“Some tiny creature, mad with wrath, is coming nearer on the path.”
“Some tiny creature, mad with wrath, is coming nearer on the path.”
“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.
“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).
The evening sings in a voice of amber, the dawn is surely coming.
I’m glad to no longer be living in the Midwest this week.
The last time the Polar Vortex flew through, ripping rents through cozy winter scenes, was in 2014, when I was a freshman at UChicago.
It was right after my grandfather had passed, and I remember the dark chill running deeper in my life than just the winds outdoors.
Back then, I made my first pavlova, light and lemony and so very sunny, to counteract the cold.
I actually wrote and created a lot, to keep myself busy.
These days, in New York, it’s been cold as well. Today, it’s 10 degrees F.
I won’t be too dramatic about that given that my friends back in Chicago are suffering -9 degrees F, which probably feels balmy compared to what they’ve had in the last stretch of days.
I rather like to stay inside, cozied up with a good TV show, a warmed up cinnamon scroll, and my love.
Alas, work has been calling, and calling, and calling.
I am so worn down from my job (remember a few months back, when I claimed everything was going to be happy-busy-busy-happy? Um… I was wrong. It’s more like busy-busy-busy-patently unhappy), I feel like my entire perspective on it has changed. It has taken so much of my mental energy, protruding further into my brain space that it has any wont to.
I haven’t been on this page in a long, long stretch, and it is almost entirely due to work.
Not that I don’t have time here and there to eke out a post, but that my fingers are weary of typing, and my eyes are tired of staring at blue screens.
My oven hasn’t been turned on in ages. A dark chill in my life, indeed.
These craggy cookies are one of the best winter cookies I could ever imagine.
They are supremely chewy, thanks to a heavy hand of molasses and a slight underbaking; they stay soft for days due to these same methods.
No spices here—they’re not gingerbread cookies. They are truly pure molasses cookies.
They taste of browned butter, slightly nutty and very rich.
The molasses provides a deep, almost bitter caramel flavor, and a light touch of vanilla is really the only other flavor they need.
I implore you to make these. You don’t even have to wait for your butter to soften! Just throw it in a pan and watch it burble away happily.
I will be back soon.
I can’t miss Valentine’s day. It’s one of my very favorite holidays for baking and creating.
Brown Butter Molasses Cookies
makes 16 large cookies
200 grams (14 tablespoons; 1 3/4 sticks) butter
450 grams (2 1/4 cup) sugar
100 grams (5 tablespoons) molasses
255 grams (2 cups plus 2 tablespoons) AP flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Brown butter in a pan: melt butter over medium heat, then stir while cooking until the butter foams, the foam subsides, and then the bits at the bottom turn golden brown and the butter itself is deepening in color.
Pour butter into a bowl; allow to cool while you prepare the other ingredients.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Stir sugar with molasses vigorously until the mixture is uniformly caramel in color.
Set aside 1/2 cup of this mixture in a shallow bowl, pan, or rimmed plate.
Pour the rest of the sugar and molasses mixture into the cooled brown butter and whisk until combined.
Add the egg and the egg yolk and the vanilla; mix until lighter in color and fluffier, about 1 minute.
Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt and stir together until homogeneous, about 1 minute.
Scoop out 1/3 cup balls and roll between your palms to create smooth balls.
Drop into the remaining sugar and roll around to coat.
Place onto prepared pans with about 2 inches between each one.
Bake for 11 minutes, until puffed and golden on edges.
Remove from oven, drop pan on stovetop or oven rack once to deflate the cookies, then allow to cool for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
I FOUND you and I lost you,
All on a gleaming day.
The day was filled with sunshine,
And the land was full of May.
A golden bird was singing
Its melody divine,
I found you and I loved you,
And all the world was mine.
I found you and I lost you,
All on a golden day,
But when I dream of you, dear,
It is always brimming May.
Paul Laurence Dunbar
LONG TIME NO TALK.
I never expect to be gone as long as I am… I do find that sometimes it’s hard to sit down and write, as much as I want to. Gone are the days of free-flowing writing. They have been gone for a good, long while, actually.
I used to write poetry, jotting down notes every time a line or two came to me. Now, it all feels forced and terribly childish. I can’t bear to let myself alone with a thesaurus, for fear of everything reading like a middle schooler’s first essay.
In fact, the more I try to write, the more likely that the words won’t come, an inverse relationship that leaves me staring at a blinking cursor between pictures of cake.
Still, might as well give it my best shot.
May is quite the mixed month in my life.
Every year, a new, complicated layer seems to be spread over the top. It is hopeless to try to keep up with all of the different dates, but the whole month is permeated with emotions from each event.
May is (one of) my brother’s birthday month.
It is the month when a close family friend passed from here to the infinite.
It was my last class as a college student.
It was an anniversary, and now it isn’t.
It brims with spring and the promise of warmth.
It marks another year of this blog.
This is the first May in all my 22 years that does not demarcate a major change in scenery and activity for me. That is to say, I will keep working, I will stay in the same apartment, etc., etc., just in shorter skirts and fewer jackets.
There are no internships nor summer vacation for adults. I won’t be graduating or going to camp or home for an extended stay.
It is curious to feel static and still sense summer swelling.
Anyways. Abrupt change to cake because there’s nothing that really connects it to ~musings of May~.
This cake. I mean, dang. Couldn’t you just faceplant into those swoops and swirls of Nutella buttercream (because I could)?
It’s a banana snack cake, super moist with the addition of sour cream. The edges are slightly crisp from the high fat content, and the center is comfortingly squidgey and dense.
A great pile of Nutella buttercream, fluffy and heavily salted to cut the sweetness, is spread on top, without overmuch worry about it being perfectly smooth.
A pinch (or two) of sprinkles, and you have a happy snacking cake, easy to make, transport, and eat.
This is a good one to keep in your back pocket, folks.
Banana and Nutella are both total crowd pleasers, and for good reason.
(And now I am thinking about banana and Nutella crepes…)
The Ultimate Chocolate Cake
Raspberry White Chocolate and Nutella Éclairs
Assorted Cupcakes I and
Assorted Cupcakes II
Mocha Cake with Nutella Italian Meringue Buttercream
Maple Banana Cake
Banana Cake with Almond Dacquoise, Coffee Pastry Cream, and Chocolate Meringue Buttercream (AKA this girl’s 22nd birthday cake)
Roasted Banana and Salted Chocolate Cupcakes
Classic Banana Cake with Speculoos Glaze
Tropical Coconut Banana Cake
Vegan Banana Muffins
Banana Snack Cake with Nutella Frosting
cake portion adapted from Food52/ButterYum
makes 1 8″x8″ or 9″x9″ cake
for the cake:
130 grams (2/3 cup) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
120 grams (1/2 cup) sour cream
30 grams (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup (about 3 small or 2 large) overripe bananas, mashed
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
120 grams (1 cup) flour
for the frosting:
113 grams (8 tablespoons, 1/2 cup) butter, softened
75 grams (1/2 cup) Nutella
30 grams (1/4 cup) cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
350 grams (2.5 cups) powdered sugar, as needed
30-60 grams (2-4 tablespoons) half-and-half or milk, as needed
sprinkles, if desired
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour an 8″x8″ or 9×9″ pan liberally.
Cream butter, sugar, salt, and egg together until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
Stir in the sour cream and mashed bananas until about halfway incorporated.
Add the flour and baking soda and stir well to combine, scraping the sides of the bowl.
Spread batter into prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a tester comes out with a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool completely.
To make the frosting: whip butter on high speed for 3 minutes, or until very fluffy and light.
Add in Nutella and salt and whip for another 2 minutes.
Add in the powdered sugar 1/4 cup at a time, stirring slowly and increasing speed after each addition.
Add in the milk or half-and-half 1 tablespoon at a time; whip frosting between additions until the spreadability and consistency of the frosting are to your liking (this can vary enormously depending on the humidity and heat of your kitchen).
Spread frosting thickly over cooled cake, and top with sprinkles as desired.
“When I’m worried
and cannot sleep
I count my blessings
instead of sheep.”
We had our first snow here in New York City this past Saturday.
I was out traipsing around with my girlfriends, dressed as a reindeer, painted-on nose and all.
Yes, I tried valiantly to rally for Santacon, a (somewhat perverse) day before Christmas when millennials around Manhattan put on Santa costumes and drink during the few December daylight hours. It’s only a little embarrassing when everyone else is doing it, but it is hugely disruptive and not quite family-friendly.
Let’s just say it didn’t exactly suit my vibe. But at least I tried! I ended the day tucked into bed in my pajamas with pumpkin sushi, tipsily facetiming my best friend. I guess I can chalk that up to a win.
(By the way: pumpkin tempura sushi is SO much better than sweet potato tempura sushi. Don’t @ me.)
P.S. If you have a few moments, please consider voting for my cookies in the Bob’s Red Mill x FeedFeed contest going on here!
Today, I’m sharing the first of multiple Christmas/holiday posts.
These chocolate orange linzer cookies are the perfect addition to your cookie boxes!
To make these, fluted rounds of dark chocolate almond dough, fragrant and buttery, are dusted with powdered sugar and sandwiched together with tart, slightly bitter orange marmalade. It’s one of my absolute favorite flavor combinations, with a perfect balance of complex flavors (and none too sweet).
If you’re at all a fan of orangettes, which are candied orange peel dipped in dark chocolate, you will love these cookies! They are a fun take on traditional Linzer cookies.
This recipe makes 16 cookies; I tend to scale recipes to fit the number of cookie boxes I intend on preparing; I would likely double this recipe and save any leftovers for my family.
Top tip for gifting sweets: make like Sesame Street and count!
Count while choosing your recipes; count while buying your boxes; count while cutting/portioning your dough; count when they come out of the oven and count when they are decorated.
It really helps, especially when you’re making many types of cookies.
Tried and true recipes from Christmases past:
My pride and joy, the most elaborate cake on the blog: la souche de Noël.
Golden and gleaming, an almond and orange spice cake.
A classic: red velvet with a winter woodland theme.
The fluffiest of cakes, a chocolate and peppermint cake with marshmallow frosting.
Oldie but a goodie: chocolate buttermilk cupcakes with peppermint buttercream.
Super intricate and crunchy maple and black pepper gingersnaps.
Luster-dust highlighted sugar cookie Christmas trees.
Festive eggnog sugar cookies, decorated with royal icing and sprinkles.
Twists on the classic: honey spice and dark chocolate sugar cookies, perfect for cutting into shapes.
Pepparkakor with lemon royal icing, decorated with mehndi-inspired swirls.
Chocolate peppermint macarons… Finnicky little buggers.
Classic Linzer cookies with different fillings.
Maple, nutmeg, and rye sugar cookies, dressed all in winter white.
Chocolate, sour cherry, and coconut cookies; grapefruit butter cookies; and dark chocolate pecan snowcaps, all crammed into one post.
Cinnamon toast crunch marshmallow treats, chocolate peppermint shortbread, Russian teacakes, 5-spice snickerdoodles, another post bursting with recipes.
Whimsical peppermint marshmallow ropes; not cookies per se, but great for gifting.
Chocolate Orange Linzer Cookies
makes 16 cookies
for the chocolate cookies:
170 grams (3/4 cup, 1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
¼ teaspoon (or to taste) kosher salt
100 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
80 grams (3/4 cup) almond flour or almond meal
90 grams (3/4 cup) all-purpose flour
30 grams (1/4 cup) cocoa powder
Make the cookies: beat butter on high speed with the kosher salt and granulated sugar for a full 5 minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in the egg; beat for another full 4 minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in the almond flour, flour, and cocoa powder.
Gently stir the dough together until homogeneous.
Gather into a ball and wrap with plastic wrap.
Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes and up to one night.
If the dough is fully chilled, allow it to warm up until pliable.
Roll out to ¼ inch thickness on a well-floured surface.
Cut out 32 circles; cut smaller circles in the center of 16 of the cookies.
You can gather the scraps and re-roll as necessary.
Place onto parchment lined baking sheets and freeze until solid, at least 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Bake cookies (straight from the freezer) for 10 minutes, or until fragrant and the edges are crisping up.
Allow to cool completely.
Place the cookies with holes aside and dust them with powdered sugar.
Place a half-teaspoon of marmalade onto the bottom halves and then sandwich together.
To live is the rarest thing in the world.
Most people just exist.
I have been trying my best to feel lucky and blessed as I welcome in September and fall this week, as so many have suffered so much at the hands of hurricane season already.
I hope all of you, your loved ones, and your far-flung, little-known Facebook friends are safe and dry in the wake of Harvey/Irma.
The images and videos splashed across the television could only be described as living nightmares; I can’t fathom what it is like to have it happen to you. I am deeply impressed and moved by people like Dana from Minimalist Baker and Miley Cyrus (boy that feels strange to say) who went to work using their platforms to do good in the immediate aftermath of the storm.
There do exist good people, after all.
This photo reminder of Sandy from National Geographic is humbling.
It stopped me in my tracks. It looks like a tumblr-shopped photo that would have some dreamy teenage quote scrawled across the turquoise waters in white script. Or from a different lens, a still from a horror movie about a mysterious, flooded amusement park.
What I mean to say is that it doesn’t look real.
And when you realize that it is all too real, that these really are our coasts swallowed by our angry seas—that this alternate universe is the one we’re living in, not a photoshopped dimension nor a movie set—it is the most pin-prickling sensation of all.
I can’t stop staring at that photograph.
Yes, September is here. 2017 lumbers towards its final quarter and autumn approaches.
The gingko trees outside my gym have been absolutely crowing about it for the last week and a half, daintily dropping canary-colored leaves, proud to be the first harbingers.
They don’t know, but marketers—frantic from huffing their pumpkin spice—had them beat, what with orangey, latte-scented everything having been regurgitated onto seemingly every store shelf before Labor Day.
I picked up a little coffee colored candle from the heady essential oil slick that is the Whole Body section of Whole Foods the other day. It smelled so, so good. And I turned it around, and I am ashamed to admit that it was just a bougie pumpkin spice latte candle. I quickly put it down, label facing away, and walked away before anyone saw my guilty enjoyment. Ha!
I am accustomed to the smell of cool, crisp fall nights, the kind that allow you to throw windows open and burrow under covers and dream deeply. It is part of what makes this season my very favorite.
It is still early, of course, but I have discovered that this pleasure of mine will not be so while living in my New York apartment and in my current headspace.
I sleep uneasily in my little bedroom perfumed with bergamot and Bleu de Chanel, my air-conditioner whirring and faint clangs of the pizza shop downstairs and bleating horns from the street very gently punctuating the quiet.
It is my space, and it is clean and comfortable and well cared-for.
Yet somehow, it is still foreign.
It is not unfamiliar in a sterile way, like a hotel might be, nor is it unsettling like a stranger’s home.
Certainly, it is a part of me—I labored to build every little detail, and my fingerprints and errant DNA are smeared everywhere.
I live here. Permanently. As in, I’m not going back to school; I’m not a student anymore.
I’m not going back home; I am, in theory, not a child anymore.
Accepting this is mostly passive, because it is not constantly on my mind.
But when I do brood on it, I am confronted with a new piece of myself that is as strange as looking in the mirror and seeing a different colored pair of eyes blinking back at you.
Who am I, if not the person I was before I came here?
What will autumn bring me, if not the frosty fresh scent of the morning?
Summer hasn’t kicked the can just yet, however.
I can still find excellent peaches easily, although the blushing plums have truly come into their prime and the apples are peeking around the corner.
Finding a perfect ripe juicy peach is rare, even in the heart of the summer. You know when you’ve found the platonic ideal, and you’re lucky if 1) you’re eating it straight up and 2) you get more than one in a season. The beauty of peach pie is that a few bruises on your peaches don’t make a difference whatsoever, as long as the peaches themselves are juicy and plump.
This pie baked up gorgeously. I am (not really) sorry for the slew of excess photos. I have just wholesale bought into the instagram trend of unbaked, prettily decorated pies of the last year and a half.
There is something irresistible about the juxtaposition of a rustic, jammy pie and delicate flowers, braids, and lattices. (Just ask elleventy or Julie…! Pie masters.)
A perfect peach pie needs little other than a squeeze of something bright and acidic, a light sprinkle of zest and sugar, a pinch of salt, and a spoonful or two of a thickener.
Here, I went with lemon juice and zest, good ol’ granulated sugar, and tapioca starch. It would be magical to substitute brown sugar or coconut sugar, for a hint of molasses, and you could easily swap out actual tapioca if you like the texture, or flour or corn starch if that’s what you have on hand.
The two tricks to a good fruit pie are making a solid crust and not overthinking the filling.
This crust is very easy to work with and makes a bit more than is needed for a double crust pie—this is to accommodate any and all decorations your heart desires.
I wanted lattices of varying widths, interwoven with braids, topped with leaves/flora.
I did not have a leaf cutter.
So, (spoiler warning) I used a baby chick cutter and added veins with a knife. Once you see it, you can’t unsee it.
P.S. Friday was my grandma’s birthday (although she refuses to celebrate birthdays anymore), so shout out to the number one fan of this blog! Love ya grandma.
(I should probably remake this cake that I made in honor of her birthday, since it was so delicious and rich and since it has been so long since I made anything mochi!)
I have done nothing all summer
but wait for myself
to be myself again.
Perfect Peach Pie
makes 1 10-inch double-crusted pie
for the crust:
438 grams (3 1/2 cups, plus 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon) flour
40 grams (3 tablespoons) sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt (or 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt)
340 grams (3 sticks, 1 1/2 cups) butter, cold and in chunks
14 grams (1 tablespoon) shortening (or more butter)
106 grams (7 tablespoons) water, ice cold
for the filling:
2 1/2 pounds (1.1 kg) peaches (about 8-9 medium)
150 grams (3/4 cup) sugar, or to taste
big pinch salt
juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 1/2 tablespoons tapioca flour
1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water
sugar, if desired
Make the dough: whisk flour, salt, and sugar together.
Cut and mix the butter and shortening into the flour mixture until the largest piece is pea-sized.
Sprinkle on the ice water 1 tablespoon at a time so that you can gather the dough into a cohesive mass.
Divide dough into two disks and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Roll out one disk into a 12 inch round and drape over the pie plate, leaving a little overhang, then refrigerate.
Roll the other disk out and cut out shapes as desired; freeze the shapes or lattice strips while you make the filling and preheat the oven.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
To make the filling, toss thinly sliced peaches (I do not peel mine, just wash them well) with the sugar, salt, lemon juice and zest, and tapioca flour.
Set aside for at least 5 minutes and up to 10.
Pour the filling into the prepared bottom crust, spooning the leftover juices and sugar over top of the fruit.
Top with frozen shapes, then trim and crimp the bottom crust.
Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.
Place on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper and place in the oven.
Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, then lower heat to 375 and bake for 35-45 minutes, covering crust if necessary, until the crust is deep golden brown and the juices are bubbling and thick.
“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
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.
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.
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.
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!
“Enthusiasm is common. Endurance is rare.”
Fifth Blogiversary (Simple Chocolate Cake)
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 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
lucky charms, if desired
60 grams (2 ounces) white chocolate, chopped
60 grams (1/4 cup) heavy cream
white food coloring, if desired
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.
“You have no idea how hard I’ve looked for a gift to bring You.
Nothing seemed right.
What’s the point of bringing gold to the gold mine, or water to the ocean. Everything I came up with was like taking spices to the Orient.
It’s no good giving my heart and my soul because you already have these.
So I’ve brought you a mirror.
Look at yourself and remember me.”
I am trying to luxuriate in my last few weeks here at the University of Chicago; I get extremely choked up when I think about graduating. I have often struggled with feeling too deeply and getting lost in my emotions. I hate goodbyes more than anything.
My dad used to commute to Dartmouth to teach at the business school; he had to leave home at 5 in the morning to make his flight on Monday mornings. I would often wake up when he was leaving and pad downstairs, crying, behind him. I never wanted him to leave.
It’s similar now, only I am padding around campus, feeling lost and lonely. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the jumble of emotions that come with goodbye. I’m nostalgic, introspective, frightened, excited, dragging my feet while trying to lean in, etc., etc.
I am clinging to anything, right now, just like I used to cling to my dad.
(Truth: I still cling to him. I will always be his remora, can’t change that. I can feel my mom and dad shaking their heads and rolling their eyes at that, and that makes me smile.)
What a strange, out-of-body experience growing up is turning out to be. I wonder at how quickly time passes. It brings me to tears, frequently, and shakes me to my core. I am a confident, stubborn, perseverant person, but I am oft reduced to a puddle of quivering jelly when I realize that I can never get back what’s gone.
Not only the boundless energy and carefree schedule of a child, not only people and pets, but also emotions, like the sheer, unbridled joy I used to feel when the seasons were changing—each one felt brand new and just as exciting, with no jaded cynic inside me to put a damper on those feelings, yet.
How many wistful words have been written by those who come face to face with time’s fleet feet? I rarely feel that it would be of much use to anyone for me to write my own, infinitesimal terror out on this page.
But here is where I repeatedly find myself, cursor blinking, as these thoughts storm in my mind.
Other things (other than self-indulgent moping, that is) with which I’ve been occupying myself:
Nati got a Nintendo Switch! And Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to go along with it. Oh my goodness, y’all, it is the most gorgeous game. I could watch him play for hours. It is 100% absorbing. So fun!
I (finally) read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. A quick read, but chilling, and a classic. Maybe I’ll watch the Hulu series now, who knows.
Speaking of T.V., Nati finally watched Game of Thrones with me (this is now my 5th? 6th? time watching the show); he enjoyed it, although is not as obsessed as I am. Then again, is anyone? It just made me even more excited for season 7! I can hardly wait!
Catch me in UChicago’s newspaper, The Maroon, in a style feature (whaaat). Big thanks to MJ Chen, Chris D’Angelo, and Christian Hill for making me seem like a cohesive human being. It takes a village, people. But seriously, they were a dream to work with and I’m so flattered and grateful! So go check it out, heh.
Also, I’ve been baking more dairy-free treats lately. But more on that soon!
This matcha and black sesame cake had been on my to-make list/I’ve been dreaming of the combination of these flavors for a while now.
The cake itself is a close-textured, moist butter cake, sweet and rich with grassy, bright notes from the matcha. The cake is brushed with a honey syrup to keep it moist, then topped with black sesame Italian meringue buttercream, which is silky soft and nutty in a delightfully unexpected way; it was almost like a peanut-butter frosting, with a little more depth and bitterness from the sesame. I finished the cake up with some gold leaf, which is, like, the biggest pain in the ass to work with, and is most certainly not necessary to make this cake a showstopper.
Seriously, all you have to do is breathe and the stuff goes everywhere. Next time any of you see me pinning or liking photos of gold leaf, knock me upside the head. I always get suckered in.
It’s actually quite a simple cake, but the decoration + the surprisingly beautiful and vibrant interior make it gorgeous.
The matcha for this cake was kindly sent to me from Happy Matcha, which is a small Australian start up selling organic matcha powder.
The tea is a lovely green and finely milled; it maintained its bright, strong flavor even when baked, which was what I was hoping for. I think it’s a bonus that it’s organic; honestly, when buying this type of powdered tea (and face masks, for that matter), I like to be able to completely trust it to be safe and from a good distributor.
If you haven’t tried good matcha before (i.e. not Starbucks, which is mixed with sugar, I think), I do recommend Happy Matcha. At this point, they only ship within Australia (but they do it in a carbon-neutral fashion, which is dooope), but we can all hope for worldwide shipping in the future!
As for the black sesame paste, I used this paste. Note that it isn’t black sesame tahini, which is made with raw sesame seeds and has a different flavor profile.
Black Sesame and Matcha Cake
makes 1 3×6-inch layer cake, or 1 2×8-inch layer cake
for the matcha cake:
225 grams (1 cup) unsalted butter
400 grams (2 cups) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 egg yolks
300 grams (1 1/4 cups) buttermilk (or milk with 2 teaspoons vinegar)
360 grams (3 cups) flour
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons matcha powder
for the salted and black sesame Italian meringue buttercream:
3 egg whites
150 grams (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, to taste
45 grams (45 mL, 3 tablespoons) water
336 grams (1 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons roasted black sesame paste
25 grams (2 tablespoons) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons honey
20 grams (1 1/2 tablespoons) water
gold leaf, if desired
Make the cake: grease and flour 3 6-inch cake pans; set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Beat butter on high speed for 3 full minutes, until light in color and fluffy.
Add in the sugar and salt and beat on high for 2 more minutes; scrape the bowl.
Add in the eggs and egg yolks and beat on high for a full 3 minutes.
Stir in the buttermilk or curdled milk.
Add the flour, baking powder, and matcha powder and beat until combined, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Portion out evenly into the prepared pans.
Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until a tester comes out with a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool completely.
Make the honey syrup: place sugar, honey and water in a small bowl and microwave for 30 seconds, or until the sugar is just dissolved.
Meanwhile, make the buttercream: place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Place sugar, salt, and water in a small pot.
Begin to heat the sugar mixture on high as you whip the whites on medium speed.
When the syrup reaches 245 degrees F, your egg whites should be at firm soft peaks (almost hard peaks, but not dry).
Drizzle the syrup into the meringue with the mixer running; whip on high until cooled to body temperature.
Beat in butter one or two tablespoons at a time.
Beat buttercream on high speed until thick, glossy, and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
Divide buttercream into two portions (about 60-40), leaving the larger portion in the bowl of the stand mixer.
Add in the black sesame paste to the larger portion and whip on high until completely homogeneous.
To decorate, first level the cakes and cut off the brown cooked portions; brush with the honey syrup.
Pipe a border of white buttercream around the edge of the cakes, then fill with the black sesame buttercream.
Frost the bottom (plain) half first, keeping an approximate line in the middle of the cake, then stick in the fridge until completely hardened.
Frost the top half with the black sesame buttercream, being careful not to go too much over the white buttercream edge.
Cover the edge with gold leaf and decorate the top with piping as desired!
Disclaimer: I was provided with a product in this post for free, in exchange for my honest and fair review. All opinions are my own. Bisous!