Temptation

Strawberry, Chocolate, and Marzipan Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

With strawberries we filled a tray,
And then we drove away, away
Along the links beside the sea,
Where wind and wave were light and free,
And August felt as fresh as May.
And where the springy turf was gay
With thyme and balm and many a spray
Of wild roses, you tempted me
With strawberries!
A shadowy sail, silent and grey,
Stole like a ghost across the bay;
But none could hear me ask my fee,
And none could know what came to be.
Can sweethearts all their thirst allay
With strawberries?

—William Ernest Henley

Strawberry, Chocolate, and Marzipan Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Do all my posts start with a remark about how quickly time passes? Am I getting so predictable and old that it’s the only source of small talk I have to share with you all?
…But, whoa, February is halfway gone already?!
I was just remarking to my dad how February is the shortest month by far, seeing as it not only has 28 days, but it also comes directly on the heels of the incontrovertibly longest month.
Grey, dreary January.
Here in New York City, however, February has been greyer by far than January.
Rainy, gloomy days that keep me snuggled up in bed. Not that I mind.
In fact, re-emphasizing rest and self-care has led me to inadvertently stay dry for most of January and February thus far. I do like going out for drinks or enjoying a bottle of wine over dinner with my friends, but it’s always an eye opener to spend weekend mornings not feeling hungover. While I’m not consciously staying away from alcohol, it’s something on which I am going to try keep a close eye.
I’ve been tracking a bunch of different habits on a homemade bullet journal, and I find it very interesting to look back and see the shape of my days. I just finished the first side yesterday, and I’m very excited to turn the page over and start on a fresh sheet.
If you’ve never tried using a bullet journal, I cannot recommend it highly enough. It’s an awesome way to keep track of your life, especially for people who like to stay organized. There’s a sense of a completed to-do list at the end of each day, when you get to X off boxes all along a column. Very satisfying, indeed.

Strawberry, Chocolate, and Marzipan Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

I absolutely adore Valentine’s Day. Every year, I get very excited to make special baked goods.
Many people say that your first Valentine’s Day out of a relationship is torturously difficult, but it’s not so for me. Single or no, the idea of a day set aside to remind us all to celebrate love and hold our dear ones tighter is something I cherish.

Somehow, these last two years I have managed to do something insane with marzipan.
Last year’s cake, which I just ‘grammed, took me hours and hours to complete.
I tend to get these fanciful ideas in my head, especially ones involving marzipan and gold leaf, and they completely wipe out my better judgment and time-worn experience that would hit the brakes when it comes to delicate little projects like this. Remember when I asked you to keep me away from gold leaf?
Yeah, well… In addition to today’s mini cakes, I have a cake with marzipan AND gold leaf coming your way soon. Évidemment, je n’aie jamais compris la leçon.
I never fail to get suckered in.

Strawberry, Chocolate, and Marzipan Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

These happy little cakelets are just the cutest, aren’t they?!

These are strawberry cake truffles.
They’re made of balsamic vinegar and olive oil chocolate cake, velvety and damp, with the faintest savory notes threaded through it.
Sweet strawberry buttercream is folded into the cake crumbs, and they are shaped into little naked strawberries.
Tinted marzipan, chewy and toothsome, blankets the truffles. It is accented with little dots of royal icing that harden to a hint of crunchiness, just like what you would expect from tiny strawberry seeds.

The overall effect is unbelievably kawaii, and these are sure to charm anyone you give them to. If you have Serious Chocolate Lovers in your life, you could even dip them in melted chocolate to make chocolate dipped “strawberries.”
(You know, if this recipe isn’t extra enough for you already. Ha!)

Strawberry, Chocolate, and Marzipan Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Lots of love, darlings! I hope you all have a happy, contented Valentine’s Day.
xo

Strawberry, Chocolate, and Marzipan Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Valentine’s Day, previously:

2017:
Fluffy, ruffled princess layer cake with a cascade of marzipan roses
Thick, soft M&M cookies
Mocha cupcakes topped with fluffy swirls of vanilla bean Italian meringue buttercream

2016:
Ginger, Malted Vanilla, and Hibiscus layer cake
Baby pink XO salty sugar cookies
Raspberry white chocolate and Nutella éclairs
Brown butter and vanilla bean teacakes

2015:
Fluffy, buttery copycat Lofthouse cookies
Chocolate covered strawberry cake with goat cheese frosting
Dolled-up red velvet cake
Mini pink princesstårta

2014:
Pink grapefruit possets with Ritz crunch and pistachios
Dark and white chocolate French mendiants
Strawberry pocky cake
Salty dark chocolate tarts

Strawberry, Chocolate, and Marzipan Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Strawberry, Chocolate, and Marzipan Cakes
makes 36 mini cakes

ingredients:
for the balsamic olive oil chocolate cake:
180 grams (1 1/2 cups) AP flour
60 grams (3/4 cup) cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
300 grams (1 1/2 cups) sugar
114 grams (1/2 cup) olive oil
360 grams (1 1/2 cups) hot coffee
15 grams (1 tablespoon) balsamic vinegar

for the strawberry buttercream:
113 grams (8 tablespoons) butter, softened
227 grams (2 cups) powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
30 grams (2 tablespoons) milk or cream, or as needed
170 grams (1/2 cup) strawberry jam

to assemble:
336 grams (12 ounces) marzipan
food coloring, as desired
royal icing (meringue powder + water), as desired

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 2 6-inch pans.
Place flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda, and sugar in a bowl and whisk together briefly.
Slowly stream the hot water or coffee into the dry ingredients; once it’s mostly incorporated, whisk vigorously while you add in the olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Scrape the bowl to ensure homogeneity, then portion evenly into the two pans.
Bake for 18-22 minutes, until a tester comes out with a few crumbs and the tops are springy.
Allow to cool completely before continuing.
Once cool, cut off any crusty edges and crumble the cakes into fine crumbs.
Set aside.
Make the frosting: whip butter with powdered sugar and salt until light and fluffy; add in the milk while whipping so that the mixture is thick but spreadable.
Fold in the jam until combined; it may curdle (that’s okay!) due to the amount of jam.
It’s all just for binding, anyways, so it won’t matter.
Add the frosting into the cake crumbles and stir until the mixture is a cohesive ball.
Scoop out teaspoon – 2 teaspoon measures and roll into conical strawberry shapes.
Refrigerate until hardened, at least 1 hour.
Meanwhile, tint the marzipan; here, I used Americolor and Wilton colors in red, black, and green, and added a touch of cocoa powder to the leaves to temper down the brightness.
Once the cakes are hardened, roll out a knob of red marzipan to 1/8 of an inch thickness.
Wrap the marzipan around the cake gently, pinching off excess at the seams and gently smoothing with your fingers.
Place the cake seam side down and return to the fridge.
Repeat with all the red marzipan; once that is all finished, roll out the green marzipan to 3/16 inch thickness.
Using fondant flower cutters, cut out the top leaves for the berries.
Affix to the top of the berries, using a tiny amount of water if needed.
Decorate the berries with a toothpick and white royal icing to create little dots as seeds.
Serve at room temperature the day they are made (marzipan will get a bit soggy if left in the fridge too long).

Mêlé

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“One of the mixed blessings of being twenty and twenty-one and even twenty-three is the conviction that nothing like this, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, has ever happened before.”

Joan Didion

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

New York, New York.
The city that never sleeps: a proud acclamation even while most of its inhabitants are miserably dead tired.
Overgrown concrete jungle, deliciously bloated with opportunity, built of contradictions and false starts and dreams achieved.

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I live-work-eat-sleep-breathe-watch New York.
As I settle in deeper, scenes swirl around me—little pieces of other people—dull and unremarkable, yet somehow thought-provoking.
There are soft, overripened edges amongst the city’s constitution.
I catch glimpses of them everywhere, curious (or nosy) as I am.

The subway is a microcosm of New York; ridership spans all walks of life. We all know this: we’ve seen the pictures of Meryl Streep, riding the train home after a failed audition (Meryl! Streep!); we have seen the dancers for whom riding the train is the audition.
A crowded subway full of diverse people is a great equalizer.
None of us can make it go faster and none of us can make it any less unpleasant.
Neither the man in the pressed suit and tie, nor the harried mother and her invariably crying baby, nor the bored looking model, and so on and so forth.
So I bide my time and I observe. Might as well.

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

There is something disappointing and vaguely optimistic about the young, fashionable professional fishing a cigarette out from her bag while drinking a green juice at 9AM.
Something repellent and electrifying about the heady smell of freshly ground coffee, paint thinner, and body odor on the A train late on Sunday night.
Something disturbing and cutesy about the girl with an expensive-looking black and white calfskin bag that exactly coordinates with the pattern of her little pomeranian’s fur.
Something comforting and unsettling, no matter how bold you’re feeling, about accidentally meeting the same stranger’s gaze more than once, or, agonizingly, more than twice, as both your eyes dart around the car, tracing similar paths (ending at a woman and her bike, atop the handlebars of which perches a man’s bulky gym bag and, more precarious still, another woman’s very large Amazon Prime box).

I wonder what contradictions people see and feel when they look at me.
Is that terribly narcissistic or just some permutation of theory of mind?

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I am aware that there are, in theory, seven universal emotions.
I am convinced that body language and etiquette on an extremely crowded subway in the summer is equally well understood.

We all try desperately not to touch each other, (particularly when one enters with a stroller, or suitcase, or child in tow) carefully shifting bags, shuffling feet, and averting eyes.
Every overheated, uncomfortable body moves in unison as the subway shudders and accelerates or grinds to a halt, waving together like so many ungainly stalks of grass.
We attempt to keep polite social space between us.
When one stumbles, bumping all their neighbors while grasping with sweaty hand for the pole, mumbling apologies and righting themselves, smoothing wrinkles and reinserting headphones, we imperceptibly nod with tightly pressed lips hinting at a familiar camaraderie. We’ve been there. 
Though we are all trying to willfully ignore everyone else, we are embarrassed for the person, just for a moment.
But by the time the doors open and hot, sticky air pours into the car, we have long forgotten and returned to our bubbles lit with a ubiquitous, faint blue glow.
Newcomers load in, and we make room and begin the sweaty shuffle anew without ever even looking up.

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Alright, now for an important soapbox-y aside.

I titled this post “mêlé”—mixed—for the decoration of this cake, and I started composing it long before nightmares unfolded in Charlottesville and Barcelona and Cambrils and Alcanar.
Let me be clear as day: there is no room for mixed reactions to these events.
There is no excuse for mixed reactions to these attacks. Our president’s inability to condemn hatred and bigotry, his choice of wavering and mixed reactions, is astounding, even at this point when we thought he could sink no lower.
You cannot morally equivocate hate-filled terrorist groups with non-terrorist ones.
Murder and violence, while both reprehensible, are not equivalent.
I will not make space for Nazi-sympathizers or ISIS-sympathizers in my life or on my web page. It is a disappointment every day of my damn life that America put an incompetent white-supremacist-apologist in the White House.
By the way, if you think there is a difference between a White Christian group that wants annihilation of all others and a Muslim group that wants the same—that the former can have good people as its members and the latter cannot—your racism is showing.
(And for the record, I don’t think either has good people: there are no “good” Nazis. There are no good terrorists, period.)

My heart breaks. Over and over, into a million pieces, even as my resolve strengthens.
I am begging the universe to manifest a peaceful world.
In the meantime, be nice to everyone. Condemn hate, loudly, and often.
Count the days to 2018. Count the days to 2020.

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Miguel-Anxo Murado wrote a mournful piece called “When Terror Came to Barcelona” in the NYT and quoted George Orwell:

“If you can feel that staying human is worth while, even when it can’t have any result whatever, you’ve beaten them.”

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Here’s a cake best shared with friends, a cake that is good to the earth and kind to all living beings.
Especially kind to the living beings who get a taste…!
No animal products whatsoever, and they’re not missed in the least.

I’ve been baking quite a bit of vegan deliciousness up in my kitchen, because I don’t eat dairy and eggs day-to-day and therefore often don’t have them on hand. AKA I am lazy.
But hey, my laziness is forcing me to be innovative, so it is a good lazy. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.
Uh huh.

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

This vegan coconut cake is wonderfully moreish, with a texture that is dense and rich and studded with lots of shredded coconut.
Coconut oil provides the luxurious mouthfeel, and coconut milk keeps the whole cake extremely moist.
It is soft in the center, with a light, springy crumb. By baking it in a tart pan, I was able to get more slightly crisped edges, which are addictive and a perfect place for the glaze to well up!

The glaze is super simple: just coconut milk with a pinch of salt and powdered sugar, poured over the cake and allowed to drip down the edges. It doesn’t set rock-hard, but rather like a very soft royal icing, with a nice shine.

The showstopper aspect of this cake are the fresh fruits, most of which I got at the Union Square Greenmarket. I love supporting local farmers! And everything is so fresh at farmer’s markets.
Amazing summer fruit is so abundant right now—it would be a shame not to take advantage of it.
Here I used juicy red currants, the sweetest blueberries I have ever tasted, dark red cherries and strawberries, glossy blackberries, and a few fat smyrna figs for good measure.
The whole thing is topped with anise hyssop flowers, which provides a whisper of licorice and herb flavor to the cake.
You could easily sub a little thyme or lemon thyme, or even a tiny bit of rosemary or lemon zest. Anything that provides a contrast to the fruits without taking center stage!

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Vegan Coconut Cake
makes 1 9-inch cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
360 grams (3 cups) AP flour
400 grams (2 cups) sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
480 grams (2 cups) canned coconut milk
200 grams (1 cup) coconut oil, liquid
30 grams (2 tablespoons) vinegar
1 generous cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)

for the glaze:
22 mL (1.5 tablespoons) coconut milk
pinch salt
115 grams (1 cup) confectioner’s sugar

to assemble:
fresh fruits
anise hyssop (or other herb of choice)
confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour a 9-inch tart pan or cake pan.
Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt together, and make a well in the center.
Stir in coconut milk, coconut oil, and vinegar until the batter is smooth.
Fold the shredded coconut into the batter and pour into prepared pan.
Bake until a tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs, or about 20-25 minutes.
Allow to cool completely.
When cooled, make the glaze: whisk coconut milk, salt, and confectioner’s sugar together and pour over the cake.
Allow to set for 5 minutes before piling on the fruits and sprinkling on the herbs.
Serve with a glass of non-dairy milk!

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Laplace

Dairy Free Strawberry Orange Shortcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

If an intelligence, at a given instant, knew all the forces that animate nature and the position of each constituent being;
if, moreover, this intelligence were sufficiently great to submit these data to analysis, it could embrace in the same formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the smallest atoms:
to this intelligence nothing would be uncertain, and the future, as the past, would be present to its eyes.

—Pierre-Simon Laplace

Dairy Free Strawberry Orange Shortcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

I took a class this past quarter called History of Statistics.
It was taught by a professor who knew my grandfather well. Additionally, in an amazing twist of small-world fate, his father taught MY father in a class called History of Economics, when my dad was getting his PhD at UChicago. It was an excellent class to cap off my stat minor, and I recommend it to anyone who can get in off the competitive waitlist.

At the beginning of the quarter, we had a question on a homework that stumped (I think) everyone in the class. The question that was posed was: what was the dessert that Pierre-Simon Laplace invented?
Don’t even try to google it, guys. Been there, done that. It is thoroughly un-googleable.

The answer: in 1826 there was a landmark two volume book about gastronomy published by Brillat-Savarin (as in the Savarin cake). In it, a dessert was attributed to Laplace.
Strawberries sprinkled with orange juice.
Literally, that’s the whole of it.

Dairy Free Strawberry Orange Shortcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Anyways, the other day I found myself with a bunch of spring strawberries and some aging oranges that needed to be used or eaten. I thought back to Laplace’s dessert, and how I could modify it and make it… more, um, interesting.

These dairy free strawberry shortcakes are what I came up with, because I’ve been eating dairy free a lot lately and want to challenge myself to bake dairy free as well.
The cake itself is a dairy free pound cake, made with vegan butter, cashew yogurt (I like Forager), and a hint of orange zest; it is moist and dense and bakes up perfectly golden.
I brushed the cut cakes with an orange simple syrup to infuse them with stronger flavor.
The strawberries are treated as Laplace would have demanded: sprinkled with the juice of an orange (and a little hit of sugar), but then I roasted them in the oven to bring out a toasty, caramelized flavor that is absolutely divine.
The cakes are layered with the roasted strawberries, topped with lightly sweetened coconut cream, confectioner’s sugar, and more orange zest.

Overall, they’re not too sweet and preserve a true strawberry and orange flavor; they store very well as the syrup helps retain their moisture. The serving size is just right for one person, although I know for a fact that some of my testers ate two…
They would be perfect for any summer event, from a BBQ to a tea party.

Note that you can substitute dairy items and still have very happy results: butter for the vegan butter, sour cream or full-fat yogurt for the cashew yogurt, and whipped cream or ice cream for the coconut cream.

Dairy Free Strawberry Orange Shortcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy summer, friends! Here’s to strawberry season.

Dairy Free Strawberry Orange Shortcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Dairy Free Strawberry Orange Shortcakes
makes 6 large, 12 small shortcakes

ingredients:
for the cakes:
113 grams (1 stick, 8 tablespoons) vegan/dairy free butter, softened (can substitute regular butter)
250 grams (1 1/4 cup) sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
120 grams (1/2 cup) cashew yogurt (can substitute sour cream or yogurt)
180 grams (1 1/2 cups) AP flour
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
zest of 1/2 an orange

for the strawberries:
15-20 large strawberries, sliced thinly (about 2-3 cups)
juice of 1 large orange
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)

to assemble:
45 grams (3 tablespoons) water
15 grams (1 tablespoon) orange juice
50 grams (4 tablespoons) sugar
zest of 1/2 an orange
coconut cream (see here for a tutorial) (can substitute whipped cream or ice cream)
zest of 1/2 an orange
confectioner’s sugar

directions:
Make the cakes: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 6 extra-large muffin tins, or 12 regular sized muffin tins.
Whip vegan butter on high speed for 3 full minutes, until light and fluffy.
Add in the sugar and salt and beat for another full 2 minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add the eggs; beat for another 3-4 minutes until fluffy and not gritty.
Stir in the cashew yogurt.
Add the flour, baking soda, and orange zest.
Scoop the batter into the prepared pans.
Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean (small cakes will likely need shorter baking, check them around 15 minutes).
Allow to cool completely before cutting in half.
To make the strawberries, lay the slices on a parchment lined baking sheet and sprinkle with the orange juice and sugar.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes, or until softened, juicy, and fragrant.
Allow to cool completely.
Make the orange syrup: stir water, sugar, orange juice, and orange zest together and bring to a boil.
To assemble, brush the cut halves of the cakes with the orange syrup.
Sandwich a few strawberries with the cakes.
Dust with confectioner’s sugar, orange zest, and serve with coconut cream or ice cream on the side.

Comfort and Joy

Almond and Orange Spice Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“For it is in giving that we receive.”

Prayer of Saint Francis

Almond and Orange Spice Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Merry Christmas Eve and a very happy first night of Hanukkah!
I have not yet wrapped my gifts nor done all the productive things I needed to do, but OH WELL that is just about how I expect 2016 to come to a close.

All my brothers are in town (though we are all staying apart since none of the four apartments where various fractions of us permanently live in NYC are big enough to fit the whole family), and tonight we’re heading to Brooklyn for Christmas Eve dinner at my grandma’s.
Last night, we all went bowling/drinking/for dinner at Brooklyn Bowl, which was fun. Although I was very salty at how bad at bowling I am, especially after a margarita. Ugh.

Almond and Orange Spice Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Tomorrow, we will exchange a few small gifts, eat some french toast (I kind of want to try making french toast with panettone. Is that frowned upon?!), and probably see a movie.

The past few years, I’ve made cinnamon rolls for Christmas day, but that’s not happening in our current kitchen. I’ve seen them all over Instagram this year though, and I think it’s a sweet tradition. Do you make anything traditional for breakfast? I try to keep it low-key and no-fuss since my family likes to just chill together.

Almond and Orange Spice Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

This layer cake recipe is one of my new go-tos.  It’s more unique than just another vanilla or chocolate cake, and it doesn’t fall prey to the gingerbread trope, either.

It’s an almond and orange spice cake, and it’s really soft and moist from the almond meal.  It’s fragrant with spices and orange zest without being overpowering.  Between the layers, there is alternating apricot jam and orange marmalade, which are just a match made in heaven.  Sweet and fruity, with a hint of bitterness that complements the orange zest in the cake.  The icing is a simple cream cheese frosting with a tiny touch of maple syrup to round out the tanginess.

I decorated my cake with a mound of fruits painted with luster dust and bourbon because I am now officially way too obsessed with this technique. Someone stop me.

It would be just as yum with a few rosemary “trees” or a simple piped border and a dusting of powdered sugar.

Almond and Orange Spice Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

More Christmas cakes!

Last year’s cute Red Velvet Woodland cake.
Also last year: Chocolate Peppermint Cloud Cake
The year before: the insane and super fun Souche de Noël.

Almond and Orange Spice Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Almond and Orange Spice Cake
makes 1 4×6-inch layer cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
4 tablespoons (55 grams) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
zest of 1 orange
2 eggs
1 cup (120 grams) flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (32 grams) almond flour or finely ground almonds
1/2 cup (120 grams) milk

for the frosting:
12 tablespoons (175 grams) unsalted butter, softened
4 ounces (112 grams) cream cheese
12 ounces (330 grams) powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon (5 mL) maple syrup
3-4 tablespoons (45-60 mL) milk or cream

to assemble:
1/4 cup apricot jam
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
strawberries, raspberries, pomegranate arils, kumquats
luster dust, if desired

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 2 6-inch pans.
Place butter, sugar, spices, and zest into a bowl and cream on high speed for 3 full minutes, or until light and fluffy.
Add in the eggs and beat for another 3 minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl.
Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and almond flour and stir gently until half mixed in.
Add the milk and beat until the batter is homogeneous, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Portion out the batter into prepared pans and bake for 14-16 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool completely; meanwhile, make the frosting.
Beat butter and cream cheese on high speed for 3 minutes, or until doubled in volume and very pale in color.
Add in roughly half of the powdered sugar, the salt, the maple syrup, and 1 tablespoon of milk.
Beat on high speed until the frosting is very fluffy, about 3 more minutes.
Add in the rest of the powdered sugar to taste, along with 2-3 more tablespoons of milk, if needed to make the frosting more spreadable, and whip on high speed until fully incorporated.
The frosting should be spreadable but not loose; add more milk or powdered sugar to thin or thicken as needed.
To assemble, cut each of the layers in half.
Pipe a border of cream cheese frosting around the first layer, then spread 2 tablespoons of apricot jam in the center.
Spread frosting on top of the layer to cover the jam.
Add the second layer and repeat, except use orange marmalade instead of apricot jam.
Repeat with the third layer, using apricot jam again.
Top with the fourth layer and add a thin crumb coat of frosting on the outside of the cake.
Refrigerate the cake for at least 15 minutes to set the crumb coat.
Spread frosting thick on the top layer but thin on the sides to create a semi-naked finish.
Top with fruits dusted with luster dust or other decorations as 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.

Never Too Late

Strawberry Cream Sheet Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit—stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it.
I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view.
I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”

—Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Strawberry Cream Sheet Cake | La Pêche FraîcheStrawberry Cream Sheet Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Consider this an end to the radio silence that has dominated since La Pêche Fraîche turned four (still a crazy number to me)…

So much has happened since then.

I moved to a different city (hello, NYC friends, let’s play!) where I’m living with my BFF, started an amazing job at a new firm, AND flew back to Chicago to celebrate my awe-inspiring big’s graduation; I’ve even traveled to Washington for work!

My job keeps me busy, busy, busy, and my new kitchen is  much smaller than my kitchen at school, which is smaller yet than the kitchen in my parents’ home.

This means I haven’t been baking at all; in fact, I’ve barely even been cooking.

But I planned ahead and stockpiled photos and posts for the summer. 3.5 weeks is bad enough; 3 months without stepping on my soapbox would be torturous.

Strawberry Cream Sheet Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy summer everyone! We’ve made it, miraculously!

I hope your days have been filled with the juiciest, sweetest produce imaginable.
I hope you’ve been reveling in sunshine ands greenery.

I made this post in the throes of spring, when the lilacs were fragrant and abundant and ripe strawberries few and far between; one has since disappeared for the year and the other, become ubiquitous and innumerable.

Lilacs are a Benjamin Button type of flower. The bushes erupt in tight buds that are small and brown-ish rather than green—wizened before they even bloom.
Eventually, their beautiful purple flowers open, perfuming the air and driving everyone crazy with spring fever, only to droop and fade as quickly as they appeared.

Strawberry Cream Sheet Cake | La Pêche FraîcheStrawberry Cream Sheet Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

The good news is that this sheet cake can be a spring or summer affair, provided you can find some fresh, ripe fruit to decorate.

The cake itself is an unbelievably moist vanilla Texas-style sheet cake, buttery with a soft crumb.
It’s the perfect base for a thick layer of barely sweetened whipped cream, spread on in giant spoonfuls, and then a heap of ruby red, fresh and bright strawberries.

It’s a perfect treat to bring along to a picnic or barbecue, and it hold up pretty well for a few hours in the fridge.
Serving this with a mix of fruit—raspberries, strawberries, and fat peach wedges—would be next level.

Throw some fresh edible flowers or lilac sugar on top and you have a picture perfect summer cream cake!

Strawberry Cream Sheet Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Who else wants to sleep in that whipped cream cloud?!

Back sooner than later with pie! xo

Strawberry Cream Sheet Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Strawberry Cream Sheet Cake
makes 1 13×9 inch cake
cake portion adapted from Taste of Home

ingredients:
for the cake:
240 grams (2 cups) AP flour
400 grams (2 cups) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
225 grams (2 sticks, 16 tablespoons) butter
240 grams (1 cup) water
2 large eggs
120 grams (1/2 cup) yogurt, buttermilk, or sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

for the whipped cream:
360 grams (1 1/2 cups) heavy or double cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar

to finish:
1 1/2 pints of strawberries
edible flowers, if desired

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour a 9×13 inch baking pan.
Stir flour, sugar, baking soda and powder, and salt together.
Place butter and water in a pot and bring to a simmer.
Remove from heat.
Whisk eggs, yogurt, and vanilla together and alternate adding to the dry mixture with the butter.
Stir batter vigorously for a few seconds to ensure homogeneity.
Pour into prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a tester comes out with a few crumbs attached.
Allow to cool completely.
To finish the cake, whip the heavy cream with the powdered sugar to stiff peaks.
Spread all over the cake, then decorate with lots of sliced strawberries and edible flowers.
Serve with extra powdered sugar and strawberries.

Quatrième

An Eclectic Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“Recognizing that people’s reactions don’t belong to you is the only sane way to create.
If people enjoy what you’ve created, terrific. If people ignore what you’ve created, too bad.
If people misunderstand what you’ve created, don’t sweat it.
And what if people absolutely hate what you’ve created? What if people attack you with savage vitriol, and insult your intelligence, and malign your motives, and drag your good name through the mud?
Just smile sweetly and suggest—as politely as you possibly can—that they go make their own fucking art.
Then stubbornly continue making yours.”

― Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

An Eclectic Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy birthday to this little blog!
La Pêche Fraîche is four years old.
Which means I’ve been running this blog for 20% of my time on this earth. Don’t ask me how…

The blogiversary rundown:
3 years
2 years
1 year (Oy vey.)

An Eclectic Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

My blog has grown along with me, starting at the tender age of 16 and sticking with me as I graduated high school and left home for the first time to come to UChicago, got my first (and second) real job, moved to NYC all on my own, snagged a wonderful boyfriend etc, etc.
The coming year will see me turn 21, will see me finish up college (yipes), and more. If all goes as planned, there will be many, many sweet treats to share along the way.

You’d think that by now, I’d have gotten the hang of things, but every new post is a learning experience.

Take this post, for example.
Another blogiversary means another pink cake. It’s become tradition for me, although I do suspect that I will, at some point, run out of pink cake ideas. I didn’t have much time to make the cake so I tried to prep ahead; I didn’t have enough egg whites to make an Italian meringue buttercream so I went with American; my macarons were far from perfect (surprise, surprise). My chocolate ganache drip looked a bit wonky and I ended up disliking the minimal frosting look, although the entire cake together had a sort of eclectic charm.
All things to learn from, and not terrible goof-ups.
But then! I managed to leave my camera at 1600 ISO throughout the entire. stupid. shoot. And what’s more, I didn’t notice until the next time I pulled out my camera, meaning half a week later, when the cake was long, long gone. Damn.

And now, the majority of this post is going to be me complaining about this post. Hahahaha.
All in all, I actually prefer last year’s and the year before. Both the aesthetics of the cakes and the words contained within the post. So maybe go read those.

That being said, this cake was a runaway hit with everyone who tasted it, so I’ll count it in the successes, rather than the flops.

An Eclectic Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

This cake is a mix of inspiration from Andy Bowdy, Don’t Tell Charles, and Cordy’s Cakes, all of whom you can find on Instagram, and all of whom make jaw-dropping cakes.

It’s a moist chocolate cake filled and frosted with raspberry buttercream, with layers of almond macaron shells, decorated with a river of toasted Italian meringue, dark chocolate ganache drips, coconut rafaellos, cocoa crumble, more macarons, and strawberries.

There are many components, but most can be made ahead, and it is really a delicious combination.

The macaron shells between the cakes are a magical touch. I had a few people come up to me after eating the cake who asked what in the world was between the layers that made the cake sooo damn good. I had forgotten to tell everyone that there were cookies inside the cake.
Surprise cookies are almost always magical.

An Eclectic Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Thank you all for your continued support, love, and readership.
I appreciate everyone who visits this page, even when nothing exciting or new is happening.

La Pêche Fraîche may be my own folly, but in the end, it is for you.

Here’s to another year of love, happiness, and lots of cake.

An Eclectic Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

An Eclectic Chocolate Cake
makes 1 3-layer 6-inch cake
cake portion from Liv for Cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
90 grams (3/4 cup) cocoa powder
300 grams (1 1/2 cups) granulated sugar
56 grams (1/4 cup) vegetable oil
180 grams (3/4 cup) buttermilk
180 grams (3/4 cup) hot coffee
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
180 grams (1 1/2 cups) AP flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder

for the raspberry buttercream:
225 grams (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
600 gram (5 cups) confectioner’s sugar, as needed
30-90 grams (2-6 tablespoons) half-and-half or whole milk, as needed
1/3 cup freeze-dried raspberries, crushed into powder
drop pink food coloring, if desired

for the meringue:
2 large egg whites
100 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
pinch salt
30 grams (2 tablespoons) water

for the cocoa crumb:
30 grams (2 tablespoons) butter, melted
30 grams (1/4 cup) confectioner’s sugar
20 grams (2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons) flour
15 grams (2 tablespoons) cocoa powder

to decorate:
60 grams (2 ounces) dark chocolate, chopped
60 grams (1/4 cup) heavy cream
sliced strawberries
rafaellos
1 batch macaron shells
crushed freeze-dried raspberries

directions:
Make a batch of macaron shells (I use Annie’s recipe and follow her directions to a T) ahead of time and store in a air-tight container.
To make the cocoa crumb: preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Stir together the melted butter with the sugar, then add the flour and cocoa powder at the same time. Carefully incorporate until the mixture is sandy and crumb-like.
Shake the crumbs onto the prepared pan and separate a little; bake for 5-6 minutes, until dry to the touch; allow to cool.
Crumb can be made up to a week in advance and stored in an air-tight container.
Make the cake: grease and flour 3 6-inch round pans.
Place cocoa powder and granulated sugar in a big bowl; whisk together.
Add the oil, buttermilk, hot coffee, and salt and whisk vigorously until combined.
Add the eggs, whisking after each addition.
Stir in the vanilla.
Add the flour on top of the batter and the baking powder and baking soda on top of that.
Whisk the batter together until it is homogenous; it will be liquidy.
Portion out evenly into the 3 prepared pans and bake for 15-18 minutes in a 350 degree F oven, or until a tester comes out with a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the frosting: place butter and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Beat on high speed for 2 minutes, until very light colored and doubled in volume.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in 4 cups of the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, beating on high speed after each addition.
Add in 2 tablespoons of half-and-half and beat on high speed to incorporate.
Scrape the bowl and taste the frosting; if it is too thin, add the next cup of powdered sugar; if it is too thick, add another tablespoon of half-and-half at a time.
If it is too buttery, add the extra cup of powdered sugar plus 2 tablespoons half-and-half and beat on high speed for another minute.
Add the crushed freeze-dried raspberries and food coloring, if desired, and beat to combine.
To assemble the cake, place 1 layer on serving platter and top with 1/2 cup of frosting; top with a few macaron shells and the next cake layer.
Repeat until last cake layer is used; frost with the remaining icing, leaving it semi-naked if desired.
Place in fridge while you prepare the toppings.
Melt chocolate 2/3 of the way in the microwave; microwave the cream until hot but not boiling.
Pour cream over chocolate and set aside for 1 minute.
Fill a few of the macaron shells with extra frosting; set aside or put in fridge to set.
Whisk the ganache together until very shiny, smooth, and uniform; set aside while you make the meringue.
Place egg whites and a pinch of salt in the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Place sugar and water in a small pot over medium heat; begin whipping the egg whites.
When syrup reaches 240 degrees F, the egg whites should be at soft peaks.
Carefully pour hot syrup into whipping egg whites and whip on high speed until cooled, fluffy, and shiny, about 2-3 minutes.
Remove cake from fridge and decorate with a mound of meringue.
Arrange cocoa crumbs around the bottom, pour a little ganache down the sides to create a drip, and arrange sliced strawberries, more cocoa crumbs, macarons, and rafaellos around the meringue.
Torch meringue and sprinkle a little freeze-dried raspberry powder over the cake.
Serve within the day.

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.

Back At It

PB&J Choux au Craquelin | La Pêche Fraîche @rachelhsally

“The world owes you nothing.
It was here first.”

—Mark Twain

PB&J Choux au Craquelin | La Pêche Fraîche @rachelhsally

Whoa. Back-to-school definitely just happened.

I’m done with my first week of classes, and just about to start on my second.
9 days now of being a 3rd year/junior.  Weeeeiiirddd.

They aren’t joking when they say that your college years fly by, are they?  Yesterday, I turned to Nati and reminded him that we’ve been dating since we were freshmen, and he literally did a double take.

First year feels like just yesterday.
Major events jump out through the haze of the past, but I wonder as to where the blurry boring milieu floated off.
I contemplate the “junk” DNA that fills up the gaps between the punctuation often.
The genes are indelible, irrevocable memories that I revisit as I please, but the everyday substance escapes me—the stuff that made up the hours and minutes between heartbreak and joy and the return of exam results (which generally falls somewhere between those two former emotions).

This, of course, is well known—that the mundane is forgotten and the local maxima and minima become more exciting and depressing, respectively, as the x-axis of life extends, great stalactites and stalagmites rising out of the mist of the (not-so) tidy records of the mind.
What is arresting is that I am now old enough for the forgotten stretches to comprise years.
That I might think of the majority of the 700 or so odd days between the ages of 18 and 19 with a warm, familiar sense of blurry disorientation, the way you might feel when you see that Actor Whose Name You Cannot Ever Recall but whom you quite like in an unexpected role—say, buying dishwasher detergent in the supermarket.

PB&J Choux au Craquelin | La Pêche Fraîche @rachelhsally

And here is where the little chime sound rings or the channel changes or whatever you want to envision for a 180 degree turn and the scene changes completely.
No sure why I associate that with a chime sound.  #Pavlov
No witty ending for the musings up above, mostly because I tried my hardest to eke one out but what little humor I possess has begun to recede—the world’s lowest volume tide—as UChicago and its infamous work load begin to ramp back up and my All Important Busyness butts its way back into center stage.

All Important Busyness, I should note, is extraordinarily familiar and disconcertingly, instantaneously nauseous, like slipping into a  comfy lambskin slipper in which a passing kitty has deposited a wet hair ball.
This has never happened to me.
Not because my cats are above this sort of behavior, but because I don’t own lambskin slippers.

PB&J Choux au Craquelin | La Pêche Fraîche @rachelhsally

So onto the 180:
In my current boring day to day life, which I wish I could skip past and forget about, I am sick with a nasty little rhinovirus that has invaded my head and made me deaf in my left ear in doing so (God, I hate colds).
My poor little puppy N is also sick, since I forced him to take care of me while I was still contagious.
What a girlfriend…!

I’m taking Financial Accounting at the business school, which is boring and 3 hours long but a necessary evil.
(I’m sitting in class right now shhhh.)

I’m in a neuroscience class and developmental biology and physics, all of which are OK but not stellar and all come back-to-back-to-back on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Brutal schedule.  However, I have Fridays off, so that assuages my suffering slightly.
But only slightly.
(Busybusybusybusy.)

PB&J Choux au Craquelin | La Pêche Fraîche @rachelhsally

This weekend is Recruitment for sororities here on the UChi campus, and it’s going to be quite a process.
I’m very excited to be on the other side of it this year (last year I was joining as a new member!), and even more excited to meet the baby kites who will be joining Thetaaaaaa.
That being said, probably don’t expect to hear from me until next Monday when I have F.A. again.
(I’m only sort of kidding…)

PB&J Choux au Craquelin | La Pêche Fraîche @rachelhsally

These here pastries are a grown-up, sugared-up Frenchified version of the (schoolyard and beyond) favorite combo:
peanut butter and jelly.

Start with a magical, eggy base of pâte à choux that puffs up into glorious golden globes of chewy pastry.
Bake them with a brown sugar craquelin topping, crunchy and sugary and pretty, to add some extra flavor.
Fill with peanut butter cream, nutty and rich and the perfect balance of salty-sweet.
Add a dollop of strawberry jam and a few fresh strawberries, plus a light dusting of powdered sugar, and you have the ultimate peanut butter sandwich in pastry form.

A cream puff in sandwich clothing.

PB&J Choux au Craquelin | La Pêche Fraîche @rachelhsally

These are so light and fluffy, with a good bite from the craquelin tops.  I can pop them one after the other.

Choux batter is super easy to make, just follow the directions for baking carefully (really let them dry in a low oven to prevent de-puffing!) and I think you will find yourself with a successful, puffy batch of choux!

Happy eating, friends. xx

PB&J Choux au Craquelin | La Pêche Fraîche @rachelhsally

PB&J Choux au Craquelin
makes 30 small-medium pastries
choux recipe adapted from Joe Pastry

ingredients:
for the pâte à choux:
60 grams (2 ounces) butter
120 grams (1/2 cup) water or low-fat milk
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
70 grams (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) flour
2 large eggs

for the craquelin:
60 grams (2 ounces) butter, soft
70 grams (1/3 cup) brown sugar
70 grams (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) flour

for the peanut butter cream:
90 grams (6 ounces) butter, soft
150 grams (1/2 cup) smooth peanut butter
175 grams (1 1/2 cups) powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon half and half or milk, if needed

to assemble:
strawberry preserves
fresh strawberries
powdered sugar

directions:
Make the craquelin: cream butter and sugar together until a smooth paste forms.
Stir in the flour until dough comes together.
Roll out to 1/8 inch thickness between 2 sheets of parchment or wax paper.
Cut out circles in approximately the size you want your choux puffs to be.
Freeze on baking sheets lined with parchment.
Meanwhile, make the pâte à choux: preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Place butter, milk, salt, and sugar in a pot over medium heat.
When the mixture reaches a boil, whisk in the flour and allow to cook until thick and a film forms on the bottom of the pot, about 2 minutes more.
Remove from heat and beat in each egg with a wooden spoon, stirring vigorously to incorporate the first before adding another.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a round tip and pipe small domes onto a baking sheet lined with parchment.
Press down any peaks with a wet finger and place a frozen round of craquelin on top of each of the puffs.
Immediately bake for 12 minutes at 425, then turn the oven down to 350 and bake for 20 minutes more, or until completely golden brown and crisp.
Turn off oven and prop open with a wooden spoon; allow to cool completely in the oven before removing to avoid collapse!
Meanwhile, make the peanut butter cream: beat butter and peanut butter on high speed for 3 minutes, or until extremely light and fluffy.
Sift in the powdered sugar and salt and beat to combine; there should be no lumps.
If the cream is too thick, add in half and half or milk 1 tablespoon at a time until the cream is pipeable and fluffy.
To assemble, cut open the choux and fill with a tablespoon of peanut butter cream.
Add 1/2 a teaspoon of strawberry preserves, if desired, and finish with a dusting of powdered sugar.