats. They may be hungry, but even their appetites combined could never match a chocolate lab’s.)

My life has changed rapidly in the last year (just one year ago we were attempting to prep for Thanksgiving in a teeny city kitchen), which I believe is a symptom of being 22 years old, freshly graduated, in a new city. Certainly I am not unique in this.
But even when I was a student and had midterms to worry about and had to bring my homework or lug my MCAT books back home with me for the holiday, or when I was only going “home” to a temporary home, Thanksgiving was a time of grounding. I know many people face holiday-preparation panic, with which I sympathize. For me, however, the crazy antics that go on in the kitchen, requiring careful planning, are a delight.
Stressful, yes, but everything in life that I love is stressful for me. This is a symptom of having a brain and personality like mine.

Raw Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake | La Pêche Fraîche

 Here are some tried-and-true La Pêche Fraîche recipes that are definitely Thanksgiving appropriate:

This pound cake is a perfect base recipe; I’ll be making this in a caramel apple version this year.

Can’t not mention this show-stopping checkerboard pumpkin cheesecake; it’s no-bake, so an option to take pressure off of the oven.

This pumpkin meringue tart with cinnamon toast crunch crust. Oh YES, it’s good.

These brown butter and molasses mini cupcakes. They can be your dessert appetizers. Can we make that a thing?

These sticky sweet pumpkin and condensed milk cakes, which would be fantastic as a sheet cake to serve a crowd.

This apple, pear, butterscotch, and cheddar pie could not be more autumnal and really elevates the apple pie game, y’all.

This double pumpkin (with pumpkin butter and pumpkin purée!) bread is a crowd-pleaser, and can be made dairy-free very easily.

This pumpkin spice, brown butter, chocolate pecan pie is a stunner; what Thanksgiving is complete sans pecan pie?!

Raw Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake | La Pêche Fraîche

Savory things I’m pocketing for Thanksgiving:

This golden fennel and kale chop from Sprouted Kitchen looks a lot like my go-to kale salad recipe; Sara adds fennel where I add raisins, and I love her twist on it! I might have to throw some into my salad this Thanksgiving.

I make an aioli every year to go alongside roasted vegetables; it’s the perfect easy sauce to throw together ahead of time. This year, I’ll be adding curry powder and maybe a touch of tahini.

This is the recipe I’m going to try for our cornbread stuffing this year; it looks solid and I love that it’s simple and vegan to boot!

Pie-inspo, because, duh:

Marbled chocolate cheesecake pumpkin pie from Adrianna: a mouthful, literally and figuratively. Just gorgeous (those swirls!) and I am personally a huge fan of chocolate + pumpkin.

Brownie. Pie. That is all. (Praise be to Joy and Erin for making me aware of this phenomenon.)

Erin made a chocolate cream pie with whipped peanut butter cream, and I think it would make a welcome break from pumpkin, apple, and cinnamon-spiced things at TGives!

Every post Linda creates is pure magic, and this vegan chocolate meringue pie is no exception. So dreamy, I can get lost in her photography!

Erin says, “[a] pithivier is a crispy, flaky alternative to pie.” That is when I stopped reading and started drooling. Her cranberry version looks dope.

Cakes to inspire you this holiday:

Michelle recently celebrated her sixth blog birthday (yay!) and made an autumnal hummingbird cake; it would make a great non-pie addition to the holiday table!

Zoe’s poached pear and ginger chocolate cake is something my mama would love; the flavor combination is elegant and classic and never goes out of style.

Tejal Rao wrote a lovely piece about three very different cakes for the holidays; I’m sure the recipes are bang-on (considering the sources!) and I enjoyed reading this one.

Sweet things that aren’t pie and cake to take notes on:

Jen makes macarons the same way I do (sucre cuit, or Italian meringue) and put together an awesome tutorial. If you’ve been scared to try them, this recipe may just be the ticket!

Alana’s baked apple cider donuts with maple glaze and cinnamon crumbles sound like the best iteration of apple cider donuts other than the original (piping fresh at the orchard). I love the combination of textures!

Raw Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake | La Pêche Fraîche

The recipe I’m sharing today is one that will have a proud place on my family’s Thanksgiving table, and I guarantee you that people will be shocked when they find out it is vegan, raw, gluten-free, and refined sugar-free.
My taste testers, both of whom had just arrived back from separate spinning classes (freaks) ate these with gusto, unbelieving that in spite of the creamy, indulgent taste, these were a virtuous and appropriate choice for a post-workout snack.

These are raw, vegan pumpkin-spice “cheesecakes” and they will convert even the most annoying of carnivores (ya, I said it, you people can be annoying too).
They are creamy and delicately spiced, with a date and almond cocoa crust and a cashew and coconut filling sweetened with maple syrup and given heft and color from earthy pumpkin purée.
They are a breeze to whip together, as long as you have soaked your cashews (overnight, covered in cold water; nothing fancy necessary).
They come together in a little under 15 minutes (no, I’m serious) and just require the freezer, so making these will free up some in-demand oven time!
Here, I’ve used this silicon mold, and it works perfectly.
I’ve been really into making raw cheezcakes lately in all forms, and you can make this in a springform pan as well. If you double this recipe, it will make a very tall 6-inch cake, or a regular 8-inch one.
Be sure to thaw the cake for a few hours in the fridge before serving, so it’s not rock solid.

I hope you all have a most wonderful and delicious Thanksgiving!

Raw Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake | La Pêche Fraîche

Raw Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecakes 

makes 6 small cheesecakes or 1 8-inch round

ingredients:
for the crust:
140 grams (1 cup) whole almonds
8-10 dates, depending on how juicy they are
2 tablespoons cacao or cocoa powder
pinch sea salt

for the filling:
250 grams (15 ounces) raw, unsalted cashews (soaked*)
50 grams (3 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons) coconut oil
150 grams (5.4 ounce can) coconut cream
78 grams (2 tablespoons) maple syrup
60 grams (1/4 cup) pumpkin puree
juice of 1 lemon
pinch sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

directions:
*Soak cashews overnight in cold water.
First, make the crust: place almonds, dates, cacao/cocoa powder, and salt in a food processor or blender.
Pulse until a rough meal forms, then press into tins and refrigerate.
Any leftover crust can be shaped into decorations for the tops of the cakes.
Place cashews into a clean blender with the other ingredients for the filling except the pumpkin and spices.
Blend for 5-8 minutes, depending on the power of your blender; filling should be very smooth.
Portion out 1/3 of the filling and pour over prepared crust; place into freezer until hardened.
Add the pumpkin and spices to the remaining filling and blend to combine.
Once the plain base is set (about 30 minutes to an hour), pour the pumpkin filling over top and freeze again until set.
To serve, allow to thaw for 3-4 hours in the fridge; dust with cocoa powder and top with leftover crust decorations.

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Mêlé

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“One of the mixed blessings of being twenty and twenty-one and even twenty-three is the conviction that nothing like this, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, has ever happened before.”

Joan Didion

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

New York, New York.
The city that never sleeps: a proud acclamation even while most of its inhabitants are miserably dead tired.
Overgrown concrete jungle, deliciously bloated with opportunity, built of contradictions and false starts and dreams achieved.

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I live-work-eat-sleep-breathe-watch New York.
As I settle in deeper, scenes swirl around me—little pieces of other people—dull and unremarkable, yet somehow thought-provoking.
There are soft, overripened edges amongst the city’s constitution.
I catch glimpses of them everywhere, curious (or nosy) as I am.

The subway is a microcosm of New York; ridership spans all walks of life. We all know this: we’ve seen the pictures of Meryl Streep, riding the train home after a failed audition (Meryl! Streep!); we have seen the dancers for whom riding the train is the audition.
A crowded subway full of diverse people is a great equalizer.
None of us can make it go faster and none of us can make it any less unpleasant.
Neither the man in the pressed suit and tie, nor the harried mother and her invariably crying baby, nor the bored looking model, and so on and so forth.
So I bide my time and I observe. Might as well.

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

There is something disappointing and vaguely optimistic about the young, fashionable professional fishing a cigarette out from her bag while drinking a green juice at 9AM.
Something repellent and electrifying about the heady smell of freshly ground coffee, paint thinner, and body odor on the A train late on Sunday night.
Something disturbing and cutesy about the girl with an expensive-looking black and white calfskin bag that exactly coordinates with the pattern of her little pomeranian’s fur.
Something comforting and unsettling, no matter how bold you’re feeling, about accidentally meeting the same stranger’s gaze more than once, or, agonizingly, more than twice, as both your eyes dart around the car, tracing similar paths (ending at a woman and her bike, atop the handlebars of which perches a man’s bulky gym bag and, more precarious still, another woman’s very large Amazon Prime box).

I wonder what contradictions people see and feel when they look at me.
Is that terribly narcissistic or just some permutation of theory of mind?

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I am aware that there are, in theory, seven universal emotions.
I am convinced that body language and etiquette on an extremely crowded subway in the summer is equally well understood.

We all try desperately not to touch each other, (particularly when one enters with a stroller, or suitcase, or child in tow) carefully shifting bags, shuffling feet, and averting eyes.
Every overheated, uncomfortable body moves in unison as the subway shudders and accelerates or grinds to a halt, waving together like so many ungainly stalks of grass.
We attempt to keep polite social space between us.
When one stumbles, bumping all their neighbors while grasping with sweaty hand for the pole, mumbling apologies and righting themselves, smoothing wrinkles and reinserting headphones, we imperceptibly nod with tightly pressed lips hinting at a familiar camaraderie. We’ve been there. 
Though we are all trying to willfully ignore everyone else, we are embarrassed for the person, just for a moment.
But by the time the doors open and hot, sticky air pours into the car, we have long forgotten and returned to our bubbles lit with a ubiquitous, faint blue glow.
Newcomers load in, and we make room and begin the sweaty shuffle anew without ever even looking up.

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Alright, now for an important soapbox-y aside.

I titled this post “mêlé”—mixed—for the decoration of this cake, and I started composing it long before nightmares unfolded in Charlottesville and Barcelona and Cambrils and Alcanar.
Let me be clear as day: there is no room for mixed reactions to these events.
There is no excuse for mixed reactions to these attacks. Our president’s inability to condemn hatred and bigotry, his choice of wavering and mixed reactions, is astounding, even at this point when we thought he could sink no lower.
You cannot morally equivocate hate-filled terrorist groups with non-terrorist ones.
Murder and violence, while both reprehensible, are not equivalent.
I will not make space for Nazi-sympathizers or ISIS-sympathizers in my life or on my web page. It is a disappointment every day of my damn life that America put an incompetent white-supremacist-apologist in the White House.
By the way, if you think there is a difference between a White Christian group that wants annihilation of all others and a Muslim group that wants the same—that the former can have good people as its members and the latter cannot—your racism is showing.
(And for the record, I don’t think either has good people: there are no “good” Nazis. There are no good terrorists, period.)

My heart breaks. Over and over, into a million pieces, even as my resolve strengthens.
I am begging the universe to manifest a peaceful world.
In the meantime, be nice to everyone. Condemn hate, loudly, and often.
Count the days to 2018. Count the days to 2020.

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Miguel-Anxo Murado wrote a mournful piece called “When Terror Came to Barcelona” in the NYT and quoted George Orwell:

“If you can feel that staying human is worth while, even when it can’t have any result whatever, you’ve beaten them.”

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Here’s a cake best shared with friends, a cake that is good to the earth and kind to all living beings.
Especially kind to the living beings who get a taste…!
No animal products whatsoever, and they’re not missed in the least.

I’ve been baking quite a bit of vegan deliciousness up in my kitchen, because I don’t eat dairy and eggs day-to-day and therefore often don’t have them on hand. AKA I am lazy.
But hey, my laziness is forcing me to be innovative, so it is a good lazy. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.
Uh huh.

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

This vegan coconut cake is wonderfully moreish, with a texture that is dense and rich and studded with lots of shredded coconut.
Coconut oil provides the luxurious mouthfeel, and coconut milk keeps the whole cake extremely moist.
It is soft in the center, with a light, springy crumb. By baking it in a tart pan, I was able to get more slightly crisped edges, which are addictive and a perfect place for the glaze to well up!

The glaze is super simple: just coconut milk with a pinch of salt and powdered sugar, poured over the cake and allowed to drip down the edges. It doesn’t set rock-hard, but rather like a very soft royal icing, with a nice shine.

The showstopper aspect of this cake are the fresh fruits, most of which I got at the Union Square Greenmarket. I love supporting local farmers! And everything is so fresh at farmer’s markets.
Amazing summer fruit is so abundant right now—it would be a shame not to take advantage of it.
Here I used juicy red currants, the sweetest blueberries I have ever tasted, dark red cherries and strawberries, glossy blackberries, and a few fat smyrna figs for good measure.
The whole thing is topped with anise hyssop flowers, which provides a whisper of licorice and herb flavor to the cake.
You could easily sub a little thyme or lemon thyme, or even a tiny bit of rosemary or lemon zest. Anything that provides a contrast to the fruits without taking center stage!

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Vegan Coconut Cake
makes 1 9-inch cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
360 grams (3 cups) AP flour
400 grams (2 cups) sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
480 grams (2 cups) canned coconut milk
200 grams (1 cup) coconut oil, liquid
30 grams (2 tablespoons) vinegar
1 generous cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)

for the glaze:
22 mL (1.5 tablespoons) coconut milk
pinch salt
115 grams (1 cup) confectioner’s sugar

to assemble:
fresh fruits
anise hyssop (or other herb of choice)
confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour a 9-inch tart pan or cake pan.
Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt together, and make a well in the center.
Stir in coconut milk, coconut oil, and vinegar until the batter is smooth.
Fold the shredded coconut into the batter and pour into prepared pan.
Bake until a tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs, or about 20-25 minutes.
Allow to cool completely.
When cooled, make the glaze: whisk coconut milk, salt, and confectioner’s sugar together and pour over the cake.
Allow to set for 5 minutes before piling on the fruits and sprinkling on the herbs.
Serve with a glass of non-dairy milk!

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Fogueira

Vegan Campfire Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

“There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There’s .1 and .12 and .112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. A writer we used to like taught us that. There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbounded set. I want more numbers than I’m likely to get, and God, I want more numbers for Augustus Waters than he got. But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.”

—John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

Vegan Campfire Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Cosine, secant, tangent, sine,
Three point one four one five nine,
Square root, cube root, BTU,
Sequence, series, limits too. Rah.

Themistocles, Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War,
X squared, Y squared, H2SO4.
Who for? What for? Who we gonna yell for?
Go, Maroons.

Logarithm, biorhythm, entropy, kinetics,
MPC, GNP, bioenergetics!
Maximize and integrate, titrate and equilibrate—
Go, Maroons.

—Very Unofficial UChicago football cheer

Vegan Campfire Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy Pi day!
And yes, I am going to share that chant every year on 3/14.
I love my ridiculous and nerdy school, lol.

Today was my last day of finals for the quarter, omg. Brutal! I have been so busy all weekend preparing. Luckily for me, this means I’m one step closer to spring break—I’m going to Brazil to visit my best friend and stay with her family! I am so excited. I’ll be sure to keep you all updated, even if it goes dark around here for a little while.

Vegan Campfire Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

There were so many gorgeous pies shared by food bloggers all over the world today—I really want to get into making pie crust art like everyone else! Count me in on that bandwagon.

But today, I’m sharing a very unique pie—a vegan one!

This vegan campfire pie is made with a shatteringly flaky, 1-bowl, no rolling olive oil pie crust with a healthy dose of salt. It would be a brilliant base for a number of sweet OR savory pies. It was so easy to whip together, and since I used good olive oil, it had a ton of flavor as well. The subtle savoriness and grassiness of the olive oil is a really nice contrast to the marshmallows.
As soon as it comes out of the oven, it is spread with dark chocolate to ensure that it doesn’t get soggy whatsoever; the pie crust will stay crispy when stored.
The filling is a chocolate pudding, made with almond milk and a spoonful of molasses for depth; it’s not too sweet while being quite rich.
The whole thing is topped off with halved marshmallows that are toasted—sweet, sticky, and the perfect, not-too-sophisticated touch that makes this campfire pie special.
(You can find vegan marshmallows at Whole Foods!)

Vegan Campfire Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Pie, previously:

Pumpkin meringue tart.

Brûléed citrus and lime pie.

Apple, pear, butterscotch and cheddar pie.

Pumpkin pie spice brown butter chocolate pecan pie.

Fig, rosemary, and lemon tart.

Coconut buttermilk chess pie.

Vegan Campfire Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Vegan Campfire Pie
makes 1 8- or 9-inch pie

ingredients:
for the olive oil pie crust:
240 grams (2 cups) AP flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
15 grams (1 tablespoon) sugar
3/8 teaspoon baking powder
85 grams (7 tablespoons) olive oil
60 grams (1/4 cup) cold water

for the chocolate molasses filling:
30 grams (1/4 cup) corn or tapioca starch
66 grams (1/3 cup) sugar
25 grams (3 tablespoons) cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
600 grams (2 1/2 cups) almond milk
2 teaspoons molasses
112 grams (4 ounces) bittersweet chocolate, chopped

to assemble:
28 grams (1 ounce) dark chocolate, chopped
vegan marshmallows

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and ready an 8- or 9-inch tart or pie pan.
Make the crust: whisk flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, and olive oil together, then slowly pour in the cold water and knead until dough comes together.
Press into prepared pan and line with parchment paper and pie weights.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-30 minutes, or until toasted and golden brown.
As soon as the crust comes out of the oven, remove the pie weights and scatter 1 ounce of chopped chocolate or chocolate chips over the bottom.
Allow to sit for 2 minutes, then spread the melted chocolate all over and set the crust aside to cool.
Meanwhile, make the filling: whisk starch, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt together, then slowly pour in the almond milk while whisking.
Place over medium heat and whisk constantly until thickened and bubbly, about 5-7 minutes.
Remove from heat and add molasses and chopped chocolate; whisk until fully combined.
Pour into cooled shell and allow to set overnight in the fridge, or at least for 2 hours.
To serve, place halved marshmallows all over the top, then toast with a kitchen torch.

Magical

Vegan Eton Mess | La Pêche Fraîche

You know what a loser is? A real loser is somebody that’s so afraid of not winning, they don’t even try.

—Little Miss Sunshine

Vegan Eton Mess | La Pêche Fraîche

I recently tried something new and a little big magical.
It wasn’t quite perfect, but it wasn’t half-bad, either.
I learned a lot and I know now that I’m going to try it again—maybe even until I get those near-perfect results.
Maybe not.  Depends on my patience.

Either way, it was supercool and blew my mind.

Vegan Eton Mess | La Pêche Fraîche

As some of you might be aware of, this past spring, a nasty outbreak of avian influenza has decimated populations of chickens and poultry, particularly hens kept in unsanitary and inhumane factory farms.
(Just being frank, friends.)
Michigan recently cancelled its poultry fair, as the first cases of bird flu spread to their state.

There’s no vaccine—so sick and healthy birds alike must be killed to try to stop the flu.  Some 40 million of them, in fact.
This boils down to eggs being in shorter supply and the US agricultural economy taking a huge blow.

Think this is enough to get us all to stop and think about our farming practices and how animals and animal products are raised and made?

And how can we responsibly move forward as consumers and customers?

Vegan Eton Mess | La Pêche Fraîche

You all know my favorite desserts contain meringue (read: pavlova, daquoise, macaron, IMBC…).
And we all know that meringue can’t be made without eggs, right?

WRONG!

Sorry for shouting.  BUT YOU GUYS some genius food scientist figured out how to make vegan meringue out of aqua faba, or bean water.  Yes, the stuff that you drain off the top of a freshly opened can of beans.

Egg whites, in reality, are just water with suspended proteins; when they are whipped, the proteins form a net and the water is suspended, creating a foam (meringue!).

Using another type of protein solution, as it turns out, can work nearly as well.

So these eton messes are vegan.
And the meringue is made of chickpeas.
And I saved a couple eggs in the process.

Vegan Eton Mess | La Pêche Fraîche

It’s so, so simple.
Just use the drained water from a can of beans, and whip the living daylights out of it until it forms a foamy, fluffy meringue.
Stabilize with a little powdered sugar and starch, and you’ve got fluffy, pipeable meringue.

This was my first attempt, and my lovely fluffy meringues got all deflated in the oven, so that although they were crispy and light, they weren’t as tall as I wanted.
I’m going to try again, with different methods of stabilization and perhaps different beans.

The rest of the vegan eton mess was a bit of cold and creamy coconut whip, some sweet sliced bananas and crunchy toasted coconut, and a few golden star sprinkles for an extra magical touch!

Vegan Eton Mess | La Pêche Fraîche

Since my first vegan meringue didn’t come out quite perfectly for me, I’m still working on my own adaptations to the recipe I used so that the meringues stay super fluffy and tall, even after baking.  They were delicious as is, though, so I want to direct you to the original recipe should you want to try.
Check it out here, at Wallflower Girl!
For coconut whip, check out Minimalist Baker (duh).

Waste Not

Vegan Banana Muffins | La Pêche Fraîche

Or, the infamous “Trash Muffins” of 2015.

Vegan Banana Muffins | La Pêche Fraîche

Let me explain:

 The making of these muffins was prompted upon my discovery of 3 sad, brown bananas that had been discarded into our trash (in a ~new~ trash bag, friends.  Worry not.).
I snatched them up, whispering sweet reassurances of grand destinies, and these (vegan! whole wheat! wholesome!) muffins were born.

Vegan Banana Muffins | La Pêche Fraîche

I am so not ready for life to have begun again.
I wish I were back in spring break mode, chilled out and tanned and full of fresh fruit and contentment.
(Side note: I bought some ataulfo mangoes, which come from Mexico, on sale at Whole Foods the other day and they are the MOST delicious mangoes (ataulfo or otherwise) I have ever tasted.  Talk about transporting me back.)

Now that I’m back at school, anxiety has begun to sink its sharp little claws into my brain.
It’s only the third second day of school, for crying out loud.
But I have constant fears that I’ve forgotten an assignment, or left something somewhere etc. etc.
(I’ve already been at the library for, like, 5 total hours and it’s only day 2!!!!!!!!)
Do I need some sort of intervention?  Maybe…

Vegan Banana Muffins | La Pêche Fraîche

 Anyways, back to the banana muffins.
I used a recipe from the fantastic blog Minimalist Baker.  They looked so crumbly and so delicious.
The catch is that I found them to be not sweet enough.
I only used 3 large bananas, and I felt like they were needing the recommended fourth, or another 1/3-1/2 cup sugar.
They were a bit too bland for my taste.
(This may be due to the fact that I’m used to in-your-face banana bread.  These were very subtle.)

I recommend, if you make the recipe, to add 1/3 cup more sugar, plus all 4 bananas.

Vegan Banana Muffins | La Pêche Fraîche

The crumb topping was divine—sweet and salty and buttery—and the texture of the muffins was great—firm bite, but not rubbery, crumbly but not fall-apart dry, and a slathering of Nutella not only remedied the sweetness issue, but also added Nutella into the mix, hellooooo duh always delicious.

With a few small tweaks, this may become a winner in my book.
Head over to Minimalist Baker (gosh, I love their site) to get the recipe!

Back soon with a very exciting cake! xx

Vegan Banana Muffins | La Pêche Fraîche

Monster

IMG_8863_01

“Cursed, cursed creator! Why did I live?
Why, in that instant, did I not extinguish the spark of existence which you had so wantonly bestowed?”

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

IMG_8867_01

More green.  I’m afraid I’m the worst.
I really was displeased with the way this cake looked.  I originally topped it with those little green meringues, in the hopes that it would be springy and light and lovely, but it looked really fucking weird, guys.
The meringues did NOT mesh with the aesthetic of the cake, and the colors were all off.
They looked like white and green diseased dog shit on top of an unnaturally colored cake.
Sooooo ugly.  Tooooo ugly. I gave up photographing the cake and plucked all the meringues off to photograph.

I was really frustrated; I had been very excited about this mint and chocolate cake and yet to me, the cake looked like the cartoon version of Frankenstein’s monster, green skin and black-brown hair with weird sideburns.
UGH.  (I am actually laughing out loud at how creepily similar this cake is to the monster.  Good god.)
I chopped it up, ready to throw in the dish towel, but then I ended up half-liking how it looked all cut up into fat wedges, so I plonked it back on the table and took a few shots.

And that’s the riveting story of this monstrous cake.

IMG_8878_01

Here’s the story of the interior:
The fastest chocolate cake EVER (accidentally vegan!) provides a tender, moist base.
Sandwiched between the layers is whipped chocolate ganache, deep and dark and lovely.
The cake is frosted with the silkiest, lightest mint Italian meringue buttercream, refreshing and buttery and NOT toothpaste-y in the least (at least I’ve got that going for me).
Hot, melty ganache is dripped along the sides of the cake, for extra va va voom and shits and gigs.

Someone in my house triple texted me, begging for a slice after they caught a glimpse of it sitting in the kitchen.
By the time I got home, the thing had been decimated by a pack of hungry monsters college students.
I take that as a sure stamp of approval, ugly or not.

IMG_8881_01

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

for the mint Italian meringue buttercream:
3 egg whites
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
pinch salt
1 tablespoon water
2 sticks butter, cut into chunks, softened but cool
drop peppermint extract
drop green food coloring, if desired

for the ganache:
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
4 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate
2 tablespoons sugar
big pinch salt
1 ounce (heaping tablespoon) corn syrup
4 tablespoons butter

directions:
Make the cakes: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 3 6-inch pans.
Whisk flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda together.
Add all the wet ingredients at once while whisking.
Pour batter (will be liquidy) into prepared pans and bake for 20-22 minutes, until springy to the touch and a tester comes out clean; allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the buttercream: place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Place salt, water, and sugar in a small pot over medium heat; begin whipping the egg whites.
When the syrup reaches 240 degrees F, the egg whites should be at soft to stiff peaks.  Carefully pour the hot syrup over the whipping egg whites, avoiding the whisk so that there is no splattering.
Whip meringue until it has reached body temperature; whip in butter 2 tablespoons at a time.
Add in the peppermint extract and food coloring and beat until buttercream is shiny, fluffy, and smooth.
Set aside while you prepare the ganache: melt all ingredients together in a microwave or double boiler.
Place in a blender or blend with a stick attachment until smooth, shiny, and glossy, about 1 minute.
Remove 1/3 of the ganache and set aside.
Place the rest of the ganache in the fridge and allow to set softly, about 30 minutes.
Remove from fridge and whip until soft and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
To assemble the cake: spread first layer with 1/3 of the whipped chocolate ganache, then place the next layer on top and repeat.
Frost the exterior of the cake with a crumb coat of the buttercream, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to set.
Finish icing the exterior of the cake with the remaining buttercream, then place in the fridge for another 30 minutes.
If the reserved ganache has set, simply microwave it for 10 seconds until it is smooth and flowing once more; drip or pour the ganache over the edge of the cold cake; it will set as it drips down the side.
Allow the cake to come to room temperature, and serve!

Food For Thought

The other day, someone politely informed me that I was a terrible writer, with a sneer and a laugh.
Um… Thanks?

I had no response.

I spluttered and mumbled.   
“Oh.”

I was saddened by the fact that I felt so bothered and upset by such breezy criticism.
I was sad that I was sad.

A cheery circle of life, no?

Anyways, this prompted me to sit down at my computer, poised and ready to write a beautiful post, one that would surely impress this person, should they ever bother to read my blog again.

I’ve been sitting here ever since.
Sort of. 
I have been dwelling on this, more than I really should be.
This post has lain blank, while my mind churns with all the things I want to shout say.

What better place to rant than here on my very own blog, on the ever-so-private internet?
Actually, I don’t want this to be private.  
I want it to be shared and sent around, all around, despite its intimate and private contents- I want it to make its rounds through people’s inboxes and readers.
This is because I want it to have some impact.
I want people to remember how others feel when they make them feel bad about themselves, because sometimes we just don’t think before we speak.
We all forget too soon how we have felt when we are sad and broken.

We’ve all been on both ends of a less-than-kind comment, and I won’t hear otherwise.

I mean, honestly, as if I needed yet another thing to pick at inside me.
Another sore place where I feel I’m not good enough- another place which I scratch until it bleeds, until I drown in all of that bloody sorrow and regret and self-loathing.
 
I struggle to grasp at confidence; I do my best to act it, even when I don’t feel at all confident within.
There are a few things that I am (was?) confident about, and one is my baking and my blog.
I toil here, probably more than you think, to create a product of which I can be proud.
 
I love my blog.  And I love my readers.
And frankly, I put enough work in here that I don’t really care if someone thinks I’m a terrible writer.  
 
But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt when they tell me that.
To be honest, I’m not confident enough that it doesn’t make me doubt myself and my intentions.
I still came back to this blog with the thought that perhaps it’s not worth it, or not good enough, that people don’t like to read it.
I worried about this blog, and I worried about myself.  
For days.
 
So couldn’t that snide comment have been left to the wayside?

Because where exactly did it leave me?
Extra critical and picky over this blog.
Worried and worrying about what others think of me, not only myself, now, but also my blog.
Worried not only about how other bloggers receive me, but also my readers.
Self-doubting.
 
If we spent half as much time loving and appreciating as doubting and critiquing ourselves, don’t you think we- and this world as a whole- would be that much more satisfied and happy?

Wouldn’t we be that much more willing to love others?  To overlook their faults and embrace them?  
Don’t the majority of our criticisms and anger stem from our own sadness?

I lay in bed last night, feeling the cool air from my open window wash over me, wrapping around my ankles and resting in the crook of my elbows, flooding my nose and cooling the back of my throat, thinking about self-appreciation and love.

My thoughts- harboring hate self propagates; sow seeds of love and harvest happiness. 

The happier we are with ourselves- the more comfortable in our own skins- the brighter and happier our futures will be.

I want my future to glow- to shine- bright enough to blind.
That starts with loving myself.
That starts (anew) here.

Phew.  
To conclude this, I’m giving you the recipe for a cake that loves you back.
It’s raw, vegan, sugar-free, gluten-free, and much lower in fat than most other raw desserts.
I’ve swapped in low-fat coconut milk and coconut, reduced the amount of nuts used in the crust and filling, and added a vegetable.
Zucchini!  That magical veggie which we are all guaranteed to have too much of in the coming weeks, as the plants churn out hundreds of little green squashes.
 
This cake boasts healthy fats from coconut, avocado, and walnuts.
It gets all of its sweetness from bananas, mangoes, dates, and a touch of stevia.
It’s pretty, and it’s yummy.
It’s a hug for your stomach, which is pretty much as close as I can get to giving any of you a hug.

A Cake That Loves You Back
ingredients:
for the crust:
1/2 cup walnuts
1 cup coconut (I used reduced fat)
6 fat and juicy dried medjool dates, pitted
2 tablespoons coconut oil
for the banana layer:
2 bananas, peeled and chopped, then frozen
1 avocado
1 medium zucchini, peeled
1 scant cup of cashews, picked over and soaked in cold water for at least 2 hours
juice of 1 1/2 lemons
1 teaspoon stevia extract
for the mango layer:
2 cups chopped, frozen mango
1 cup light coconut milk
directions:
Make the crust: pulse all of the crust ingredients together in a food processor until they form a uniformly coarse meal. 
Press into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.
Make the banana layer: in a blender or food pro, puree the cashews until very smooth.
Add in the rest of the ingredients and puree until very, very smooth, at least a couple minutes.
Spread over the crust and chill in the freezer until set.
Meanwhile, make the mango layer: in a blender or food pro, puree the mango and coconut milk until a thick, sorbet-like mixture is formed.
Spread over the frozen banana layer, then chill again until the whole thing is set.
Before serving, allow it to sit at room temperature to temper, then cut and serve.

Zaftig

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

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

Love’s Light Wings

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
by any name would smell as sweet…”
Romeo and Juliet, Act II Scene II
 
Yesterday, I ran a marathon.  
 
Which is my excuse for not having a WISE blog post in more than a week.
It’s also my excuse for being late to all my classes today.
Stairs are just a wee bit difficult today.
 
Here’s a Super Sad True Love Story super short true summary of the super long (26.2 mile) race:
(I break long runs into chunks… I like to pretend that it makes it less mentally exhausting.  
It doesn’t.  But hey.)
 
Miles 1-8 are terrifying.  In the beginning, I’m stiff and aching and tired, which makes me very nervous for what’s ahead, seeing as I’m huffing and puffing and I’ve only run 2 miles.  
Luckily, by mile 6, I’m locked and loaded on cruise control.
At which point, I look at my Garmin and realize, 
I have 20 miles to go.  Jésus Marià.
 
Miles 8-13 are spent surreptitiously looking at my fellow runners’ shoes, to see which of them have the bright orange D tags which were only given to marathon runners to record times.  I have the sinking realization that there aren’t many runners around me with tags.
 
Miles 13-20 are my fastest.  I spend time listening to “I Don’t Care” by Iconapop.  As in, on repeat for about 50 minutes.  No shame.
I pick out runners to pass and do so by powering through all of the water stations- I keep the word “slingshot” in my head and will myself not to stop or slow down, and in doing so, spill about 4 brimming cupfuls of bright orange Gatorade down my white shirt.  Good looks.
 
Miles 20-25 are grueling.  The stations ran out of power gels around mile 18, and my own supply has also been completely diminished.  My glycogen is running on red and I am not a happy camper.
I keep thinking why the hell Pheidippides didn’t take a damn horse.
Seriously, what in god’s name was wrong with him?  
 
25-26.2 are like running another 12 miles.  Where was the finish line again?
Why do I still see people running?  
Are we done yet?
My intended mile split was a 10:25.  I ended up finishing 23 seconds ahead of that, with a 10:02 average mile split.  I’m not the fastest, that’s fo’ sho.  Honestly I’m just glad to have crossed the finish line!!!
 
(Turns out, I finished first in my division, female 15-19 year olds.  That was a surprise!)
Back to our regularly scheduled program: WISE jabber.
 
In class today, I had a revelation: in truth, I’ve been doing plenty of “research,” which is basically just utilizing different sources. 
What I haven’t been doing is keeping a proper log of said resources- different blogs and cookbooks etc.- which means that I have some serious back work to do.  Ahem.
Also, I received my time slot for my presentation!
June 10th from 3-4 PM.  More details later.
 
I chose the name of this post, and the intro, because a) it’s one of Shakespeare’s most classic, and one of my favorite, scenes and b) because the dessert I’m showing to you is a misnomer and should have a different name.
Right? Right.
 
This dessert is based on a deconstruction of the famous German chocolate cake.
Which, in truth, is not the slightest bit German.
It’s based off of a recipe that appeared in 1957 in a newspaper’s recipe of the day column, which used a type of chocolate that had been developed more than a century earlier, in 1852, by Sam German, a worker in the Baker’s chocolate factory; it was a sweeter dark baking chocolate, which was marketed as Baker’s German Sweet Chocolate.
Thus was the German chocolate cake born, a coconut and pecan and chocolate melange that is not the most attractive, but one of the more delicious.
German cake≠German.  Confusing, I know.
(This information is from The Baker Chocolate Company: A Sweet History by Anthony M. Sammarco, googlebook accessed via Wikipedia.)
 
This dessert has the added benefit of being completely vegan.  
 
I’m thinking of using a version of this for my presentation, because it would be incredibly easy to make gluten-free, thus making it almost entirely allergy-free (it does have coconut and pecan… those are kind of unavoidable) and a good dessert to share with many people who may have various allergies.
I plated it two ways because I couldn’t get a quenelle to smooth out the first go-round and I ended up disliking the chocolate flecks on the first few plates.
 
(P.S. remember how I was so pumped about my quenelles a few WISE posts back?  
Yeah, those darned footballs are coming back to bite me in the butt.  It took me a good 5 minutes to get the quenelle you see perfectly smooth.  My family keeps recycling the containers I use for my ice cream, so that’s not helping…)
 
*Note to my father:  Can you please, please, please stop recycling the date containers that I diligently wash out and save?  You’re making my quenelles ten times more difficult than they need to be.  Thank you.  Loveyameanit.*
German
chocolate cake
salted caramel
bittersweet ganache
candied pecans
coconut ice cream
Mile 12.5.  Eating a gu and feeling güd.
 Mile 20.  The longest uphill slog of the course; it was gradual, but felt never ending. 
 
Mile 25; back on the streets.
Don’t let the smile fool you; I could barely remain standing long enough to rip off my water belt and iPod in order to take this photo.
 
“German”
 
for the cake:
ingredients:
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
4 teaspoons extra dark cocoa powder
rounded 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons coconut oil, measured then melted
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup water
directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Spray a six inch cake pan with baking spray.
Stir the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt together.
Add the coconut oil and vinegar, then the water, and stir it all together, gently.
Once it is just barely homogeneous, pour into the pan.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until the cake is springy to the touch and a tester comes out clean.
 
for the ganache:
ingredients:
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped finely
2 ounces sugar
2 ounces coconut milk, light or full-fat
1 tablespoon coconut oil
pinch kosher salt
directions:
Place the chocolate, oil, and salt in a bowl.
Heat the milk and sugar up together until boiling, then pour over the chocolate.
Allow to sit for 3 minutes, then stir together.
Blend with an immersion blender to emulsify.
 
for the caramel:
ingredients:
1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons coconut milk, light or full-fat
1 tablespoon coconut oil
liberal pinch kosher salt
directions:
Heat the sugar up in a heavy saucepan with tall sides until deep amber, about 7 minutes.
Once the sugar reaches the proper color, remove from heat and add the milk and oil.  
Mixture will bubble and sizzle violently.
Whisk until smooth, then add in the salt.  
If caramel gets a skin before use, just gently heat and stir to return it to proper consistency.
 
for the candied pecans:
ingredients:
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup loosely packed brown sugar
pinch kosher salt
1/4 cup (you could go up to almost 1/2 cup with this amount of glaze; you’ll have extra if you use 1/4 cup) pecan halves
directions:
Toast the pecans lightly in a skillet, about 2 minutes.
In another saucepan, heat the oil, vinegar, sugar, and salt until bubbling.
Remove from heat and stir in pecans.
Pour mixture onto a sheet pan lined with silpat.
Allow to cool until glaze sets.
 
for the ice cream:
ingredients:
1 can (14 ounces) light coconut milk
1 tablespoon coconut oil
pinch salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
directions:
Bring everything to a boil, whisking constantly.
Transfer to a blender canister and allow to sit for 4 minutes to cool.
Blend, being careful to vent the blender and cover with a towel to protect yourself from hot splashes, until frothy and homogeneous.
Allow to cool to room temperature, then freeze in your ice cream machine.
Store in freezer until use.
 
to assemble:
toasted coconut
directions:
Plate the caramel sauce and the ganache first; either smear them both across the plate or use a fork’s tines to splatter the chocolate onto the plate.
Arrange cake crumbles on one end of the smears; follow with candied pecans.
Carefully place coconut where desired.
Finish with a scoop or quenelle of coconut ice cream.