Lumi

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

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

—The Lumineers, Long Way From Home

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

Ho! A blogger returns!

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

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

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

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

Cream Cheese Berry Tart
makes 1 13×4 inch tart

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

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

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

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

Stand Up

Roasted Banana and Salted Chocolate Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

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

—Nathaniel Hawthorne, David Swan

Roasted Banana and Salted Chocolate Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

Roasted Banana and Salted Chocolate Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

Roasted Banana and Salted Chocolate Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

Roasted Banana and Salted Chocolate Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

P.S. #Banana, previously.

Roasted Banana and Salted Chocolate Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

Underwater

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

Underwater basket-weaving: (noun)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Decade II

Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche FraîchePassionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

She said,
“I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.
I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one.
I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone.  People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.
I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but
people will never forget how you made them feel.”

—Maya Angelou

Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche FraîchePassionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

It doesn’t really feel like my birthday today.
It couldn’t possibly be.
And yet here I am, turning twenty.
My body and soul have completed one more trip around the sun.
September 16th.
20 years old; 2 decades done and dusted.
Today is a very special day; it’s the day when all my Facebook friends will murmur their felicitations on my wall.
Hbd, hbd.  Heartfelt.  Ha. Ha.
But in all seriousness—and maybe it seems too cliché and millennial—these little reminders are a sweet part of the day; after all, people are taking their time out to send me a little wish.
It would be wasteful to not be thankful, although my friends and I no longer keep count the way we did in middle school.
Thank God.

Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche FraîchePassionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

As I age (o, le pauvre, j’suis vraiment trop vielle…), birthdays become a new sort of clarifying moment.
What becomes important and what falls out of magnification are telling.
That which I reflect upon, replaying over and over, and those minutiae that I let fall to the wayside simply because they are heavy are telling.
Somehow, the nights that bookend my Glorious Day of Birth find me in tears and astounded gratitude for my life/the world.
I aim more and more, these days, to take nothing for granted.  To live and revel in what is important, and let all else go.  In some ways, to depart from my hyper uptight nature.
Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche FraîchePassionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

When I was little (very little and even not-so-little), my birthdays would always, always end in a tantrum, in a great storm cloud of frustration and sadness and lots and lots of crying.
Why?
I’m not quite sure why, exactly.
There was always such a buildup of excitement and anticipation; I think we’re all familiar with the over-hype of a birthday.
I’m type-A, to say the least; even when I was 5, when the smallest thing would go wrong with the endless and carefully laid plans that my mom and dad had made, tailored to my obsessive specifications, I would melt (Princess hats must be more CONE-shaped, Mummy, and they must be pink satin).
My parents, patient pillars that they are, would herd the little party guests away from their red-faced, sobbing spawn.

Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

When I think back on these times (and, curiously, I do remember snippets from these parties, though little else from that age remains in the dusty cabinets of my brain), I laugh and cringe and feel ashamed.
But mostly, I am moved and inspired by what my creators put up while at the mercy of my meaty little birthday paws.
I feel their love and forbearance even through the years.

I couldn’t ask for better birthday memories than those.

Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche FraîchePassionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

It’s strange to think of how old I have become.
Even stranger to think how it must look to others.
I am, after all, the baby of the family.
My brothers wonder that I’m not still 8; my parents marvel at the years that have flown by; my peers are suspicious that I haven’t been 23 this entire time…
I don’t know which age I perceive myself to be.  I just know it can’t possibly be twenty—that number feels like an ill-fitting shoe on the wrong foot for now.
But it will wear in (gracefully, I pray), and by the time 21 and Adulthood roll around, I know that I shall be twenty through and through.  Just in time to start over again.

Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

A pavlova is my idea of a perfect birthday cake.
It is the ultimate dessert for me—no question about it.
So light, so airy and fluffy—the perfect cloud of dessert.
I, of course, prefer primarily fruity sweets to deep, dark chocolaty ones.
And my birthday cake is therefore appropriately fruitful.

A very sturdy, slow-baked meringue with a hint of salt forms the layers of the cake.
Tart, buttery, and unmistakably fruity passionfruit-lemon curd is spread over, then topped with smooth, cool whipped cream.
Jewel-like late-season raspberries accentuate each layer, as do light lashings of dark chocolate nutella ganache, a perfect rich and sweet foil to the tart fruits.

Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

Each bite is a harmonious melange of textures and flavors.  It’s a birthday cake perfectly suited to my tastes, and it is simply delicious!
P.S. I actually like making my own birthday cakes, because then I don’t have to feel a single ounce of guilt for cutting into it early for photographs!

Too bad pavs don’t cut very cleanly…!
I preemptively put this one in a bowl and used a spoon to scoop; the first cut rendered it utterly slippery and slidey and it was not long for the layered life.
Now, it’s an Eaton mess.  And I ain’t even worried.

Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

The monument of a memory
You tear it down in your head
Don’t make the mountain your enemy
Get out, get up there instead
You saw the stars out in front of you
Too tempting not to touch
But even though it shocked you
Something’s electric in your blood.

Various Storms and Saints, Florence and the Machine

Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova
makes 1 8-inch pavlova

ingredients:
for the meringue layers:
100 grams (10 large) egg whites
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vinegar
500 grams (2 1/2 cups) sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
pinch kosher salt

for the passionfruit curd:
125 grams (1/2 cup) passionfruit pulp, thawed if frozen
2 egg yolks
3 eggs
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon cornstarch
150 grams (6 ounces) butter, cold

to assemble:
60 grams (2 ounces) dark chocolate, chopped
45 grams (3 tablespoons) heavy cream
2 tablespoons nutella
pinch kosher salt

3 cups heavy cream, cold

raspberries

directions:
Make the meringue: preheat oven to 250 degrees F and line 2 being sheets with parchment; draw 3 8-inch circles on the paper.
Place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Add the cream of tartar and vinegar and start to whip.
Stir the sugar, cornstarch, and salt together.
As the egg whites become frothy, add the sugar mixer in tablespoons, until the meringue is glossy and shiny and all of the sugar is incorporated.
Using a palette knife, spread the meringue into rough circles on the parchment, using the knife to create high sides.
Bake for 5 hours, then turn off the oven and allow to cool inside the   oven to prevent cracks.
Meanwhile, make the passionfruit curd: whisk passionfruit pulp, eggs, egg yolks, sugar, salt, and lemon juice together.
Place cold butter in a food processor or blender.
Cook over medium heat; sift cornstarch over while whisking; bring to a boil.
When curd comes to a boil and thickens, pour over cold butter; start the machine and process until the butter has emulsified.
Allow to cool completely, then press a piece of plastic wrap against  the surface and refrigerate until chilled.
To assemble, melt the chocolate, nutella, salt, and cream together, then whip vigorously until shiny and thick.
Whip the cream to stiff peaks.
Place 1 layer of meringue on a cake plate; secure the bottom with a dollop of curd if desired.
Spread a layer of curd onto the meringue, then a layer of whipped cream.
Drizzle a little chocolate sauce onto the whipped cream, then place a few raspberries.
Repeat the process with the remaining layers; finish the top with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, if desired.
Best eaten the day it is made.

Grey Matter

Apricot Pistachio Lemon-Chamomile Scones | La Pêche Fraîche

All we have to decide
is what to do
with the time that is given to us.

—Gandalf the Grey

Apricot Pistachio Lemon-Chamomile Scones | La Pêche Fraîche

Nary a single complaint nor excuse will I launch about how long I’ve been away from this space.
It’s been ages. Epochs.  I know.
But I’m not going to harp on the time that has passed.
Know that I wanted to be here and know that I was thinking of it constantly.
OK, I can’t resist: I just got wifi back, friends. I wasn’t just being neglectful.

I fear my mind is wasting away, lately.
The part of my brain that is fed by my own explorations, that is fattened by a good story or a poignant quote or a resonating piece of music, is greying at the edges, fading in a most unpleasant and quiet manner, so that I barely even notice it.
The encyclopedic filing cabinet of my mind that is more full up with facts that I love, rather than mandated ones, is seeming barren as a field left to fallow.
That part.  That wild, soulful, curious part.
I worry.

I need a good book to soothe my soul; I need more classical music and less coffee in the mornings.
I mean, good Lord, I sit in front of a screen all day.  I know this isn’t ideal.
I think that in order to return to balance and some sort of an even keel, some serious non-screen time is necessary.
I took a nap outside on Sunday, which was heavenly even if I was laying on the hardest lounge chair of all eternity.
Next weekend I intend to do the same, with a book thrown in the mix.
And sometime between now and then I’m going to get in the kitchen and make a wonderful mess.

Apricot Pistachio Lemon-Chamomile Scones | La Pêche Fraîche

I have things I want to share with you—photos, too.
I have willful thoughts and questions that I am trying to coax out of my brain by smashing words together, head-on.

Today, I’m hopping on the scone wagon.
I actually made these scones a while ago, and now would you just look at THAT everyone and their mother posted a scone recipe last week.  Fantastic timing on my part.
And everyone else’s are so beautiful and delicious and photogenic.
Mine are a bit craggier and are up to their necks in a pool of glaze, but trust me—flavor-wise, they’re well up to snuff.

Apricot Pistachio Lemon-Chamomile Scones | La Pêche Fraîche

These have the most ridiculously long name (even longer than the kingly titles of Game of Thrones…) but they need it because they are a little self-conscious of their cracked, flaky tops, okay??!!

Whole-wheat apricot pistachio lemon-chamomile scones.
Whole wheat pastry flour, soft-milled and nutty, meets butter in the best way possible, becoming a flaky, sweet, slightly-crumbly base.
Each bite is studded with chopped pistachios, the grassiness of which offsets the pieces of sweet Turkish apricots that are strewn throughout the dough.
A generous coat of egg wash and even more generous sprinkling of sparkly sugar and the scones are ready to meet an extremely hot oven, which puffs them up proudly and creates the craters and canyons that will secret away rivers of glaze until bitten into.
The glaze itself, poured over the cooled pastries generously, is made of delicate floral chamomile tea and tart lemon juice.  A pinch of salt tempers the sugar, as always.

Persian flavors are very subtly melded into these scones, which last for days and make for a fantastic breakfast or tea.
You can make the scones ahead and freeze them like you would cookies.  When you want a hot, buttery scone with a cup of tea, you can simply pop a few in the oven straight from the freezer.

Apricot Pistachio Lemon-Chamomile Scones | La Pêche Fraîche

Whole-Wheat Apricot, Pistachio, Lemon-Chamomile Scones
scone portion adapted from Food.com
Makes 8 large scones

ingredients:
for the scones:
2 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt
8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) butter, cubed
1/3 cup granulated sugar, plus more for topping
2/3 cup milk (I used almond milk)
1 egg plus 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
10 dried apricots, chopped
1/4 – 1/3 cup pistachios, chopped

for the glaze:
1 tablespoon hot water
chamomile tea
juice of 1/2 lemon
3/4 cup powdered sugar, or as needed
pinch or two coarse sea salt or kosher salt

directions:
Make the scones: preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Put flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and add the cubed butter.
Using a pastry blender or your fingers, smash the butter into small pieces until the largest bits are the size of a pea.
Add the sugar and stir gently.
While stirring, pour in the milk of your choice.
Before the milk is completely incorporated, add in the apricots and pistachios and gently fold to incorporate.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently pat into a circle.
Cut the dough into 8 wedges and place on the baking sheet.
Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, or freeze for up to a month, well-wrapped.
When ready to bake, whisk the egg and water together and brush over the tops of the scones.
Generously sprinkle sugar all over the scones, and bake for 12-14 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.
Allow to cool.
To make the glaze, brew a very strong (and tiny) amount of chamomile tea—I used about a tablespoon of hot water and a tea bag that I allowed to steep for 10 minutes.
To the tea, add in the lemon juice and the salt.
While whisking, add in the powdered sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, until the glaze reaches a pourable but thick and opaque consistency.
Drizzle or pour the glaze over the scones and allow to set completely before serving.
Scones keep for up to 4 days, tightly sealed.

All of It

Whole-Wheat Strawberry Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“That was the year, my twenty-eighth, when I was discovering that not all of the promises would be kept, that some things are in fact irrevocable and that it had counted after all, every evasion and every procrastination,
every mistake, every word, all of it.”

—Goodbye to All ThatJoan Didion

Whole-Wheat Strawberry Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Oh, friends.
(Spoken with a heavy sigh threaded through each looping letter.)

There’s nothing harder and more painful than saying goodbye—or even “see you later”—is there?
Say no, please.  Indulge me.

Whole-Wheat Strawberry Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Exams ended a mere week ago, and I uprooted myself only four days ago and have gone and moved a thousand miles away from what I have now begun to consider my home.
1000 miles away from my other half—my partner in crime and most closely held confidante—my best friend.
Why in the world did I willingly do that?

Four days and I have started at an exciting, challenging new job in an exciting, challenging new city.

One thousand lonely miles and four lonesome days and my heart feels as if it has been rent in two.
Who knew you could drown in tears cried in your deepest, quietest dreams?

Is this too much for a blog where I only refer to my beloved by the first letter of his name, out of some unspoken fear that typing it in full will cause him to disappear, a smoke-and-screens magician chased away at the mention of himself?

I fear this is the type of weepy writing that we as Modern Humans like to hold at full arms’ lengths, prefer to keep, safely, in quickly-closed tabs, away from eyes and clicks and minds.
It is too much, simply.

Whole-Wheat Strawberry Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

And yet, I have to tell you: I have puddled to the floor like a scoop of cool, smooth ice cream in the wavering New York heat.
It took mere minutes removed from the comfort of the envelope of his arms and impossibly soft skin for my constitution to soften, and weeping and melting followed suit.

I scratch messy notes on scrabbled pages of a journal, and live for the dreams where he lays next to me.
I count the days feverishly, feeling like a madwoman.
I cry to my daddy, because I’m hundreds of miles from my steadiest rock, and he, poor thing, can do nothing to console his daughter who has lost her mind in loneliness and love.

Too young, half of my readers will scold and shake their heads, and here is where I can only try to explain how my heart feels so tight when I lay my head on the pillow at night that I can’t breathe in fully without risking a few tears being squeezed out, and all because I cannot see and hear and feel him next to me.

Do I sound like a teenage melodrama?
Pish on that.  I’m terribly lonely, and deservedly so—I feel like I am only a half in what has been a constant whole.

Whole-Wheat Strawberry Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Okay, okay. I get it. Enough.
Since it’s summer, and not a single one of us can be bothered to spend extended periods in the kitchen tending to complicated things without running the risk of puddling to the floor (pining heart or no), I have a simple, elegant, summery cake today.

The batter comes together quickly, and a handful of strawberry slices take no more time to be thrown haphazardly on top.

Strawberries are ludicrously in season, little juicy ruby red jewels that burst on the tongue and coyly reveal sweet-tartness.
When baked on top of a soft, gently vanilla-scented whole-wheat butter cake, they soften and melt and meld with the cake, edges crisping ever so slightly while getting syrupy in their centers.

Baking it is easy—just stick it in the oven and wander out of the kitchen to a room with a fan, or better yet, aircon, for a little less than an hour.
The scent of strawberry-vanilla will draw you back in at just the right moment.

A few lashings of good quality dark melted chocolate, and you have a weeknight-approved cake that is glamorous with its bejeweled, striped top, and yet is deceptively unfussy and simple in the best way possible on the inside.

Definitely serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
That is not optional, people.
(P.S. Is it true that ice cream helps to soothe desolate long-distance relationship participants who miss their partner?
P.P.S. Scratch that. N is dairy free. Sorbet it is.)

Whole-Wheat Strawberry Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Whole-Wheat Strawberry Loaf Cake

makes 1 9×5 inch loaf cake
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

ingredients:
130 grams (9 tablespoons) butter, soft
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
300 grams (1 1/2 cups) sugar
2 eggs
180 mL (3/4 cup) milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
280 (2 1/4 cups) white whole wheat flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
6 large strawberries, hulled and sliced
pinch of sugar, for topping
1 ounce melted dark chocolate, for topping

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and butter a loaf pan well.
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high for 3 minutes.
Add in the sugar and salt and beat on high for another 3 minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add in the eggs; beat on high for another 3 minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add in the milk and vanilla; stir gently just to begin to combine.
Add the flour and baking powder on top, and slowly stir until the batter starts to come together; increase speed and beat on high for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until fully homogenized.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, layer strawberry slices until the top is covered, and top with a sprinkle of sugar.
Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out with only a few crumbs.
Allow to cool completely, then drizzle melted chocolate all over.
Serve with a giant scoop of vanilla ice cream.

A Little Party

Birthday Cake Oreo Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

A little party may not, but you know what? a few finals definitely hurt me.

Birthday Cake Oreo Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

 Luckily for my sore, sorry self, I am done.

I turned off all my alarms this morning.  I got 10 hours of sleep.
I am home, and now the holiday fun begins.

Before I came home, I sent off some gifts to my person and his family, theirs snuggled in his suitcase, his meticulously packaged in thick wrapping paper and gold ribbon and carefully nested into a big fedex box.

I have lists of presents to collect and wrap and place under the tree.  Then I have to wait, breathlessly, for them to be opened.
For that matter, we have a Christmas tree to search for—we must find a properly plump one that won’t leave green trails scraping across my mother’s white ceilings (it always does).
I have cookies and caramels to make and citrus begging to be transformed into an olive oil cake.

Birthday Cake Oreo Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

I actually remembered to bring my camera home with me, this time, so expect plenty of new posts coming through (so much free time for baking and blogging!!!!!).

These cupcakes are relics from before finals began.
I barely had time to shower during finals, people, let alone make sprinkly, happy Oreo cupcakes.

Birthday Cake Oreo Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

I saw some birthday cake Oreos in the store the other day, and they were practically begging to be made into extra special, sprinkled cookies and cream cupcakes.

These are simple, but very fun, and perfect for birthday parties and the like.
Simple dark chocolate cupcakes with Oreos baked right in are topped with crumb- and sprinkle-flecked American buttercream icing with a heavy dose of salt.
They’re topped with half an Oreo and, of course, more sprinkles.

Easy, quick, cute—exactly what I want out of a cupcake.

Birthday Cake Oreo Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

It’s winter break!!  Plenty of reason to celebrate with cupcakes!
(Also, happy 12/13/14!)

Birthday Cake Oreo Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Birthday Cake Oreo Cupcakes
makes 12 cupcakes
cupcake portion adapted from Sweetapolita

ingredients:
for the cupcakes:
3/4 cup (95 grams) flour
3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
1/4 cup (30 grams) cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon plus a small pinch kosher salt (~5/8 teaspoon)
1/3 cup (80 mL) low-fat milk
1/4 cup (60 mL) coffee, hot
3 tablespoons (45 mL) oil
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 birthday cake Oreos, cut up into pieces
1 teaspoon flour

for the oreo frosting:
1 cup (230 grams) unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups (230 grams) powdered sugar
3 tablespoons (45 mL) half and half
6 smashed birthday cake Oreos (1/4 cup crumbs)
2 tablespoons sprinkles
6 birthday cake Oreos, halved, for decorating
extra sprinkles

directions:
Make the cupcakes: preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line 12 cupcake tins with liners.
Whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, corn starch, and salt.
Whisk together milk, coffee, oil, egg, and vanilla extract.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry while whisking vigorously; batter will be a little thin.
Toss chopped Oreos with flour, then stir into batter.
Portion out batter into cupcake tins.
Bake for 15 minutes, until springy to the touch.
Allow to cool completely.
To make frosting, place butter and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high for 5 minutes.
Scrape the bowl and beat for 2 more minutes.
Add in the powdered sugar very slowly, while mixing on low speed.
Drizzle in half and half once all the powdered sugar is incorporated, and beat on high speed for 2 more minutes.
Add in the Oreo crumbs and some sprinkles and stir to combine.
Pipe onto cooled cupcakes, nestle half an Oreo on top, then top with more sprinkles!

Doubtful

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“Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.”

–Karim Seddiki

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You know what kills macarons?
No, you don’t.
No one does, because these stupid fucking cookies have minds of their own.

For me, macs go hand and hand with failure.
Do I doubt them? Perhaps—just a touch—as I slide each fated sheet into the oven.

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Ah, I know there are explanations and even better explanations, there are complete lists of problems and solutions.

But sometimes, y’all, the problem cannot be explained by even the most exhaustive list of troubleshooting suggestions.

Take these macs.  I’ve never turned out a sheet as perfect as the first that was pulled from the oven.
Great feet, solid insides (beware the hollows!), crack-free.
Hallelujer.

The second and third sheets, however, looked like the San Andreas fault personified in a cookie.
Feet, yes.  Gigantic, canyon-like crevasses?  Yep.

Why?!?!?! I don’t know.
Same batter.  Same oven temp and technique… It’s a mystery.

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So this round of macaron mania resulted in 1) the single most perfect sheet of macs to come out of my oven and 2) the most delicious macs to come out of my kitchen.
The super chocolaty shells (thank you extra dark brown cocoa!) are filled with rich bittersweet chocolate ganache and a spoonful of tart, bright red currant, blackberry, and raspberry jam.

This jam is something of note, guys.  Like seriously.  It’s bursting with the flavors of summer and it is outrageously fruity.

The end result of the cookie sandwich is something that tastes like a rich brownie with a crackling shell, with a dab of jam right in the fudgiest part.

Hello, heaven.  Come to mama.

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For the macaron shells, I’m directing you to Annie.  To make them chocolate, sub 24 grams of extra dark cocoa powder for 12 grams of the almond flour and the confectioner’s sugar.

Pipeable Chocolate Ganache
ingredients:
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup cream or half-and-half
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon corn syrup
pinch kosher salt
1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar

directions:
Melt and briskly whisk the chocolate, half-and-half, butter, corn syrup, and salt together.
Whisk until the mixture is shiny and viscous.
Allow to cool until solid but still scoopable.
Whip with the confectioner’s sugar using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Whip until fluffy and lightened in color.
If it starts to melt while piping, stick it in the fridge and rewhip as needed.

Red Currant and Berry (Fridge) Jam
makes approximately 2 cups
ingredients:
1 heaping cup red currants, destemmed
heaping 1/3 cup blackberries
1 heaping cup raspberries
generous 2/3 cup sugar

directions:
Press the currants and blackberries through a fine sieve with the back of a spoon; process them for a long time so that you get the most puree possible and leave behind relatively dry seeds.
Place into a deep pot with the sugar and raspberries and place over medium heat.
Smash the raspberries with a spatula or spoon as you stir the jam.
Reduce the heat to low and cook for 20 minutes, until the jam is thick (use the freezer test: place a small amount of jam on a plate and put it in the freezer until it cools to room temp: it should be thick and spreadable).
Allow to cool slightly, then transfer to a clean jar and then to the fridge.

Deuxième

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“Great cooking is not for the faint of heart.
You must be imaginative.  Strong hearted.
You must try things that may not work.
And you must not let anyone define your limits because of where you come from.
What I say is true: anyone can cook, but only the fearless can be great.”

–Disney’s “Ratatouille

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Has it been this long, really?

How could it possibly have been this long?

Two years?

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Such a funny, dual-sided feeling, this one.
I have been writing this blog for my whole life, and, at the same time, have been writing for all of two days.
How can this be?

I have stumbled and stubbed toes, sliced fingers and scrubbed dishes; I have burned wrists and knuckles and cookies countless, have made nine thousand messes and used an entire herd of cows’ butter; I have dropped cakes and dropped things on cakes, have cried and sworn and studied and laughed on the kitchen floor.

I have planned meticulously and tasted liberally and danced in sheer delight; I have spat out failures and hoarded successes.

I have moved and survived, have mourned and celebrated, have resisted and adapted, have failed and succeeded.
I have given in and given up.
I have poured my heart and soul and dozens of cups of cream into La Pêche Fraîche.

I have closed my eyes and stuck the pan in the oven and then, terrified, let go.

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And yet here I am, still standing knee neck-deep in flour and sugar and butter.
Here I am, crying as I write this post, laughing at myself and at this silly, silly little space.

For I may have doubted this blog, doubted my writing, my work, my thoughts, myself,
but oh, oh, I have loved, loved, loved.

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188 posts prior to this one.
65 about chocolate, 55 about cake (32 about “cakes”), 50 for cookies.
43 posts in which I whine, 7 rants, 22 “stupid,” 13 diva moments.

25 brown butter, 25 holidays.
19 winter posts, but only 11 each of spring and autumn, and a sad 7 spring.

7 starry-eyed dreams, 7 cases of the blues.

39 love and 38 crazy.  Coincidence?  I think not.

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I always talk whine about this, but the growth and development on this blog is remarkable to me.
Look through the archives, and the most tangible improvement– photography– is undeniable.
I won’t lie, some of the photos on this blog are downright scary.
Out of focus, underexposed, unappetizing coloring, terrible angles, lack of styling… Good grief.

However, I remind myself as I cringe, the bad photography is only a testament to my willingness to learn, to try new things, to start from nothing and improve myself.
I am proud of this blog, damn it.
I am proud of how much I have learned, both on the pâtisserie and photographic sides.

I am beyond happy to celebrate the start of a third year.
I have no intentions of stopping or slowing down.
I don’t know where this blog is leading me.  I don’t know where my life is leading me.
I don’t even know where this post is leading me, for Pete’s sake.
Right now is a volatile and dynamic time in my life, and I’m doing my best to ride the waves, blind and fearful as I am.
Nevertheless, onwards I press, keys tapping and oven creaking.
I have faith that I shall better understand where I’m headed in the future.

I have faith that one day, I’ll figure my shit out.
And I have a strong suspicion that La Pêche Fraîche will be a part of it.

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It’s true that there have been times when I have been scared or reluctant to press “Publish.”
There have been posts so raw with emotion that I worry what my readership will think of me.

But you have stuck with me, through all the painful changes and exciting developments.
You’ve borne all my typos and rants and sappiness.
You’ve continued on with me during the slowed down times– I can see you clicking around, probably hungry for fresh material, tired of stale old crumbs.  I see you.  And I appreciate you.
You’ve read through too-long and too-short posts, through my geek-outs and freak-outs.

So sometimes, goes the moral of this story, you have to let go of the pan and let the oven work its magic.

Thank you, readers, for being my oven.
Thank you for demonstrating, with your clicks and searches and comments, that it is fine for me to press publish, to let go of the pan, to reveal insecurities and intimacies to an invisible audience.
It is for you that I write LPF, and it is thanks to you that it continues to grow.

Thank you for supporting this blog, replete with sugar and silliness.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.  From La Pêche Fraîche– from me.

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A birthday–blog birthdays included– demands cake.
Cupcakes, cookies, pavlovas, pudding and custards, ice creams, etc., will simply not do.
It must be cake.  I assure you, it must. be. cake.

Last blogiversary (May 2013) I made a brown-sugar/chocolate marble cake, filled with passionfruit curd and covered in fluffy, shiny clouds of vanilla bean Italian meringue buttercream.

The flavors were amazing– some of my absolute favorites– but I think the cake was left in the oven 3 minutes too long.
It wasn’t (ohhhh God, here it comes…) *moist* enough, in my opinion.

So though there have been many cakes in the last year, today’s cake demonstrates one way to keep your cakes from being dry and crumbly, in honor of last year’s semi-dry cake.

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This year’s is a 1 bowl cake.  (The frosting requires an additional pot, but whatever.)
This is a virtually fool-proof cake.

(ATTN: nerd alert. Skip to the recipe at the bottom if you don’t want to have to listen to me geek out.)

All is due to the FP FFP scheme that I have deployed here.
Fool Proof Fat Flour Paste.  Sound disgusting?  Well, yeah.

The idea here is that by creating a paste of the flour and fat, you coat essentially of the fat particles with starch particles.
Following this observation, then, it becomes clear that all of the starch particles are associated with fat particles, which prevents them from forming too much gluten when moistened.
Adding sugar in the form of cane sugar and milk sugar (lactose) further inhibits gluten formation.
Since all of the ingredients are thoroughly beaten together, the batter is completely homogeneous and the dry ingredients are very evenly distributed, preventing pockets of dryness or bitterness where flour or baking soda didn’t fully incorporate, and making over-beating cake batter a thing of the past.

Once moisture is added, some gluten forms, which maintains the structure of the cake.
Plenty of egg whites are added, since they contain albumen, a structural protein, that help enhance the gluten structure, ensuring the cake is sturdy, not crumbly.

Basically, by preventing too much gluten from forming, we ensure the cake is very tender and fine-crumbed, and since the fat particles have been evenly suspended in starch, as they melt, they create a very moist, soft cake.

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In sum total: this cake is a tall, four-layer beauty, with a base of malted milk cake, redolent of nutty malt and laced with a hint of salt, butter, and buttermilk.  The crumb is fine, tender, and soft.

The frosting is sweet and salty vanilla Italian meringue buttercream, glossy and fluffy, swaddling the cake in buttery goodness.

Finally, and most importantly, 39 ( and exactly 39) handfuls of sprinkles are thrown, haphazardly, at the cake.
The pattern that results is organic in shape but very much artificially dyed and flavored.

Sprinkles are just so happy and fun and bright and colorful and they, along with the pink frosting, make this cake so damn twee.
Once I pull out that 1 pound jar (no, I am not kidding), there’s no stopping me.
The soles of my shoes have been tracking sprinkles everywhere since I made this cake.
I may have gotten a tad bit out-of-control.  Just a tad, though.
{Send help.}

Joyeuse anniversaire, La Pêche Fraîche!

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“I did then what I knew how to do.
Now that I know better, I do better.”

–Maya Angelou 

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Malted Milk Birthday Cake
makes a 4 layer 6-inch cake or a 2 layer 8- or 9-inch cake

ingredients:
for the malted milk cake:
340 grams (2 3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon) all purpose flour
50 grams (5 tablespoons) cornstarch
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
scant 1 teaspoon kosher salt
113 grams (8 tablespoons) butter, softened
100 grams (8 tablespoons) shortening
350 grams (1 3/4 cups) granulated sugar
60 grams (heaping 1/2 cup) malted milk powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
3 egg whites
120 grams (120mL, 1/2 cup) buttermilk, cold
240 grams (240mL, 1 cup) water, cold

for the vanilla Italian meringue buttercream:
6 egg whites
3 drops (1/8 teaspoon) white vinegar
350 grams (1 1/2 cups) sugar
big pinch kosher salt
90 grams (6 tablespoons) water
660 grams (6 sticks, 1 1/2 pounds, 3 cups) butter, diced
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
drop red gel food coloring, if desired

to assemble:
sprinkles!

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 4 6-inch pans or 2 8- or 9-inch pans.
Place flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer and stir to combine.
Add in the softened butter and shortening a few tablespoons at a time, mixing until a flour-fat paste forms– it will be thick like cookie dough.
Stir together the sugar and malted milk powder, then add to the flour paste, stirring slowly at first, then beating until fluffy.
Whisk together the vanilla, egg, egg whites, buttermilk, and water, then add to the batter, stirring very very slowly at first, then increasing speed to beat at high speed for 30 seconds.
Batter should be thick and creamy; if it is a tiny bit curdled, don’t worry about it.
Pour into prepared pans and bake for 35-38 minutes, until springy in the center and a tester comes out clean.
Allow to cool completely, then trim and level as needed.

Meanwhile, make the frosting: place egg whites and vinegar in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Place sugar, salt, and water 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.
If buttercream is too soft, refrigerate for 20 minutes.

To assemble the cake, stack layers with 1/2-2/3 cup frosting between them.
Use about 1 cup of frosting to crumb coat and level out the cake; freeze for at least 30 minutes.
Finish the cake with the remaining frosting as desired, and add sprinkles to your heart’s content!