Mocha and Vanilla Bean Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

My blood is a rushing river.
My heart is a burning bridge.


Mocha and Vanilla Bean Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

February, how did you come so quickly?
And how is it so warm? It is freaking everyone out. I don’t want to enjoy too much, given that we’re supposedly guaranteed another six weeks of winter (although we haven’t truly had any winter here in the Windy City).
Today, it’s 50 degrees and raining, and all I wanted this grey morning, what with the soft patter of rain on my windows, was the pull the covers back over my head and sleep for the entire day.

Mocha and Vanilla Bean Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

I am going to keep is short here, today.
My theme of the month is humble and grateful love.

I want to share it with those who matter the most to me, but also with everyone in the orbit of my life.
We could all do with more widespread love. Share some with your partner, your neighbor, your friends and your frenemies.
Show someone that you are thankful for everything they have given you—their energy, their attention, their love and affection—and give it back in kind.
Put some effort into an unexpected act of kindness. No need to brag or tell anyone about it.
It will make you feel amazing too.

Humble. Grateful. Love.

Today’s treats are these simple mocha and vanilla bean cupcakes.
They’re cheekily festive, with their pastel pink frosting and bright sprinkles on top, but you could leave out the food coloring and come away with a very elegant black and white cupcake.

The base of the cupcakes is my go-to: one bowl, one whisk, comes together in 15 minutes and bakes in just 10. The cake is moist and fluffy, and it is the perfect base for a big swirl of frosting.

The frosting is an Italian meringue buttercream: like a cloud of light, whipped buttery goodness. Its flecked with the seeds of two full vanilla bean pods and a big pinch of salt—dreamy.

These cupcakes are simple but adaptable—swirl different flavors into the frosting to customize it, and top with whatever sprinkles or chopped bits you so desire.

“You have to understand, that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.”

—Warsan Shire

Mocha and Vanilla Bean Cupcakes
cake portion lightly adapted from Sweetapolita

for the cupcakes:
95 grams (3/4 cup) all-purpose flour
150 grams (3/4 cup) superfine sugar
60 grams (1/2 cup) dark Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
120 grams (1/2 cup) buttermilk, room temperature
80 grams (1/3 cup) coffee, hot
42 grams (3 tablespoons) vegetable oil
1 egg

for the frosting:
3 egg whites
150 grams (3/4 cup) sugar
45 grams (3 tablespoons) water
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
335 grams (3 sticks, 1 1/2 cups) butter, softened
scrapings of 2 vanilla beans
few drops pink food coloring

Make the cupcakes: line 1 cupcake tin with liners and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Whisk flour, sugar, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl.
Pour in the buttermilk, coffee, and vegetable oil and whisk until half incorporated; add in the egg and whisk until the batter is all combined.
Portion out into the liners (about 1/4-1/3 cup per cupcake), and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until a tester comes out with a few moist crumbs.
Meanwhile, make the frosting: place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Place sugar, salt, and water in a small pot.
Begin to heat the sugar mixture on high as you whip the whites on medium speed.
When the syrup reaches 245 degrees F, your egg whites should be at firm soft peaks (almost hard peaks, but not dry).
Drizzle the syrup into the meringue with the mixer running; whip on high until cooled to body temperature.
Beat in butter one or two tablespoons at a time.
Beat buttercream on high speed until thick, glossy, and fluffy, about 4 minutes, then beat in vanilla bean and pink food coloring until tint is as desired.
If buttercream is too soft, refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Decorate cupcakes as desired, and top with sprinkles!

Gateaux À Gogo

Cupcakes Galore! | La Pêche Fraîche

Did you think I was a city big enough for a weekend getaway?
I am the town surrounding it, the one you’ve never heard of but always pass through
There are no neon lights here, no skyscrapers or statues
but there is thunder, for I make bridges tremble
I am not street meat, I am homemade jam thick enough to cut the sweetest thing your lips will touch
I am not police sirens, I am the crackle in a fireplace
I’d burn you and you wouldnt take your eyes off me
I am not a hotel room, I am home
I am not the whiskey you want. I’m the water you need
Don’t come here with expectations and try to make a vacation out of me.


Cupcakes Galore! | La Pêche Fraîche

Hello friends!

Since we last connected, I escaped Chicago to warm, sunny California for the best spring break ever with my parents.

We first went to LA and stayed in Venice Beach for a few days—right on the ocean.  It was beautiful, and the food we had was generally spectacular.
It’s much easier to find fresh produce and food when you live in California, where essentially everything grows!

We managed to go to Gjelina twice, once for brunch and the other for our last dinner in Cali.  It is (mostly) as amazing as everyone says it is.  I had 1 (one) disappointing squash blossom scramble that had too much mint for my taste, but that being said, my parents liked it.
The goat and cow labneh on toast with jam, olive oil, and sea salt was an absolute knockout of a dish: creamy, fatty, crunchy, salty, sweet, fruity etc. etc.
The lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberry compote are another must.
My favorite from dinner was the charcoal gemelli, which was outstanding and incredibly well balanced despite being quite rich.

We also went to the Rose Café and tried boba from a few different places.  Even the mediocre places were leagues above any Hyde Park slushie impostors.
(On that note, my wonderful boyfriend just bought me some dried boba and stainless steel straws so that I can make my own at home… Dangerous!)

Cupcakes Galore! | La Pêche Fraîche

We had a rented grey Mustang convertible, which we drove to the Coachella Valley.  We stayed in Palm Springs, at the Saguaro, which is a fabulously retro motel-turned-hotel painted in all neon hues.
Our favorite breakfast place was definitely Cheeky’s, which seemingly always has a very long queue, but is totally worth it.  The crispy buttermilk waffle tasted just like an ice cream cone and the cheddar scones were more like biscuits, with buttery, flaky layers that easily soaked up runny egg yolks.

We had date shakes at Great Shakes, because I was dying to try a date shake (the California desert has lots of date farms). Talk about dangerous—each shake comes with a mini cake donut on the straw, and the store front is filled with retro candies for just a few quarters each.

We headed back to LA the day before our departure.
I got to have lunch with lovely Courtney from Fork to Belly at Mendocino Farms, which has dooope sandwiches.
She’s in Iceland right now! I feel like Iceland is so photogenic, with all I’ve seen from Linda and Betty and Ashlae. I’m looking forward to seeing her photos, for sure.
Anyways, she’s the first blog friend I’ve met in person, and it was so fun! In a weird sense, it’s a novel way of interacting with people whom I already respect and in whom I take interest and, often, laugh along with weekly as I read their writing.

Definitely a great part of the trip.

Cupcakes Galore! | La Pêche Fraîche

Also during this trip, I found out that my Shamrock Shake Cake was chosen as a finalist in @feedfeed ‘s Bob’s Red Mill best home baker contest!
I didn’t end up winning, sadly, but I want to give a huge thank you to everyone who took the time to vote for me, and, of course, all of you who support me here by reading my blog!

Amazingly, the picture I shared on Instagram of these cupcakes to encourage my followers to vote for that contest garnered 735+ likes… Like, whoa.
Not that Insta is the best—really, it’s actually among the worst—metric of happiness, but that’s never happened to me before, so I was pretty excited.

I guess people still like cupcakes, even though they’ve been out of vogue for some time now.

Cupcakes Galore! | La Pêche Fraîche

The cupcakes shown are a sampling of the 200 I made for my sorority’s annual fundraiser for our sister charity, CASA (just like I did last year).
Lord, having done it once before did not make it that much easier this year—except that I had the foresight to buy an extra cupcake tin so I could make 24 at once.

Other tips if you ever want or agree to make an obscene number of cupcakes or baked goods for an event:

First of all, numbers are everything. Type or write out everything you need to make in recipe form, exactly how you’re going to make it (i.e. some of my recipes were for 12 cupcakes, I doubled them and wrote down the doubled recipe for 24).
Next, multiply each recipe by however many times you need to make it (I had to make 3×24 vanilla cupcakes) to calculate how much of each ingredient you’ll need for that particular flavor/recipe.
Doing this for all your recipes gives you the exact amount of flour/butter/sugar etc. you’ll need in total, so you can purchase just the right amount—not too much and not too little!
For example: I needed 64 ounces of buttermilk/sour cream/yogurt for the cupcakes, so I purchased a 64 ounce container of plain yogurt.  I scraped it to the last gram on my last batch of cupcakes. So satisfying!

Secondly, plan ahead. When are you going to make everything? What can be made ahead? When does butter need to come out of the fridge to soften?
When things are made, where will I store them prior to the event or while other components are prepared?
How will I transport all these goodies?
I rely on my trusty plastic cupcake containers: they have very high domes, so no frosting ever gets mussed up in travel.  They also seal very tightly, so cakes don’t dry out if made ahead.
They also are washable, so you don’t have to dispose of them after one use.  Instead, you can use them over and over (they come in handy when gifting cupcakes!).
When they have reached the end of their lifecycle, you can recycle them.  Perfect.

Third, make like a Top Chef and do your mise en place. Take out the flour, sugar, vanilla, salt, baking powder and soda before you start making your recipe.
If you’re using a scale, keep it out and turned on. Don’t bother putting away any of your ingredients until you’re done cooking for the day—fumbling in cabinets wastes time.

Cupcakes Galore! | La Pêche Fraîche

The flavors I chose to make were as follows:

vanilla sprinkle,
vanilla chocolate,
thin mint,
triple chocolate,
red velvet,
banana cream cheese,
lemon, and

(Not pictured: lemon and caramel.)

I’m sharing the vanilla chocolate recipe today, because it’s my own perfected version (I’ve made a lot of vanilla cupcakes in my short time here on Earth) and I felt as though these came out the best out of all.  I’m picky, though.

Recipes/references for some of the other flavors will follow.
The caramel cupcakes were the vanilla base with a vanilla frosting that had half of this caramel recipe mixed in, and more drizzled over top.
I used this recipe for red velvet cupcakes (doubled).
I used this recipe, which is perfect, for the chocolate cupcakes.
These banana cupcakes are wonderfully moist and save well, to boot—so they’re my recipe of choice.

The mint frosting was similar to this cake.
The cream cheese frosting I used on the red velvet, banana, and lemon cupcakes was similar to this cake or this one.

Cupcakes Galore! | La Pêche Fraîche

So I made these cupcakes for the pre-event, which leads up to the actual Mr. University talent show that we host; it’s meant to heat up interest and donations the week before.

Nati kindly drove me, chattering and sweating and shaking with nerves—the cupcakes carefully laid out in the trunk of the car—to the event, where I unloaded box after box with mounting relief.  Not a single smashed cake or a single errant swipe of frosting.

The event itself was hilariously fun, as always, and was more successful than ever: two years ago, Theta raised 40K for CASA of Cook County.  Last year, 46K.
This year, we raised an astonishing 65,000 dollars in two and a half short, frenzied weeks.
We are so grateful for everyone who donated.  More importantly, though, the kids whom this will benefit will be grateful, and more will have the chance to have an advocate in the court system, as they search for a forever home.
Everyone needs a measure of stability and warmth and love in their lives, especially in chaotic, lonely times like moving through the foster system. CASA provides this. And I’m proud to have been part of an event that supported such a fantastic organization.

Cupcakes Galore! | La Pêche Fraîche

This post has been lengthy, so I’ll leave you with the recipe.
These cupcakes are moist from the yogurt, bake up without any domes or uneven surfaces, are a one-bowl affair, and are just plain dependable.  It’s hard to beat a good yellow cupcake with sweet and a little salty chocolate frosting.
The frosting has a generous amount of dark chocolate and cocoa powder in it; you can add up to 1/2 a cup of Nutella to it if you want to amp up the flavor even further.

These are simple but well-loved.
The recipe is tried and true—I hope you like and use it as much as I have!

P.S. The sprinkles are, IMHO, a necessity.

Cupcakes Galore! | La Pêche Fraîche

Perfect Vanilla and Chocolate Cupcakes
makes 24 cupcakes

for the cupcakes:
300 grams (2 1/2 cups) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 eggs
300 grams (1 1/2 cups) sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
225 grams (1 cup) vegetable oil
227 grams (1 cup) plain yogurt or buttermilk

for the frosting:
560 grams (2 1/2 sticks, 10 ounces) butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
15 grams (2 tablespoons) cocoa powder
112 grams (8 ounces) bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
400 grams (3 cups) powdered sugar
30-60 grams (2-4 tablespoons) half-and-half or milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Make the cupcakes: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line 2 cupcake tins with cupcake papers.
Whisk the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and vegetable oil together.
Add in the yogurt and whisk to combine.
Add the flour, baking powder, and salt on top and carefully stir until homogeneous.
Portion out in 1/3 cup scoops into the papers and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until a tester comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached.
Allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the frosting: place the butter and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Beat on high for 3 full minutes.
Add in the cocoa powder and beat for another minute, until no lumps remain.
With the mixer beating on high, stream in the melted and cooled chocolate; when incorporated, start slowly adding in the powdered sugar (turn down the mixer if the sugar is flying out).
Add the vanilla extract when the sugar is incorporated.
If the frosting is too thick, add in the half-and-half one tablespoon at a time until it is the appropriate thickness.
Frost cupcakes as desired (add sprinkles)!

A Covey of Cookies

Chocolate Peppermint Shortbread | La Pêche Fraîche

“Today, me will live in the moment
unless it’s unpleasant, in which case
me will eat a cookie.”

—Cookie Monster

Russian Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche5-Spice Snickerdoodles | La Pêche Fraîche

For me, baking Christmas cookies for all my loved ones is a necessity as much as a tradition.
As I said in my last post, I usually make quite a mélange so that in case someone doesn’t like {peppermint, crunchy cookies, soft cookies, spicy cookies, sweet and salty cookies, etc.} they can find at least a couple goodies in their box.

Cinnamon Crunch Toast Marshmallow Treats | La Pêche FraîcheChocolate Peppermint Shortbread | La Pêche Fraîche

Recap (same as last post):

Last year, I made honey spice and dark chocolate roll-out cookies, decorated in many different shapes.
I also made chocolate, sour cherry, and coconut cookies, grapefruit butter cookies, and dark chocolate pecan snowcaps.
All were a big hit, and they made for a very nice assortment in my cookie gifts.

The year before, I made pepparkakor, beautifully decorated Swedish gingerbread cookies, as well as
candy cane and chocolate macarons,
Nutella and various fruity jam Linzer cookies,
and maple, nutmeg, and rye roll-out cookies.

Russian Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

This year, I’m gifting Russian teacakes, 5-spice snickerdoodles, chocolate peppermint shortbread, cinnamon toast crunch marshmallow treats, and eggnog sugar cookies!

Today, I have 4 of those 5 recipes.

5-Spice Snickerdoodles | La Pêche Fraîche

Russian teacakes have just about a million and one alternative names.
You might know them as butterballs, snowballs, Mexican wedding cookies/cakes, polvorones, Italian wedding cookies.
No matter what you call them, they’re little powdery spheres of über rich butter cookie dough.
The dough contains no eggs and barely any sugar—the main flavor is really of the butter.
Flour acts as a binder to keep them from crumbling on the way to meet your mouth, but once on your tongue, they melt like so many snowflakes.
They are utterly delightful and seriously dangerous.
I make them extra small and poppable, but other than that, the recipe is consistent across generations, cultures, and nearly every food site on the internet.
Simple, delicious.

Chocolate Peppermint Shortbread | La Pêche Fraîche

I haven’t ever made snickerdoodles.
I rarely have even eaten them—for some reason, I fear biting into just one more dry, crumbly cookie with no flavor other than sugar and cinnamon would end my love of spiced cookies right then and there.
Snickerdoodles should be chewy and soft—not as soft as Lofthouse, but more like a chewier version of a chocolate chip.
Here, I’ve taken a very good base recipe, chewy and soft and spicy and made it a tad bit more interesting with a few pinches of 5-spice.
This ups the intrigue just a little, and makes you seem superfancy to boot.

Cinnamon Crunch Toast Marshmallow Treats | La Pêche Fraîche

The chocolate peppermint shortbread goes marvelously with a cup of tea or hot cocoa to dip; dark, fruity chocolate cookies that are crunchy around the edges and studded with many little pieces of peppermint bark.
(You can buy these as Andes peppermint chips to save yourself needing to chop up the bar.)

For a twist on rice krispies treats, I subbed out the puffed rice for Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, which is way too sugary and addictive to keep in the house for any significant period of time.  I could eat a boxful without blinking (and then have a terrible stomachache, but whatevs).
The result is a cinnamon-y, chewy, soft, crunchy marshmallow treat that is comforting and cozy.
You can use a little less cereal if you want a more pillowesque treat; you can also use homemade marshmallows if you’re really going for the jugular.

Russian Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

But wait!  There’s more… I still have 2 cakes and 1 batch of cookies to share with you!
The crazy week of baking continues—I hope you’ll stick around to see what I have in store!

P.S. Shoutout to Courtney from the wonderful Fork to Belly, who made the absolute dreamiest variety of cookies for the holidays.  Sign me up for 2 of those boxes, plznthx.

Chocolate Peppermint Shortbread | La Pêche Fraîche

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Marshmallow Treats 
makes 1 9×9 inch pan

5 tablespoons butter
pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
10 ounce bag marshmallows
6 cups Cinnamon Toast Crunch (or other type of cereal)

Lightly grease a 9×9 pan.
Place butter, cinnamon, and salt in a microwave safe bowl and microwave until fully melted.
Add the marshmallows and microwave until the marshmallows are melted.
Stir to combine the butter and marshmallows and then gently stir in  the cereal.
Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and press down to compress it slightly.
Allow to set completely (a few hours), then cut into squares.

Chocolate Peppermint Shortbread
makes 24-30 2 inch cookies
adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, soft
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup peppermint bark pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high for 3 minutes.
Add the sugars and beat for 3 minutes.
Add in the egg and salt and vanilla and beat for another 4 full minutes.
Stir together the flour, baking soda, and cocoa, and then stir into batter, increasing speed until homogenous.
Stir in the peppermint bark pieces, then portion out with a cookie scoop onto the baking pans.
Bake for 10 minutes, or until puffed and fragrant, then remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Russian Teacakes
makes 36 1 inch cookies
adapted from Betty Crocker

1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, soft
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 cup powdered sugar, for rolling

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
Place powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high for 5 minutes, until extremely light and fluffy.
Add in the flour and almond meal and stir to combine.
Scoop out in 1 teaspoon portions, roll into little balls, then roll in a bowl of powdered sugar.
Bake for 8 minutes, then remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before re-rolling in the powdered sugar and allowing to cool completely.

5-Spice Snickerdoodles
makes 30 2 1/2 inch cookies
adapted from Averie Cooks

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, soft
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon 5-spice

1/4 cup sugar (for rolling)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (for rolling)
1/4 teaspoon 5-spice (for rolling)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat for 3 minutes.
Add in the sugars and beat for 3 more minutes.
Add in the egg and vanilla and beat for a full 5 minutes, until extremely light and fluffy.
Stir flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, and spices together, then stir into the dough until homogenous.
Scoop out 2 teaspoon sized portions and roll into even balls.
Stir the sugar and spices for rolling together, then lightly coat each cookie by rolling it around.
Place on baking sheet.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, until puffed and golden.
Allow to cool on a wire rack.


Droopy Drupes

Seriously Easy Stone Fruit Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

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

—Jennifer Grotz, Apricots

Seriously Easy Stone Fruit Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

Seriously Easy Stone Fruit Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

Seriously Easy Stone Fruit Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seriously Easy Stone Fruit Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

Infinitely adaptable.  Unendingly forgiving.

Seriously Easy Stone Fruit Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

Seriously Easy Stone Fruit Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

Seriously Easy Stone Fruit Tart
makes 1 10×10 tart

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

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

Aux Myrtilles

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

“Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not.”

–Pablo Picasso

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Can I tell you a secret?

Oh, bother—of course I can. I do it all the time, don’t I?
The rush—the relief—of spilling inky, irreverent and inwardly-felt thoughts into the incontrovertibly stained internet drives the very heart and soul of the blogosphere. I think.

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

The writing of this post began with sadness and loneliness pouring forth from a disquieted mind, with introspection and frustration and words that were important—questions about growing older that, inevitably, must be asked—but it fizzled, never reaching a boil but a rather disappointing simmer that belied the troubles beneath.

It took me so long to eke out a few tortured words.
The sentences clashed, metallic and hard-edged, and rather than producing the profound music I had hoped to hear, begat only dissonance and off-tune complaints.
Somewhere along the way I lost my thread of consciousness and the subtlety of the emotions thus came undone.

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Without it, I was uncertain of the questions I was even trying to ask, or the tone I was trying to set.
This is just an elaborate way of saying: the writing sucked. It was bad. It was melodrama without substance and it was destined to develop into nothing. A half-assed staircase to understanding.

It’s not like I knew, firmly, what I wanted to write about. I was exploring as I wrote, as I often find myself doing in this space.
I just couldn’t quite put my finger on it; couldn’t quite convince each finger to tap out the required letters.

So I erased it, and sat in front of my computer, vexed.
I also simply don’t feel like putting effort into editing recent photos since I’ve moved (again)—it is such a pain, trying to document pretty food without any props and poor lighting and without my tripod.
It’s far more frustrating than not being able to articulate my anxieties, and that’s reflected in the photos.

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

I’m annoyed that my blog is lingering, stale crumbs lying stagnant.  The same post to see every time you click back. Boring!
I want freshness and excitement and movement, and yet I am swimming against what feels like an insurmountable tide of writer’s and photographer’s block to deliver even a single post.

I can’t wait to go back to Ithaca, where I have pretty linens and lots of plates and a huge oven etc. etc., if only to glean a little inspiration and rediscover myself in the big jars of flour and sugar.
Even if the trees cast green on everything up there.  Even if I have no pastry bags and piping tips or cake stands.  Even if there is a lot of cat and dog hair floating around in the summer air.
Even if these are all complaints I have lobbed previously, in indignant validity, they will vanish away when I’m back in the heart of my home—the kitchen. (Do I say this every time before I return home? Maybe.)

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

I’ve been waiting to share these enchanting little cakelets with you, as I felt them deserving of more than just a rant.
Whatever.  I gave up, I gave in, and I realized that they were plenty good on their own.  Rant be darned.
Some pretty, flowery words would have been a lovely accompaniment to these ruffled pound cakes, but a cup of tea does just as well in their stead.  Take it from me.

In truth, these photos are old enough to go back to Chicago, where the lighting was good and I had all my favorite kitchen tools.
This might be the real reason why I am feeling almost reluctant to release them!

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

I have so many posts highlighting summer’s produce to share with you all!
I really must make haste, because at the rate at which I am posting, it will be pumpkin-spice-latte season and I will be shit out of luck with a bunch of purply-stained blueberry posts lurking in my drafts folder.
I’ll start here, with these lovely mini pound cakes.
The base is a dense lemon yogurt cake, fragrant with zest and moist and buttery–in spite of the lack of butter in the batter–the texture is all due to a generous scoop of yogurt.
Each mini cake is studded with a few juicy blueberries, which, as they bake, collapse in on themselves to become sunken craters of sweet, sticky fruit.
Each cake is dusted with a little powdered sugar; in just two bites, tangy lemon and sweet berries are brought together in the best of summer pairings.

These would be magnificent if made with raspberries or blackberries, and I can imagine that they would also behoove themselves to a ripe wedge or two of peach or apricot.
These are a perfect accompaniment to summertime tea–sweet or unsweetened.
They’re adaptable to whatever summer fruit you have in your pantry (a few white chocolate chips would also sub brilliantly) and simple to make, and they bake so quickly that you won’t even notice that your oven is on!

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cakes
makes 15 mini cakes

2 eggs
135 grams (2/3 cup) sugar
150 grams (2/3 cup) yogurt
75 grams (1/3 cup) canola oil
zest of 1 lemon
120 grams (1 cup) flour
1 1/4 baking powder
5/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup blueberries
powdered sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour 15 mini muffin tins or mini tart pans.
Whisk eggs briskly with sugar.
Add yogurt, oil, and lemon zest and whisk briskly until fully combined.
Add in flour, baking powder, and salt, and stir until the batter comes together.
Portion the batter out evenly into the prepared tins and press 2 or 3 blueberries into the top.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the edges are golden and the blueberries have released their juices.
Allow to cool completely, then sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Enjoy with a tall glass of iced tea.

Holiday Kitsch

Chocolate and Peppermint Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

I’m lying on the moon
My dear, I’ll be there soon
It’s a quiet, starry place
Times were swallowed up
In space we’re here a million miles away

There’s things I wish I knew
There’s no thing I’d keep from you
It’s a dark and shiny place
But with you my dear
I’m safe and we’re a million miles away

The Moon Song, Karen O

Chocolate and Peppermint Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

It’s grey and dreary here.
Us folks from the Fingerlakes (and upstate NY in general) are used to harsh winters.  We don’t get the same kind of wind as Chicago or the volume of snow as Montana, but we do get the grey.

We pride ourselves on braving the cold, sucking it up, etc. etc.
(I’m serious: just the other day, I was told I had gone soft because I was wearing a big down parka and it was only, oh, say, 25 degrees.  Indignant, I cited that it was the only coat I brought home and that I need such a warm one because I live in a place where it gets to negative 50 Fahrenheit with windchill.  This remark was met with narrowed eyes and puffed, unimpressed nonchalance.)

Chocolate and Peppermint Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

I suppose grey and dreary necessitates naps and snuggles and warm blankets+hot cocoa and plenty of good books and movies, but so does white and fresh, and I am positively certain that I would prefer a few feet of snow over this lingering, dripping rain.

Taking photos in this cursed weather is quite the bear.
In summer, the problem with Ithaca was the green.
All my photos were tinged with the reflections of so many thousands of bright young leaves, impossible to easily wipe out, without inadvertently creating purple food.
Now, in the winter, the problem is the darkness.  Low shutter speeds are prone to shake (guess who didn’t bring her tripod with her…), and noise is an eternal annoyance.

Chocolate and Peppermint Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Despite this, when I made these little tree-topped cupcakes, I was determined to get the (clichéd) powdered sugar shot.
So, I splayed out on the ground (unfortunately for me, I live in a 2-cat, 1-dog household and was wearing black leggings), with my camera perched on no fewer than 7 big books.

Now, I have another of these clichés to add to my resume.
Previously: here and here and here.
But, I will say, I have yet to get a coveted syrup-pouring shot.
I’m staying patient, friends: it will happen.

Definitely worth the hair-covered lulus.

Chocolate and Peppermint Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

I saw a picture of cupcakes topped with tiny little trees on Instagram forever ago and they have been on my to-make list ever since.

I only had big tree cookie cutters, which were sure to overwhelm the cupcakes.  Luckily for me, I found the teeny-tiniest little tree cutter which is totally twee.

(Twee trees? Hmm?)

Chocolate and Peppermint Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

These little cuppycakes are made of the moistest chocolate buttermilk cake ever.  They’re springy yet rich, with a good chocolate bite that’s sweet with a thin edge of salt.

They’re topped with whorls of luscious, silky, peppermint Italian meringue buttercream.  The cool, clear peppermint pairs well with the buttery frosting, and a pinch of salt prevents it from being cloying.

The final touch is a little chocolate cookie, delightfully crispy and crunchy, with a little sprinkle of powdered sugar snow.

Perfect little wintermint cupcakes!

Chocolate and Peppermint Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

I love the idea of topping cupcakes with little cookies, now.  So many possibilities and combinations!

For that matter, you could top these cupcakes with cookies made of honey spice dough, or regular sugar cookie dough, or any other type of roll-out cookie that you so desire (maybe up the chocolate-peppermint ante with a drop of peppermint extract in chocolate dough?).

If you don’t like peppermint, replace it with a drop of vanilla and you have utterly classic chocolate and vanilla cupcakes—equally delicious and versatile!

Chocolate and Peppermint Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

If I can manage, there may be a yule log up here, eking in on Christmas Day itself.
If not, have a happy, safe holiday, and I’ll see you on the other side!

Chocolate and Peppermint Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Chocolate Buttermilk Cupcakes with Peppermint IMBC
cupcake portion adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction
makes 7 cupcakes

for the cupcakes:
1/4 cup (20 grams) dark cocoa powder
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (48 grams) flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup (50 grams) brown sugar
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
scant 1/4 cup (40 mL) vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1/4 cup (60 mL) buttermilk

for the peppermint IMBC:
3 egg whites
pinch cream of tartar
pinch kosher salt
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (110 grams) sugar
2 tablespoons (30 mL) water
1 cup (225 grams) butter, cut into chunks, softened but cool
1 drop peppermint extract

Make the cupcakes: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line 7 cupcake wells with liners.
Whisk together cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugars.
Whisk the oil, egg, vanilla extract, and buttermilk together, then pour into the dry ingredients until the batter is homogeneous.
Scoop 1/4 cup portions into each of the tins.
Bake cupcakes for 15-18 minutes, until springy and a tester comes out nearly clean.
Allow cupcakes to cool completely.
Make the peppermint IMBC: place egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.
Place sugar, water, and salt in a small pot over medium heat.
Start to whisk the egg whites.
By the time the egg whites are at stiff peaks, the syrup should be at 240-245 degrees F.
Pour the hot syrup into the meringue while whisking at high speed.
Beat until meringue is cooled, then whip in butter one small chunk at a time.
Beat until the frosting has come together; it should take about 3 minutes at high speed; it should be fluffy and shiny.
Frost the cupcakes as desired; top with chocolate cookies and powdered sugar!

Naughty To Nice

Holiday Cookie Platter | La Pêche Fraîche

Where do you stand with Mr. S. Claus?

Chocolate, sour cherry, and coconut cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Worry not, my friend.
Though I have been a bad blogger and neglected to share any holly-day recipes around here (Oreo cupcakes?! In December? Ugh!), I am now swooping in clutching everything you need to go from the Naughty list to the Nice.

Say farewell to Santa’s shit list.
These cookies are a guaranteed hit.

Grapefruit Butter Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

These cookies (and the caramels pictured, too) were bundled up and gifted to friends, all a jumble of holiday cheer and spirit sugar.

The first are grapefruit butter cookies, crinkled and cracked and crisp in their sugary coating.  They’re ever so slightly fragrant thanks to grapefruit zest and juice, which cuts gently through their buttery richness.

Holiday Cookie Platter | La Pêche Fraîche

Next come soft and chewy dark and white chocolate, coconut, and sour cherry cookies.  They’re full of brown sugar and stay soft for days (the trick is the cornstarch!).  They strike a perfect balance between salty and sweet, and are chockfull of bits and pieces without being overwhelmed by additions.

Finally, my favorite, and arguably the most interesting cookies I’ve made in a while: dark chocolate pecan snowcaps.
These cookies are made without butter or flour or any fat or grains—choose your chocolate correctly, and these are gluten and dairy free.
They’re dead simple: powdered sugar and dark cocoa powder, salt, pecans, chopped chocolate, egg whites.
The batter looks like thick black sludge, but once each piece of dough is rolled in Swedish peal sugar, it looks like a little snow ball.
Once baked, they’re crispy and ethereally light on the exterior, but soft and chewy on the inside.  The chopped milk chocolate is sweet and a good contrast to the deeply chocolaty exterior; the pecans add a wonderful toasty flavor, and the sugar-coated, crackled outside is tempered by a pinch of salt in the cookie itself.
This is cookie perfection, guys.
Simple and surprising!

Holiday Cookie Platter | La Pêche Fraîche
Here’s to cookie-filled holidays!
Stay posted for more giftable treats…

Holiday Cookie Platter | La Pêche Fraîche

Chocolate, Sour Cherry, and Coconut Cookies
adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction
makes 24 cookies

2 1/4 cups (280 grams) flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
3/4 cup (170 grams) butter, melted
3/4 cup (135 grams) brown sugar
1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup sour cherries
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
1/3 cup white chocolate chips

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Whisk melted butter, sugars, and salt together.
Vigorously whisk in egg and egg yolk, then whisk in the vanilla.
Batter should be light colored and smooth.
Place flour, baking soda, and cornstarch on top of batter and stir to combine.
Stir in coconut, cherries, and chocolates until mixture is homogeneous.
Scoop out 2 tablespoon size balls and roll to uniform size.
Place on baking sheets and chill/freeze for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake each sheet straight from the freezer for 12 minutes.
Remove and let cool for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Grapefruit Butter Cookies
adapted from Cooking Classy
makes 30 cookies

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
10 tablespoons butter, soft
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
zest of 1 grapefruit
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
juice of 1/2 grapefruit (1 1/2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
granulated sugar, for rolling

Place butter, sugar, salt, and the grapefruit zest in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Beat on high for 5 full minutes, until very light and fluffy and not gritty.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in the egg and egg yolk; beat for 5 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add the grapefruit juice and vanilla extract; mix briefly to combine.
Add in the flour and baking powder and stir until homogeneous.
Scoop out 2 tablespoon portions and roll to uniform size; gently roll in granulated sugar to coat.
Chill for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and bake straight from the fridge or freezer for 12 minutes.
Move to wire rack immediately to cool.

Dark Chocolate Pecan Snowcaps
adapted from Kim Severson
makes 30 cookies

3 cups (300 grams) confectioner’s sugar
3/4 cup (90 grams) dark cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
5 ounces (135 grams) chocolate, chopped (she suggests dark, I used what I had—milk—and they turned out fabulously)
1 1/2 cups (135 grams) chopped pecans
4 large egg whites
granulated and Swedish pearl sugar, for rolling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Whisk confectioner’s sugar, cocoa powder, and salt together.
Stir in the chopped chocolate and chopped pecans.
Using a wooden spoon, stir in the egg whites—keep stirring until the batter comes together in a very thick, shiny mass (this is an arm workout!).
Scoop out 2 tablespoon portions and roll in a 1/2 and 1/2 mixture of pearl and granulated sugar; shape into a uniform ball once the sticky dough has been rolled in sugar and is easier to handle.
Bake the cookies from room temperature for 12 minutes.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes on the sheet pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

A Donut A Day


Happy national doughnut (donut?) day!


Here.  Go make these ridiculous beignets from Mandy of Lady and Pups.
I’m coughing my lungs up (don’t ask me how I’ve managed to get so freaking sick right before exams…), and don’t feel like rewriting her thorough instructions.

Next time, I’m cutting mine into rounds and filling them with custard and jam.
This batch didn’t puff up nearly as much as I wanted, which only motivates me to retest and perfect.
In fact, I might do that tomorrow.  Just another reason to save your frying oil!!
Because doughnuts.

Also, if you have to ask whether that obnoxious amount of powdered sugar is really necessary, then I’m afraid you don’t deserve a beignet.  Visit Café Du Monde and you’ll see what I mean.

Back soon with pie. Xx



Chiaroscuro LARGE


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


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.



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


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?!)


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