Cinquième

Fifth Blogiversary (and Chocolate Cake) | La Pêche Fraîche

“I’m not telling you to make the world better, because I don’t think that progress is necessarily part of the package.
I’m just telling you to live in it. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. To look at it. To try to get the picture. To live recklessly. To take chances.
To make your own work and take pride in it. To seize the moment.”

—Joan Didion, UC Riverside commencement address, 1975

Fifth Blogiversary (and Chocolate Cake) | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy birthday, La Pêche Fraîche!

This blog is five (count them, five) years old. I don’t quite know how, but it has survived through my last years of high school and all the way through college.
I will take LPF with me out into the real world now, I suppose. Daunting, but comforting, in some ways, to always find a steady refuge in my own creative space.
Blogging has been occasionally sporadic, but always a constant presence in my mind and being.
I don’t know what shape it will take in the future, but I hope it will retain its shape and I will retain my drive, inspiration, and desire.

The blogiversary run-down:
Four years.
Three years.
Two years.
One year (oof).

Fifth Blogiversary (and Chocolate Cake) | La Pêche Fraîche

I didn’t predict or envision my fifth blogiversary coming the day before my last final as a student of the University of Chicago; by tomorrow at 10:20am, I will be irreversibly set on the path of becoming an alumnae.

I have to spend all day today studying—but I also want to fit in the new Sherlock episode, because duh!
This quarter went by so quickly; it’s strange to think that I’ve been taking this class for ten weeks. I already had my last class ever. Craziness.

The five years of writing this blog—half a decade!—have also gone by quickly. I started writing this blog when I was 16. I had recently gotten my driver’s license. Now, I’m 21 and about to graduate university and move to NYC.
Lots of milestones have been celebrated on this blog.

Fifth Blogiversary (and Chocolate Cake) | La Pêche Fraîche

I want to share some places, people, and things that help me retain my inspiration for baking/photographing/learning/creating.

Nicole Franzen is a photographer I follow on ig; she’s in Míkonos right now and has been in Italy and every time she posts, I am filled with longing and wanderlust.

Courtney’s cookie study. Because I deeply respect this is the kind of dedication to the improvement of the finest thing humanity has arguably ever produced (chocolate chip cookies, duh).

Siddhartha Mukherjee (author of Emperor of All Maladies), wrote a fascinating piece on epigenetics in the New Yorker last year that I only recently discovered. Worth the read if you’re at all scientifically or medically inclined or interested.

“You are not the work you do; you are the person you are.” Toni Morrison doles out wisdom from her father in her most recent piece for the New Yorker (if you’re going to read the above piece, might as well give this one a peek too—it’s short).

This vanilla rhubarb pound cake from the Herriott Grace blog (Nikole Herriott adapted a Tartine recipe) is the single most beautiful rhubarb cake I have ever seen. Seriously.

Deb’s strawberry graham icebox cake has me dreaming of summery treats, and plotting what other types of thin, many layered cakes I can create, because they sound amazing.

Fifth Blogiversary (and Chocolate Cake) | La Pêche Fraîche

This is a celebration cake, make no mistake, but it is very simple and not intimidating at all. It is 100% doable in an afternoon, or as a last-minute offering the night before a birthday.

The cake itself is my perfected chocolate cake recipe. It bakes up flat (no leveling needed), moist, and not-too-sweet. It’s not overly fudgy—it has a relatively delicate crumb, and it saves like a dream.
It’s covered in a classic American buttercream tinted the palest pink and given an extra dose of salt to balance the buttery sweetness.
A generous drizzle of white chocolate and a smattering of marshmallows and sprinkles gives it the happiest of vibes.
I topped it off with candles, but a cake topper or some extra piping would also look great!

Fifth Blogiversary (and Chocolate Cake) | La Pêche Fraîche

“Enthusiasm is common. Endurance is rare.”

― Angela DuckworthGrit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Fifth Blogiversary (and Chocolate Cake) | La Pêche Fraîche

Fifth Blogiversary (Simple Chocolate Cake)

ingredients:
for the cake:
330 grams (1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons) sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cornstarch
180 grams (1 1/2 cups) AP flour
65 grams (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) extra dark cocoa powder
2 tablespoons instant coffee or espresso
120 grams (1/2 cup) boiling water
85 grams (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) vegetable/canola oil
2 eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
160 grams (2/3 cup) buttermilk OR 145 grams (2/3 cup less 1 tablespoon) milk plus 15 grams (1 tablespoon) apple cider vinegar

for the frosting:
225 grams (1 cup, 2 sticks) butter
3/4 teaspoon salt
460 grams (4 cups) powdered sugar
45-90 grams (3-6 tablespoons) cream, as needed
1 drop pink food coloring

to assemble:
lucky charms, if desired
sprinkles
60 grams (2 ounces) white chocolate, chopped
60 grams (1/4 cup) heavy cream
white food coloring, if desired

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour 3 6×2 inch pans.
Place sugar in a large bowl, followed by salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cornstarch; whisk together briefly.
Add the flour on top of the mixture, then the cocoa powder, then the instant espresso on top of that.
Slowly stream the boiling water over the cocoa powder; once it’s all added, whisk vigorously while you add in the oil.
Add in both of the eggs and the vanilla extract, then stream in the buttermilk while whisking.
Scrape the bowl to ensure homogeneity, then portion evenly into the three pans.
Bake for 18-22 minutes, until a tester comes out with a few crumbs and the tops are springy.
Allow to cool completely before frosting.
To make the frosting, beat the softened butter for 3 minutes, until light, fluffy, and doubled in volume.
Add in the salt and sugar and mix on low speed until combined; add cream slowly (spoonful by spoonful, mixing after each one) if the frosting is too thick.
Tint to your desired color; here, I used only the tiniest drop to create an extremely pale pink frosting.
To decorate the cake, place one layer on a cake stand and top with 1/2 cup frosting.
Repeat until all 3 layers are stacked.
Crumb coat the cake and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Top with the remaining frosting and smooth with a large, warmed spatula.
Once smooth, place in the fridge to chill.
Melt the white chocolate and cream very gently in the microwave (about 45 seconds to 1 minute on medium power); pour or pipe over the edges of the chilled cake.
Finish the cake with lucky charms marshmallows (crush a few for powder), sprinkles, and candles, if desired.

Settled

Chewy Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

I have already settled it for myself that flattery and criticism go down the same drain and so I am quite free.

—Georgia O’Keeffe

Chewy Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Falling into a new routine, even when in the same environment, surrounded by the same people, is a process.

The thing about work is that you can get into a rhythm pretty quickly—you’re expected to be somewhere at the same time, every day.  For most jobs, monotony rules as you generally do similar tasks each day.
At school, not so much. Different classes not only mean different buildings (unless you’re a science student at UChicago, which means you’ll be sticking to the same two locations for every class for a while) and different subjects, but radically different sleep and work cycles.
It’s not more or less stressful than a job, but a student’s schedule has different demands.
And getting used to a new one (especially right after summer break) is an adjustment.

Chewy Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

I think I am settling into my new routine now, as the end of my last first week as a student at UChicago passes.

I’m back in the kitchen and excited to start creating again, when I can find or make the time.

These cookies are a perfect way to ease into Autumn.
Crispy, chewy, and buttery oatmeal cookies are spiced with cinnamon and studded with white chocolate and butterscotch chips (which I may or may not have found hiding deep in my pantry).
They come together very quickly and not only does this recipe make a small batch—only 12 cookies—but you can easily freeze the unbaked cookies in a freezer bag and save them for any later (inevitable) cookie cravings.

These are a great snacking cookie, and are customizable. Sub in raisins or dark chocolate chips and dried cherries, M&Ms, or chopped nuts. They can suit anyone’s taste, and prove that oatmeal cookies are worthy of praise.

Chewy Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy Fall, friends! And happy new school year!

Chewy Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies
adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction
makes ~12 large cookies

ingredients:
112 grams (1/2 cup) butter
100 grams (1/2 cup) brown sugar
25 grams (2 tablespoons) sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon molasses
90 grams (3/4 cup) flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
100 grams (1 1/4 cups) rolled oats
3/4 cup butterscotch chips (or raisins, or chocolate chips)
1/4 cup white chocolate chips (optional)

directions:
Make the dough: place butter into the bowl of a standing mixer and beat on high for 3 minutes, until soft, fluffy, and doubled in volume.
Add in the sugars and salt and beat for another 5 minutes; mixture should be shiny, fluffy, and not gritty.
Add in the egg, vanilla, and molasses and beat for another 2 minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in the flour, baking soda, and cinnamon.
Mix on low speed until just incorporated, about 30 seconds.
Add in the rolled oats and stir to combine.
Add in the butterscotch and white chocolate chips (or any other mix-ins that you desire) and stir gently to combine.
Scoop out 1/3 cup portions onto parchment lined cookie sheets and place in freezer for at least 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake for 10 minutes, until golden brown but still soft in the center.
Allow to cool completely, then serve with milk!

Shamrock Shake

Shamrock Shake Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

—Stanislaw Lem

Shamrock Shake Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

 Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!

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

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

Shamrock Shake Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

Shamrock Shake Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

Shamrock Shake Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

Shamrock Shake Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

white chocolate

maraschino cherries
gold luster stars

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

Garden of Thorns

Ginger Malted Vanilla and Hibiscus Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

—Rainer Maria Rilke

Ginger Malted Vanilla and Hibiscus Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

Ginger Malted Vanilla and Hibiscus Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

Ginger Malted Vanilla and Hibiscus Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

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

Ginger Malted Vanilla and Hibiscus Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Valentine’s, previously:

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

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

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

Ginger Malted Vanilla and Hibiscus Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

—Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer, Tanglewood Tree

Ginger Malted Vanilla and Hibiscus Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lovers’ Eyes

Raspberry White Chocolate and Nutella Éclairs | La Pêche Fraîche

Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme;
But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone besmear’d with sluttish time.
When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
And broils root out the work of masonry,
Nor Mars his sword nor war’s quick fire shall burn
The living record of your memory.
‘Gainst death and all-oblivious enmity
Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room
Even in the eyes of all posterity
That wear this world out to the ending doom.
So, till the judgment that yourself arise,
You live in this, and dwell in lovers’ eyes.

—Shakespeare, Sonnet 55

Raspberry White Chocolate and Nutella Éclairs | La Pêche Fraîche

If ever there was a time for overly fancy desserts, it would most certainly be Valentine’s day.
If ever there was a time for edible gold leaf, it would also accordingly be this holiday.

I can think of little else as fussily indulgent as a delicate french pastry crowned with little sheets of glittering gold.

Raspberry White Chocolate and Nutella Éclairs | La Pêche Fraîche

I’m trying very hard to squeeze in the ideas I’ve been amassing for this holiday, but I’ve had little opportunity to get into the kitchen.  Still, I haven’t lost hope, and if all goes as planned you will see some cookies and a cake by the time the fourteenth of February rolls around.

By the way, I have been trying to figure out how in the dickens it is already Janu February 9th.  Anyone with more insight into where the first 1/12 of 2016 went is welcome to drop a line in my inbox with details about the January that I apparently missed.

Raspberry White Chocolate and Nutella Éclairs | La Pêche Fraîche

I’ve made éclairs before (along with choux puffs), but they tend to come out a bit misshapen and lumpy.
This makes them slightly less evenly pretty, but does nothing in terms of taste.  Still—for fancy ones, I needed perfect shells!
I found Iron Whisk’s in-depth perfected recipe and knew it was the one I had to use.

It’s very easy and the shells that come out are much closer to bakery type status than any others that I’ve seen!
Click here to jump to her blog and get the recipe.  Honestly, she put so much effort into her tutorial that there’s little point in me rewriting it.  Just go check hers out!

Once I had my shells on lock, I piped them full of rich chocolate Nutella, and then I just needed to figure out what pretty pink things I wanted to go on top.

I chose an indulgent white chocolate and raspberry buttercream, silky and milky-sweet; dotted in the open space are ruby red raspberries, gently pulled apart into little fruity morsels; little pieces of 24K gold foil finish the top, making them wink and blink in the most beautiful way.

The whole effect is utterly gorgeous and quite delicious; the pastry strikes a perfect mix between white chocolate, raspberry, and Nutella; the shells are crisp and light but strong enough to hold in your hand while eating the éclair.

The pink and red and gold color scheme alone is enough to make me swoon; the chocolate and hazelnut center is a divine and decadent surprise!

Raspberry White Chocolate and Nutella Éclairs | La Pêche Fraîche

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

2016:
Brown butter and vanilla bean teacakes.  Fragrant and light—the perfect accompaniment to tea!

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

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

Raspberry White Chocolate and Nutella Éclairs | La Pêche Fraîche

Raspberry White Chocolate and Nutella Éclairs
makes 10 large éclairs

ingredients:
10 éclair shells (1 batch of Iron Whisk’s choux batter, baked)

for the white chocolate buttercream:
112 grams (4 ounces) white chocolate
112 grams (4 ounces, 1 stick) butter
pinch salt
2-3 tablespoons powdered freeze-dried strawberries or raspberries

to decorate:
1 cup Nutella
raspberries
gold foil

directions:
Poke a few holes into the bottom of your cooled shells.
Fill a pastry bag with Nutella and fill the shells.  Set aside.
Melt the white chocolate and butter together; whisk in the salt and sift in the freeze-dried berry powder.
Allow to cool until solid but scoopable, then whisk on high until fluffy and shiny.
Fill a piping bag with the buttercream and pipe a few star shapes onto each éclair.
Carefully separate the raspberries into 2-3 pieces and fill up the negative space on the éclairs with raspberries.
Finally, using tweezers, place small pieces of gold foil on top of the éclairs.
Serve the day they are filled!

Elegant Disorder

White Chocolate and Caramel Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

The second law of thermodynamics… states that the amount of disorder in the universe will always increase.
“If we see alien science someday, they will have the equivalent equation,” Tufte said.
“That’s real elegance.”
(Tom Stoppard, in his play “Arcadia,” summarized this law as
You cannot stir things apart.”)

—Patrick House, “What is Elegance in Science?” from the New Yorker

White Chocolate and Caramel Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“That kind of self-respect is a discipline,
a habit of mind that can never be faked but can be developed, trained, coaxed forth.
It was once suggested to me that, as an antidote to crying, I put my head in a paper bag.
As it happens, there is a sound physiological reason, something to do with oxygen, for doing exactly that,
but the psychological effect alone is incalculable:
it is difficult in the extreme to continue fancying oneself Cathy in Wuthering Heights with one’s head in a Food Fair bag.
There is a similar case for all the small disciplines, unimportant in themselves;
imagine maintaining any kind of swoon, commiserative or carnal,
in a cold shower.”

—Joan Didion

White Chocolate and Caramel Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Balance, ever sought—ever fickle.

It seems—often in autumn—that I bite off a hunk that is, for the most part, far too tough to chew.
I gnaw my way through, tired, weak, cranky, and overwhelmed, drawn forward really only by the inevitability of Thanksgiving, of winter break;
by the measly promise of three full days outside of the library.

The majority of November has escaped me (and this blog)—and it’s long overdue that I stop back in to share some treats.

(It’s been three weeks of radio silence—cruel and longer than usual to be sure!)

White Chocolate and Caramel Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Chicago has already had our first snow storm (the past two days have been quite the wintry mix), and UChicago’s fall quarter is only 2 weeks from done.
Which means autumn is well on its way out.
And no pies to show for it…!

Honestly, I’m not even sure where the time has gone, which is woefully typical of this quarter.
Last autumn, I went for about a month without a post because of school stress and Pinterest-related issues.

With the holidays approaching (I’ve already written my yearly Thanksgiving Manifesto, which usually rounds out at about 10 pages of recipes, lists, schedules, etc.), rest assure that I’ll be around far more often.

Gift-worthy cookies and cakes are on the way, from a sorry and guilty resident blogger.

White Chocolate and Caramel Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

For now, this is a birthday cake!

This cake was from mid-October, AKA Alexa’s birthday.
It appeared in the kitchen at a busy time, when there were other treats and people were busy.

As a result, it sat for an entire day, perfectly cased in smooth frosting and drippy caramel, before being sliced into.

I swear, you guys, this cake got better on the second and third days.  It was miraculous.
I made the cakes and caramel a week before, and froze/refrigerated them.

The cakes retained an incredible amount of moisture, and thawed into lusciously dense, tightly-crumbed specimens.

White Chocolate and Caramel Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

The layers are comprised of dense almond cake, buttery and subtly almond-esque.
The frosting is white chocolate and vanilla bean cream cheese buttercream, which crusts ever-so-slightly, creating a soft and creamy inside with a sugary, crunchy coat.
Lashings of salted caramel are poured over the top and allowed to drip all the way down (only to be swiped away by greedy fingers!), and covered with a dusting of gold luster dust and glitter stars and a few of my tallest candles.

Seriously, can you see those vanilla bean flecks?!
Swoon.

The flavor combination here—almond, white chocolate, vanilla, caramel, and cream cheese—is rich but far more interesting than a vanilla on vanilla cake.

White Chocolate and Caramel Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I get asked fairly often what the trick to drippy caramel cakes is.
My most foolproof caramel drip is the result of completely cool caramel.
It’s best to make your caramel a full day ahead and leave it covered on your counter overnight.
This way, you ensure that it’s really at room temperature—it takes a long time, and it’s easy to try to cut corners.
But even slightly warm caramel will not give you the same result.
And if you are super worried about overly melty caramel, just decrease the cream by 1 or 2 tablespoons.

Happily, like I said, the cake and caramel here can be made up to a week ahead and frozen/refrigerated, respectively.
The frosting takes 15 minutes to whip together and once frosted, the cake is good to go for up to two days.
So you can assemble the cake the day before and stay cool as a cucumber, no matter what your party day looks like!

That’s what I call a celebration cake!

White Chocolate and Caramel Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

White Chocolate Almond and Caramel Cake
makes 1 3×6-inch cake
cake portion adapted from Sky High

ingredients:
for the almond cake:
140 grams (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons) butter, soft
170 grams (6 ounces) almond paste, crumbled
270 grams (1 1/3 cups) sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 egg whites
180 grams (3/4 cup) milk
270 grams (2 1/4 cups) flour
2 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

for the white chocolate vanilla bean cream cheese buttercream:
225 grams (2 sticks, 16 tablespoons) butter, softened
225 grams (8 ounces) cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
scrapings of 1 vanilla bean
460 grams (4 cups) powdered sugar
1 tablespoon heavy cream, or as needed
4 ounces white chocolate, melted and cooled slightly

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

to assemble:
gold luster dust, optional
edible gold stars, optional

directions:
Make the salted caramel up to a week in advance: place sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt in a small pot over medium heat.
Cook until the temperature reaches 245 degrees F.
Remove from heat and quickly stir in butter and heavy cream.
Keep whisking until the caramel comes together fully.
Pour into a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature; cover with plastic wrap touching the surface and refrigerate until use.
Make the almond cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 3 6-inch round pans well.
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high for 2 minutes, until fluffy and softened.
Add in crumbled almond paste, sugar, and salt.
Beat on high for 5 full minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in the vanilla extract, egg whites, and milk.
Mix on low speed until halfway combined; the batter may look curdled at this point.
Add in the flour and baking powder on top of the battler and mix on low until homogeneous.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and beat on high speed for 15 seconds to ensure even mixing.
Portion the batter out evenly into the 3 prepared pans and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a tester comes out with only a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack.
To make the frosting, place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment and whip on high for 4 minutes.
Add in the cream cheese, vanilla bean, and salt and whip for 2 more minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, making sure all is incorporated before adding more.
Add heavy cream as needed; once all the powdered sugar has been incorporated, drizzle in the cooled white chocolate while whipping on high.
To assemble the cake, place 1 layer on a cake stand.  Frost with 1/3 cup frosting, then drizzle some salted caramel over top.
Add the next layer and repeat.
Crumb coat very well, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before finishing the frosting.
Smooth the icing with a hot knife.
Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before drizzling the cooled caramel around the edges.
Top with gold luster dust, edible gold stars, and candles.

Cric! Crac!

Reese's Pieces Cocoa Krispie Treats | La Pêche Fraîche

Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

—John Keats, from To Autumn

Reese's Pieces Cocoa Krispie Treats | La Pêche Fraîche

If given my choice of candy, with all calories nullified, I would always choose something milk chocolaty and, preferably, somewhat salty or, at the very least, not purely chocolate.
I do like truffles, but they rarely have enough salt for me—and with those, I have a very strong preference for milk and white chocolate, even though I know dark chocolate is technically better for you…
Among cheap candy, KitKats, Reese’s peanut butter cups, Whoppers, Junior Mints, M&Ms reign supreme.
It’s always so baffling to me when someone I know prefers fruity candy to chocolate candy.

Nati has an affinity for Sourpatch, which I can stomach and will even absentmindedly munch on, but there’s no way those are better than Goobers or M&Ms.
No wayyyy!  No how.
BUT celebrating Halloween with someone with opposite taste is lucrative, as I’m sure we all know.

I have so many memories of getting home after a long night of trick-or-treating (at, say, 9pm…!) and sorting through all my candy in my little plastic pumpkin to see which ones were best.

Perversely, and tellingly, I would always save the best for last, forcing myself to eat the “bad” candies first.
I still do this today—save the best bite for last!
I am a two marshmallow kid to the bone, people.
To the bone.

Reese's Pieces Cocoa Krispie Treats | La Pêche Fraîche

Today, I have some double chocolate cocoa krispie treats loaded with white chocolate chips and Reese’s pieces, because duh, PB+chocolate forever.

They’re as easy to make as regular rice krispies.
Melt, stir stir stir, press, eat.

Here, we use cocoa krispies and add an extra pinch of salt, with a hunk of dark chocolate to up our cocoa game.
White chocolate chips, milky and sweet, contrast the dark chocolate, and Reese’s pieces are salty, sweet, and crunchy.
The mix-ins totally make these rice krispie treats.  They add just the right amount of surprise to every bite!

(Plus this is a way to use up any ~extra~ Reese’s pieces that you might just have lying around post-Halloween.
Although if you do, who even are you?)

Reese's Pieces Cocoa Krispie Treats | La Pêche Fraîche

Reese’s Pieces Cocoa Krispie Treats
makes 16 bars

ingredients:
20 grams (3/4 ounce, 1.5 tablespoons) butter
30 grams (1 ounce) dark chocolate
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
150 grams (5 ounces) marshmallows, mini or otherwise
4 cups cocoa krispies
1/2 cup Reese’s pieces
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

directions:
Line an 8×8 inch pan with parchment or wax paper.
Place butter, marshmallows, salt and chocolate into a bowl and microwave until all ingredients are melted.
Mix well until fairly homogeneous.
Stir in the cocoa krispies gently, followed by the Reese’s pieces and white chocolate chips.
Firmly press krispies into prepared pan and allow to set for at least 2 hours.
Cut into squares and serve.
Bars will keep in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Inspired

Nectar & Stone inspired chocolates | La Pêche Fraîche

Or should I say, iN&Spired?

Nectar & Stone inspired chocolates | La Pêche Fraîche

 If you’re on instagram, then you’ve seen Caroline Khoo’s work.
She runs an account called Nectar and Stone (n&s), and she works utter magic on chocolate and confections.

Here’s her online lookbook.

Here’s her instagram!

I love her pastel and gold work, and her chocolate are, in particular, my favorites.
When I found a little pyramid silicone mold for sale, I snapped it up and promptly made some n&s-inspired chocolates myself.

These are super simple.
White chocolates tinted pale baby pink, with veins of dark chocolate wafer crumbs running through.

They’re more pretty than delicious, to be honest.  Although I myself am quite partial to a crunchy white chocolate, I know some people aren’t.
These, in all their white chocolate simplicity, are definitely not for those people.

white chocolate111_02

These are simple and clean and pretty, and they’re a perfect way to ring in the New Year.  (Um, champagne and chocolates always go together, don’t question it.)

I’ll be back in a couple days to share something on the lighter, healthier side with you. (What?!)

Here’s to 2015!!
May it be filled with little pretties and chocolate and lots and lots of inspiration.

Nectar & Stone inspired chocolates | La Pêche Fraîche

White Chocolate Bonbons

ingredients:
quality white chocolate or couverture
food coloring, if desired
crushed chocolate wafers

directions:
Finely chop your white chocolate (very, very finely).
Place 3/4 of the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl.
Heat in 30 second bursts, taking the temperature with an instant-read thermometer.
Once the temperature reaches 112 degrees F, remove from the microwave and stir in the remaining finely chopped white chocolate and food coloring as desired.
Stir until chocolate is melted; let it sit until the temperature has reached 78 degrees F.
Heat for 15 more seconds until the temperature reaches 84 degrees F.
Fill half of the wells in your mold with chocolate, then sprinkle a little wafer dust over the chocolate.
Fill the rest of the mold with chocolate, then use a scraper to even out the tops.
Freeze for 5 minutes, then release from the mold.

Naughty To Nice

Holiday Cookie Platter | La Pêche Fraîche

Where do you stand with Mr. S. Claus?

Chocolate, sour cherry, and coconut cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Worry not, my friend.
Though I have been a bad blogger and neglected to share any holly-day recipes around here (Oreo cupcakes?! In December? Ugh!), I am now swooping in clutching everything you need to go from the Naughty list to the Nice.

Say farewell to Santa’s shit list.
These cookies are a guaranteed hit.

Grapefruit Butter Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

These cookies (and the caramels pictured, too) were bundled up and gifted to friends, all a jumble of holiday cheer and spirit sugar.

The first are grapefruit butter cookies, crinkled and cracked and crisp in their sugary coating.  They’re ever so slightly fragrant thanks to grapefruit zest and juice, which cuts gently through their buttery richness.

Holiday Cookie Platter | La Pêche Fraîche

Next come soft and chewy dark and white chocolate, coconut, and sour cherry cookies.  They’re full of brown sugar and stay soft for days (the trick is the cornstarch!).  They strike a perfect balance between salty and sweet, and are chockfull of bits and pieces without being overwhelmed by additions.

Finally, my favorite, and arguably the most interesting cookies I’ve made in a while: dark chocolate pecan snowcaps.
These cookies are made without butter or flour or any fat or grains—choose your chocolate correctly, and these are gluten and dairy free.
They’re dead simple: powdered sugar and dark cocoa powder, salt, pecans, chopped chocolate, egg whites.
The batter looks like thick black sludge, but once each piece of dough is rolled in Swedish peal sugar, it looks like a little snow ball.
Once baked, they’re crispy and ethereally light on the exterior, but soft and chewy on the inside.  The chopped milk chocolate is sweet and a good contrast to the deeply chocolaty exterior; the pecans add a wonderful toasty flavor, and the sugar-coated, crackled outside is tempered by a pinch of salt in the cookie itself.
This is cookie perfection, guys.
Simple and surprising!

Holiday Cookie Platter | La Pêche Fraîche
Here’s to cookie-filled holidays!
Stay posted for more giftable treats…

Holiday Cookie Platter | La Pêche Fraîche

Chocolate, Sour Cherry, and Coconut Cookies
adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction
makes 24 cookies

ingredients:
2 1/4 cups (280 grams) flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
3/4 cup (170 grams) butter, melted
3/4 cup (135 grams) brown sugar
1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup sour cherries
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
1/3 cup white chocolate chips

directions:
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Whisk melted butter, sugars, and salt together.
Vigorously whisk in egg and egg yolk, then whisk in the vanilla.
Batter should be light colored and smooth.
Place flour, baking soda, and cornstarch on top of batter and stir to combine.
Stir in coconut, cherries, and chocolates until mixture is homogeneous.
Scoop out 2 tablespoon size balls and roll to uniform size.
Place on baking sheets and chill/freeze for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake each sheet straight from the freezer for 12 minutes.
Remove and let cool for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Grapefruit Butter Cookies
adapted from Cooking Classy
makes 30 cookies

ingredients:
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
10 tablespoons butter, soft
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
zest of 1 grapefruit
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
juice of 1/2 grapefruit (1 1/2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
granulated sugar, for rolling

directions:
Place butter, sugar, salt, and the grapefruit zest in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Beat on high for 5 full minutes, until very light and fluffy and not gritty.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in the egg and egg yolk; beat for 5 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add the grapefruit juice and vanilla extract; mix briefly to combine.
Add in the flour and baking powder and stir until homogeneous.
Scoop out 2 tablespoon portions and roll to uniform size; gently roll in granulated sugar to coat.
Chill for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and bake straight from the fridge or freezer for 12 minutes.
Move to wire rack immediately to cool.

Dark Chocolate Pecan Snowcaps
adapted from Kim Severson
makes 30 cookies

ingredients:
3 cups (300 grams) confectioner’s sugar
3/4 cup (90 grams) dark cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
5 ounces (135 grams) chocolate, chopped (she suggests dark, I used what I had—milk—and they turned out fabulously)
1 1/2 cups (135 grams) chopped pecans
4 large egg whites
granulated and Swedish pearl sugar, for rolling

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Whisk confectioner’s sugar, cocoa powder, and salt together.
Stir in the chopped chocolate and chopped pecans.
Using a wooden spoon, stir in the egg whites—keep stirring until the batter comes together in a very thick, shiny mass (this is an arm workout!).
Scoop out 2 tablespoon portions and roll in a 1/2 and 1/2 mixture of pearl and granulated sugar; shape into a uniform ball once the sticky dough has been rolled in sugar and is easier to handle.
Bake the cookies from room temperature for 12 minutes.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes on the sheet pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.