Garden of Thorns

Ginger Malted Vanilla and Hibiscus Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

—Rainer Maria Rilke

Ginger Malted Vanilla and Hibiscus Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

Ginger Malted Vanilla and Hibiscus Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

Ginger Malted Vanilla and Hibiscus Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

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

Ginger Malted Vanilla and Hibiscus Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Valentine’s, previously:

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

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

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

Ginger Malted Vanilla and Hibiscus Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

—Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer, Tanglewood Tree

Ginger Malted Vanilla and Hibiscus Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

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

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

XOXO

XO Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

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

—Passenger, Coins in a Fountain

XO Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

XO Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

XO Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

321 Sugar Cookies
makes 30 2-inch cookies

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

royal icing or buttercream for decorating

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

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!

Venus

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

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

—Catherynne M. Valente

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

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

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

Sim Sala Bim

Fluffy Overnight Cinnamon Rolls | La Pêche Fraîche

Then the Earth shook, that was all that it took for the dream to break
All the loose ends would surround me again in the shape of your face

What makes me love you despite the reservations?
What do I see in your eyes
Besides my reflection hanging high?

Are you off somewhere reciting incantations?
Sim sala bim on your tongue…

—Fleet Foxes

Fluffy Overnight Cinnamon Rolls | La Pêche Fraîche

Ever since I was little, there have been certain thought streams that help me settle down and fall asleep.

Particularly in the winter, I imagine myself in the deep arctic, in a little pure white snow cave dug into the side of a hill while a storm howls around the landscape.
I think of each warm piece of clothing I’d don (long johns, leggings, two pairs of my warmest, softest wool socks, gloves and mittens and a cuddly sweater, etc…) and imagine myself, warm and cozy despite the cold.
At that point, sleep drapes itself over my drowsy body, yet another blanket of comfort.

Fluffy Overnight Cinnamon Rolls | La Pêche Fraîche

I’d be hard-pressed to imagine anything more cozy than a pan of fresh-baked, fragrant cinnamon buns.
Just look—! at them.  They’re snuggled up against their brethren, their nakedness revealing bewitching spirals that hypnotize almost as much as their scent does.

I made these for Christmas morning, because that’s really the time to break out your most indulgent breakfast recipes.  Served still-warm with a cup of hot coffee or tea makes for a morning treat that’s impossible to top.

Fluffy Overnight Cinnamon Rolls | La Pêche Fraîche

If you want to pull off the magic of warm cinnamon buns on a busy holiday morning, it’s definitely imperative to have a reliable and easy recipe.

My requirements for such a recipe:
it must require minimal effort in the AM, because you’re going to be preoccupied with other things and no one wants to fuss around in the kitchen for half of the morning

it must be quick in the morning, because if your family is anything like mine, they will be breathing down your neck and threatening to turn to cold cereal by 11am

it must be consistently worth the calories and evening effort; it needs must prep and taste like a dream every time.

Fluffy Overnight Cinnamon Rolls | La Pêche Fraîche

These cinnamon buns fulfill all of my stipulations.
They’re easy, fast, and taste like a cloud of sugary, buttery, spicy goodness.
The night before, you make and knead the dough—15 minutes in a stand mixer/3 dishes (1 measuring cup + 2 bowls) dirtied.  Done and done.
The dough, which has similarities to a brioche in its milk- and butter-rich proportions, rises quickly and is smooth, shiny, and supple, making it easy to roll out once risen.
A heap of softened butter and brown sugar and cinnamon gets spread generously over the dough, further enriching the rolls with all-around deliciousness.
Rolled up tight and cut with kitchen string (or floss), they are tucked into a buttered pan and set in the fridge to develop flavor and relax overnight.
In the morning, it’s just a matter of taking them out of the refrigerator and preheating your oven; once again, they rise quickly and bake in less than 30 minutes.
A classic cream cheesy glaze is lathered on top, making the already fluffy, buttery buns even more luxuriously sweet and sticky and creating rivals to even Cinnabon buns.

Pinky promise these will make whomever you live with happy.  They are irresistible!

Fluffy Overnight Cinnamon Rolls | La Pêche Fraîche

Fluffy Overnight Cinnamon Rolls 
makes 15 large buns
adapted from KAF

ingredients:
for the dough:
240 grams (1 cup) low-fat milk, 110 degrees F
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 eggs, room temperature
75 grams (1/3 cup) butter, soft and cut up
530 grams (4 1/2 cups) flour
1 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar

for the filling:
75 grams (1/3 cup) butter, soft
210 grams (1 cup) packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons cinnamon

for the glaze:
3 tablespoons cream cheese
1 teaspoon cream
170 grams (1 1/2 cups) powdered sugar
splash vanilla extract

directions:
Make the dough: bloom the yeast in the lukewarm water; set aside to become frothy.
Place flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment.
Add in the frothy yeast mixture and stir on low; add in the eggs one at a time and knead until a rough dough comes together; add in the butter one piece at a time, waiting until each is fully incorporated before adding the next.
Knead on medium speed for 10 minutes, or until the dough isn’t too tacky and has created a “tornado” shape on the bottom of the bowl.
Dough should not be sticking to the sides of the bowl, but rather, be smooth and even and soft.
Remove from stand mixer bowl and form into a ball; place into a well-greased bowl and oil the top of the dough just a little.
Place in a warm, draft-free place with plastic wrap fitted snugly on top of the bowl.
Once doubled in size (about an hour), punch dough down.
Flour a surface lightly and grease a 9×13 or similar size pan.
Turn the dough out and roll out firmly into a 16″x21″ rectangle; dough should be fairly thin.
It will snap back as you roll it out, so be patient.
Once rolled out, spread the softened butter out all over the dough, leaving a small edge on one long side.
Sprinkle the brown sugar and cinnamon all over the butter.
Starting from the long side opposite the little empty lip, roll up the dough into a snug spiral.
Using a piece of string or flavorless floss or a serrated knife, cut the roll into 12 2″ buns.
Arrange them snugly into the greased pan.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
In the morning, remove from fridge and place in a warm, draft-free place.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
When buns have doubled in size, remove plastic wrap and place in oven for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown and fragrant and a tester doesn’t stick in the center.
Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly while you prepare the frosting.
Whisk cream cheese and cream together with vanilla extract; sift in the powdered sugar and stir until a thick frosting comes together.
Spread over the still-warm buns in a thick layer.
Allow frosting to set, about 15 minutes, before serving with hot coffee.

Auspicium

Chocolate and Candied Kumquat Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

—Rainer Maria Rilke

Chocolate and Candied Kumquat Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

It’s just a f-a-c-t.

Chocolate and Candied Kumquat Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

Chocolate and Candied Kumquat Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

Chocolate and Candied Kumquat Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

—Nina Simone

Chocolate and Candied Kumquat Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

My Dog

Ginger | La Pêche Fraîche

If Weenie hadn’t died he’d be purring beside her, his ears flattened against his skull and his tail curled like a hook around her bare ankle, his eyes slitted across the dark lawn at the restless, echo-ranging world of night creatures that was invisible to her: snail-trails and cobwebs, glassy-winged flies, beetles, and field mice and all the little wordless things struggling in squeaks or chirps or silence.  Their small world, she felt, was her true home, the secret dark of speechlessness and frantic heartbeats.

— Donna Tartt, The Little Friend

Lemon Cream | La Pêche FraîcheGinger and Rach

You weren’t really a Great Lover or, for that matter, listener.
And that used to frustrate me to no end when I still believed I could influence and control you and have you wear a tutu and jump through hula hoops (literally).
I mean, I was six.  Still a puppy, too, and ever the dog-idealist, despite your clear departure from Normal Doghood.

Gingey, you weren’t like Bambi, Mama’s childhood dog.
Try as I might have to show you my tears and demonstrate how you ought to have sat by me and comforted me, or to hug you close and attempt to teach you how to snuggle, any discomfort or indeed, all-too-discernable display of emotion made you awkward and unbearably antsy.
(But darn it all if I don’t often feel like your nervous younger self now, enduring wild-eyed bouts of panic over minutiae, over things that have negligible impact on my life as a whole.
A leaf blowing in the street; a forgotten homework, etc. etc.)

ginger as a puppyLemon Cream | La Pêche Fraîche

No, you were very much you.
Uniquely neurotic and uncomfortable around humans and other dogs, and cats, and spooks, of course.
Always, you were a lemon.
You loved us in a very non-obvious, difficult to discern manner.  Ever the lemon.  But always my girl.

Anyways, as I have oft-declared, lemon is the best flavor.
I wouldn’t want you to be any other dog or have any other type of manners.
As weird as you were, you fit perfectly into our dysfunction.  You were our dog and we loved you no less for your dislike of affection and attention.  You were different but sweet.

Lemon Cream | La Pêche Fraîcheginger as a puppy and rach

My dog was born on January 6th or 8th (we could never remember) in 2002, somewhere obscure in North Carolina.
She didn’t come to us until she was 8 weeks old, a terrified, lanky little bundle of sable fur with a uniquely unbecoming patch of orange hair splashed between her soft little ears (think: Bozo the clown).
She would have been 14 this coming January.
Some part of me wanted to wait until her birthday, but that’s the selfish human in me talking, so I could quantify just how old my pup was when it was her time.  So that the length of the years we spent together could, in a meager way, demonstrate how important she has been to my childhood and my family to anyone, even those who don’t know.
Dogs don’t have a sense of future time.  Ginger certainly never understood the fuss over her birthday and she couldn’t see her own grey hair spreading across her snout.
She knew, though, that she was old.  She felt the aches and pains, even through the medication.
We could all see that she was weary and uncomfortable.

Yet it is so hard to say goodbye.
She will be greatly missed.

ginger rach first communionLemon Cream | La Pêche Fraîcheginger and rach pigtails

Thank you for being my unwilling and willful companion and our family’s scaredy-cat guard dog.
I am sorry for being stubborn and impatient and altogether too cuddly of a playmate.
And I’m sorry that everyone was so sorrowfully ignorant of your pains as you grew older.  We tried to understand.
And always, we loved you.

On her last morning, Ginger had steak for breakfast, and she got to have some peanut butter as her last snack.
And so it goes that this afternoon, my big, fat, goofy chocolate lab passed into the infinite and left us mortals here feeling very terribly, awfully small.
But Ginger, if even a single iota of your complicated happiness could be attributed to me and my love for you, I am content.

ginger on the porch

Rest easy, good girl.  I love you.

rachel walking ginger

Lemon Cream
adapted from Tartine Bakery
makes 1 1/2 cups

ingredients:
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 grams) lemon juice
3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
pinch salt
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup (113 grams) butter, cut up

directions:
Place lemon juice, sugar, salt, eggs, and egg yolk in a small pot.
Whisk vigorously over medium-low heat until combined; whisk every 30 seconds or so to prevent lumps from forming.
Cook for 7-10 minutes, until thickened and at a low boil.
Remove from heat and pour into a blender canister or another bowl if you have an immersion blender.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then add the pieces of butter in and blend on high speed until light in color and thick.
Pour into desired vessels and chill.
Serve with blueberries and powdered sugar.

Snog

Eggnog Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

Eggnog Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

Eggnog Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

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

Eggnog Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

Eggnog Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

Eggnog Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

Eggnog Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

Eggnog Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Eggnog Sugar Cookies
makes 36 2-inch cookies

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

royal icing for decorating, if desired

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

Cloud Nine

Chocolate Peppermint Cloud Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.”

—Rabindranath Tagore

Chocolate Peppermint Cloud Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I always used to dream about sleeping in the clouds, with a giant white pillow on which to rest my head.
When I was younger, I would daydream out loud about it to my nanny.  Just thinking about it still calms me.
Clouds don’t always mean rain.

(Bob Ross’ happy little clouds are arguably the best example of how relaxing clouds can be…)

Chocolate Peppermint Cloud Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Today, I’m sharing the cake equivalent of a cloud.

My go-to dark chocolate cake, not-too-sweet and rich with fruity cocoa flavor, studded with peppermint bark chips is covered in the fluffiest dang frosting I have ever tasted.
It’s a vintage icing—colonnade frosting—it’s similar to a meringue, but with a greater amount of sugar syrup and a hit of powdered sugar added in at the end.
The result is a very stable frosting that is as light as a meringue but has as much body as a marshmallow; it develops a very slight crust after setting, but remains soft on the inside.
It’s quite sweet, so it is the perfect offset to the dark chocolate cake.
The cake is topped with a few spare pieces of peppermint bark.  The whole thing ends up being a very sophisticated, non-toothpastey version of a Junior Mint.

It feeds a crowd and it’s quite festive.
Little slivers with a cup of hot tea are a brilliant way to finish off a wintry night.

Chocolate Peppermint Cloud Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

A word on this (fantastic) frosting: it sets up rather quickly, and when it does, it becomes sticky and somewhat of a pain to work with—similar to marshmallows.
Thus, make the frosting only when you’re totally ready to finish the cake; this will decrease the likelihood of this irritation.
That being said, it’s still spreadable when it’s sticky, but it will not be smooth and shiny (see my photos—mine set up before I started with the swoops, so they look a little rough).

Chocolate Peppermint Cloud Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Peppermint not your thing?
Other Christmas/holiday posts as follows.

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

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

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

Chocolate Peppermint Cloud Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Chocolate Peppermint Cloud Cake
makes 1 3-layer 8-inch cake
cake portion adapted from Sweetapolita
frosting adapted from Joe Pastry

ingredients:
for the cake:
220 grams (1 3/4 cup) flour
400 grams (2 cups) sugar
90 grams (3/4 cup) cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs
240 grams (1 cup) hot coffee
240 grams (1 cup) buttermilk
112 grams (1/2 cup) vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup peppermint bark chunks or chips, plus extra for decorating

for the frosting:
600 grams (3 cups) sugar
155 grams (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) water
80 grams (4 tablespoons) corn syrup
4 egg whites
pinch cream of tartar
22 grams (7 tablespoons) powdered sugar

directions:
Make the cake: preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 3 8-inch round cake pans.
Place flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and baking powder, and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine.
Make 2 wells in the flour and pour the eggs, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla in one well; place the hot coffee in the other.
Whisk vigorously to combine the batter; it will be liquidy.
Stir in the peppermint bark chips.
Portion into the 3 pans and bake for 25 minutes, until a tester comes out with only a few crumbs.
Allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the frosting: place sugar, water, and corn syrup in a pot over medium heat.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer with the cream of tartar and whip on medium speed; whites should be at stiff peaks when the syrup reaches 240 degrees F, so increase or decrease speed as necessary.
Once the syrup reaches temperature, carefully pour into the egg whites while whipping at high speed.
Whip the meringue until cooled a little, then carefully add in the powdered sugar a little at a time.
Whip until fully incorporated, then stack and frost the cakes.
Move quickly, because the frosting sets fairly quickly.
Decorate with a few more chopped pieces of peppermint bark.