Honey In the Sun

Dark Chocolate Honey Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

A half full moon in Mexico City I think of you
And when I saw the Southern Cross I wished you had too
I wish my heart was as cold as the morning dew
But it’s as warm as saxophones and honey in the sun for you

—Camera Obscura

Dark Chocolate Honey Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I met Nati when we were both eighteen years old. We have seen three of his birthdays come and go (and two of mine).
Though we are still quite tender and young, our relationship has grown into something far hardier than the sweet spring shoot that it first was.

I mean, I’ve now spent 10% of my life fascinated by this boy (less the 2% spent frustrated by him). Side by side in the library, across dinner tables, passenger and driver in the car. Nearly inseparable.

That’s the beautiful thing about being in college and being in a relationship. We have all this time to spend together—no separate jobs or many demands outside the library. (Although we do average an obscene number of hours in the library every day.)
Of course, we are fortunate to have the same major and thus many of the same classes, but N and I have grown to be symbiotic beyond just doing problem sets together. It is easy—and comforting—to be together. We support one another and can always be there for each other.

No two relationships are the same, of course, which is why giving relationship advice and identifying with others can be tricky. What works for us is completely different than for our friends.

But what works, works.
And so, Sunday, we had dinner at Momotaro (probably our favorite restaurant) to celebrate today: our 2 year anniversary!

Dark Chocolate Honey Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

So happy happy to my beloved. You make me melt like a helpless scoop of ice cream in the sweatiest parts of July.

I was inspired to make this by a super cute cake I saw on Pinterest (of course) a while back.
I assembled it as best I remembered, snapped my photos, and then spent some time sleuthing to find the person who created such an adorable cake.

I found the site, delighted and impressed by the stunning photography all over again, and then was terribly dismayed to find out (via an indignant comment section) that the blogger had actually completely and silently ripped the exact design (not even changing the FONT like I did) from an artist, with nary a mention or link back.

Honestly, as someone who has been the victim of this type of irritating internet inspiration theft, I was seriously bummed. It’s a terrible feeling, especially when the thief’s site is more visible and famous than your own (ahem, Studio DIY. Passive aggressive stink eye your way).
I mean, how much does it take to provide a link back to your original inspiration for your readers? If you didn’t outright steal their photos (which is a whole other issue), it costs you nothing. You used their beautiful content as inspiration for your own. It detracts not a single iota from your work!
It’s healthy and good to want to recreate someone else’s great content from time to time—just give them original credit or make your own damn stuff. So. With that rant out of the way…

This is the link to the original artist, Shanna Murray. I would just post this link to avoid sending more traffic to someone’s stolen goods, but I drew heavy inspiration from 79 Ideas’ cake version/photos of Shanna’s work, so it’s only fair. I simply recommend you click on Shanna’s site instead of 79 Ideas because we vote with our clicks, people.

Dark Chocolate Honey Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to make for the inside of the cake, so I drew inspiration from N figured out what description would embarrass him the most and ran with it.

See, he’s naturally tall, dark, and handsome (lucky me!), so I wanted a very dark chocolate frosting to match.
He has the *best* caramel skin, so I toyed with the idea of a caramel or peanut butter cake, but upon opening my pantry and finding myself face to face with a big bottle of honey, I realized that a cinnamon honey cake would be perfect.

I added candied ginger as my contribution, because I tend to be spicy and toothsome while he runs as suave as ganache.
See? He’s totally embarrassed right now.

Dark Chocolate Honey Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Anyways, this cake is fabulously grown-up.
It wouldn’t be my first choice for kiddos or those who love sugary sweets because it’s the opposite of that.
It’s complex and subtle and very, very rich.

The honey cake is crumbly yet moist, and the cinnamon shines through. The honey plays the important role of tempering the sweetness—less sugar is needed, and the flavor of the honey is less one-note.
Spicy candied ginger provides a thoughtfully chewy and bright bite between the cake layers.
The ganache is made ultra-smooth by using dark, bittersweet chocolate plus butter and cream, with a generous scoop of Nutella to round it out.

Overall, this is one of the more elegant layer cakes I’ve made. It is a special celebration cake, whether for a birthday or an anniversary or a graduation (*shudder*).

Dark Chocolate Honey Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Finally, I’ve never shared a picture of the two of us, but now is as good a time as ever:

Dark Chocolate Honey Cake
cake portion adapted from Love, Cake
makes 1 3×8 inch cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
115 grams (1/3 cup) honey
1 teaspoon baking soda
300 grams (2 1/2 cups) AP flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
250 grams (14 tablespoons) unsalted butter
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
3 large eggs
180 grams (3/4 cup) buttermilk

for the ganache:
225 grams (2 sticks) butter
75 grams (1/3 cup) heavy cream
300 grams (11 ounces) dark chocolate, chopped
100 grams (5 tablespoons) nutella
pinch salt

to finish:
handful candied ginger, chopped finely
1 tablespoon butter, soft
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon heavy cream, as needed
pinch salt

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and butter and flour 3 8-inch round pans.
Place honey in a pot over medium heat for about 45 seconds, until it becomes fluid and runny.
Stir in the baking soda and stir with a spatula for another 45 seconds, until the mixture is very pale golden and foamy.
Remove from heat and pour into a bowl.
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high for 2 minutes.
Add in the sugar and beat for another 2 minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the eggs; beat for another 2 minutes before adding the honey mixture while stirring.
Add the buttermilk and stir once, until half combined.
Add the flour on top, along with the baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
Stir until everything is combined and batter is smooth, about 45 seconds.
Portion the batter out evenly into the prepared pans.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, until a tester comes out with only a few crumbs.
Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
Make the ganache: place chopped chocolate in a large bowl.
Microwave in 10 second bursts until chocolate is 1/2 melted.
Stir and set aside; heat butter and cream for 30 seconds in the microwave, until melted and quite warm but not scalding hot.
Pour cream mixture over the half melted chocolate and allow to sit for 30 seconds.
Stir until cream is incorporated; add the Nutella and microwave for 10-30 more seconds, stirring well between microwaving, until the mixture is completely melted and is glossy and smooth.
Allow to cool to room temperature; place in fridge for 20 minutes until solid but still soft enough to be scoopable.
Whip or beat vigorously with a spoon or mixer until the frosting is fluffy and spreadable.
To decorate the cake, place one layer on cake stand. Spread 1/3 up of the ganache over the layer, then sprinkle half of the chopped ginger on top.
Repeat with the second layer, then top with the third layer and frost the outside of the cake with the remaining ganache.
Refrigerate while you make the white pipeable icing.
To make the white icing, beat butter with powdered sugar and a pinch of salt until mixture is smooth.
Add in the cream 1 teaspoon at a time until the icing is thin enough to be pipeable.
Decorate chilled cake as desired; serve at room temperature (take cake out of the fridge 1-2 hours before serving).

Lumi

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

Hospital gowns never fit like they should
We yelled at the nurse, didn’t do any good
More morphine, the last words you moaned
At last I was sure
That you weren’t far away from home

—The Lumineers, Long Way From Home

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

Ho! A blogger returns!

And I come with spring tidings, because it finally seems like we have changed seasons for good.

Two weeks ago we were still getting intermittent snow storms, a cruel reminder that March doesn’t always go out like a lamb.  This year, she left as an unchanged lioness.
Today, the lake is turquoise like the Caribbean, the sky is cloudless and baby blue, and the weather is a balmy 65 degrees.
The tiniest yellow daffodils nod their heads along the path to our library, and even the rhododendron saplings have fuchsia buds delicately emerging.  April pulled through in a big way.

P.S. Lumi really is a fun word.
In Finnish and Estonian, it means snow. But in Romanian, it means worlds. In Latin, it means lights.
And in Yoruba, it means hit me.  Cool.
Thank you Google Translate.

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

In other April news, have you heard the Lumineers’ new album, Cleopatra?
Some real gems on it. I recommend Ophelia, Cleopatra, and Long Way From Home. I just love their band!

More importantly, Game of Thrones is coming back in 7 short days. I am freaking out, to put it mildly. The show has now managed to overtake the books’ timeline, so some of what happens this season will be material even I have never seen.
~*fangirling~*~**~*

Less awesome news: I fucking got shingles this week.
If you are thinking, what the fuck?! you’re not 70 years old yet, then we share very similar sentiments, my friend.
Not only do I rarely get very sick, which I attribute to growing up in Ithaca and putting lots of dirt in my mouth, but I am 20—20!!!—and yet I got shingles, AKA a super painful, non-contagious reawakening of the varicella (AKA chickenpox) virus in your dorsal root ganglion (nerve roots) that emerges as an excruciating and somewhat debilitating rash (that can be very dangerous, even deadly, for immunocompromised individuals).
Luckily for me, work just started picking up (hi, UChicago) so this is totally the ideal time to feel simultaneously and relentlessly exhausted, itchy, and in pain.
But seriously, Universe. WHY.

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

I haven’t been feeling exactly bright and alive lately, but I’m trying to get in the kitchen as often as I can.
This, primarily, is because I haven’t been baking as much as I really like to, and because I have no clue as to how much I’m going to be able to do over the summer.

I’m also feeling the call to the kitchen because of my cravings for humongous, fresh salads, which require some time and patient chopping. Trying to dive into as many spring vegetables as I possibly can and saying Bye Felicia to winter squash and citrus.
Like, I love you. But it’s past time for you to go.

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

Today, I’m sharing a pretty little tart that has virtually no bake time and minimal effort required.
It’s totally adaptable—use whatever bounty of fruit you can get your hands on.
This could be made (and deliciously, I might add) with poached rhubarb or sliced plums or apricots.
Lemon and cream cheese never fail as a delicious backdrop.
Strawberries are cheap and abundant right now, as spring has long been arrived in more verdant parts of the globe (looking at you, California).
This tart would be fabulous with just strawberries.

You can check out another riff on lemon+strawberry (plus one of my most favorite poems that I’ve written) from eons ago two summers ago, here.

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

The base of this tart is my beloved pâte sucrée. It’s like a buttery shortbread cookie, but not quite as sweet, and it holds its shape perfectly when frozen and weighted with some dry beans (my ceramic pie weights live at home).
The filling is smooth and rich—lots of lemon zest and juice is thrown in with cream cheese and powdered sugar. Equally delicious would be a substitution of mascarpone for the cream cheese. Nom.
On top, a bounty of berries, juicy and colorful, brushed with a little apricot jam for extra shine and dusted with a shower of powdered sugar, if you should so desire.

Perfectly low-key, full of fresh fruit and flavor, this tart is a perfect way to officially ring in spring!

*Please don’t let this post jinx our beautiful weather, please don’t let this post jinx our beautiful weather…*

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

Cream Cheese Berry Tart
makes 1 13×4 inch tart

ingredients:
for the crust:
112 grams (1 stick, 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, soft
100 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
120 grams (1 cup) flour, plus 2 tablespoons if needed
1 egg yolk

for the filling:
120 grams (4 ounces) cream cheese, soft but still chilled
zest of 1 whole lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon heavy cream
200 grams (1 1/2 cups) powdered sugar, sifted

to assemble:
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 cup blackberries
1/2 cup raspberries
1/2 cup blueberries
1 tablespoon apricot jam
powdered sugar, as desired

directions:
Make the crust: place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high until doubled in size, about 4 minutes.
Add in the sugar, vanilla, and salt and beat on high for another 3 minutes.
Stir in the flour and egg yolk slowly until a cohesive dough forms.
Press into the tart pan with your fingers and prick with a fork.
Freeze for at least an hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Cover tart shell with foil and weight with pie weights or dry beans.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and fully set.
Allow to cool fully.
Meanwhile, make the cream cheese filling: beat cream cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice, and heavy cream on high for 2 minutes, until light and fluffy.
Add in the powdered sugar and stir slowly until incorporated; increase speed to high and beat for another minute.
Filling should be thick.
Spread into the cooled shell.
Decorate with berries, then brush hot jam over the berries with a pastry brush.
Dust with powdered sugar if desired.

Shamrock Shake

Shamrock Shake Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

If a man who cannot count finds a four-leaf clover,
is he lucky?

—Stanislaw Lem

Shamrock Shake Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

 Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!

Also, happy last day of finals for me!  I’ll be taking my last test (neurobiology) this afternoon and then packing up to fly to California on Friday with my parents!
I’ll be spending a few days in L.A. (Venice) and then going to Palm Springs for the rest of the week.
I’m excited for rest, relaxation, and sunshine.

(Any restaurant/sightseeing recommendations would fall on eager, grateful ears!)

Two holiday posts in one week, with Pi Day being only 3 days ago.
It’s feeling like Christmas or Valentine’s Day all over again!
I do become frustrated that my blogging occasionally morphs into this frenzy: bake bake bake right before a big day, barely and frantically squeezing every post out that I want to get to so I don’t miss it and have to wait a year.

It’s by virtue of my schedule and how activities have been prioritized in my life lately.  At the beginning of this quarter, I promised things would be different and more regularly scheduled.
That didn’t exactly happen, although my post frequency has been decidedly more consistent than the end of last year.

My frustration doesn’t stem from obligation—this is my space, it conforms to fit my needs and abilities, etc. etc.—but rather, from the fact that this journal is a part of myself, and neglecting it for too long leaves me itchy and antsy to create and indulge my suppressed artistic side.

Shamrock Shake Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I’m sharing something a little trashy with plenty of food dye in it today, because I’ve been plotting of this cake for ages and I’ll be damned if I miss St. Paddy’s again this year (as I did in 2014… Sigh).

Since Nati has a car at school now, I accompany him on his occasional late night McDonald’s runs.
I’m a strict vegetarian and eat fairly healthfully, so there’s nothing I get there (although I do usually mooch some fries, as is a girlfriend’s duty); about a month ago, though, I received some serious inspiration from none other than our local Mickey D’s.
That’s because early in the spring, the infamous harbinger of the change in seasons appeared on the drive through billboard:
the Shamrock Shake.

I’ve never had one (apparently it has 54 ingredients, which is a little scary considering it’s a milkshake), but I know its premise: a mint shake with a little cream and a cherry on top.

I knew it had to be cake.
Specifically, a St. Patrick’s Day cake.

Shamrock Shake Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

This Shamrock Shake cake (Shamrock Cake?) was thus conceived and created.
It’s a dense, vanilla white cake, moist and dependable (and made with the reverse creaming method), frosted with an light ombré wash of pale, pastel green buttercream with a hit of salt and mint.
A drip of creamy white chocolate adds some sweetness and cuts the mint, and eight bright red maraschino cherries, dusted with a few gold stars for good luck, finish the cake perfectly.

It’s actually a very simple cake, but looks extremely pretty and appropriate for the time of year.
If your friends like mint flavored treats, then they’ll love you forever if you share this with them.
It got good feedback from mine, certainly.

In fact, my Irish friend Peter told me I could reference his praise and his homeland as testimony.
So, in spite of the somewhat trashy, very American origins of this cake, a real live Irishman appreciated and approved of it.
I call that a victory.

Shamrock Shake Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Shamrock Shake Cake
makes 1 3-layer 6-inch cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
240 grams (2 cups) flour
30 grams (1/4 cup) cornstarch
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
350 grams (1 3/4 cups) sugar
5 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
240 grams (1 cup) milk
160 grams (1 1/2 sticks, 6 ounces) butter, cut into cubes

for frosting and assembly:
270 grams (2 1/2 sticks, 10 ounces) butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon table salt
460 grams (4 cups) powdered sugar
30-60 grams (2-4 tablespoons) cream, as needed
1 teaspoon mint extract or oil
green food coloring

white chocolate

maraschino cherries
gold luster stars

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 3 6-inch round pans.
Place butter in a bowl and microwave for 30 to 45 seconds, until very slightly melted and soft.
Place flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix until combined.
Whisk milk, vanilla extract, and egg whites together in a measuring cup.
With the mixer running, add the melty butter into the flour mixture a few tablespoons at a time; allow the mixer to run for about a minute, until the batter is coarse and sandy and no visible pieces of butter remain.
With the mixer running on low, stream in the milk and egg mixture; increase speed to high and beat for 1 minute until homogeneous and smooth.
Divide into prepared pans.
Bake for 16-20 minutes, until a tester comes out with only a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool completely.
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.
Add the mint extract.
Divide the batter into two bowls; add a little bit of green food coloring to one of the bowls.
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.
Working with just the green frosting, add it on in a thick layer to the bottom half of the cake.
Repeat with the white frosting for the upper half of the cake, saving 1/2 a cup for later.
Use a large spatula to blend and smooth the frostings together.
Once smooth, place in the fridge to chill.
Melt the white chocolate very gently in the microwave; pour or pipe over the edges of the chilled cake.
Using the extra white frosting, pipe some poofs on top of the cake with a french tip or a star tip.
Place a cherry on top of each poof and follow with some edible gold star glitter.

Suprème

Brûléed Citrus and Lime Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Cosine, secant, tangent, sine,
Three point one four one five nine,
Square root, cube root, BTU,
Sequence, series, limits too. Rah.

—Unofficial UChicago football cheer

(See here for a fantastically written article about a very nerdy tradition at my school, which is the nerdiest of the nerdy)

Brûléed Citrus and Lime Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

(Themistocles, Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War,
X squared, Y squared, H2SO4.
Who for? What for? Who we gonna yell for?
Go, Maroons.

Logarithm, biorhythm, entropy, kinetics,
MPC, GNP, bioenergetics!
Maximize and integrate, titrate and equilibrate—
Go, Maroons.)

Brûléed Citrus and Lime Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy Pi Day!
3.14, and I’m posting this at 1:59 so we get 3.14159.
(Last year, 3/14/15, at 9:26:53, the date was 10 digits of Pi!)

Pretty much every baking/food blogger is sharing a pie today.  It’s only right, right?
Shamefully, I’ve never shared a pie on Pi day.
I haven’t shared many pies at all, truth be told.  Which is weird, because I really like making and eating pie.
My last pie was made at Thanksgiving, and it was this insane apple, poached pear, butterscotch, and cheddar cheese beaut.  It was even shared on Buzzfeed (woot!) but has since faded into the recesses of my mind/tastebuds/blog archives.

If you want real (and regularly scheduled) pie envy, go see Michelle, who has undertaken a pie a month for 2016. Color me inspired! Her pies are gorgeous and her photography of late has been b o m b.
High fives, Michelle! Keep being the most impressive, please and thank you!

Brûléed Citrus and Lime Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

The pie I’m sharing today is definitely worthy of reviving the pie portion of my site.
It’s a creamy, custardy lime pie, full of sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks in a crunchy, buttery, toasty graham cracker crust topped with brûléed suprèmes of white and ruby red grapefruit and a navel orange.

It’s mostly the classic key lime pie (less the key limes) from the back of the sweetened condensed milk can, with the addition of a non store-bought graham crust and a heap of torched, bittersweet citrus segments.
The creamy filling contrasts brilliantly with the slightly bitter, sour fruit and the sweet, wheat-y crust.
Key lime pie has always—and will always—be in my personal favorite top 3 pie flavors.

I dropped this off at N’s fraternity house, and it was demolished. According to one ~taste tester~, my good friend Colton, it was “unreal” and “like an addiction,” as in, none of them could stop eating it, even if they tried.
Not only does this make me very happy, but it’s also a good indication of how yummy this combination is!

Brûléed Citrus and Lime Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

One last note about this pie…
In spite of the title of this post, there is no need to suprème your fruit. Seriously.

Unless you’re thinking to yourself: “YES. this is what I went to culinary school for 2 years for!  My time to shine!” or
“what’s the big deal about suprèming? I do it every Sunday for my weekly goat cheese, blood orange, and arugula salad!”
then it’s probably not worth it.
Slice up your peeled fruits like this, or cut ’em like this.

If, like me, you’ve seen this technique done on T.V. but have never had any formal knife skill training and are still silly enough to want to try it, please buy extra citrus fruits.
Because it’s kind of a pain and you’ll probably mash a lot of segments along the way. I know I did.

No matter how the citrus is arranged on top of the pie, it will be delicious and beautiful.  Just a word of warning advice.

Brûléed Citrus and Lime Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Brûléed Citrus and Lime Pie
makes 1 9-inch pie

ingredients:
300 grams (2 cups) graham cracker crumbs
112 grams (4 ounces, 1 stick) butter, melted
pinch salt
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar

for the filling and topping:
400 grams (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
135 grams (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) lime juice (I used 2 limes and 1 lemon)
5 egg yolks

1 white grapefruit
1 ruby red grapefruit
1 navel orange
turbinado sugar, optional

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and ready a 9-inch pie dish.
Stir graham cracker crumbs, butter, salt, and sugar together until sandy and coarse.
Firmly press into pan using your fingers and a measuring cup.
Bake in preheated oven for 8 minutes, then remove and let cool slightly.
Meanwhile, whisk the sweetened condensed milk, lime juice, and egg yolks together vigorously until a smooth and homogenous mixture forms.
Pour into cooling pie crust and bake for 15 minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool completely, at least 1 hour + some time in the fridge.
In the meantime, suprème your grapefruits and orange and arrange on a plate the way you want them.
When the pie is cool, lightly dry each slice of citrus with a paper towel and arrange on top of the pie.
Sprinkle some turbinado sugar on top (liberally) and brûlée with a blow torch.
Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Bonne Maman

Decorated Rose Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

And the Wild Things said,

Oh please don’t go—
we’ll eat you up—
we love you so!

—Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are

Decorated Rose Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

March—in like a lion, out like a lamb.
We hope, at least. It’s been both warm and sunny and frigid, snowing, and icy. And it’s only the 8th!
The weather is sending some seriously mixed signals to Chicago.  But then again, what’s new about that?

I disappeared for the second half of February, but I’m back with spring-y feelings and and lots of bright whites and pastels. My holiday Pinterest board is flooded with delicately dyed eggs and bunnies. I’m really, really ready for spring.

I do wonder about these 3 weeks—the blog lying fallow and outdated dressed in its Valentine’s day best—because I’ve had pictures and recipes to post, but an absence of words to fill the blank space. Three weeks of quiet silence, of empty, unremarkable days and hands folded on top of my keyboard. Nothing to type.
Somehow my silences are always precipitated by a lack of words, rather than a dearth of new recipes.

Decorated Rose Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Anyways, as I mentioned in my long-forgotten last post, Hana’s birthday is at the end of February.
Her 21st birthday cake is one of my favorites ever—a little 6-inch number completely covered in happy sprinkles.

She’s totally the best friend/big/Theta mama in the world and she definitely deserves treats on her 22nd birthday!
Here’s the thing: she’s in France right now, and has been for this whole quarter. *pouts*
I did NOT want her to go but she’s been having an absolutely fabulous time in Paris and Europe and I can’t fault her for that, even with how much I miss her.
I guess I’ve forgiven her for leaving me!

My solution to not being able to give her a cake and gift in person was to bake and ship her some sturdy cookies, which still only had a small shot in making it there unharmed.

Good news! My plan worked! These cookies, carefully packed, made it all the way across the Atlantic without breaking into a thousand million crumbs. Thank goodness.

Decorated Rose Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

To make these, I whipped up a half batch of my perfected roll-out sugar cookie recipe: buttery, a little salty, and cut thick so as to not break any teeth.
You’ve seen it before, in many forms. It’s pretty failproof—doesn’t spread, keeps in the freezer for an eternity, etc.

To decorate them, I used egg white royal icing. Instead of just flooding them with thin icing, I kept a small portion very thick. I used a tiny French tip to pipe the most minuscule of roses, then I set them to dry while I decorated the cookie base.
I’m not totally happy with how my watercolor rose effect came out and I think my technique needs some perfecting before I share it here, but the whole set together had the look I was going for. In the future, I’m going to experiment more with wet-on-wet icing techniques.
A little “H” and a few roses and leaves on each one rounded them out nicely.

These would be perfect for a baby or bridal shower, Easter or anything springy, and the birthday of someone special, of course!

Decorated Rose Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy March, everyone. May spring come soon.
And a very happy belated birthday to Hana! May Spring Quarter come so I can hug you, friend.

Decorated Rose Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Perfect Roll-Out Sugar Cookies
makes 10 2 1/2 inch cookies

ingredients:
112 grams (1/2 cup) butter
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 medium egg (or half a large, whisked and weighed)
180 grams (1 1/2 cups) flour

directions:
Beat butter on high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add in the salt and sugar and vanilla and beat on high for another 3 full minutes.
Add the egg and beat for another 2 minutes; scrape the bowl and beat until homogeneous again.
Mixture should be light and fairly fluffy.
Add in the flour and stir on low speed until fully combined.
Roll out to 1/4 inch-3/8 inch thickness on a lightly floured surface.
Cut into desired shapes and bake for 8-10 minutes.
Decorate with royal icing.

Magical

Vegan Eton Mess | La Pêche Fraîche

You know what a loser is? A real loser is somebody that’s so afraid of not winning, they don’t even try.

—Little Miss Sunshine

Vegan Eton Mess | La Pêche Fraîche

I recently tried something new and a little big magical.
It wasn’t quite perfect, but it wasn’t half-bad, either.
I learned a lot and I know now that I’m going to try it again—maybe even until I get those near-perfect results.
Maybe not.  Depends on my patience.

Either way, it was supercool and blew my mind.

Vegan Eton Mess | La Pêche Fraîche

As some of you might be aware of, this past spring, a nasty outbreak of avian influenza has decimated populations of chickens and poultry, particularly hens kept in unsanitary and inhumane factory farms.
(Just being frank, friends.)
Michigan recently cancelled its poultry fair, as the first cases of bird flu spread to their state.

There’s no vaccine—so sick and healthy birds alike must be killed to try to stop the flu.  Some 40 million of them, in fact.
This boils down to eggs being in shorter supply and the US agricultural economy taking a huge blow.

Think this is enough to get us all to stop and think about our farming practices and how animals and animal products are raised and made?

And how can we responsibly move forward as consumers and customers?

Vegan Eton Mess | La Pêche Fraîche

You all know my favorite desserts contain meringue (read: pavlova, daquoise, macaron, IMBC…).
And we all know that meringue can’t be made without eggs, right?

WRONG!

Sorry for shouting.  BUT YOU GUYS some genius food scientist figured out how to make vegan meringue out of aqua faba, or bean water.  Yes, the stuff that you drain off the top of a freshly opened can of beans.

Egg whites, in reality, are just water with suspended proteins; when they are whipped, the proteins form a net and the water is suspended, creating a foam (meringue!).

Using another type of protein solution, as it turns out, can work nearly as well.

So these eton messes are vegan.
And the meringue is made of chickpeas.
And I saved a couple eggs in the process.

Vegan Eton Mess | La Pêche Fraîche

It’s so, so simple.
Just use the drained water from a can of beans, and whip the living daylights out of it until it forms a foamy, fluffy meringue.
Stabilize with a little powdered sugar and starch, and you’ve got fluffy, pipeable meringue.

This was my first attempt, and my lovely fluffy meringues got all deflated in the oven, so that although they were crispy and light, they weren’t as tall as I wanted.
I’m going to try again, with different methods of stabilization and perhaps different beans.

The rest of the vegan eton mess was a bit of cold and creamy coconut whip, some sweet sliced bananas and crunchy toasted coconut, and a few golden star sprinkles for an extra magical touch!

Vegan Eton Mess | La Pêche Fraîche

Since my first vegan meringue didn’t come out quite perfectly for me, I’m still working on my own adaptations to the recipe I used so that the meringues stay super fluffy and tall, even after baking.  They were delicious as is, though, so I want to direct you to the original recipe should you want to try.
Check it out here, at Wallflower Girl!
For coconut whip, check out Minimalist Baker (duh).

Jewelled

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

 “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the
most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”

—Roald Dahl

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I’m writing this during the first thunderstorm of the season.
The kind of storm with big claps of thunder, early in the morning—great cymbals crashing in the sky—while a grey drizzle settles slowly down into dry winter bones.

The kind of storm after which, later in the day, the sun comes out and the heady scent of rain soaked earth fills the air.
The storm that reminds the trees why they’re budding, that urges grass to turn green.

One deep breath to fill your lungs with springtime.

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Sixty degrees F todayyesterday, and marvelously humid from the rain.  My skin and hair are in happy places.

Little purple crocuses have popped up, seemingly overnight, fanning their petals wide and showing off their bright yellow centers for the world to see.

Back home, spring is the sunny daffodils that grow tall and strong up and down our block; it’s the budding of all the oaks and the giant melt, as the land thaws out, that leaves the waterfalls fuller than any other time of year.
Spring is the chirpy birds that flit around, robins and tiny chickadees and oh!—those cardinals, with nests being built in trees just outside my bedroom window.
Gosh, guys, I do miss having trees that greet me first thing in the morning with a long-branched windy wave.
(I’m afraid home is still blanketed with snow, though.  Oh, Upstate, you fickle lover, you.)

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I suppose spring means something different to each person (how bad are your allergies?) and is unique in each place.
I wish my spring had more flowers, more time in the sun, and, importantly, more baby goats.
Can I move to Ireland and live on a dairy farm? Please?

Don’t know if I could ever live in an environment that doesn’t have all four seasons.  I could do with a shorter winter, yes, and sure, a more temperate summer than Chicago boasts, but I can’t imagine not experiencing the changing of each season every year.

There’s something about the way our earth turns around the sun, slowly but surely, that makes you feel extra small
and extra alive, doesn’t it?

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Also HAHAHA did you see this article from the New Yorker?
“…Meanwhile, sprinkle each couple’s speech with “we” statements, adding a subtle flavor of competition to the mélange…”
Literal tears were cried while laughing at this one, folks.

Or this prank?  Reminds me of the similar Pepsi/Jeff Gordon one from a few years back
Girl power!

Opinions on the new Amazon Dash Buttons?
While they seem useful, they strike me as a bit unnecessary and seem to make online shopping that much more intrusive.

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Speaking of shopping, at Whole Foods the other day (did I mention the mangoes!?!  My goodness gracious, those were just the most perfect mangoes in the world.), I saw some pretty sprays of purple hyacinths perfuming the flower section.
I snatched them up, brought them home, and placed them in a jar on my desk so that my whole room smells sweet.
Their springy feel and sweet smell sowed little seeds of seasonal inspiration in my mind.
An entire stalk was sacrificed for this cake, because I wanted some flowers for decoration.
No, I am not completely sure whether hyacinths are edible. I picked them off directly after the photos.
#trueconfessions

I also picked up some berries (and asparagus), because I am overly eager for spring produce and I frankly don’t give a damn if they are in season at this exact moment, because they’re too juicy and tempting to resist!

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

While rooting around in my pantry for brown sugar to make muffins, a little tin of matcha powder fell from the heavens and bonked me on the head.

Matcha, bright green and perfect for a springy cake with its grassy undertones!  The Gods were telling me something.
Thus was this cake born.

See matcha previously on this blog in this Chocolate Matcha Mochi cake (so chewy and moist!) or this Matcha Marzipan roll cake (so light and fluffy!).

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche
This is a cake perfect for noshing—little slivers taken repeatedly over the course of a slow afternoon—and goes brilliantly with a hot cup of any sort of tea, green or otherwise.

It’s delightfully dense, like a tightly crumbed, firm poundcake, but avoids the usual pitfall of dryness with a touch of cream, which keeps it moist even on the second day.
The matcha in the cake is not overpowering at all.  It adds a whisper of green tea, a little kick of grassy, springy brightness, but isn’t overwhelmingly bitter.
This is a perfect pound cake, buttery and not-too-sweet; little ruby berries and a dusting of matcha powdered sugar make the perfect accompaniment.

It can be on your table ready to be served in less than 45 minutes, and keeps brilliantly.  The last slice was that much better on the second day, as the cake had lost none of the flavor but become more moist overnight.

I could also see this being served with lashings of chocolate ganache or good honey, with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla bean ice cream.

For now, I kept it springy, simple, and light.

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Matcha Butter Cake
makes 1 6×3 inch cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
170 grams (3/4 cup) butter, soft
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
3 eggs
10 mL (2 teaspoons) vanilla extract
30 mL (2 tablespoons) heavy cream
1 tablespoon matcha powder
120 grams (1 cup) flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

for decorating:
1/2 teaspoon matcha powder
1/4 cup powdered sugar
fruit and flowers, as desired

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour a 6×3 inch pan liberally.
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer with the sugar and salt and beat on high speed for 5 minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in the eggs.
Beat on high for 5 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add the cream and vanilla extract; mix only until partially incorporated.
Add in the matcha, flour, and baking powder.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix to ensure homogeneity.
Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top is puffed and springy and a tester comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes; invert onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
To decorate, mix matcha and powdered sugar together very well.
Dust over the top of the cake and decorate with fresh fruit as desired.
Serve in repeated thin slices with hot tea!

Ad Lucem

Fluffy Coconut Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

“One star in the sky leads sailors home.
A butterfly can start a hurricane.
A grain of sand begets a landslide.
You are important, and the universe is empty without you.
Believe me.”

—Abigail Cicero

Fluffy Coconut Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

After a thorough routing from my finals, and a great lack of sleep and bruised tailbone ego, I have made it to spring break.

How lucky!  How blessed and grateful I am!
For I am in Playa del Carmen, México, with my mama.
It is 86 degrees F and we must take breaks from the all-powerful sun to ensure that we do not get fried to little frico crisps like parmesan cheese.  As greedy as I am for the sun, I must remind myself not to sit and bake for too too long.

Taking breaks from the sun.
How different from in grey Chicago…

Fluffy Coconut Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

I’ve been eating heaping tons of fresh fruit (all the sweet pineapple! all the sour guavas! all the fuschia prickly pears!) and enjoying every bite of their sun-infused tropical flavors before I have to head back to cold, fruit-barren, snowy Chicago.
Uchhhhh.

Someone sitting next to me at the pool today kindly informed me that it snowed 4 inches + flurries in the last few days back home.  The thought of having to slog through that to classes again makes me weepy and whiny.
Do I really have to leave the luxury of Mexico to go back?!

(I can already hear my daddy’s resolute “Yes.”)

Fluffy Coconut Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

If you want to infuse wherever you are with a little sunshine, try out one (or a few, or all…) of these bright, summery recipes that I’ve been eyeing:

Pineapple sangria from Jessica—can I have a poolboy please please get me one of these, stat?!

Banana buttermilk bread from Beth—beautiful as always! (Wow, that alliteration.)

Chocolate passionfruit cupcakes (my favorite combination!) from Laura.  Cake is always the best way to celebrate, and congratulations are in order for her!

Key lime pie.  Probably my favorite kind of pie, and this cream-cheesy one looks especially delicious.  Bless you, Zoe.

And if you want to be transported to Méx sans fruit, try Sam’s droolworthy pepita/honey/orange caramels or Kylie’s chocolate and cinnamon donut muffins.
Either way, make extra 4 me plz.

Fluffy Coconut Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Do you think me lazy for posting lists two posts in a row?
Then you thought right, friend.
Between finals and vacation, I’m checked out.
Link love lists it is!

At least the last one was more about clothing and cosmetics, and this one is all about food.

#dealwitit

Fluffy Coconut Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Anyways, to add another item that you could make to take your tastebuds away to the tropics…

These adorable double coconut vanilla cupcakes.
The coconut flavor is super subtle, with just a tiny, non-offensive hint playing in the foreground of each bite.

The cake itself is supremely soft and moist, thanks to the coconut oil infused batter—the crumb is tight and each bite is meltingly tender.  You could toss in 1/2 cup of shredded coconut, unsweetened or sweetened, to up the coconuttiness.

The frosting, piled high in great swirly mountains, is very fluffy and very buttery, with a hint of coconut murmuring through it.  Vanilla and cream and a pinch of salt claim the loudest notes, but the coconut oil woven through plays off them in a delicate balance that becomes addictive after the first taste.
More is more, here.  Trust me.

I added a fresh strawberry for a bright note, but topping these off with another fruit or a shower of toasted coconut or lashings of ganache, white or dark, would be equally wondrous.
The subtlety of these cupcakes goes with anything.

Fluffy Coconut Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Anyways, I’m off to edit GoPro videos (yes!!  I got one!! And we love it!) and then to slather myself in aloe and then climb into a soft, fluffy, hotel bed.
Hopefully I will have soft, fluffy dreams about cupcakes with clouds of coconut frosting.

Hasta pronto! x

Fluffy Coconut Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Double Coconut Vanilla Cupcakes
makes 12 cupcakes

ingredients:
for the cakes:
175 grams (1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons) flour
1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
70 grams (5 tablespoons) butter, soft
45 grams (3 tablespoons) coconut oil, solid
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs
120 mL (1/2 cup) milk
2 teaspoons vanilla

for the frosting:
180 grams (12 tablespoons) butter, soft
30 grams (2 tablespoons) coconut oil, solid
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
500 grams (4 cups) powdered sugar, sifted
60 mL (4 tablespoons) heavy cream, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla

directions:
First, make the cakes: preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line 12 muffin cups with liners.
Whisk flour and baking powder together.
Place butter and coconut oil and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high for 2 minutes.
Stream in the sugar and beat on high for 5 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add in each of the eggs.
Beat on high for 5 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add in the milk and vanilla.
Mix until partially mixed in, then add the flour mixture.
Beat on high for 30 seconds, until fully homogeneous.
Scoop in 1/3 cup portions into the muffin tin.
Bake for 18 minutes, until fluffy and a tester comes out with just a few crumbs.
Allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the frosting: beat butter, coconut oil, and salt together for 10 minutes, until super fluffy and light.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and sift in the powdered sugar.
Mix in halfway, then stream in the heavy cream.
Beat on high for 1 more minute.
Pipe onto cooled cupcakes as desired, and top with toasted coconut or fresh fruit!

FOTA

Chiaroscuro LARGE

CHIAROSCURO

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

Chiaroscuro SMALL II

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

Fragola SMALL I

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

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

Fragola SMALL II

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?!)

Tuolo SMALL II

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