To live is the rarest thing in the world.
Most people just exist.

—Oscar Wilde

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.

Georgia O’Keeffe

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

to assemble:
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.








Droopy Drupes

Seriously Easy Stone Fruit Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

They had been elegant in the tree, tiny coquettes
blushing more and more until I picked them,
then they were minimalist and matte-colored
in wooden bowls, so barely furred one couldn’t
help but clothe them, enclose them with your hand,
caress each one thoroughly before taking a bite,
exploring the handsome freckles left
from some minor blight.

—Jennifer Grotz, Apricots

Seriously Easy Stone Fruit Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

This is an interruption of the berry desserts that have smartly marched across your screen for what must feel like ages.
(Chocolate, long forgotten, is making an appearance soon.  Promise.  And then at least one more berry post. Oops.)
But this post...This post is devoted to stone fruits.

Peaches and drupes (stone fruits) are some of my most favorite fruits… of course, La Pêche Fraîche is a dead giveaway.

There haven’t been an overwhelming number of peach/apricot/plum posts, however.
(The last I mean to remedy when plums charge in in all their autumnal glory.)

Seriously Easy Stone Fruit Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

There was this (pin-happy) celebration of 100 posts, an ombréed, OCD tart filled with all of the sweetest, ripest stone fruits I could find.
Or this giant slab pie, perfect for feeding a crowd, complete with an utterly absorbing, fun-to-make lattice and homemade vanilla ice cream (le duh).
This simple peach tart, made and shot quickly.  Very much a throw-together tart, skin-on, that comes out as a whole much greater than the sum of its parts.
This old (old!) rendition of Cook’s Illustrated’s perfect peach pie.  It was delicious, but still didn’t manage to convince me that peeling peaches for pie is utterly necessary (such a headache!).

So… This is not very many posts, seeing as I’ve racked up nearly 250 over the lifespan of the blog.  Eeep!

Seriously Easy Stone Fruit Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

I don’t quite have enough of my own links to really devote a link-love post to stone fruit, but fear not!
I have compiled a few absolutely mouthwatering peachy bits and bobs from around the blogosphere.

Let’s start with the unfairness that is Laura’s glut of peaches, no?
*Pouts* whyyyyyy don’t I have such beautiful peach trees bursting with life around me?!  Add to those ripe peaches her maple coconut granola and that right there is a proper summer breakfast.

More elegant simplicity with the seasonal fruits: Kristin’s olive oil pound cake, tinged with citrus and served simply with fresh peaches and coconut whipped cream is a dream come true.

Uggghhh. Slay me, Michelle.
Bourbon + brown sugar + peach pie.  Give me the pie and 5 minutes and you will regret giving me the pie at all.
That thang is a work of beauty right there.

More bourbon + peaches, with brown butter and maple and melty vanilla ice cream, too.
Alanna always has the best photographs.
These in particular left me salivating and wondering why in the heck I haven’t made a thousand crisps and eaten them all hot with cold ice cream.  This must change.

Be still my beating heart.
Custard cakes have been on my mind (read: pinboards) lately.
Then Sam went and added ripe, custardy in their own right apricots and my world turned upside down.
OMG. That vanilla bean custard layer…
(P.S. Can’t wait for that prune cake.  I looove prunes.)

Seriously Easy Stone Fruit Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

Today, I’m sharing a cheater’s simple stone fruit tart with you without a modicum of shame.
Yep, I used purchased puff pastry for the first time.  And its convenience and dependability were awesome.
No fuss, stupid fast, beautiful, tasty, and simple.

5 ingredients, if you count the egg wash and pistachio garnish.
If you thaw your puff pastry the night before, you can have this beauty on your table in 25 minutes flat.
This really lets the fruit shine—there’s virtually no added sugar or other ingredients to distract.

For this reason, it’s vital to choose ripe fruits—a little bruise or droopy skin here or there is a-OK.
It will intensify the flavors of the tart.

If you find yourself in a situation where you need a quick, sweet and fruity fix, or you want a fool-proof yet impressive dessert to serve to friends, or you have some droopy, slightly sad little drupes that are a day away from necessitating jam, this is the recipe to reach for.

Infinitely adaptable.  Unendingly forgiving.

Seriously Easy Stone Fruit Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

You can use any stone fruit or sliceable fruit that you wish, really: plums, apples, dry pears, peaches, apricots, nectarines, pluots, cherries… all fair game.
Nothing too juicy or acidic, and you’re pretty much set.

The (store-bought!) puff pastry rises up, golden and shiny, in the oven; the weight of the fruit prevents it from getting too airy, which allows for a sturdy crust that can be eaten by hand.
The fruit becomes syrupy in the hot oven, bathing itself in sweet, sticky juice.
A smattering of pistachios provides crunch, and a cool, creamy dollop of crème fraîche ties this simple summer treat together.

The tart comes out looking quite beautiful for the minimum amount of effort put in, with the bright, warm colors of the fruit foiled by green pistachios and pure, snow-white cream.

This, I think, is the definition of keeping it simple (stupid).
Don’t mess too much with perfectly ripe/slightly overripe summer fruit.
Let it pop against the backdrop of buttery pastry.
Highlight it only with a conservative touch of sugar and a few crunchy pistachios.
Indulge in a spoonful of cream to add richness and I think anyone would agree that this is a far more exciting use for droopy, tired fruits than jam…

Seriously Easy Stone Fruit Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

Seriously Easy Stone Fruit Tart
makes 1 10×10 tart

1 sheet all-butter puff pastry, thawed overnight in the fridge
4-6 pieces of very ripe stone fruit, of your choice, sliced thinly
1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water
3 tablespoons of sugar
2 tablespoons chopped pistachios
crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream or sour cream, for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
On a very lightly floured surface, gently roll out the puff pastry until it is approximately 11×11 inches.
Trim the edges carefully , being sure not to rock the blade, to make an even square of 10×10.
Carefully transfer the puff to a baking sheet lined with parchment.
Brush an inch border with the egg wash, and lightly sprinkle 1 tablespoon over the center part of the pastry.
Carefully arrange your sliced fruit over the pastry.
Choose any design you like, but avoid layering one slice completely on top of another.
Sprinkle the tart with 1-2 more tablespoons of sugar, depending on how sweet your fruit is.
Pop in the oven for 25 minutes, until the crust is puffed and golden and the fruit is slumped and juicy.
Remove from oven and sprinkle with pistachios; serve warm with cold crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream.


Or, alternately, Why I Shouldn’t Be Left Alone In the Kitchen.

 Or perhaps, Why I Shouldn’t Be Allowed on the Internet.

 Hello, my name is Rachel, and I am a perfectionist and an obsessive-compulsive, bossy, unstable control freak.
Doesn’t that just make you want to live with me forever and ever?
Don’t answer that.

Alas, I admit it, I am.  I’m so glad I have you all here to support me.  
The thing is, when I get an idea up in my head, I can’t let go of it.  I saw a picture on the dreaded interweb the other year day of little rosettes made of mangoes.  On a pie.
I died.

In addition, my mind was wrapped around the idea of marrying nectarines and gingersnaps.
Oh yeah, and I was so very intrigued by peach pits that I wanted to do something with noyaux, à la Bravetart.
Besides, I had already been hoping to freeze some peaches, what with the abundance right now, to save for winter. 

Oooh! Also, croissants.  For tea.  With company.

So yes, today I am presenting you with not only a laminated dough, but also a labor intensive tart. 

If, by the off chance, you aren’t as… shall we say, crazy… as me, feel free to dump the nectarine slices on haphazardly.  It tastes good.  That’s what matters.
I suppose I understand if you don’t want to undertake making croissants, but please, put them on your bucket list.  They aren’t half as hard as they’re made out to be, and they will impress your friends and terrify your enemies.  

And as for the peach pits?  I managed to crack two open, using a giant mallet and some pliers, but gave up when I discovered that I had rent a gash in my favorite bamboo cutting board.  (Damn pits!)  While I possibly could have done something with those two measly noyaux, when I awoke the next morning, all the peach pits had been trashed.  Ah, well.


Nectarine, Lemon, and Gingerbread Tart
For the crust: (adapted from The Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts)
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
BIG pinch each of ginger, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, sea salt, and cardamom
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick very cold butter, cubed
1 tablespoon molasses
ice water as needed
Put the flour, sugar, spices, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse to combine.  Pulse in the butter and molasses until there are small bits of butter, ranging from sandy to pea-sized.  If the dough is too dry, add in ice water, a tablespoon at a time, until it can stick together when pressed.  Press the dough into a buttered tart pan, prick with a fork, cover with a sheet of aluminum foil that has been buttered (press the foil right down into the pan), and freeze, for at least 30 minutes, or up to 1 day.  When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, put some pie weights (you won’t need as many because the shell has been chilled) on top of the foil, and bake until deep golden brown and fragrant, 20-25 minutes.  Allow to cool.
For the filling:
3/4 cup lemon curd 
1/2 cup to 2/3 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons powdered sugar (or to taste: it doesn’t need much)
Whip the heavy cream and mascarpone and powdered sugar together (I used an immersion blender because it is super fast and effective).  Fold in the lemon curd.  I actually made this in two parts, folding the lemon curd into some of the whipped mixture, then layering that into the tart with the plain whipped cream/cheese on top of that.
To assemble:
5 or 6 nectarines, sliced as thinly as possible
Pour the whipped filling into the tart shell, and smooth the top.  To make nectarine rosettes, gently curl the thinnest pieces of nectarine you can find, and stick them into the filling.  Then begin to place other pieces around, with less curl.  Once you are sick of rosettes, you can just place gently curled pieces around and in between, to take away the white space and act as filler.  

Whole Wheat Sourdough Croissants:
adapted from Christina Tosi’s Momofuku Milk Bar
for the dough:
550 g white whole wheat flour
12 g kosher salt
3.5 g active dry yeast
370 g water, at room temperature
for the butter block:
2 sticks butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Mix all the dough ingredients together with a dough hook in a mixer, until smooth and supple.  Place in an oiled container that is covered but still has air flow (like a bowl with a damp dish towel cover, or a plastic bucket with a top that has a few holes poked in it).  If you want the sourdough component, stick the dough in your fridge for at least 2 days, but up to a week, then pull it out and let it come to room temp, then rise in a warm place until double its original size.  If you don’t, allow the dough to rise to at least double its orignial size, then begin to make your croissants.  When you’re ready to make the croissants, beat your butter in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment until fluffy.  Pat it into a 8 x 12 rectangle between two sheets of parchment paper.  Put it in the fridge to firm up.  Meanwhile, punch down the dough on a smooth, floured countertop, and roll/stretch it gently into  a rectangle 16 x 24 inches, and even in thickness.  Put your slightly firm butter block on one half of the dough, then fold the other half of the dough over and pinch the edges shut.  Let rest for 10 minutes.  Now, you must do 3 double book turns to create the layers.  Here’s how:  Roll the the dough out again to a rectangle of 16 x 24 inches and even in thickness.  Be gentle, so that you don’t have any butter mushing out.  Visualize your dough divided into 4 quarters.  Fold the outer two quarters to the center, then bring one edge over to meet the other (Tosi says: When I’m showing someone how to make a double book turn, I stretch my monkey arms out wide like I’m going in for a big hug, then I fold my arms at the elbow, so my fingers are touching my armpits, and fold my elbows in to touch one another.)  Now transfer your dough to the fridge to rest, wrapped loosely in plastic wrap, for 30 minutes.  Repeat the double book turn twice more.  After the final rest in the fridge, roll your dough out to a 16 x 24 inch rectangle, then cut the dough into 10 triangles (like a backgammon board), putting a small notch on the base of each Isosceles triangle.  Roll em up, allow to rise for about 45 minutes, or until puffed up, then brush them with an egg wash (1 egg+1 teaspoon water), and bake for 20-25 minutes at 375 degrees F.