“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.”
Carl Sagan, Cosmos
“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.”
Carl Sagan, Cosmos
“Some tiny creature, mad with wrath, is coming nearer on the path.”
Every tick-tock is a second of life that passes by, that flees never to repeat itself.
And it holds such intensity, such interest that the only problem is knowing how to live.
May each person solve it as best they can.
“Toxic masculinity ruins the party again.”
Pour me plaindre ou m’aimer je ne cherche personne;
J’ai planté l’arbre amer dont la sève empoisonne.
Je savais, je devais savoir quel fruit affreux
Naît d’une ronce aride au piquant douloureux.
Je saigne. Je me tais. Je regarde sans larmes
Des yeux pour qui mes pleurs auraient de si doux charmes.
Dans le fond de mon coeur je renferme mon sort,
Et mon étonnement, et mes cris, et ma mort.
Oui ! Je veux bien mourir d’une flèche honteuse,
Mais sauvez-moi, mon Dieu ! De la pitié menteuse.
Oh ! La pitié qui ment ! Oh ! Les perfides bras
Valent moins qu’une tombe à l’abri des ingrats.
—Marceline Desbordes-Valmore, La Ronce
I’m not looking for anyone to pity or love me;
I planted the bitter tree with poisonous sap.
I knew—I had to have known—which frightful fruit
is born from a barren briar, painfully sharp.
I bleed. I am silent. I look tearlessly
into eyes for which my tears would be such sweet charms.
In the depths of my heart I enclose my plight,
And my astonishment, and my cries, and my death.
Yes ! I’d die of a shameful arrow,
But save me, my God ! From false pity.
Oh ! Pity that lies ! Oh ! Treacherous arms
Are worth less than a grave safe from the ungrateful.
What a dramatique way to open a blog post, non?!
Well it’s been long enough that a good entrée is needed.
July is closing, and we enter the dog days of summer now. It was a long, busy month, with travels both pleasant and unpleasant, and time spent with dear ones and not-so-dear ones.
Is this a subtweet in the form of a salty blog post? Maybe.
ANYWAYS, Nati and I had a lovely time in Québec at the beginning of the month: we went to Montréal and Québec City. Lucky for us it was right as a heatwave hit, so we didn’t get the relief from sticky city summer until it passed. Yech.
I am impatiently waiting for our disposable cameras to hurry up and get developed by now. I mean my god, it takes 3 weeks! Did you know that? What a terrible tease.
In spite of my incessant going on about sunscreen and sun protection, a course of antibiotics and a day on the Southampton beaches last weekend has me sporting a truly god-awful sunburnt/tanned back, with quite possibly the most ludicrous tan lines of my life.
Woe is me.
Finally, I am on the cusp of my third move in the last 2 months (Friday!).
So. Much. Mind. Numbing. Packing. I haven’t the slightest idea how all of this stuff fit in my old apartment. I’ve managed to tetris together all of my kitchen stuff into… 6-ish boxes.
Cake stands really take up a lot of room. My beloved KitchenAid will have to be hand-carried on the subway, since I am not packing that heavy beast into a flimsy cardboard box. Ha.
Today I’m sharing a simple summer cake, designed to bake quickly and highlight seasonal berries. It has a luscious, dense base made with brown sugar and yogurt, giving it a rich and balanced bite.
Brown sugar helps to retain some moisture, while giving a mild caramel flavor to the cake. A high ratio of butter means the edges crisp up in a fluted tart pan. The yogurt grounds everything with satisfying tang the way buttermilk would, but with more body.
Freeze-dried raspberries act as Nature’s sprinkles inside the cake, and the top is studded with fruits of those thorniest of briars: juicy fat blackberries and tart minxy raspberries.
A sprinkle of raw sugar and a quick spin round the oven, and a quick and easy and utterly delightful snacking cake is born.
I like to use a fluted tart pan here for those lush edges, but you could easily use a round one, or even perhaps an 8″x8″.
You can really adapt this recipe in a million and one different ways, all to good results as long as you follow ratios and temperature.
Other mix-ins that would be welcome could be the zest of a lemon and the juice of half of it alongside a half punnet or so of blueberries.
Some halved apricots on top and a handful of chopped pistachios in the batter would be wonderful as well.
I think you could make cherries or peaches work as well, as long as they weren’t too juicy.
I needn’t even say this, but chocolate chunks would also be lovely in this—and most any—recipe.
Brown Sugar and Yogurt Berry Cake
makes 1 loaf or 9-inch round single layer cake
250 grams (1 1/4 cups) brown sugar
142 grams (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons, 10 tablespoons) butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon salt
215 grams (7.5 ounces, 1 2/3 cup fluffed and spooned) flour
140 grams (5 ounces, 2/3 cup) plain yogurt
1 pint raspberries, picked over
1 pint blackberries, picked over
2 tablespoons crushed freeze-dried raspberries, optional
coarse sugar, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour a loaf pan or 9-inch round.
Place sugar, butter, and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Beat on high speed for 4 full minutes, until light and fluffy with no graininess left.
Add in the eggs one at a time, mixing for 30 seconds between each one to ensure they are incorporated fully.
Add in the flour in four portions and the yogurt in three; begin with the flour and alternate mixing the dry and wet.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix on low for 30 seconds to ensure homogeneity.
Spread half the batter into the prepared pan, then top with half of the fresh berries and the freeze-dried raspberries.
Spread the remaining batter on top, then decorate with the remaining fresh berries.
Sprinkle coarse sugar over top, if desired.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center comes out mostly clean and the inside registers 200 degrees F.
Allow to cool completely before cutting.
“You see, he was going for the Holy Grail. The boys all took a flier at the Holy Grail now and then. It was a several years’ cruise. They always put in the long absence snooping around, in the most conscientious way, though none of them had any idea where the Holy Grail really was, and I don’t think any of them actually expected to find it, or would have known what to do with it if he had run across it.”
― Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
June, June. My first month of funemployment.
Supposed to be relaxed, chilled out, not busy, etc. etc.
I left my job at Getty at the beginning of this month, with great aspirations to go to my yoga studio all the time and bake up a storm.
But as it turns out, three weeks go by impossibly fast when you have planned on making them go by slowly.
I already feel the familiar and childlike dread of summer, sweet summer, blowing by me.
We moved Nati out of his apartment this past week, which brings my tally of moves this summer to two.
I tell you truly, if I never had to move again it would be too soon.
The stress created and effort required by moving make me feel absolutely unlike myself. I’m glad to be done for now.
Next week, we’re embarking on a vacation to Québec, and I’m extremely excited to get out of the city and explore new places and foods. I haven’t been to Montréal in over five years, and I’ve never been to Québec City.
This cake recipe has supplanted my previous holy grail of a yellow cake, which was from Sky High (I do so love that cookbook!) and had reigned supreme for some years now.
It’s the Classic Birthday Cake, which is King Arthur Flour’s Recipe of the Year.
It’s truly excellent and easy to boot! A yellow cake with fudge frosting, which seems like it should be easy to pull off, but really, really isn’t.
It is totally suitable for beginner bakers and any celebration; after all, who doesn’t like yellow cake with chocolate frosting?!
Even Nati liked this cake, which is no small feat for a cake given his disinclination towards all sweets.
This cake combination is irresistibly classic.
The cake is moist and finely-crumbed; it slices perfectly and stores very well (it was still soft and scrumptious four days after having been baked and refrigerated).
The frosting whips up quickly and lump-free, thanks to the use of hot water to dissolve the cocoa. It has a rich fudgy flavor that balances out the base nicely without being overwhelmingly chocolaty.
The almond extract in the cake isn’t strictly necessary, but it adds an excellent nostalgic box-mix like flavor.
You can find the recipe for this cake over at King Arthur Flour.
They have it by volume, rather than weight, if that’s more your style.
I was provided with product and compensated for this post, in exchange for my honest and fair review. All opinions are my own. Bisous!
Classic Birthday Cake
makes 1 2×8-inch layer cake
recipe from King Arthur Flour
for the cake:
241g King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 large eggs, at room temperature
397g granulated sugar
14g vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract; optional, for enhanced flavor
227g milk (whole milk preferred)
57g butter, cut into pats
67g vegetable oil
To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 325°F with a rack in the center. Lightly grease two 8” x 2” or 9” x 2” round cake pans; for extra protection against sticking, line the bottom of the pans with parchment rounds (you can cut these yourself or use precut 8” or 9” rounds), and grease the parchment. If your 8” pans aren’t at least 2” deep, use 9” pans.
Weigh your flour or measure it by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess.
In a small bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, either using an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer with whisk attachment, beat the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and almond extract, if using, until thickened and light gold in color, about 2 minutes at medium-high speed. If your stand mixer doesn’t have a whisk attachment, beat for 5 minutes using the paddle attachment. The batter should fall in thick ribbons from the beaters, whisk, or paddle.
Add the dry ingredients to the mixture in the bowl and mix — by hand or on low speed of a mixer — just enough to combine. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, then mix again briefly, to fully incorporate any residual flour or sticky bits.
In a saucepan set over medium heat or in the microwave, bring the milk just to a simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter and oil, stirring by hand until the butter has melted.
Slowly mix the hot milk-butter-oil mixture into the batter, stirring on low speed of a mixer until everything is well combined. Scrape the bowl and mix briefly, just until smooth.
Divide the batter evenly between the two pans. You’ll use about 2 3/4 cups (about 580g) in each.
Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the top feels set, 26 to 30 minutes for two 9” pans, or 38 to 42 minutes for two 8” pans; a digital thermometer inserted into the center of the cakes should read 205°F. Remove the cakes from the oven, carefully loosen the edges, and allow them to cool for 15 minutes in the pans. Then turn them out of the pans and transfer them to a rack, right-side up, to cool to room temperature.
To make the frosting: In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer, stir together – by hand or mixer – the cocoa powder, 1 cup (113g) of the confectioners’ sugar, and the salt. Stir in the water and vanilla, scraping the bowl if necessary.
Add the butter and remaining confectioners’ sugar, stirring to combine. Using an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat the frosting at medium-high speed for 1 to 2 minutes, until lightened in color and fluffy, stopping halfway through to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl. When the frosting is ready, scoop out a bit on your spatula; does it seem nicely spreadable? If it’s too stiff, beat in water (1 teaspoon at a time) until it’s the consistency you want.
To assemble the cake: Place one of the cake layers on a serving plate; tuck pieces of waxed or parchment paper underneath the edge of the cake to keep the plate clean. Spread the bottom layer with about 1 cup of frosting, enough to make a 1/4” to 1/2”-thick layer. Center the second layer bottom-side up (for a flat top) over the frosted layer and press gently to set it in place.
If your schedule permits, place the cake in the refrigerator or freezer, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes (or up to 2 hours) to firm it up. This will make the layers less likely to slide around as you work, and the cake won’t shed crumbs as you frost. If you’re pressed for time, you can skip this step.
To finish the cake: For the best-looking cake, do the frosting in two steps. First, spread a very thin layer of frosting around the sides and across the top; this is called a crumb coat. You should be able to see the cake through the frosting in spots, it’s that thin. Refrigerate the cake for 20 minutes to let this layer set. Again, skip this step if time is a factor.
Once the cake is chilled, use the remaining frosting to coat it thoroughly and evenly. If you have any leftover frosting, you can use it to pipe decorations on the top and/or around the base.
Store the cake, covered, at room temperature, or in the refrigerator if your kitchen is hot. Let it come to room temperature before serving.
Storage information: The cake will keep at room temperature, covered with a cake cover, for up to three days; in the refrigerator, covered, for up to one week, or in the freezer, well wrapped, for up to one month.
The most essential factor is persistence—the determination never to allow your energy or enthusiasm to be dampened by the discouragement that must inevitably come.
James Whitcomb Riley
Happy 7th birthday, La Pêche Fraîche.
It’s hard to believe how quickly these years have flown by. I would very much like to slow down, please.
Another trip around the sun as a food blogger, complete.
It’s funny; I feel as though every year when this time comes around, my life is swirling up around me, the organic chaos of a thousand thousand petals in the wind.
I am such a creature of persistent habit, and I don’t really adapt well to change in my personal life.
I am awkward, and stiff, and as much yoga as I do, my heart does not bend fluidly when confronted with unfamiliar circumstances.
Right now, many of my loved ones are moving, and the feeling that the comforting geographic composition of my family is disappearing is making me anxious.
No matter if it is a goodbye or a see-you-later; neither have ever been my forte. And so, I am forlorn and a little lost.
At the same time, all I want to do is to be able to count a million blessings that I know I am lucky to have, to genuinely enjoy the coming of spring and summer, to appreciate being able to feel this deeply, to cherish a life so filled with vibrant emotion, to celebrate all the little sunshiney things that make my soul smile.
My brain is always a tumultuous dichotomy, and I only ever put it in words here, on this page. Sometimes the words don’t come, and what I publish is only a few staccato sentences about the weather and how busybusybusy I am.
La Pêche Fraîche’s content and identity is not precisely how it was intended, but it’s too late now to go back.
The blog grew up, into and through myself, and my sense of self grew around it.
The two are truly inextricable.
Anyways, thank you all for sticking around with me.
I am truly grateful every day for the opportunity to build and create in this space.
It holds an extremely special place in my heart and soul, and I hope you enjoy spending time here.
I have a tradition now of celebrating this day with a cake that is at least somewhat pink.
Making this cake was an absolute delight. It was the first recipe I made out of The Vanilla Bean Baking Book. It is Sarah’s basic yellow cake recipe, and I barely barely adapted it by subbing in full fat cream and vinegar for the buttermilk and sour cream. I do so like the softness that cream adds to the crumb of cakes.
The cake baked up neatly, solid but not dry, with a toothsome crumb and a fair balance between sweet, rich, and salty. The tops did dome in the oven, so I had to level them out. I didn’t mind as I was making a three tiered cake, but if you’re going for a 2×8”, it may be a tad shorter than you would expect.
It is a really solid, well-tested recipe.
It is great for beginners or those who are trying to convert from box mix as well!
After leveling the cakes, they are brushed with sticky, sweetened condensed milk and a few drops of amarena cherry syrup.
Stacking them all together is an Italian meringue buttercream, generously flavored with vanilla and another hit of amarena cherry syrup from my precious stash.
Since this was more of a sunset-washed cake rather than a precisely striped one, I just used a palette knife and a turntable and lazily layered up and blended the colors of frosting.
If you do want a more exact pattern, I suggest either using a cake comb and a small flat piping tip or a jumbo flat piping tip and piping out the stripes.
I always, always use a Wilton turntable, Americolor food coloring, and an Ateco palette knife.
I sourced the beautiful flowers for this cake in the Union Square greenmarket.
Lilacs in every shade, a glorious crowning peony, and brilliant corn flowers.
When I work with flowers, I generally layer up a large amount of frosting (here, I piped with a jumbo star tip) on top of the cake in order to anchor the flowers and also keep them from touching the actual eating-part of the cake.
I scrape off the layer before serving.
If you are working with flowers that you can’t absolutely confirm are organic and edible, I suggest you do the same to ensure that the flowers are not contaminating the food.
And thanks to a reader’s prompting (!) I also cannot fail to remind you to also wrap and seal the stems, especially if you are inserting them into a cake instead of laying them on top like in this cake. Never eat a flower that you’re not sure about, and always consult a medical professional when ingesting flowers/herbs.
Here, I have only used these for presentation, and they were taken off the cake quickly. If you want to leave them on longer or insert them or eat them, please use your best judgment and utilize professional guides and medical advice when attempting!
Six years / vegan coconut and chocolate cake
Five years / simple chocolate cake
Four years / eclectic chocolate cake
Three years / vanilla almond cake
Two years / malted milk birthday cake
One year / yikes
Yellow Cake with Cherry Buttercream
makes 1 3-layer 6-inch cake or 1 2-layer 8-inch cake
cake portion adapted from Sarah Kieffer’s The Vanilla Bean Baking Book
for the yellow cake:
3 large eggs
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
230 grams (1 cup) heavy cream
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
250 grams (2 cups) flour
300 grams (1.5 cups) sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
227 grams (2 sticks, 1 cup) butter, very soft at room temperature
for the cherry Italian meringue buttercream:
3 egg whites
150 grams (3/4 cup) sugar
45 grams (3 tablespoons) water
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
340 grams (3 sticks, 1 1/2 cups) butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
up to 1/2 cup amarena cherry syrup
red food coloring, as desired
sweetened condensed milk
extra cherry syrup, as desired
red food coloring, as desired
Make the cake: grease and flour 3 6-inch round pans very well.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Whisk eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, cream, and vinegar together and set aside.
Stir flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or a deep bowl.
Beginning by slowly stirring, add 1 piece of butter at a time.
The butter should be very soft and incorporate into a rough “paste” with the flour mixture.
Once you have added the last piece of butter, turn speed up to medium and slowly stream in wet ingredients, making sure they are wholly homogeneous.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix together for another 15 seconds to ensure homogeneity.
Portion batter out equally into the 3 prepared pans, and place in oven.
Bake for 22-28 minutes, until a tester comes out with only a few moist crumbs and the tops are golden and domed.
Remove and allow to cool in pans for 10 minutes, then flip onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
Once cakes are cooled, level off the domed tops as needed and set aside.
Meanwhile, prepare the frosting: place sugar, salt, and water into a pan over medium heat.
Begin to whip egg whites on high; once the sugar syrup comes to 240 degrees F, the egg whites should be at soft peaks.
Slowly stream the hot syrup into the whipping egg whites, being extremely careful to not splatter the syrup.
Whip on high speed until the meringue has cooled to close to room temperature (or fully room temp, if your butter is completely at room temp).
Add butter one piece at a time, whipping until fully combined.
Once frosting has come together fully, slowly add the cherry syrup one tablespoon at a time, fully incorporating after each addition.
Taste and adjust syrup, adding up to 1/2 cup, as desired.
Portion out frosting into 3 roughly equal bowls and tint to desired color with a drop or two of red food coloring.
Place first cake on cake stand; brush generously with sweetened condensed milk, then brush with a small amount of cherry syrup.
Layer frosting and then the next cake on top; repeat the brushing step.
Finish with the top layer, brushing this one with sweetened condensed milk as well.
Frost with a crumb coat, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, until the crumb coat is set.
Using the darkest color, layer a roughly even band around the bottom of the cake.
Wipe off spatula, then make the next band out of the lightest color.
Finish the last part of the sides and the top with the middle shade of frosting.
Using a turntable, begin to spin the cake and smooth the bands together, blurring the lines and creating a watercolor effect.
Once finished, place cake in fridge once more and fill a piping bag with the remaining frosting.
Pipe a thick layer of blobs/stars on top of the cake, particularly if using flowers, with the piping bag.
“Times certainly are sad and mad and from a scientific point of view so utterly unnecessary.”
Times have been mad, indeed. I have fallen right off of the face of the internet.
I abandoned Instagram almost entirely this past month and a half. I’m averaging less than an hour on it weekly.
This resulted in a loss of 100 followers (gasp!), but I really can’t say that I care deeply about that.
Digital detoxes are healthy, if only to remind yourself not to seek validation solely from internet points.
It’s hard given its ubiquity.
I sympathize with the generation who will grow up with it from elementary school onwards. My peers and I are addicted enough as is, and smartphones only came out when we were already middle schoolers.
I also find it easier and easier to put away my phone since I have come to be in a happy relationship again.
Obviously, being busy at work helps during the day, but in the evenings I am far less tempted to veg out with my little screen in front of me (instead we veg out together with a bigger screen, duh).
Lately the vegging has been almost all basketball, with Sundays dedicated to our HBO shows.
Predictably, the final season of GoT has caused me to begin re-reading the books for the nth time.
My social media presence has been reduced to sullenly lurking on the r/asoiaf sub.
Lemon bars and lemon tarts are by far my favorite dessert (other than pavlova, I suppose. They are tied for first.), and these are just the ticket for welcoming in spring while still enjoying the last of the winter citrus.
Turns out that meyer lemons are actually a blend between citron, mandarin, and pummelo, not just a cross between lemons and oranges. These happy, sunshiney bars are bright with their juice.
The filling is firm without becoming congealed (too much starch will tend to do that) or cracking (too many eggs will tend to do that).
The zest of two entire lemons makes them not only intoxicatingly fragrant with the honeyed, almost floral fragrance of the lemons but also bracingly tart.
A thin, crisp base with lots of butter balances the bars out perfectly.
This recipe was super lightly adapted from Cook’s Illustrated’s Lemoniest Lemon Bars. I absolutely adore using their recipes when I have no others in my past arsenal. In no other place can you find such thoughtful and meticulous recipes and directions.
Some tips on getting the 90-degree bars your heart truly desires:
make sure your foil sling fully covers all the edges of your pan
adding a very light layer of grease to the sling will keep the edges crisp
allow the bars to cool completely in the pan (this takes hours!)
clean your knife entirely between cuts (and by entirely, I mean fully wash and dry it)
if you’re really concerned with clean cuts, chill the bars down fully in the fridge and then warm up your knife using hot water
You can make these in an 8×8 or 9×9 inch pan; here I’ve used 9×9″.
And a quick note, if you have any interest in food history and haven’t read this fascinating article about Frank Meyer, the intrepid, plant-obsessed, “agricultural explorer,” you should.
“[It] often seems that we do not live ourselves any longer but that we are being lived. Uncontrollable forces seem to be at work among humanity and final results, or possibly purposes, are not being revealed as yet, that is, for so far as I can look into this whole titanic cataclysm.”
Meyer Lemon Bars
barely adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
makes 1 8×8″ or 9×9″ pan of bars
for the crust:
140 grams (1 cup) AP flour
50 grams (1/4 cup) sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
113 grams (8 tablespoons) butter, melted
for the filling:
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
15 grams (2 tablespoons) AP flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs plus 3 egg yolks
zest of 2 meyer lemons
175 grams (2/3 cup + 1 tablespoon) lemon juice (from about 2 meyer lemons + 2 regular lemons)
55 grams (4 tablespoons) butter, cut into small pieces
powdered sugar, if desired
Make a foil sling (going both directions) for the pan.
Very lightly grease the sling, using butter or spray oil.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Make the crust: whisk flour, sugar, and salt together in a large bowl.
Stir butter in until mixture clumps.
Press into prepared pan in an even layer.
Bake in oven until golden, about 20 minutes; rotate pan after 10 minutes.
Make the filling: in the same bowl used for the crust, whisk sugar, flour, and salt together.
Whisk in eggs and yolks vigorously, until all the dry ingredients are fully incorporated with the egg.
Whisk in lemon zest.
Slowly whisk in lemon juice until fully incorporated.
Place in saucepan over medium-low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture reaches 160 degrees F (71 degrees C), about 5-6 minutes.
Stir in butter vigorously until the butter is melted and mixture is homogenous.
Strain through fine metal sieve.
Pour filling over crust and gently shake pan until the filling is evenly spread.
Bake until the filling is set and barely jiggles when pan is shaken, about 10 minutes (start checking just shy of 9 minutes).
Allow bars to cool completely, at least 1.5 hours and more likely up to 2.5 hours.
Lift bars out with foil sling, dust with powdered sugar, if desired, and using a sharp knife, cut into bars (it helps to wipe the knife thoroughly between cuts).
It looks ugly, but it’s clean.
Oh momma, don’t fuss over me.
The way she tells me I’m hers and she is mine;
open hand or closed fist would be fine.
Blood is rare and sweet as cherry wine.
3.14: happy pi(e) day!
I was gifted two absolutely beautiful ceramic jars last year, and each contained treasure.
One is printed with bright red strawberries; the other with intricate royal blue patterns.
I have been trying to think of what to do with each of them for months now. They seemed too precious to crack open without a plan.
Every time I opened my cupboard, my eyes alighted on the jars, but I still couldn’t decide.
Finally, I decided to use the blue jar to help celebrate this faux, food holiday.
I straight up could NOT open it. I used a rubber band, I used a shirt, I heated up the cap with hot water and tried. I was sweating and swearing and very put out.
So I put the jar down and walked away, disgruntled. I watched some Mari Kondo (that show heals me spiritually).
I gave it one more try and pop! it opened.
Inside were the most fragrant cherries, slightly boozy and mesmerizingly black.
I fished one out to try it—the almond flavor was pleasantly strong and complimented the slightly bitter cherries perfectly.
Definitely worth the struggle.
They were no ordinary cherries; they were Amarena cherries, from the historic Italian company, Fabbri.
The company is 114 years old, and was started by Gennaro Fabbri as a distillery.
The cherry recipe was his wife Rachele’s: there was a wild black cherry orchard near the store in the small Emilia Romagna town of Portomaggiore. She picked and slowly cooked and candied them in syrup.
The cherries were so delicious and precious that Gennaro bought an intricate ceramic jar from Riccardo Gatti, an artist from Faenza, for his wife to store them.
Since then, Amarena cherries have remained popular and are still made of wild black cherries and sold in the iconic white and blue jars.
While not necessary to make a delicious cherry pie, the luxurious addition of these cherries really is lovely.
I also love to have a piece of history in my kitchen; I will keep the gorgeous jars for flowers and my own preserves.
I adore the combination of cherry and chocolate (an especially classic way to use Amarena cherries), but I wanted to have a baked pie rather than a chocolate cream one.
I’d never made a black bottom pie, so I set my heart on creating one.
To make a black bottom pie, a thick layer of rich dark chocolate ganache is spread over the bottom crust.
For the filling, sweet black cherries are combined with Amarena cherries, demerara sugar, and tapioca starch.
The glossy cherries tumble over the ganache, and a tight-woven lattice blankets all.
After baking, though it loses some shapeliness, the crust becomes shatteringly crisp and the filling marries with the chocolate at the bottom.
The cherries are round and juicy without being messy and rolling around willy-nilly.
The slicing of this pie is rather easy and clean thanks to the ganache, which keeps the bottom crust together and allows for laughably easy transfer to a plate (a moment I usually attempt with breath bated and a single drop of sweat rolling down my temple).
The combination of flavors and textures is heavenly, and almost naughtily rich.
It would be devilishly good with a scoop of vanilla
ice cream gelato.
I still have a large portion of Amarena cherries left, and I believe a black forest cake is in my future.
A few tips on this pie (and others):
Using a thermometer can really improve your pies. It gives you a sense of certainty and takes some of the scary guesswork out of pies.
I like glass pans or dark metal pans; I don’t use ceramic pans often.
I baked this pie in a 9.5 inch pan, and it resulted in crisp, thin dough. This was definitely not the most stress-free way to make the pie, since it requires rolling out the dough very thinly and may seem like you don’t have enough to stretch to fit. It also makes the dough more likely to snap back (see the below picture to see where shrinkage happened). If the idea of all of this stresses you out, just use a 9-inch pie pan.
Stella Parks has discussed why she prefers tapioca start for pies, and I fully agree. In fact, for the vast majority of pies I bake, I use tapioca starch (and sometimes a tablespoon of flour). It’s unobtrusive in flavor and predictable in behavior. Plus, I just sub it in for cornstarch in almost every recipe where cornstarch is called for.
2018: plum and frangipane pie
2017: perfect peach pie
2016: pumpkin meringue tart
2015: apple, pear, butterscotch, and cheddar pie
2015: fig, rosemary, and lemon tart
2014: coconut buttermilk chess pie
2014: peach slab pie
2014: American pie
2013: Pumpkin spice brown butter chocolate pecan pie
P.S. Because I vowed to share this silliness every year on this day:
Cosine, secant, tangent, sine,
Three point one four one five nine,
Square root, cube root, BTU,
Sequence, series, limits too.
Themistocles, Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War,
X squared, Y squared, H2SO4.
Who for? What for? Who we gonna yell for?
Logarithm, biorhythm, entropy, kinetics,
MPC, GNP, bioenergetics!
Maximize and integrate, titrate and equilibrate—
—Very Unofficial UChicago football cheer
(And apparently also shared among other famously nerdy schools? Who knows where this even came from?)
Black Bottom Cherry Pie
gently adapted from the brilliant Stella Parks
makes 1 9-inch or 9.5-inch pie
for the crust:
225 grams (1 2/3 cups) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon (4 grams) sea salt
225 grams (2 sticks, 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cold
120 grams (1/2 cup) cold tap water
for the filling:
115 grams (4 ounces) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
60 grams (1/4 cup) heavy cream
790 grams (28 ounces, 5 heaping cups) pitted cherries
50 grams (1/3 cup) amarena cherries, drained
200 grams (1 cup, 7 ounces) demerara sugar
3/8 teaspoon sea salt
40 grams (1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon) tapioca starch
1 large egg
1 tablespoon heavy cream
Make the dough: stir flour, sugar, and salt together in a large bowl.
Cut butter into cubes, and toss with dry ingredient mixture.
Smush each cube flat by pinching it.
Stir in the water, then knead dough gently until it comes together in a shaggy ball.
(Stella notes that the dough temperature should register between 65 and 70 degrees F; refrigerate if it’s warmer.)
Roll dough into a rectangle.
Do a double book fold: imagine a line that divides the rectangle in half, then fold over each side to meet there (i.e. fold in quarters, with the edges meeting in the middle).
Fold over the two leaves to get another rectangle.
Roll the rectangle out once more, and repeat the double book fold.
Divide in half.
Roll out one half into a 12-14 inch circle, then transfer to a pie plate and refrigerate (it’s okay if the sides hang over).
Roll out the other half into a large rectangle, then use a pie or pizza cutter to cut thin, even strips. Refrigerate until assembly.
Make the ganache: place chopped chocolate and heavy cream in a small bowl.
Microwave for 15 second intervals until mostly melted; whisk together until shiny and smooth.
Allow to cool slightly while you prepare the filling.
Stir cherries, amarena cherries, sugar, salt, and tapioca starch together.
Smooth the ganache into an even layer over the bottom of the chilled crust.
Scrape the cherry filling into the prepared bottom pie shell.
Trim edges and crimp as desired.
Top with lattice strips, weaving to make a tight pattern.
Refrigerate and preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Whisk egg and cream together.
Brush over chilled top crust.
Place pie on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet.
Bake until crust is golden, about 1 hour.
Tent with foil as necessary to prevent burning.
Continue baking until filling is bubbling, about 15 minutes more. (Stella notes that you should bake until pie reaches an internal temperature of 213 degrees F on a digital thermometer.)
Cool pie until no warmer than 85 degrees F on a digital thermometer, about 3 hours depending on the type of pie plate (at higher temperatures, filling will be runny and thin).
I love you also means I love you more than anyone loves you, or has loved you, or will love you,
and also, I love you in a way that no one loves you, or has loved you, or will love you,
and also, I love you in a way that I love no one else, and never have loved anyone else,
and never will love anyone else.
Jonathan Safran Foer
Happy lovers’ day, dear readers.
I do adore Valentine’s day.
How wonderful to have a day set aside expressly to celebrate love, especially in the doldrums of winter?
Even last year, after posting about what felt like my irreparable broken heart in late January, I was still happily baking for the holiday, and enthusiastically celebrating it.
As a child, Valentine’s was always exciting; I remember one year hand-carving linoleum stamps with my mama to print cards to give to my classmates alongside a little piece of candy.
Somehow v-day candy was more exciting than Halloween candy. I suppose I’ve always been a sucker for pink.
This year, my heart feels more full of love than ever. It is like a fat, happy cat lazing about in contentment within me, purring and basking in the warm glow of joy.
How lucky and blessed I feel for all the relationships around me.
I surely must have done something right in a past life.
Remember that today is not necessarily about romantic love, or even platonic. Self-love is an extra-good thing to practice today, whether you’re in a relationship or not.
Have a bath, or a glass of wine/whiskey/kombucha, or a Real Housewives marathon. Have an extra slice of delicious cake.
(The latter can only make your pants hug you even tighter, and they deserve love too, right?)
This sweet little cake has a base of buttery, vanilla-almond funfetti cake, soft and moist without being dense or heavy.
Sandwiched between each layer is a sliver of sweet, sugary marzipan, and the cake is frosted with a salted tahini icing.
The tahini provides a slight bitter nuttiness and the salt balances the sweetness handily.
I used large heart sprinkles inside the cake, and a Wilton cakes mold to create the bauble border.
I always use Americolor for red/pink food coloring.
I realize that I frequently use marzipan for my Valentine’s treats.
I’m not exactly sure why, but there’s something about a lightly sweet almond and vanilla dessert that is awfully romantic to me. It’s my answer to the chocolate overload of the holiday, I suppose.
Anyway, I hope you get the desserts you want (or don’t want) today. And if you don’t like the holiday, I assure you that this recipe is a cake for any celebration!
Valentine’s Day, previously:
La la la la la la, la la la la la la
My cherie amour, lovely as a summer day
My cherie amour, distant as the milky way
My cherie amour, pretty little one that I adore
You’re the only girl my heart beats for
How I wish that you were mine…
Funfetti Cake with Marzipan and Salted Tahini Frosting
makes 1 3×6-inch cake
for the funfetti cake:
180 grams (1.5 cups) AP flour
20 grams (3 tablespoons) cornstarch
260 grams (1 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon) sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
130 grams (4.5 ounces) butter, soft and cut into pieces
180 grams (3/4 cup) almond milk
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
sprinkles, as desired
for the salted tahini buttercream:
200 grams (1 3/4 stick, 14 tablespoons) butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
300 grams (just shy of 3 cups) powdered sugar, sifted
55 grams (1/4 cup) tahini
drop red food coloring, if desired
200 grams (7 ounces) marzipan
red food coloring
powdered sugar, as needed
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 3 6-inch round pans.
Mix flour, cornstarch, sugar, salt, and baking powder together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Add in the softened, cubed butter one piece at a time at a low speed until the mixture looks like sand and the butter is fully incorporated.
Whisk the almond milk, eggs, and vanilla extract together, then slowly pour into the batter with the mixer running.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and beat on high speed for 30 seconds to ensure homogeneity.
Stir in sprinkles gently.
Portion batter equally into the prepared pans.
Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until the cakes are golden and the tops spring back to the touch.
Cool completely on a rack.
Before assembling the cake, tint your marzipan red: using gloves or a sheet of plastic wrap, incorporate red food coloring by kneading and stretching the marzipan.
Add powdered sugar to your hands as needed to prevent sticking.
Shape the marzipan into a border (I used a mold) and letters for the top of the cake.
Use the remaining marzipan to roll into 2 5.5-inch diameter disks for between the layers.
Carefully and lightly cover with a sheet of fresh plastic wrap and set aside.
To make the frosting, whip butter and salt on high speed for at least 5 minutes, until super fluffy (doubled in volume) and shiny.
Sift in powdered sugar and slowly stir, increasing speed once the sugar is mostly incorporated.
Slowly drizzle in tahini, whipping on high speed, then allow mixer to whip for about 3 minutes, until the frosting is very light and fluffy.
Frosting will be a very pale beige.
Set aside a small amount (3 tablespoons) to add little stars to the top of the cake later.
Add a single drop of red food coloring (or pink) to the rest of the frosting to tint it a light shade of pink.
Place the first cake layer on a plate, then top with a small amount of frosting, one of the marzipan disks, and then the next cake layer.
Repeat with remaining layers.
Crumb coat with about 2/3 cup of frosting, then refrigerate the cake for at least 30 minutes.
Finish the cake with the remaining frosting, then refrigerate for 10 minutes.
Decorate the top with the red marzipan baubles and add little decorations on the top with the reserved white/beige frosting.
Serve cake at room temperature.