One That I Adore

I love you also means I love you more than anyone loves you, or has loved you, or will love you,
and also, I love you in a way that no one loves you, or has loved you, or will love you,
and also, I love you in a way that I love no one else, and never have loved anyone else,
and never will love anyone else.

Jonathan Safran Foer

Happy lovers’ day, dear readers.

I do adore Valentine’s day.
How wonderful to have a day set aside expressly to celebrate love, especially in the doldrums of winter?
Even last year, after posting about what felt like my irreparable broken heart in late January, I was still happily baking for the holiday, and enthusiastically celebrating it.
As a child, Valentine’s was always exciting; I remember one year hand-carving linoleum stamps with my mama to print cards to give to my classmates alongside a little piece of candy.
Somehow v-day candy was more exciting than Halloween candy. I suppose I’ve always been a sucker for pink.

This year, my heart feels more full of love than ever. It is like a fat, happy cat lazing about in contentment within me, purring and basking in the warm glow of joy.
How lucky and blessed I feel for all the relationships around me.
I surely must have done something right in a past life.

Remember that today is not necessarily about romantic love, or even platonic. Self-love is an extra-good thing to practice today, whether you’re in a relationship or not.
Have a bath, or a glass of wine/whiskey/kombucha, or a Real Housewives marathon. Have an extra slice of delicious cake.
(The latter can only make your pants hug you even tighter, and they deserve love too, right?)

This sweet little cake has a base of buttery, vanilla-almond funfetti cake, soft and moist without being dense or heavy.
Sandwiched between each layer is a sliver of sweet, sugary marzipan, and the cake is frosted with a salted tahini icing.
The tahini provides a slight bitter nuttiness and the salt balances the sweetness handily.

I used large heart sprinkles inside the cake, and a Wilton cakes mold to create the bauble border.
I always use Americolor for red/pink food coloring.

I realize that I frequently use marzipan for my Valentine’s treats.
I’m not exactly sure why, but there’s something about a lightly sweet almond and vanilla dessert that is awfully romantic to me. It’s my answer to the chocolate overload of the holiday, I suppose.

Anyway, I hope you get the desserts you want (or don’t want) today. And if you don’t like the holiday, I assure you that this recipe is a cake for any celebration!

Valentine’s Day, previously:

2018:
Kawaii mini strawberry cakes with olive oil and balsamic chocolate cake, strawberry jam, and marzipan

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

La la la la la la, la la la la la la
My cherie amour, lovely as a summer day
My cherie amour, distant as the milky way
My cherie amour, pretty little one that I adore
You’re the only girl my heart beats for
How I wish that you were mine…

Stevie Wonder

Funfetti Cake with Marzipan and Salted Tahini Frosting
makes 1 3×6-inch cake

ingredients:
for the funfetti cake:
180 grams (1.5 cups) AP flour
20 grams (3 tablespoons) cornstarch
260 grams (1 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon) sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
130 grams (4.5 ounces) butter, soft and cut into pieces
180 grams (3/4 cup) almond milk
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
sprinkles, as desired

for the salted tahini buttercream:
200 grams (1 3/4 stick, 14 tablespoons) butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
300 grams (just shy of 3 cups) powdered sugar, sifted
55 grams (1/4 cup) tahini
drop red food coloring, if desired

to assemble:
200 grams (7 ounces) marzipan
red food coloring
powdered sugar, as needed

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 3 6-inch round pans.
Mix flour, cornstarch, sugar, salt, and baking powder together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Add in the softened, cubed butter one piece at a time at a low speed until the mixture looks like sand and the butter is fully incorporated.
Whisk the almond milk, eggs, and vanilla extract together, then slowly pour into the batter with the mixer running.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and beat on high speed for 30 seconds to ensure homogeneity.
Stir in sprinkles gently.
Portion batter equally into the prepared pans.
Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until the cakes are golden and the tops spring back to the touch.
Cool completely on a rack.
Before assembling the cake, tint your marzipan red: using gloves or a sheet of plastic wrap, incorporate red food coloring by kneading and stretching the marzipan.
Add powdered sugar to your hands as needed to prevent sticking.
Shape the marzipan into a border (I used a mold) and letters for the top of the cake.
Use the remaining marzipan to roll into 2 5.5-inch diameter disks for between the layers.
Carefully and lightly cover with a sheet of fresh plastic wrap and set aside.
To make the frosting, whip butter and salt on high speed for at least 5 minutes, until super fluffy (doubled in volume) and shiny.
Sift in powdered sugar and slowly stir, increasing speed once the sugar is mostly incorporated.
Slowly drizzle in tahini, whipping on high speed, then allow mixer to whip for about 3 minutes, until the frosting is very light and fluffy.
Frosting will be a very pale beige.
Set aside a small amount (3 tablespoons) to add little stars to the top of the cake later.
Add a single drop of red food coloring (or pink) to the rest of the frosting to tint it a light shade of pink.
Place the first cake layer on a plate, then top with a small amount of frosting, one of the marzipan disks, and then the next cake layer.
Repeat with remaining layers.
Crumb coat with about 2/3 cup of frosting, then refrigerate the cake for at least 30 minutes.
Finish the cake with the remaining frosting, then refrigerate for 10 minutes.
Decorate the top with the red marzipan baubles and add little decorations on the top with the reserved white/beige frosting.
Serve cake at room temperature.

Ambré

Brown Butter Molasses Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

The evening sings in a voice of amber, the dawn is surely coming.

—Al Stewart

Brown Butter Molasses Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

I’m glad to no longer be living in the Midwest this week.
The last time the Polar Vortex flew through, ripping rents through cozy winter scenes, was in 2014, when I was a freshman at UChicago.
It was right after my grandfather had passed, and I remember the dark chill running deeper in my life than just the winds outdoors.
Back then, I made my first pavlova, light and lemony and so very sunny, to counteract the cold.
I actually wrote and created a lot, to keep myself busy.

These days, in New York, it’s been cold as well. Today, it’s 10 degrees F.
I won’t be too dramatic about that given that my friends back in Chicago are suffering -9 degrees F, which probably feels balmy compared to what they’ve had in the last stretch of days.
I rather like to stay inside, cozied up with a good TV show, a warmed up cinnamon scroll, and my love.

Alas, work has been calling, and calling, and calling.
I am so worn down from my job (remember a few months back, when I claimed everything was going to be happy-busy-busy-happy? Um… I was wrong. It’s more like busy-busy-busy-patently unhappy), I feel like my entire perspective on it has changed. It has taken so much of my mental energy, protruding further into my brain space that it has any wont to.

I haven’t been on this page in a long, long stretch, and it is almost entirely due to work.
Not that I don’t have time here and there to eke out a post, but that my fingers are weary of typing, and my eyes are tired of staring at blue screens.
My oven hasn’t been turned on in ages. A dark chill in my life, indeed.

Brown Butter Molasses Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

These craggy cookies are one of the best winter cookies I could ever imagine.

They are supremely chewy, thanks to a heavy hand of molasses and a slight underbaking; they stay soft for days due to these same methods.
No spices here—they’re not gingerbread cookies. They are truly pure molasses cookies.
They taste of browned butter, slightly nutty and very rich.
The molasses provides a deep, almost bitter caramel flavor, and a light touch of vanilla is really the only other flavor they need.

I implore you to make these. You don’t even have to wait for your butter to soften! Just throw it in a pan and watch it burble away happily.

Brown Butter Molasses Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

I will be back soon.
I can’t miss Valentine’s day. It’s one of my very favorite holidays for baking and creating.
x

Brown Butter Molasses Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Brown Butter Molasses Cookies
makes 16 large cookies

ingredients:
200 grams (14 tablespoons; 1 3/4 sticks) butter
450 grams (2 1/4 cup) sugar
100 grams (5 tablespoons) molasses
255 grams (2 cups plus 2 tablespoons) AP flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

directions:
Brown butter in a pan: melt butter over medium heat, then stir while cooking until the butter foams, the foam subsides, and then the bits at the bottom turn golden brown and the butter itself is deepening in color.
Pour butter into a bowl; allow to cool while you prepare the other ingredients.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Stir sugar with molasses vigorously until the mixture is uniformly caramel in color.
Set aside 1/2 cup of this mixture in a shallow bowl, pan, or rimmed plate.
Pour the rest of the sugar and molasses mixture into the cooled brown butter and whisk until combined.
Add the egg and the egg yolk and the vanilla; mix until lighter in color and fluffier, about 1 minute.
Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt and stir together until homogeneous, about 1 minute.
Scoop out 1/3 cup balls and roll between your palms to create smooth balls.
Drop into the remaining sugar and roll around to coat.
Place onto prepared pans with about 2 inches between each one.
Bake for 11 minutes, until puffed and golden on edges.
Remove from oven, drop pan on stovetop or oven rack once to deflate the cookies, then allow to cool for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

An Olive Tree, An Emerald

Olive Oil, Ricotta, and Almond Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

He called her a melon, a pineapple,
an olive tree, an emerald,
and a fox in the snow all in the space of three seconds;
he did not know whether he had heard her,
tasted her,
seen her,
or all three together.

—Virginia Woolf, Orlando: A Biography

Olive Oil, Ricotta, and Almond Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Do you consider yourself a picky eater?

I’ve never been a picky eater. I do avoid an entire food group because I’m vegetarian, but that’s not because I didn’t like the taste of meat, but rather that I no longer cared to eat animals. (Phew, didn’t mean for that to sound accusatory. I just don’t want plant based eating to be conflated with pickiness!)
When I was a little kid, I didn’t like spicy-stinky kimchi, but that quickly faded, presumably because it would go against my very genetics to turn my nose up at kimchi.
I didn’t love blue cheese, but didn’t encounter it often enough to make a fuss when I did. I always loved beets.
Chewy, bouncy textures (common in Asian desserts) have always entranced me.
Red adzuki beans, broccoli stems, pickled lemons, mushrooms, eggplant, tofu, kale, egg salad: all on my favorites list.

However, I always thought I didn’t like olives. Wouldn’t touch the little buggers, green or black or kalamata.
I knew I already loved olive oil—one of my favorite snacks has always been crusty bread dipped in olive oil with salt—but I had always refused olives as an icky precursor to that pourable gold.
En fait, it wasn’t until college that I tried them, prompted by someone I trusted and an overwhelming desire not to embarrass myself in front of them with an uncultured palate.
I can hardly believe that I once didn’t like olives, since they are now one of my absolute favorite foods.

Olive Oil, Ricotta, and Almond Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

So much dislike and hatred and fear of otherness is due to ignorance and inexposure. How much could be solved by a simple introduction of the unknown by the familiar or the trusted.
I mean, look how guzzl-able a green smoothie is. Add enough banana and a good helping of nut butter and even the most chlorophobic person won’t mind the spinach.
Our inability to see the fallibility of the assumption that if we haven’t directly experienced it—haven’t directly heard or tasted or seen it—that it doesn’t exist, or shouldn’t exist, or couldn’t possibly be good, continues to stun me.
We are all trapped within our own narrow umwelts.

Am I about to try to slop the metaphor of picky eating onto current events? MAYONNAI- MAYBE.
We should look to those whom we elect to be the trusted ones, to introduce us and bring us together rather than tearing us apart. They should vouch for us all, but not at the expense of others outside of our nation, either.
Bigots shouldn’t be allowed to hold office.
Discriminatory palates shouldn’t get to dictate what goes into the melting pot.
Those who wave the bible around to justify themselves would do well to remember that the commandment is to Love Thy Neighbor, not Choose Thy Neighbors Out Of People You Already Like.
The ridiculous fear-mongering over immigrants and POC and the denial of the Everywoman’s lived experience represents the worst of the assumptions we can make about others of backgrounds different than our own.

The (male) GOP candidate for senator in North Dakota said that #MeToo is leading women towards victimization.
The callous lack of empathy that he displays is hard to fathom. He does not deserve to be the representative of any woman or survivor.
Heidi Heitkamp, the Democratic incumbent, said,
“‘I think it’s wonderful that his wife has never had an experience, and good for her, and it’s wonderful his mom hasn’t,’ she said. ‘My mom did. And I think it affected my mom her whole life. And it didn’t make her less strong.’
With tears welling in her eyes, Ms. Heitkamp stared intently at a reporter and continued: ‘And I want you to put this in there, it did not make my mom less strong that she was a victim. She got stronger and she made us strong. And to suggest that this movement doesn’t make women strong and stronger is really unfortunate.'”

Here’s the bottom line: today is the last day to register to vote in many states. Are you registered yet?
I urge you to take just a minute to check, or double-check.
No matter from which side of the aisle you will be heard; your voice deserves legitimate space.
Let’s not choose politicians who don’t think everyone’s voice has value, or who talk over others.
The incessant lying isn’t helping to open our minds. We must force ourselves out of our comfort zones: do your research, thoroughly.
Don’t rely on one source for your news. Do your best to empathize.
Try an olive, or two; extend that selfsame branch.

Olive Oil, Ricotta, and Almond Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Back to olive oil, now.
This cake was hailed by some as the best they had ever tried.
When I took my first bite of the slice shown in these pictures, the fork nearly dropped out of my hand.
The cake is outrageously soft and plush, with a moist, even crumb that is almost silly in its unbroken uniformity.
Creamy whole-milk ricotta combines with peppery, lemon-infused olive oil from Pasolivo to create a delightfully subtle flavor profile; almond flour adds softness to the structure, and a glaze made of yet more ricotta and olive oil adds continuity to the taste and a light crunch to the exterior of the cake.

This is the pan I used, from Nordic Ware. I think it’s just gorgeous, with all its dramatic swooping swirls.
Additionally, it’s about half the size of a standard bundt pan, which means I can fit it in my cram-jam packed pantry and it bakes up much more quickly than a 10-cup bundt cake.
Just make sure, as with any bundt pan, to grease the edges, corners, and hidden nooks very well!

Olive Oil, Ricotta, and Almond Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Bundt Cakes, previously:
Dairy Free Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Lemon Glaze
Dairy-Free Lemon and Champagne Pound Cake
Chocolate Sour Cream Cake
Chocolate and Matcha Mochi Bundt
Classic Banana Cake with Speculoos Glaze
Perfect Banana Bundt
Twice-Glazed Citrus Honey Pound Cake

Olive Oil, Ricotta, and Almond Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Disclaimer: I was provided with a product in this post for free, in exchange for my honest and fair review. All opinions are my own.
Thanks to Pasolivo for the delicious olive oil. Bisous!

Olive Oil, Ricotta, and Almond Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Olive Oil, Ricotta, and Almond Pound Cake
makes 1 mini-bundt, or one 8- or 9-inch round cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
150 grams (2/3 cup) lemon-infused olive oil (such as Pasolivo Lemon Olive Oil)
300 grams (1 1/2 cups) sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
375 grams (1 1/2 cups) whole-milk ricotta
180 grams (1 1/2 cups) flour
75 grams (3/4 cup) almond meal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

for the glaze:
2 teaspoons lemon-infused olive oil (such as Pasolivo Lemon Olive Oil)
2 teaspoons ricotta
115 grams (1 cup) powdered sugar
generous pinch salt
milk, as needed

directions:
Make the cake: grease and flour a 6-cup capacity pan; use a mini bundt, or an 8 x 3-inch or 9 x 2-inch pan.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Whisk olive oil, sugar and salt together in a large bowl until fully incorporated.
Whisk the eggs in, one at a time, making sure each is fully incorporated before adding the next.
Add the ricotta and stir until it is halfway incorporated.
Add the flour, almond meal, baking powder, and baking soda on top of the batter, and stir to fully incorporate the dry ingredients and the ricotta.
Pour into prepared pan and smooth top.
Bake for 45 minutes to an hour for a mini bundt, and 35 minutes to 45 minutes for a round pan.
A tester should come out with a few moist crumbs and the internal temperature should register at 210 degrees F (begin checking at 45 minutes for a bundt, and 35 minutes for a round pan).
Allow cake to cool.
Make glaze: whisk olive oil into ricotta until smooth.
Whisk in powdered sugar and salt; it will be thick.
Thin the glaze until it is of pourable consistency using 1/2 teaspoon of milk at a time.
Place cake on a wire rack with parchment paper beneath it.
Pour glaze over the cake, then collect drippings (if desired) and pour over cake a second time.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a product in this post for free, in exchange for my honest and fair review. All opinions are my own. Bisous!

Sweetest Surrender

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

A Father’s First Spring, The Avett Brothers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

for the filling:
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 grams) lemon juice
3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
pinch salt
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup (113 grams) butter, cut up

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

directions:
Make the crust: pulverize cookies into crumbs.
Mix in sugar and salt, then drizzle in the butter until texture is like wet sand and forms clumps when pinched (depending on the humidity of your kitchen, you may not need all of it. If things are still dry after 1 stick of butter, you can add a tablespoon of heavy cream).
Press into 9-inch tart pan and refrigerate.
Make the filling: place lemon juice, sugar, salt, eggs, and egg yolk in a bain-marie (a bowl over a simmering pot of water).
Whisk vigorously over medium-low heat until combined; whisk every 30 seconds or so to prevent lumps from forming.
Cook for 7-10 minutes, until thickened and at a low boil.
Remove from heat and pour into a blender canister or another bowl if you have an immersion blender.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then add the pieces of butter in and blend on high speed until light in color and thick.
Allow to cool completely before spreading into tart shell.
Slice strawberries very thinly (about 1/8 thickness) and group by size.
Starting with the largest slices, ring the edge of the tart, points facing outward.
Repeat, making concentric circles with smaller and smaller sized berries.
In the center, place a strawberry cut into a heart.
Gently brush with warmed marmalade or jam, if desired (this will lock in the juices).
Tart best served the day it’s assembled, although it will last in the fridge overnight.

La Noix de Muscade

“I think human consciousness is a tragic misstep in evolution.
We became too self-aware; nature created an aspect of nature separate from itself. We are creatures that should not exist by natural law.
We are things that labor under the illusion of having a self; an accretion of sensory experience and feeling, programmed with total assurance that we are each somebody, when in fact everybody is nobody.
Maybe the honorable thing for our species to do is deny our programming, stop reproducing, walk hand in hand into extinction—one last midnight—brothers and sisters opting out of a raw deal.”

—Rust Cole, True Detective

I suppose spring isn’t the right time to be referencing Rust Cole’s doom and gloom, but forgive for today my moody melodrama.
It comes alongside an excellent cookie recipe, so I daresay it’s worth it.
And besides, it doesn’t really feel like the season has changed yet. Winds are still whipping, snow is still falling upstate and in Chicago, blooms are still only mere suggestions of buds, and the sun’s warmth is not yet fully baked.
I, um, think we might need a reiteration of our stage directions here.

Exeunt March, in the manner of a lamb.
Exe! Unt!

On the first day of spring, a nor’easter hit NYC. It was m i s erable.
The day after, a finger of spring light, so faint that it might have been mistaken for an indoor flood lamp slipped out in the early morning and later opened up into a jubilant and blinding day.
I had to go to the NYU hospital for volunteer orientation; it’s a fair hike from my office and requires a long-ish subway ride.
As I have mentioned here before, I do my best people watching when on the subway, particularly when I’m a bit moody and would like to be out walking in the sun rather than hurtling away in damp underground tunnels.

My favorite scene of the day was of two elderly deaf ladies, seated across from one another on the uptown 6, silently gabbing at the speed of light. They paused only when Spring St. shoppers shuffled through their path, craning their necks around skinny teenage-d legs and crisply creased shopping bags to recommence their discussion as quickly as possible.
I also took note of and rolled my eyes at the baseless optimism of the two men who stepped, one in a sweatshirt and other in a proper-looking ivy cap, lockstep onto the subway as they loudly answered phone calls. Both expressed only the mildest annoyance when their signals inevitably dropped. Resigned, they pocketed their iPhones, and the rest of the car sighed in relief.

Today’s day started with a dripping, grey smear of a morning, with a forecast that threatened rain. I was up and out of my apartment earlier than usual—sneakers hitting the pavement at 6:05AM.
It was cold and the sun hadn’t yet bothered to rise, so I hustled towards the gym with my fingers jammed into jacket pockets and shoulders hunched over to ward off the chill.

There are only two people in all of New York City who are fully aware of my comings and goings, of the early trudges to the gym and the exhausted late night slogs home from the office (and, in all honestly, the occasional stumble home on boozy nights).
I have never spoken a word to either.
They are the men who run the coffee/pastry and halal carts on my corner, daily bookends so constant that I’m sure many of my neighbors think they can’t possibly move shop every day.
But I have seen the coffee cart open and the halal cart close.

This morning, through admittedly bleary eyes, I saw someone on the pavement laying out cardboard underneath the bright lights of the coffee cart. I thought, at first, that it was one of the two (friendly) homeless men who frequent the corner, but as I neared, I realized it was the man who runs the cart.
He took careful pains to straighten out the cardboard just-so, and smoothed the corners with the flat of his hand a final time before standing, then bowing and kneeling. He was praying.

I was struck by this intimate moment of humanity; prayers directed towards Mecca on a raft of cardboard in the middle of the dirty, slick sidewalk of 14th St. on a drizzling, cold April morning.

In a jaded way, I have been asking myself lately how much of my observation of others is not exposition, but self-centered projection.
How many of these brief moments of presumed humanness are really nothing worth a second glance—just my nosiness taking over?
I wonder if I only take note and mark them as special in order to feel a rush of omniscience, a weak inflation of my ego. How aware and poignant and poetic am I.
Are we not all just people leading our daily lives? And isn’t my daily life bland and beige from the inside?
By attempting to extract meaning from my examination of perfect strangers, I am selfishly wondering who around me is doing the same to the figment of myself that exists within their view.

Mostly, I think, because it is so hard to accept the routine boringness of everyday life; this has become increasingly true in the age of social media, where highlight reels are curated over days and months, so you can post a perfect throwback of a cake while sitting in your desk chair drinking your fifth black cherry seltzer.
It’s not dishonesty, exactly. It’s something else entirely, and the purpose is not only to impress our followers, but to fool ourselves.
And so I make up backstories in my head and curate my instagram. Hmm.

This cookie recipe is a bit of a throwback, itself.
I developed it for the Feed Feed/Bob’s Red Mill winter cookie giveaway way back in December, which was an altogether excellent time.
(Some cookies that were memorable: Patti’s always intricate decorated sugar cookies, which came in the shape of twee penguins with neck-scarves, ice-skates, and earmuffs; Rachel’s milk masala shortbread cookies; Erin’s vanilla sandwich cookies with vanilla bean marshmallow; Sarah’s pan-banging chocolate chip cookies (!!!), and others. Also, someone made soft gingerbread cookies with a cracklingly tart lemon glaze, and the memory of the cookies apparently has outlasted my good manners/memory of their creator. Oops.)

These little gems have a base of fragrant nutmeg shortbread, which is buttery and rich but not so short that it crumbles before you can get it to your mouth; it provides a sturdy enough base for transport or gifting.
Lashed to the butter cookie with a drop of good dark chocolate are ultra light, melt-in-your-mouth maple meringues. These are so crunchy and crisp and delicate; they really reminded me why meringue is one of my top three favorite desserts.
A dusting of powdered sugar gives them an (un)seasonally appropriate finish (ha, ha, ha, yes this everlasting winter is very funny) and provides nice color contrast to the shades of beige underneath.

These are really a special little cookie, elegant and understated, but with a flavor profile that will pleasantly surprise you, even in its subtlety. Oh, and the French word for nutmeg was too poetic not to provide you a translation of the full title:
Des sablés à la noix de muscade avec des meringues au sirop d’érable. Le sigh.

Nutmeg Shortbread with Maple Meringues
makes 50-60 1.5″ cookies

ingredients:
for the cookies:
225 grams (2 sticks, 16 tablespoons, 8 ounces) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
360 grams (3 cups) flour

for the meringues:
4 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon salt
60 grams (3 tablespoons) maple syrup
15 grams (1 tablespoon) water
200 grams (1 cup) sugar (can sub up to 50 grams (1/4 cup) maple sugar)

for assembly:
30 grams (1 ounce) dark chocolate, melted
Powdered sugar, as needed for dusting

directions:
Make the shortbread: beat butter on high speed for 3 full minutes, until fluffy and softened.
Add the salt, sugar, and nutmeg and beat on high speed for another 3 minutes; mixture should be lightened in color and not grainy.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the egg and vanilla; beat for 3 full minutes.
Scrape the bowl again and add the flour; fold a few times and then stir on low speed for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until the flour is completely incorporated and the dough comes together in a ball.
Turn out the dough and knead into a ball; refrigerate for 15 minutes (and up to 2 days).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness on a lightly floured surface.
Cut out 1.5 inch rounds and place on prepared pans.
Re-roll dough until all has been used up (I filled 3 baking sheets and baked them 1 sheet at a time).
Place in freezer for 10 minutes.
Bake straight from the freezer for 8-10 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned.
Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
Make the meringues: Prepare 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
Place egg whites and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Place maple syrup, water, and sugar in a small pot and place over medium heat.
Begin to whisk the egg whites, carefully watching the syrup.
The syrup needs to reach 240 degrees F (115 degrees C) when the egg whites are at soft peaks; adjust speed of your stand mixer or heat under the pot accordingly.
Carefully pour the hot syrup into the egg whites with the mixer running, avoiding the whisk so that hot syrup does not splash.
Whip on high speed for 3-5 minutes, or until the meringue is fluffy, glossy, and holds stiff peaks.
Fill a piping bag fitted with a jumbo French tip and pipe small dollops on the prepared pans.
If you’re struggling with the parchment paper flying up and sticking to the meringue, just place small smears of meringue on the baking sheet at the corners as “glue” and stick the parchment down.
Once you have piped out your meringues, place them in the oven.
Bake at 275 for 30 minutes, then turn the oven down to 200 degrees and dry for 2 hours, or until the meringues are dry and lift up off the parchment cleanly.
This can take much longer than 2 hours—it depends on the humidity in your home.
If need be, you can leave the meringues in the oven overnight (I left mine for a full 18 hours…!) at 200 degrees.
To assemble, use a small smear of dark chocolate to affix the meringue onto the shortbread and dust with a little powdered sugar for a snowy finish.

Moyamoya

Brown Butter Smoked Salty Honey Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Light-winged Smoke! Icarian bird,
Melting thy pinions in thy upward flight;
Lark without song, and messenger of dawn,
Circling above the hamlets as thy nest;
Or else, departing dream, and shadowy form
Of midnight vision, gathering up thy skirts;
By night star-veiling, and by day
Darkening the light and blotting out the sun;
Go thou, my incense, upward from this hearth,
And ask the gods to pardon this clear flame.

—Henry David Thoreau

Brown Butter Smoked Salty Honey Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy pi day, party people! Here are 1000 pieces places of pi, to celebrate:

3.14159265358979323846264338327950288419716939937510582097494459230781640
62862089986280348253421170679821480865132823066470938446095505822317253594081284
81117450284102701938521105559644622948954930381964428810975665933446128475648233
786783165271201909145648566923460348610454326648213393607260249141273724587006606
31558817488152092096282925409171536436789259036001133053054882046652138414695194
15116094330572703657595919530921861173819326117931051185480744623799627495673518857
527248912279381830119491298336733624406566430860213949463952247371907021798609437
027705392171762931767523846748184676694051320005681271452635608277857713427577896
091736371787214684409012249534301465495853710507922796892589235420199561121290219
60864034418159813629774771309960518707211349999998372978049951059731732816
096318595024459455346908302642522308253344685035261931188171010003137838752
8865875332083814206171776691473035982534904287554687311595628638823537875937
519577818577805321712268066130019278766111959092164201989…

And yes, this is being posted at 1:59 GMT. It’s the little things that make me happy, ok?

Brown Butter Smoked Salty Honey Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Pi day is pretty much as close to a universally celebrated holiday in the food blogosphere as you can get.
This is especially true given that pies are currently in vogue on Instagram.

I often marvel at the virality of Instagram trends, and food trends in general.
They burst in very quickly—due to the low barrier of entry: read a recipe, get some ingredients, voilà—and then slowly trickle down, normalizing after some time.
We’ve had cupcakes. Macarons. Funfetti. Marzipan. Salted chocolate chunk shortbread. Pan-banging cookies. Intricately decorated pies. Fruit roses. Drip cakes. Unicorn cakes. Ice cream (à la Katherine Sabbath) cakes.

I don’t particularly dislike trendy foods. In my opinion, they are distinct from fashion trends, because it is very rare that they ever go completely “out of style.” Good, delicious food is always welcome.
I happily read recipes for cupcakes and drip cakes, use marzipan and sprinkles liberally, and regularly ask myself why I don’t have a stash of Alison’s or Sarah’s cookies in my freezer for, um, emergencies.
I, however, don’t frankly want to buy a Chanel fanny pack to fit in in 2018. They may have come back from their heyday in the 80s, but in between now and then, they were considered ugly.
TBH, they just are ugly. Even when they’re trending and “considered” fashionable. Can we just, like, cut it with the freaking fanny packs? Topshop is literally calling them bumbags. Nordstrom calls them bag belts. SERENITY NOW!
I am sorry if you own a Chanel/Gucci fanny pack. Mostly because you own an overpriced wallet-belt, but secondarily because I may be offending you.
Clearly, I had to get that off my chest. Were we talking about pie?

Anyways, even when I’m on the tail end of a food trend and everyone and their mother has already done the damn thing before me, I still find myself inspired by the plethora of pictures that I see on ig.
I’ve been meaning to bake more pies, and pi day is as good of an excuse as any.

Brown Butter Smoked Salty Honey Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

I want to share some amazing pie recipes, new and old, that have been said inspo for me:

Chocolate pies like WHOA:
Katie’s chocolate chess pie. That! Chocolate! Whipped! Cream! Cloud!
Cindy’s chocolate mudslide pie. I need all my pies to be spiked with Irish cream and Kahlua from now on, nnnkay?
Ashlae’s vegan chocolate mousse pie. Chocolate mousse, peanut butter whip, pretzel crust… Ooooof.

Uniquely flavored/hella creative pies:
Michelle’s purple sweet potato pie. Level up your sweet potato pie game, friends. And, can we talk about the color….?! Wig snatched.
Amy’s blueberry, peach, and basil pie. Turns out the queen of cakes makes ridiculously aesthetic pies, too (but of course she does!).
Naomi’s lemon meringue pie pops. These are SO twee and fun. I think I could eat 7 of them.
Linda’s apple pie with a purple blueberry crust. This pie spawned a whole new generation of insta-worthy pies, with gorgeous naturally colored and flavored crusts. The forefront of pie-nnovation!
Also, any mention of pie trends necessitates a mention of Lauren of the instagram Loko Kitchen, whose meteoric rise is owed solely to her crazy beautiful, ridiculously perfect pies. Respect.

Apple pies that have me feeling like November can’t come soon enough:
Erin’s apple and blackberry pie. You guys, this chick makes the most incredible pies. The level of detail is beyond what I can even dream of and I can truly get lost in her mesmerizing designs. The best part? Her crust is still flaky flaky flaky AF.
Courtney’s caramel apple pie v3.0. I would like to faceplant into that caramel puddle, please and thank you.
Deb’s apple pie cookies. No recipe from SK ever really goes wrong, does it? This one is no exception. These have a crust to filling ratio that I can get behind. I’ve made ’em multiple times, and I can’t wait until apple season is back and I can make them again.

Brown Butter Smoked Salty Honey Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

I’m beyond excited to share today’s recipe. It honestly rivals all the pies I’ve ever made.
It is an adaptation of a very popular recipe from the NYC pie shop, Four & Twenty Blackbirds.

This is a brown butter smoked salted honey pie. YAH. I know.

The pie starts with a sturdy all-butter pie crust, shatteringly crispy and layered.
To make the filling, butter is browned until nutty and freckled; liberal amounts of smoked salt, vanilla bean seeds, and clover honey are added while it’s warm, so they melt into a glossy, flecked puddle.
The smoked alderwood salt weaves its way into the pie with sexy subtlety, adding saltiness and a kiss of je ne sais quoi that plays altogether too nicely with the vanilla bean and honey.
Eggs and a pinch of white cornmeal provide body, apple cider vinegar balance, and an unctuous stream of heavy cream is stirred in for smoothness.

The mixture is strained into the chilled shell and baked until it puffs into a golden dome, then delicate decorations slicked with cream are laid on top and baked until the pie is deep brown and barely jiggly.
It’s finished with a haphazard scattering of jagged salt flakes that up the saltiness in every other bite and provide the occasional unexpected soft crunch.

The most difficult part of this whole baking endeavor is waiting for the pie to chill completely. This is key to setting the custard properly, but the smell of the pie is so intoxicating that it’s tempting to cut into it right away. Trust me, the wait is worth it.

This pie is quite similar in texture to a crack pie, or a chess pie, or a vinegar pie (if you’ve never had any of these, think of a pecan pie without any pecans).

Brown Butter Smoked Salty Honey Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

People really, really liked this pie.
Luca said, and I quote, “[this] puts the YUM in daYUM.”
Naomi said it was the best pie eating experience of her life, and she’s had my peach pie and I even made her a crack pie for her birthday in December! She actually preferred this to crack pie, and so did I.
Here’s why: I think that the pairing of a sweet filling with a traditional pie crust is better than the oat cookie crust of crack pie, which is a lot of sugar, to the point that it gets a bit cloying. Additionally, the oat cookie crust tends to be more stodgy, especially when chilled. This crust stays crisp and thin, even after the cooling period.
(Another tester described the all butter crust as “unreal.” Four & Twenty know their ish, y’all.)

I also prefer this recipe to standard chess pies: the honey adds a more complex flavor than straight up sugar does. The addition of smoked salt and vanilla beans rounds out the complexity. (Do note that you could easily swap the smoked salt for non-smoked varietals and still have an outstanding pie.)
I also like the addition of a couple tablespoons of cornmeal: it is utterly indiscernible, except that the filling has more body that a simple custard. I’m interested in subbing oats or toasted breadcrumbs for the cornmeal.

In fact, I am quite sure I will be returning to this base recipe to test out other flavors, textures, etc. It is an excellent pie.
I fully understand why it has been so popular.
Here’s to [brown butter smoked] salted honey pie being a lasting trend!

Brown Butter Smoked Salty Honey Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Pi day, previously:
2017: vegan campfire pie
2016: brûléed citrus and lime pie

Pie, previously:
2017: perfect peach pie
2016: pumpkin meringue tart
2015: apple, pear, butterscotch, and cheddar pie
2015: fig, rosemary, and lemon tart
2014: coconut buttermilk chess pie
2014: peach slab pie
2014: American pie
2013: Pumpkin spice brown butter chocolate pecan pie

Brown Butter Smoked Salty Honey Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

P.S. Because I vowed to share this silliness every year on this day:

Cosine, secant, tangent, sine,
Three point one four one five nine,
Square root, cube root, BTU,
Sequence, series, limits too.
Themistocles, Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War,
X squared, Y squared, H2SO4.
Who for? What for? Who we gonna yell for?
Go, Maroons.
Logarithm, biorhythm, entropy, kinetics,
MPC, GNP, bioenergetics!
Maximize and integrate, titrate and equilibrate—
Go, Maroons.

—Very Unofficial UChicago football cheer
(And apparently also shared among other famously nerdy schools? Who knows where this even came from?)

P.P.S. For the curious, moyamoya means puff of smoke in Japanese.
It’s also a rare cerebrovascular disorder. And, uh, on that note, here’s a pie recipe?

Brown Butter Smoked Salty Honey Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Brown Butter Smoked Salted Honey Pie
makes 1 9-inch pie
adapted from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book

ingredients:
for the pie crust:
150 grams (1 1/4 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
113 grams (1 stick, 8 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter
120 grams (1/2 cup) cold water
30 grams (2 tablespoons) apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup ice cubes

for the filling:
113 grams (1 stick, 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
150 grams (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons white cornmeal
3/4 teaspoon smoked salt
seeds from 2 vanilla beans
(3/4 cup) honey
3 large eggs, at room temperature
120 grams (1/2 cup) heavy cream, plus an extra tablespoon for decorating
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1-2 teaspoons soft sea salt flakes (for finishing)

directions:
Make the crust: whisk flour, salt, and sugar together.
Add water, vinegar, and ice cubes into a bowl together.
Cut and mix the butter into the flour mixture until the largest piece is pea-sized.
Sprinkle on the ice water 1 tablespoon at a time so that you can gather the dough into a cohesive mass. (I used ~4 tablespoons, but this is highly variable! Use your hands and eyes to judge this.)
Divide dough into two unequal disks: one that is ~3/4 of the dough and one that is a little less than 1/4 and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Roll out the large disk into a 10 1/2 inch round and drape over the pie plate, crimping the edges, then refrigerate.
Roll the other disk out and cut out shapes as desired; freeze the shapes while you make the filling and preheat the oven.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
To make the filling: brown butter in a large saucepan until it is darkened and nutty-smelling.
Pour over granulated sugar.
Whisk in cornmeal, smoked salt, vanilla beans, and honey (mixture may not homogenize at this point due to the large amount of fat).
Whisk in eggs one at a time, making sure that they fully incorporate before adding the next.
Whisk in the heavy cream and apple cider vinegar.
Strain the mixture through a sieve directly into the pie crust.
Place pie on a baking sheet and place in oven.
When the filling has partially set (still wobbly and jiggly in the center, but not runny at all), about 35 minutes, brush the extra tablespoon of cream over your frozen decorative shapes.
Remove pie from the oven, and arrange shapes (carefully!) how you desire.
Return pie to the oven on the top rack to encourage browning of the decorations and bake for an additional 10-20 minutes, or until the center is barely jiggly and the pie has puffed on the edges and the decorations are browned.
Allow to cool completely, then ideally chill for at least 2 hours or overnight. (The texture will be better if allowed to chill down, but serving from room temperature is also good! Don’t sweat it too much.)

L’Impératrice

“Men’s strengths go hand in hand with their weaknesses.
That is why there is no such thing as an invincible warrior, and why heroes die.”

― Shan Sa, Empress

November is here!

It’s cold, blustery, and the leaves and time have changed. Fall is set in deep.
That means Thanksgiving draws nigh. My favorite time to be busy cooking. I have prepared my menu and absolutely cannot wait to go home and be in a real kitchen with a real, fancy Wolf oven and a fridge that can actually maintain temperature. (Side eye @ my New York fridge. Sigh.)

Time has been flying with things being busy at work, and I haven’t gotten around to posting as much as I’ve wanted to. But! I have a few really great recipes I want to share before Thanksgiving, and I’ll also be doing a round-up of recipes from LPF and also other blogs in case you need some inspo!

Today, I’m sharing the world’s most perfect sour cream pound cake, studded with fuschia pink empress plums, tart and sweet and jammy, and rich, bitter dark chocolate and served warm with a scoop of creamy vanilla bean ice cream.
This is my new go-to recipe for pound cake. (!!!!)
It produces a cake with a tight, dense crumb that is remarkably moist without being heavy. The sour cream adds complexity and the cake isn’t overly sweet. It lends itself brilliantly to adaptations and different mix-ins.
Although plums + chocolate were nothing short of incredible, I’ll be adapting this same base recipe for Thanksgiving but with a caramel apple flavor. (~heart eyes~)
The possibilities are endless: chocolate, lemon, blood orange, etc. Tuck this recipe away in your back pocket for the next time you need a truly great pound cake!

Plum and Chocolate Sour Cream Pound Cake

adapted from Stella Parks, via Serious Eats
makes 1 loaf cake

ingredients:
250 grams (1 1/4 cups) sugar
142 grams (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons, 10 tablespoons) butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
215 grams (7.5 ounces, 1 2/3 cup fluffed and spooned) flour
140 grams (5 ounces, 2/3 cup) sour cream
4 finely chopped prune plums
1/3-1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1 tablespoon flour

directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour a loaf pan.
Place sugar, butter, and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Beat on high speed for 4 full minutes, until light and fluffy with no graininess left.
Add in the eggs one at a time, mixing for 30 seconds between each one to ensure they are incorporated fully.
Add in the flour in four portions and the sour cream in three; begin with the flour and alternate mixing the dry and wet.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix on low for 30 seconds to ensure homogeneity.
Toss the chopped plums and chocolate chips with a tablespoon of flour, then gently fold into the batter.
Spread batter into prepared pan; bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until a tester inserted into the center comes out mostly clean and the inside registers 200 degrees F.

 

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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Fifth Blogiversary (and Chocolate Cake) | La Pêche Fraîche

“I’m not telling you to make the world better, because I don’t think that progress is necessarily part of the package.
I’m just telling you to live in it. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. To look at it. To try to get the picture. To live recklessly. To take chances.
To make your own work and take pride in it. To seize the moment.”

—Joan Didion, UC Riverside commencement address, 1975

Fifth Blogiversary (and Chocolate Cake) | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy birthday, La Pêche Fraîche!

This blog is five (count them, five) years old. I don’t quite know how, but it has survived through my last years of high school and all the way through college.
I will take LPF with me out into the real world now, I suppose. Daunting, but comforting, in some ways, to always find a steady refuge in my own creative space.
Blogging has been occasionally sporadic, but always a constant presence in my mind and being.
I don’t know what shape it will take in the future, but I hope it will retain its shape and I will retain my drive, inspiration, and desire.

The blogiversary run-down:
Four years.
Three years.
Two years.
One year (oof).

Fifth Blogiversary (and Chocolate Cake) | La Pêche Fraîche

I didn’t predict or envision my fifth blogiversary coming the day before my last final as a student of the University of Chicago; by tomorrow at 10:20am, I will be irreversibly set on the path of becoming an alumnae.

I have to spend all day today studying—but I also want to fit in the new Sherlock episode, because duh!
This quarter went by so quickly; it’s strange to think that I’ve been taking this class for ten weeks. I already had my last class ever. Craziness.

The five years of writing this blog—half a decade!—have also gone by quickly. I started writing this blog when I was 16. I had recently gotten my driver’s license. Now, I’m 21 and about to graduate university and move to NYC.
Lots of milestones have been celebrated on this blog.

Fifth Blogiversary (and Chocolate Cake) | La Pêche Fraîche

I want to share some places, people, and things that help me retain my inspiration for baking/photographing/learning/creating.

Nicole Franzen is a photographer I follow on ig; she’s in Míkonos right now and has been in Italy and every time she posts, I am filled with longing and wanderlust.

Courtney’s cookie study. Because I deeply respect this is the kind of dedication to the improvement of the finest thing humanity has arguably ever produced (chocolate chip cookies, duh).

Siddhartha Mukherjee (author of Emperor of All Maladies), wrote a fascinating piece on epigenetics in the New Yorker last year that I only recently discovered. Worth the read if you’re at all scientifically or medically inclined or interested.

“You are not the work you do; you are the person you are.” Toni Morrison doles out wisdom from her father in her most recent piece for the New Yorker (if you’re going to read the above piece, might as well give this one a peek too—it’s short).

This vanilla rhubarb pound cake from the Herriott Grace blog (Nikole Herriott adapted a Tartine recipe) is the single most beautiful rhubarb cake I have ever seen. Seriously.

Deb’s strawberry graham icebox cake has me dreaming of summery treats, and plotting what other types of thin, many layered cakes I can create, because they sound amazing.

Fifth Blogiversary (and Chocolate Cake) | La Pêche Fraîche

This is a celebration cake, make no mistake, but it is very simple and not intimidating at all. It is 100% doable in an afternoon, or as a last-minute offering the night before a birthday.

The cake itself is my perfected chocolate cake recipe. It bakes up flat (no leveling needed), moist, and not-too-sweet. It’s not overly fudgy—it has a relatively delicate crumb, and it saves like a dream.
It’s covered in a classic American buttercream tinted the palest pink and given an extra dose of salt to balance the buttery sweetness.
A generous drizzle of white chocolate and a smattering of marshmallows and sprinkles gives it the happiest of vibes.
I topped it off with candles, but a cake topper or some extra piping would also look great!

Fifth Blogiversary (and Chocolate Cake) | La Pêche Fraîche

“Enthusiasm is common. Endurance is rare.”

― Angela DuckworthGrit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Fifth Blogiversary (and Chocolate Cake) | La Pêche Fraîche

Fifth Blogiversary (Simple Chocolate Cake)

ingredients:
for the cake:
330 grams (1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons) sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cornstarch
180 grams (1 1/2 cups) AP flour
65 grams (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) extra dark cocoa powder
2 tablespoons instant coffee or espresso
120 grams (1/2 cup) boiling water
85 grams (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) vegetable/canola oil
2 eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
160 grams (2/3 cup) buttermilk OR 145 grams (2/3 cup less 1 tablespoon) milk plus 15 grams (1 tablespoon) apple cider vinegar

for the frosting:
225 grams (1 cup, 2 sticks) butter
3/4 teaspoon salt
460 grams (4 cups) powdered sugar
45-90 grams (3-6 tablespoons) cream, as needed
1 drop pink food coloring

to assemble:
lucky charms, if desired
sprinkles
60 grams (2 ounces) white chocolate, chopped
60 grams (1/4 cup) heavy cream
white food coloring, if desired

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour 3 6×2 inch pans.
Place sugar in a large bowl, followed by salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cornstarch; whisk together briefly.
Add the flour on top of the mixture, then the cocoa powder, then the instant espresso on top of that.
Slowly stream the boiling water over the cocoa powder; once it’s all added, whisk vigorously while you add in the oil.
Add in both of the eggs and the vanilla extract, then stream in the buttermilk while whisking.
Scrape the bowl to ensure homogeneity, then portion evenly into the three 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 frosting.
To make the frosting, beat the softened butter for 3 minutes, until light, fluffy, and doubled in volume.
Add in the salt and sugar and mix on low speed until combined; add cream slowly (spoonful by spoonful, mixing after each one) if the frosting is too thick.
Tint to your desired color; here, I used only the tiniest drop to create an extremely pale pink frosting.
To decorate the cake, place one layer on a cake stand and top with 1/2 cup frosting.
Repeat until all 3 layers are stacked.
Crumb coat the cake and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Top with the remaining frosting and smooth with a large, warmed spatula.
Once smooth, place in the fridge to chill.
Melt the white chocolate and cream very gently in the microwave (about 45 seconds to 1 minute on medium power); pour or pipe over the edges of the chilled cake.
Finish the cake with lucky charms marshmallows (crush a few for powder), sprinkles, and candles, if desired.