Frank Meyer

Meyer Lemon Bars | La Pêche Fraîche

“Times certainly are sad and mad and from a scientific point of view so utterly unnecessary.”

—Frank Meyer

Meyer Lemon Bars | La Pêche Fraîche

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.

Meyer Lemon Bars | La Pêche Fraîche

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.

Meyer Lemon Bars | La Pêche Fraîche

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.

Meyer Lemon Bars | La Pêche Fraîche

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.

Meyer Lemon Bars | La Pêche Fraîche

“[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.”

Frank Meyer

Meyer Lemon Bars | La Pêche Fraîche

Meyer Lemon Bars
barely adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
makes 1 8×8″ or 9×9″ pan of bars

ingredients:
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

to assemble:
powdered sugar, if desired

directions:
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).

Jordan Year

23rd Birthday Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

“You must expect great things from yourself before you can do them.”

Michael Jordan

23rd Birthday Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

Let’s see. Twenty three trips around the sun.
My birthday is coming to a close soon. I don’t feel much wiser.

(Actually, today was brutal as I had a liiiiittle bit too much to drink last night. Therefore, I currently feel significantly more foolish.)

23rd Birthday Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

By the way: “Jordan Year” because I am 23 and that is MJ’s number.
Obviously this year will be a slam dunk. Ha ha hee hee ho.

I often use my birthday as a time of reflection; last year I was still fighting through waves of sadness after the break up, and it was important for me to spend time writing so I could deload all of the conflicting feelings I had about celebrating alone.

This year, I don’t feel like I’m battling any demons. I am quite content, actually.
So I spent the weekend lazing about, hanging out with my friends, and drinking altogether too much tequila. Tons of my friends came out to celebrate me. It was so wonderful to see friends meeting friends, and being surrounded by them was the best gift possible.
I feel loved, and lucky, and very warm and fuzzy.
(And hungover. Did I mention that already?)

23rd Birthday Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

I received some seriously thoughtful, sweet gifts from my loved ones.
Gifts stopped being the primary reason for excitement for my birthday (or Christmas) a long time ago, but I would be lying if I didn’t say that a carefully curated present doesn’t make me feel extra loved.

Having my birthday on a Sunday is a little rough, as I’ve been hit with the Sunday Scaries (trepidation about going to work on Monday morning) extra extra extra hard.

So cheers, to any of my friends reading this, and to you, dear readers.
Thank you for accompanying me on this journey.

23rd Birthday Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

This year, I chose to make a pavlova with French meringue, instead of my typical Italian meringue. I actually think that this was one of my best pavlova shells ever: it was crisp and smooth, no graininess or stickiness whatsoever.

I had to make the meringue twice because the first time I had a bit of egg yolk in the bowl. I was so very unenthused by this. So take it from me: use three bowls while separating your eggs.
One for yolks, one for whites, and one to crack the whole eggs into.

23rd Birthday Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

This pavlova is filled with salted whipped mascarpone, fluffy and more complex and stable than a pure whipped cream; lemon cream curd, which is extra buttery and rich; blackberries, figs, and thyme with a light dusting of powdered sugar.

Pavlova is always so light; I can never resist it. It may be unconventional for a birthday cake, but what can I say, we like what we like.
It’s best served a few hours after it’s been assembled; leftovers will save moderately well for one night in the fridge in an air-tight tupperware, but more than 12-18 hours and it will disintegrate.

23rd Birthday Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

Birthdays, previously (and no, I don’t know what happened to 17 and 19…):

22
21
20
18

23rd Birthday Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

 

Pavlova with Lemon Curd and Salted Whipped Mascarpone

ingredients:
for the meringue shell:
4 egg whites
250 grams (1 1/4 cups) sugar
2 teaspoons tapioca or corn starch
pinch salt
1 teaspoon vinegar

for the lemon curd:
150 grams (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) lemon juice
150 grams (3/4 cup) sugar
pinch salt
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
170 grams (1 stick plus 4 tablespoons) butter, cut up

for the whipped mascarpone:
178 grams (6 ounces) mascarpone, room temp
60 grams (1/4 cup) whipped cream, room temp or slightly cooler
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

to assemble:
thyme
1 pint blackberries
figs

directions:
Make the filling: place lemon juice, sugar, salt, eggs, and egg yolk in a bain-marie (a bowl over a simmering pot of water).
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.
Allow to cool completely before using.
Make the pavlova shell: preheat oven to 200 degrees F and line a baking sheets with parchment; draw 2 6-inch circles on the paper.
Place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and start to whip.
Stir the sugar, tapioca (or corn) starch, and salt together.
As the egg whites become frothy, add the sugar mixer in tablespoons, until the meringue is glossy and shiny and all of the sugar is incorporated.
Whip the vinegar into the meringue.
Using a palette knife, spread the meringue into rough circles on the parchment, using the knife to create high sides, and piping extra decoration if desired.
Bake for 2 hours at 200 degrees F, then turn down the oven to warm (or its lowest setting) and leave overnight, or until light and crisp and completely dry.
When ready to assemble, make the whipped mascarpone: place all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whip attachment.
Whisk on high until the mixture is fully homogeneous and fluffy; do NOT over-mix as it will curdle.
To assemble, dollop a quarter sized spoonful of lemon curd onto a cake stand or plate.
Place the first pavlova disk on the cake stand, then spread a thick layer of lemon curd on top.
Spread about 1/2 cup of the mascarpone over the curd, then top with the second pavlova disk.
Repeat the lemon curd and mascarpone layers (you will have extra of both leftover; you can serve them on the side), then top with blackberries and sliced figs.
Place some thyme in and around the fruits, then dust with powdered sugar.
Pavlova is best a few hours after it is made, and best consumed within 18 hours.

Sweetest Surrender

The sweetest surrender of winter
She put up a flag it is waving
The thunder of summer is rumbling in
And I haven’t seen you in days
And my how that feeling has changed.
I have been homesick for you since we met.

A Father’s First Spring, The Avett Brothers

Honestly, I feel seen by this satire piece. A little too seen.
Why is the universe trying to @ me?!

OKso… Scroll to the bottom for the recipe for this fabulous, no-bake, super easy summer strawberry tart. And ignore the rest of my babbling. Thankyou.

No prose today, no chopped up “poetic” lines.
Just things that make my heart go thump. That are mostly related to food.

This cake, nothing short of glorious, from Michelle, who made it from Lyndsay’s new book Coco Cake Land stopped me in my tracks as I scrolled through instagram, enough so to make me immediately open up her blog on my computer so I could see it full screen.
While the oven is off, I’ve been making salads on salads, but mostly the same ones on repeat. This spicy sweet slaw with peaches may have to be entered into the rotation, because the combination of ingredients seems delightful.
This! Picnic! Has! Me! Inspired! Courtney’s posts always bring a smile to my face, and this one was no different. So dreamy and aesthetically pleasing: and that cherry clafoutis looks like a recipe I need to try stat.
In the same cherry vein, Scott’s rustic cherry galettes “kissed with cognac and floral orange” are simply divine, no? I haven’t made a single cherry thing this summer, which is sad indeed.
Jamie Beck of Ann Street Studio has to be one of the most brilliant creatives out there right now. Her photos make me want to say fuck it and pack up all my things and leave New York for the French countryside. Consider this a warning that they may do the same to you when you see them.
I’ve picked yoga back up and have been thoroughly enjoying the Y7 in my neighborhood. It’s a cracking good workout, and sweatier than you can believe.
Ariana Grande’s new album… (I didn’t particularly want to like it! But I can’t stop listening to the title track! Help-me-I-am-stuck-in-an-endless-pop-earworm.)
Quinoa tabbouleh with tons of lemon juice.
In season cherry tomatoes (the little orange ones, especially).
Raw walnuts straight from the freezer for snacks. I don’t know why I love this one so much.
Strawberriessssssssss.

Since Miss Summer’s tyrannical reign still grips New York City in sweaty, vice-like jaws, I have absolutely zero desire to even LOOK at my oven, let alone turn it on. I mean, yech.
This tart is thus happily no-bake. I made it in honor of dear Miss Naomi, who recently ditched me and broke my heart switched jobs to a fabulous new workplace. Hurrah!

Nilla wafers, with their sandy vanilla sweetness, are crumbled up and mixed with a hefty pinch or two of salt and plenty of melted butter. Pressed firmly into the pan, it’s just a titch different from a graham cracker crust—a little less nubbly, and with a stronger buttery profile.
It’s delicious and somewhat unexpected, and it’s a blank canvas for the fruity fillings.
Next, tart, lush lemon cream is spread thickly over the crust. It’s like a lemon curd that has been emulsified further with extra butter, rendering it super silky and smooth without losing the true, clean citrus profile.
Thinly sliced strawberries, brimming with juice and summer tidings, are carefully arranged on top and brushed with the thinnest layer of jam to keep them shiny.

This is a simple, easy-to-make tart, but it showcases the best of summer baking sans oven. I hope you love it as much as my friends did!

No-Bake Strawberry and Lemon Cream Tart
makes 1 9-inch tart

ingredients:
for the crust:
336 grams (12 ounces) Nilla wafers (or other dry vanilla cookie)
25 grams (2 tablespoons) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
113 grams (8 tablespoons) butter

for the filling:
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

to assemble:
1 pint strawberries
marmalade or jam, for brushing, optional

directions:
Make the crust: pulverize cookies into crumbs.
Mix in sugar and salt, then drizzle in the butter until texture is like wet sand and forms clumps when pinched (depending on the humidity of your kitchen, you may not need all of it. If things are still dry after 1 stick of butter, you can add a tablespoon of heavy cream).
Press into 9-inch tart pan and refrigerate.
Make the filling: place lemon juice, sugar, salt, eggs, and egg yolk in a bain-marie (a bowl over a simmering pot of water).
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.
Allow to cool completely before spreading into tart shell.
Slice strawberries very thinly (about 1/8 thickness) and group by size.
Starting with the largest slices, ring the edge of the tart, points facing outward.
Repeat, making concentric circles with smaller and smaller sized berries.
In the center, place a strawberry cut into a heart.
Gently brush with warmed marmalade or jam, if desired (this will lock in the juices).
Tart best served the day it’s assembled, although it will last in the fridge overnight.

Time Enough

Whole Wheat Lemon Meringue Tarts | La Pêche Fraîche

The butterfly counts not months but moments and has time enough.
—Rabindranath Tagore

Whole Wheat Lemon Meringue Tarts | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy New Year my friends!
I am as belated as anyone could expect (1/24 of the year is already gone) of my sporadic blogging schedule.

Nevertheless, I hope your year has started out brilliantly and smoothly. And I hope whatever resolutions you resolved have been a fulfilling part of the beginning of 2017. May they become habits and continue for the long run!
I have been studying non-stop for my MCAT, which will be mercifully finished in exactly 4 days/96 hours… Annnndd cue the oh-my-god-that-is-terrifyingly-soon panic attack.

Whole Wheat Lemon Meringue Tarts | La Pêche Fraîche

Anyways, I haven’t done much of anything fun or new in 2017. I’ve been getting back into a regular gym/lifting routine after doing yoga for all of December, and that feels damn good.
(On that note, anyone have any really good music they’ve been grooving to at the gym? I need to update my playlist ASAP.)
I want to clean out my closet (especially since I’m leaving it in just a few short months, ACK!) and give my room a deep clean, but right now I’m barely getting laundry done, let alone dusting and wiping and organizing.
I guess my fresh start will come more towards February! Or March! Or… It can always be Spring Cleaning.

Whole Wheat Lemon Meringue Tarts | La Pêche Fraîche

Starting off the blank slate of this year with something light and lemony feels right.
Three years ago (HOW) I made this pavlova with Greek yogurt, thyme, and berries for the same reason.

These cute little tarts are made of a buttery, whole wheat shortbread base (the WW actually adds a nice hint of nuttiness), filled with simple, creamy lemon curt, and topped off with some sweet, toasted (~er… burnt) meringue.
I love the shape of the rectangle tarts—I used a silicon mold—but you could definitely make this in an 8-inch pan.

It’s a quick recipe that’s sure to impress, and perfect for a lighter January treat!

Whole Wheat Lemon Meringue Tarts | La Pêche Fraîche

Back soon with cake! And Valentine’s treats, hopefully. x

Whole Wheat Lemon Meringue Tarts | La Pêche Fraîche

Whole Wheat Lemon Meringue Tarts
makes 8 small tarts or 1 8-inch tart

for the crust:
240 grams (2 cups) AP flour
120 grams (1 cup) white whole wheat flour
225 grams (2 sticks) unsalted butter
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

for the lemon curd:
3 medium egg yolks (or 2 extra-large)
240 grams (1 cups) water
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
28 grams (1/4 cup) cornstarch
27 grams (1/8 cup, 2 tablespoons) butter
zest of 1 lemons
juice of 1 1/2 lemons (approximately 1/4 cup)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

for the meringue:
2 egg whites
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
45 grams (3 tablespoons) water

directions:
Make the crust: place butter, sugar, eggs, salt, and vanilla into the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high speed for 5-6 full minutes, or until completely homogeneous, fluffy, light in color, and doubled in volume.
Stir in the flours until dough comes together; roll out to 1/4 inch thickness and line tart pans/pan of choice.
Prick all over and then freeze for at least 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F; bake tart shells lined with foil and weighted with pie weights, dry rice, or beans for 8-12 minutes, depending on size and thickness of crust.
Crust should be dry to the touch, golden, and fragrant when done.
Meanwhile, make the lemon curd: place water in a pot over high heat; bring to a boil.
Stir in the cornstarch and sugar and bring back to a boil while stirring constantly; mixture will be quite thick and opaque.
Remove mixture from heat and, whisking vigorously, add the egg yolks.
Return to heat and bring back to a boil while whisking the entire time.
Remove from the heat and stir in the butter; whisk until an emulsion forms.
Add in the lemon zest, juice, and vanilla and whisk until incorporated.
Allow to cool completely, pressing plastic wrap over the top to prevent a skin from forming.
Fill cooled tart shells with chilled lemon curd.
Make the meringue: place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Add the vinegar and start to whip.
Stir the sugar, cornstarch, and salt together.
As the egg whites become frothy, add the sugar mixture in tablespoons, until the meringue is glossy and shiny and all of the sugar is incorporated.
Using a piping bag fitted with a French or star tip, pipe the meringue onto the tarts, then torch if desired.

Vingt-Et-Un

Birthday Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

“Strange is our situation here upon earth.
Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to a divine purpose.
From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: That we are here for the sake of others…for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy. Many times a day, I realize how much my outer and inner life is built upon the labors of people, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received and am still receiving.”
― Albert Einstein, Living Philosophies

Birthday Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

Three years ago, on the cusp of adulthood—18 starry-eyed years come and gone—I was packing up to come to UChicago.
Growing up in two big ways, simultaneously.
I was scared and melancholy to say goodbye to my so-called childhood and my home, my whole body jangly with nerves.

Things are very different this time around: I’m turning 21, about to start my last year of college—comfortable in my home away from home.
I’m supposed to already be an adult, but I’m not at all sure if I’m more confident in where my life seems to be heading. The only thing I’m certain of is that time has, miraculously, begun passing much, much faster.
I always feel this way on my birthdays (but it’s not a feeling exclusive to my b-day. Because, neuroses and all).

Birthday Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

This is the first birthday that I will not spend in Ithaca, in the home I grew up in.
It feels a little strange, to be sure, to not be sitting at the kitchen counter writing this and eating cake.
It’s also the first birthday I will spend away from my amazing parents, who have given me everything and more over the years.
When I’m not with them, I never don’t miss them. But I’m indulging in a ~little~ extra pining today. It is the first, after all!

Luckily for me, I got to FaceTime them this morning and this afternoon, Nati surprised me with flowers, so I know I won’t feel too discomfited today.

Birthday Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

Pavlova is my favorite dessert, which is why I like to have it for my birthday cake!

I kept this one simple and classic, with three layers of crisp meringue, marshmallow-y on the inside, fluffy whipped cream, tart, luscious lemon curd, and strawberries and raspberries.

They almost inevitably crack and begin to slide and crumple when you try to cut a slice, so I usually go the loser route and stick the whole thing in a bowl when this happens.
Voilà, Eton mess!
If the prospect of your lovely pastry ending up a wonky mess in a bowl makes you nervous, take a couple shots and just cut the damn thing. With determination, I think it can be done.

Otherwise, pavlova taste just as good when scooped with a spoon.
Take it from me.

Birthday Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

Birthday pavlovas, previously:
18 years old
20 years old

(…And a New Year’s pavlova, for good measure.)

Birthday Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche
Lemon Berry Pavlova
makes 1 3-layer 8-inch cake

ingredients:
for the meringue:
8 egg whites
1 tablespoon vinegar
400 grams (2 cups) sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
pinch of salt

for the lemon curd:
5 egg yolks
480 grams (2 cups) water
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
56 grams (1/2 cup) cornstarch
55 grams (1/4 cup, 4 tablespoons) butter
zest of 2 lemons
juice of 3 lemons (approximately 1/2 to 1/3 cup)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

to assemble:
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 punnet raspberries
10-15 strawberries
powdered sugar, optional

directions:
Make the meringue: preheat oven to 250 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment; draw 3 8-inch circles on the paper.
Place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Add the vinegar and start to whip.
Stir the sugar, cornstarch, and salt together.
As the egg whites become frothy, add the sugar mixture in tablespoons, until the meringue is glossy and shiny and all of the sugar is incorporated.
Using a piping bag fitted with a French or star tip, pipe the meringue into circles on the parchment.
Bake for 2 hours, then turn off the oven and allow to cool inside the   oven to prevent cracks.
Meanwhile, make the lemon curd: place water in a pot over high heat; bring to a boil.
Stir in the cornstarch and sugar and bring back to a boil while stirring constantly; mixture will be quite thick and opaque.
Remove mixture from heat and, whisking vigorously, add the egg yolks.
Return to heat and bring back to a boil while whisking the entire time.
Remove from the heat and stir in the butter; whisk until an emulsion forms.
Add in the lemon zest, juice, and vanilla and whisk until incorporated.
Allow to cool completely, pressing plastic wrap over the top to prevent a skin from forming.
To assemble, whip the cream to stiff peaks, then stir in the starch and sugar.
Layer the meringue disks with lemon curd, then whipped cream, then a few berries in between; pile the rest of the berries on top and dust with powdered sugar, if desired.

Decade II

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

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

—Maya Angelou

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

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

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

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

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

Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

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

Various Storms and Saints, Florence and the Machine

Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

3 cups heavy cream, cold

raspberries

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

Tårta

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O, Pivoine

From verdant buds they did erupt;
from tight globes came flowers flush.
O, the peonies blossomed,
fat and full,
on a day that promised rain.
A hundred thousand petals unfurled
as a misty dawn hid the moon away.
Their silken scent clung to the breeze;
the honeyed air wound in my hair
and the sultry day perfumed.
Now they droop under heat and sun
and wish they were not troubled so.
But I still love their burdened blooms
and kneel to smell them all.

–6/9/2014

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A poem shared for spring, for summer, as the seasons transition like sand slipping twixt our fingers.

Flowers have bloomed and trees have greened; buds become fruits slowly but surely.
The bounty of summer prostrates itself beneath our greedy, hungry fingers as a fat, juicy, sprawling spread.
I mean, have you seen the peaches coming in right now?

To market, to market, to pick the reddest fruits.
To market, to market, for armfuls of darkest greens.
Here’s to fresh produce and to the beginning of a fruitful (vegetal?) summer.

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Yes! The summer solstice has come and gone.  It’s officially summer!
It’s sunny and hot and green!
(Can I be tanned yet?!)

I have no real responsibilities (Scary that I’m feeling a little… bored?) and am able to spend the day daydreaming about pastries and makeup and shoes and big salads.
I can get my nails done, oh luxury of luxuries, and–soon–my hair cut.

It will be my first time getting a real haircut in so so long.  I’m scared to cut off too much!  I recently took off an inch and half (thanks to my mama), so I’ll probably take off another inch and a half and call it quits.
My mermaid hair is definitely my security blanket– anyone else feel this way?

I’ve also been watching the World Cup and really enjoying it.
This is my first time seriously following along.
Fuuuutbol, y’all.

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This luscious tart was inspired by a great trio of flavors: strawberry, lemon, and black pepper.

I originally wanted to garnish with candied celery leaves, but decided against it when they came out a little wonky and far too sugar-coated.  Celery+strawberry+black pepper is a bomb-ass combination though, so keep it in mind.

I also played with the idea of a lemon-ricotta filling, which would be marvelous if you want to give it a try, but I didn’t want to bake twice–it’s summer, after all, and my kitchen is hot as hell as is.

One tip that I wish I had foreseen: add a few extra grinds of black pepper to your crust than you think are necessary.
That way, you ensure that you’ll get a burst of gentle heat in each bite.
It’s a perfect foil to the sweet strawbs and tart lemon.

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In the end, the tart is made up of a black pepper crust, buttery and a hint spicy, filled with a rich, round lemon curd filling and topped with as many of the season’s reddest, juiciest strawberries as can possibly fit. 

The whole thing is utterly divine, each mouthful embodying the fresh, bold flavors of summer.
Tart, sweet, spicy, buttery, crisp, lush, juicy.
(Adjective addict.)

This tart is, quite possibly, my ideal.
You know I prefer fruit over chocolate, and citrus is arguably my favorite.
While it’s often showcased in the winter, with the addition of summer-sweet strawberries, lemon launches fully into the appropriate season.
It lasted <24 hours in my household– always a good sign!

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“In case you ever foolishly forget, I am never not thinking of you.”

–Virginia Woolf

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Strawberry, Lemon, and Black Pepper Tart
makes 1 14×4 inch tart

ingredients:
for the black pepper shell:
8 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8-1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 egg yolk
1 cup flour

for the lemon curd filling:
2 lemons
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
pinch kosher salt
1 teaspoon corn starch
4 tablespoons butter

to assemble:
27 small to medium strawberries
lemon marmalade, optional

directions:
Make the tart crust: beat butter on high speed in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 2 minutes.
Stream in the sugar and salt slowly, then beat for another 2 minutes.
Add in the black pepper and egg yolk, scrape the sides of the bowl, and beat for 2 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl, add in the flour, and mix on low until the dough forms– it should be clumpy but not 1 cohesive mass.
Press clumps evenly into tart pan; prick all over with a fork.
Freeze for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line the tart shell with aluminum foil, then fill it with pie weights or beans.
Bake for 15 minutes, until set, then remove the foil and pie weights carefully.
Return to oven for 5-7 minutes, until lightly golden.
Remove tart shell from oven and let cool.
Meanwhile, make the filling: zest 1 of the lemons and set the zest aside.
Juice both of the lemons to obtain 1/4 cup juice.
Place juice, eggs, sugar, salt, and cornstarch in a sauce pot.
Whisk vigorously to combine, then cook over low heat for 15 minutes, or until thickened enough that a finger dragged along a spatula leaves a trail.
Remove from heat and whisk in butter and zest.
Place hot curd in a food processor and pulse for 30-45 seconds, until lightened in color and slightly cooler.
Pour warm curd into warm tart shell, smoothing the top.
Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to one night.
To assemble the tart, hull the strawberries.
Line them up next to the tart shell to judge how they will fit.
Cut off small slices from the strawberries on the side if they will not fit, then snuggle them into the center strawberry.
Heat up a few tablespoons of lemon marmalade, then brush over strawberries if desired.
Best if enjoyed the day it is made, but it will save reasonably well overnight in the fridge.

FOTA

Chiaroscuro LARGE

CHIAROSCURO

blackberry caviar, coconut mousse, coconut crumb, coconut yolk, blackberry puree

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Hi!  To any newcomers, welcome to my blog, and welcome to my project for UChicago’s spring Festival of the Arts!

(I’ll post more explaining this post-presentation, for all you laypeople.)

////// Okay!  SO Hi!  Yes!  Presentation went off without a hitch. \\\\\\

I gave a 7-ish minute spiel about molecular gastronomy, this here blog, my weird love of reverse frozen spherification, and the three desserts you see here, which were funded by FOTA.

Hopefully I didn’t embarrass myself too badly (I definitely did).Chiaroscuro SMALL I

Contrast, made edible.  Fruity, creamy, crunchy, chewy.

Why are there so many seeds in blackberries?  Getting ultra-smooth puree is a pain in the ass.

Fragola LARGE

FRAGOLA

black pepper cheesecake, lemon curd, lemon sorbet, ginger black pepper sand, walnuts, candied lemons, creme fraiche, honey

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Early summer on a plate.  Spicy, sour, rich, fresh.

PSA: candied lemons are so incredibly addictive.  So is lemon curd.  OMg.

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For my live presentation, I made a deconstructed strawberry pie: strawberry yolk, yogurt cream, 5-spice milk sand.
Simple, delicious.

Tuolo LARGE

TUORLO

mango yolk, watermelon tartar, avocado mousse,  lime curd, creme fraiche, grapefruit

Tuolo SMALL I

A play on tuna tartare with raw egg yolk.  Tropical, crunchy, herb-y, tangy.
(There is nothing quite like cold watermelon on a hot day, amirite?!)

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Happy to provide any of the recipes pictured for my fellow molecular nuts!

Janvier

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“There are many things we would throw away if we were not afraid that others might pick them up.”

-Oscar Wilde

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January is a fragile month.
The new year is only just hatching, stretching its wings, ruffling its feathers, blinking awake.
The sun is slowly becoming stronger, the days longer.

It is the month of resolutions, ever so delicate, easily crushed in their nascence.

We are all only dipping our toes in the cold, cold new waters.
Not a one of us knows what the year will bring—a terrifying and invigorating prospect.

How has it come to pass that the end of this first month of 2014 is nigh?
January has flown by in a blur, spinning me around in a whirled frenzy of snow and wind.
I shiver to think of what this year holds—whether it is borne from excitement or dread, I cannot say.
It could also be the ungodly cold here in Chicago.  I don’t know.

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January is a month of citrus.
Though, I must admit, you cannot tell as much from my archives.

January 2013: puff pastry tutorial, coconut mochi, s’mores cake, conversation heart cookies, nutella-raspberry-brown butter crumb bars, maple-bacon and Vietnamese coffee doughnuts, gâteau des rois.  Only one had citrus…
January 2014: Peppermint-chocolate cookies, PB cupcakes, pear-cranberry-ginger crisps, earl grey cupcakes.  Ahem.  Still none.

This pavlova is my answer, my remedy, then, to the absent citrus in what I have just declared to be a month of citrus.
Specifically, lemon.
January is a lemon month.

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Lemon.  Perky, bright, sunny.
Lemon.  Tart, balancing, acidic.
Lemon lemon lemon, I’d choose over chocolate any day.  (Freak.)

The first time I met a meyer lemon was 2006.
I received the January issue of Martha Stewart Living.
As I tore through it, my 11 year old self soaking in every hit of inspiration, I fell upon this cake.
I wanted to cry.  I wanted to make this cake so incredibly badly, but knew it was out of my reach.

This cake prominently featuring these mysterious meyer lemons was all I wanted.  And I couldn’t have it.
I begged my parents to let me make it.
They said, “um… no. We don’t need a 3 foot high, 3 tier meyer lemon cake.  Stop reading Martha Stewart, you little weirdo.

Everything was so beautiful and yellow and happy and lemony.
It was torture.
And what the hell was a meyer lemon, anyway?

Can you tell what a strange, disturbed child I was?  A Martha Stewart addict from a young age.
It explains so much, don’t it?

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In a month where stagnation is banished, where the wheels are turning and the world is changing, lemon is ideal.
It’s fresh and lively, something which I appreciate when the fresh produce situation is somewhat abysmal.
Lemon never fails to awaken the palette.
It’s a clean flavor, and after all the heavy desserts of December, we can all use a flavor boost.

Pavlova.  Also perfectly suited for January, with its light airiness and minimal sweetness.
Good for resolution breaking, but not resolution destroying, ja feel?

It’s probably my favorite dessert.  Which is a big, big deal.
I wrote a sonnet inspired by rhubarb, which was featured in my first pavlova. (I have no words for the white balance in those photos.  Please accept my apologies.)
I had pavlova for my 18th birthday cake, a simple one-layer affair, covered in coconut/mascarpone fluff, passionfruit sauce, and tumbling raspberries.

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And now, here we are.
This pavlova focuses on tartness, allowing the meyer lemons to shine.

A supremely light meringue base, crispy and crackling on the exterior, pillowy marshmallow on the inside, is
layered with barely sweetened Greek yogurt,
thick and luscious meyer lemon curd,
fresh bites of strawberries and raspberries, and
finished with a sprinkle of earthy, grounding thyme and
tart, chewy candied meyer lemons.

My pavlova cracked, pretty badly.  I ain’t stressed about it.
See, I thought it would be genius to layer the yogurt and curd onto the layers before stacking them.
What anybody with a shred of common sense would quickly see is that the meringue was too delicate and fragile to stand up to the thick sauces and promptly crrrrrraacked.  *shit shit shit*
Oops.  It’s okay.  Pavlovas crack and crumble; it’s part of their personality, their patina.
Get over it.

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Once I was done photographing the cake, I realized how futile it would be to try to keep it on the cake pedestal.
It was already slip sliding around, as I didn’t secure it to the stand with a daub of lemon curd, as I should have.
Things were cracking, falling, toppling.
So, I plopped it into a bowl, shoved the leftover fruits on top, and called it a day.

The secret?  It tastes just as good smashed up, packed into a bowl, smashed to bits and spooned straight into your mouth as it does dressed up, stacked, and eaten from a proper plate.

And thank goodness for that.

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Meyer Lemon, Berry, Thyme, and Yogurt Pavlova
meringue base from Donna Hay
lemon curd adapted from Use Real Butter
ingredients:
for the meringue base:
4 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons white vinegar

for the lemon curd:
1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons cornstarch
4 egg yolks, beaten
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup meyer lemon juice
zest of 2 meyer lemons

for the candied lemons:
2 meyer lemons, sliced very thinly
2 cups sugar
2 cups water

to assemble:
3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 pint strawberries, 1/2 hulled and sliced, 1/2 whole
1 cup raspberries
Fresh thyme

directions:
Make the meringue base:
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment.
Trace 2 6-inch circles (you could do 8- or 9-inch, but it won’t be as tall.) with pencil, then turn the paper over.
Begin to whip egg whites with a stand mixer.
When soft peaks are just starting to form, stream in the sugar very slowly, one tablespoon at a time, until the meringue has reached very stiff peaks.
Gently fold in the vinegar and cornstarch.
Spread the meringue out around the traced circles.
Bake for an hour and a half, then turn off the oven and allow the pavlova to cool completely inside the oven.

Make the lemon curd:
Place water and sugar in a large pot.
Bring to a boil, then whisk in cornstarch.
Bring to a boil; mixture will be very thick and gloppy.
While whisking egg yolks, take a spoonful of the cornstarch mixture and quickly combine; continue to add, by the spoonful, until about 1/3 of the hot cornstarch mixture has been added.
Whisk the egg yolk mixture back into the corn starch mixture, and return to very low heat.
Whisk in the butter, then, off the heat, carefully whisk in the lemon juice and zest.
If any lumps are present, blitz the curd in a blender until smooth.

Make the candied lemons:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and prepare an ice bath.
Place the very thinly sliced lemons in the boiling water and cook for 20 seconds.
Remove to the ice bath and allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, add 2 cups sugar and 2 cups water to the pot and bring to a simmer, until the sugar is dissolved.
Add the lemon slices and allow to simmer for 45 minutes, until softened and no longer bitter.

Assemble the pavlova:
Whisk the yogurt and confectioner’s sugar together.
Spread a thin layer over the first pavlova layer, then spread half of the lemon curd onto the yogurt.
Top with the sliced strawberries and a sprinkling of thyme.
Add the second meringue disk, and top with the remaining yogurt and lemon curd.
Arrange the fruit on top of the lemon curd, and sprinkle more thyme leaves over.
Serve with a spoon, in bowls.