Summer's Ending!! // Vegan Peach + Rye Upside-Down Cake

Peach upside-down cake with dark rye and cinnamon

Peach upside-down cake with dark rye and cinnamon

I don't know how many times I've said this already (maybe it's only been in my head), but I can't wait for fall and winter. I love cold weather, I love the cold air that takes your breath away, I love wearing tights, and I love the food and making fires inside. It's all just the best. Being hot all the time? Def not for me. We went to a football game this weekend and just BAKED in the sun. I was the one reapplying sunscreen every ten minutes and trying to cower in the shade of other people's bodies. Give me fall. Give me flannel. Or give me... Lord, I don't know. Let's just get on with it.

One note about this summer, though: It's been phenomenal. Likely one of the best three-month periods of my life. The energy in the air has been incredibly strong and I feel like I've been able to harness some of that energy in a really great way. My customer base has increased in WAVES, and the best part? Getting to meet people and learn about who they are, what makes them tick, and being able to make them and and their loves happy through food. The feeling is completely sublime. It's my dream come true, no joking here! I seriously appreciate the pastry love that has exploded recently. 

This cake is a farewell to summer, as I'm sort of vowing to not buy anymore stone fruit and to move on to apples and pears. I also deepened one of my favorite cakes by subbing in rye flour for half of the all-purpose. I'm seriously loving rye these days! It's so much more intense. And the color is great. 

Cake Recipe

1 c all-purpose flour

1 c dark rye flour

1 tsp baking powder

3/4 c  granulated sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp salt

1/2 c olive oil (vegetable oil would work great, too)

1 1/3 c coconut milk

3 small peaches

Preheat your oven to 375F. Grease an 8" cake pan and line the bottom with a circle of waxed paper, or parchment paper. Grease the paper, too.

Cut the peaches into wedges, about eight per peach. Arrange them in a nice design on the bottom of the cake pan, on top of the waxed paper. Set it aside while you make the cake batter.

Combine the two flours, baking powder, sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Add in the oil and coconut milk. Whisk to combine. Pour over the arranged peaches, spreading to the edges and trying not to disturb the peaches.

Bake the cake on a sheet pan, as the cake should fill your pan to the top and you don't want it to spill over (all cake pans are different heights). It'll bake for about 35 minutes, or an until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Let the cake cool for about 30-45 minutes before flipping on to a serving plate. Remove the waxed paper round and marvel at your peaches!


Thursday Sweets // MAD4 and Everything Challah

EVERYTHING CHALLAH

EVERYTHING CHALLAH

Never heard of MAD symposium? Top contributors in the food world get together in a very cool city to talk about food, eat food, and create shenanigans. What was special about this year? The whole deal was broadcast on The Lake Radio. I listened in bed. At the gym. In my car. At work. Everywhere. It was fascinating. This year's topic: "What is Cooking?" 

I've vowed to be there next year. Who's going with me? Until then, below are my favorite bits and bobs that I heard.

  • "Young cooks: you should be afraid. Fear is the greatest creative engine." - Albert Adria
  • Andre Mifano was seriously amazing. So many F-bombs and a super great speaker. AND the idea of: Why in the hell aren't we having events like MAD4 all over the world, all the time??
  • Tatiana Lehva opened a restaurant in Paris four months ago. Her thoughts were really raw and wonderful. "You are showing the most intimate side of yourself [when opening] and exposing yourself to fierce judgment." AND "In a time of uncertainty, I found tradition and French technique very comforting." I HEAR THAT.
  • Anya Von Bremzen is a food writer who made us wonder: Why aren't we considering the diner more often? "We are creating a fantasy when we cook. We create the fantasy that everything is better than in real life. A great restaurant is a laboratory for the future. Leave room in your fantasy for the diner."

My brain is still buzzing, just thinking of the things I heard. AGAIN: Who's going to Copenhagen with me next year?

Always punch your dough after the first rise. It's sort-of necessary and definitely satisfying.

Always punch your dough after the first rise. It's sort-of necessary and definitely satisfying.

Honestly, there's no intro for this challah, other than: It's frickin' challah with everything bagel toppings. You can customize the toppings to be what you like, but I recommend: kosher salt, poppy seeds, caraway, fennel, sesame seeds, and copious amounts of dried garlic and onion. COPIOUS.

Everything Challah Recipe (based on this recipe by Isa Chandra)

2 c non-dairy milk

1/4 tsp ground tumeric

1/2 c granulated sugar

1/2 c oil (I used coconut, but you can use whatever you have)

2 1/2 Tbsp active dry yeast

2 very overripe bananas, mashed REALLY well

7-8 c all-purpose flour + some for kneading

1 Tbsp salt

Brushing 

Use an egg wash if you aren't vegan (1 egg, 1 yolk, pinch salt)

2 Tbsp maple syrup + 2 Tbsp non-dairy milk if you are vegan

Spice blend:

Sprinkle on how much you want of the following: dry garlic, dry onion, kosher salt, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, caraway, fennel

Heat the milk, turmeric and sugar to about 110F. Pour into a large mixing bowl. Be sure it isn't above 110F, or it will kill the yeast. Add in the yeast and stir gently. Let this mixture sit until it's bubbly and smells amazing, about five minutes. Add in the oil, mashed bananas, and salt - mix to combine. Add in the flour, about 3 cups at a time, mixing well. You've added enough flour when the mixture is no longer too sticky. It should not look flour-y.

Plop your dough onto a floured surface and knead or punch for about five minutes. You want to develop enough gluten in the dough so it doesn't break later on. Also, this is really therapeutic. Put the kneaded dough into a greased bowl, place a piece of waxed paper on top of that, then a tea towel. Leave the bread to rise until it doubles in size, or about an hour. You can speed this up by putting the covered bowl in a sink filled with warm water.

When the dough is done rising, divide it in two equal pieces. Divide each of those pieces in three pieces. Each of the small pieces should be rolled in 24" logs. Braid three of those babies together and wrap them into a ring. Pinch the ends together. Each crown needs one greased jelly roll pan. Throw a tea towel over each crown and set them on your stovetop.

Preheat your oven to 400F. Let the crowns rise until they are nice and supple, about 20 minutes. Brush with egg wash or vegan mixture, then sprinkle copious amounts of spices. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. you know your bread is done when you tap it, and it sounds hollow.

THEN EAT THE HELL OUT OF THIS STUFF.


 

The Importance of Birthday Cakes + Celebrations

// Everyone: This is a reminder to sing 'Happy Birthday' to your friends. And to celebrate them. Find a reason to do it now. Do it today. //

Olive oil-vanilla cake, vanilla buttercream, fresh strawberries. Wildflowers from Shadow Brook Farm.

Olive oil-vanilla cake, vanilla buttercream, fresh strawberries. Wildflowers from Shadow Brook Farm.

Today would have been my grandma Helen's 102nd birthday. My god, she was one HELL of a woman. Today also is the 94th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution – the amendment that gave women the right to vote. It was ratified on my grandma's eighth birthday. She was one of the most remarkable women I've ever known. She was a very strong woman and didn't put up with anyone's shit, and encouraged you to do the same! She was the biggest proponent of our dreams and had a knack for breaking things down for you, and showed you how to make all the pieces fall into place.

She also taught me how to cheat at solitaire. (Hint: you're playing by yourself, so do what you want!)

Funfetti biscotti for my mom's birthday, recipe by Molly Yeh

Funfetti biscotti for my mom's birthday, recipe by Molly Yeh

She LOVED to celebrate. We celebrated everything! No event was too small for cake and ice cream. Every birthday needed a cake. Every cake needed candles. And every birthday person needed a seriously special day.

I have a really hard time seeing a friend's birthday go by without celebrating with sweets, candles, and a big-ass celebration. We're worth it, you guys! And why the HELL shouldn't we frickin' CELEBRATE?!!  There were four orders that came in last week for Friday birthday cakes, then my mom's was on Saturday, two friends yesterday, and today would've been Grandma's. Birthday fever over here!

We sang to my friend last night at her impromptu birthday gathering. She giggled really sweetly in the middle of it and I told her, later, how adorable that was. "I just don't remember the last time people sang to me on my birthday!" she said. 

Like I said: Sing to your friends. Celebrate them. They deserve it, you deserve it, we all deserve it.

Even Patty gets a cake!

Even Patty gets a cake!


Vegan Snack Cake With Pistachio Streusel And Strawberry-Rose Glaze

The best time to eat cake is:

a) After breakfast

b) At 3pm

c) Before bed

d) With lunch

e) All of the above, duh

Which did you choose? Which do you think you should choose? Literally, you should choose all of them. Easiest test ever!

This cake is one of my favorites I have ever had. It's sweet, but doesn't make me feel like I'm going diabetic. It's rich, but not so rich that I can't find time to eat it before and/or after every meal. This cake is perfect, in my opinion. I love the base coconut cake, because you really can do anything you want to it, within reason. It's very dense, but still light. I thought about making the pistachio streusel for two reasons: I was thinking about good snacks for road trips and pistachios came up, and my mom makes an amazing coffee cake with a pecan streusel through the middle. So, here we are. It has a strawberry-rose glaze that is bonkers-out-of-this-world. 

Take this on your next road trip. Take it to work. Eat it in the bathtub. Eat it with your girlfriends.

Just eat it.

Cake Recipe, (based on this recipe from Oh, Ladycakes)

2 c all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp baking powder

1 c granulated sugar

1/2 c coconut oil, melted

1 1/3 c coconut milk (from a can, not a jug)

1/2 c raw, unsalted pistachios, roughly ground (you def want some chunks)

1/3 c light brown sugar

1 tsp cardamom

4 Tbsp coconut oil, melted.

Preheat your oven to 350F. Grease an 8" springform pan.

Combine the dry ingredients and add in the oil and the milk. Whisk to combine. 

To make the streusel, combine the pistachios, brown sugar, cardamom, and 4 Tbsp oil. Mix well.

Pour half of the cake batter into your prepared pan, then sprinkle over the streusel. Pour over the rest of the cake batter. Bake until an inserted toothpick comes out clean, about 25 minutes (a.k.a. when your house smells amazing). Remove from pan and leave to cool completely.

Strawberry-Rose Glaze

1/3 c coconut milk

3 oz freeze-dried strawberries

1 tsp rose water

4 Tbsp powdered sugar

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and combine until smooth and lovely. You can also crush the strawberries and mix together by hand. It's okay if this is chunky. Buy freeze-dried strawberry powder, if you'd rather. I love both! Pour the glaze over the cooled cake and add some roasted, salted pistachios if you have 'em.

WELCOME TO SNACK HEAVEN.


Thursday Sweets // 08.21.2014

I usually post links for Thursday Sweets to great articles and recipes from around the web. But I also have LOADS of pastries to share with you from the last week. What a week it was! I am so, so lucky to have the best clients there are. I love the creativity and open minds y'all have. Although I've been in this bizz for a really long time (read: 12 years), I've only recently, in the past year, been making a huge push with Goldenrod. I've been blown away by your support and, lemme say - we are definitely just getting started! The love that is being shared through sweets in Lincoln and Omaha is amazing and awesome - and let's keep it going!

To my friends who wonder if I've existed outside of social media lately, I think this post will explain where I've been. The following sweets are listed in no particular order, other than from sweetest and cutest, to sweetest and cutest. 

Below is one of two birthday cakes for a big birthday bash that was last weekend. What I absolutely love about my clients is that they are so good about recommending me to their friends. This was a great example of that. The top cake is vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream. The cake below was the second for this party and was chocolate cake with espresso buttercream - with tiny Swiss chocolate bars on top. Of course!

This lemon dream was for a client's sweet grandmother's birthday party. The only requirement was that it be really lemon-y! When I was frosting this cake and lovingly putting on the lemons, I was just so excited. I had to wake up Russell to show it to him (I was working late into the night). I said, "It's for someone's grandma! Do you love it?!?" He can tell when I am pretty proud of myself and really excited and said, "You just love grandmas, don't you?" Literally, I do love grandmas. They are the best. I love my own and love other people's grandmas. Someone made a comment on Instagram about this photo: "Why do all grandmas LOVE lemon??" I think it's because they're so sweet, they need something tart to balance it out.

So, a good friend contacted me a few months ago about making cakes for her dad's retirement party. He had been teaching for 40+ years - technical work to teenagers. Is this guy a saint? She requested I make electrical transistors for the party. I truly don't understand the colors and what they mean, so I decided to make these really fun.

I worked with Candace Kalasky of Lovestru.ck Events on a wedding, too. Working with her is always a dream. The bride and groom wanted a late-night breakfast sweets bar, so we delivered. She had Delice cater croissants and muffins, but I was honored to provide pop-tarts, Liege waffles, and French toast cooked on site.

Below: Nutella pop-tarts with a bittersweet chocolate-almond glaze... and Belgian dark chocolate shavings. And sprinkles. That is all. 

Two of the three loaves of brioche for the French toast that was cooked on site. It is my Polish grandmother's recipe - lots of eggs, butter, milk, and loads of love. I always mix this by hand. I can't trust it with a mixer. You can see a blurry photo of the French toast set-up on Instagram.

Strawberry pop-tarts. Filled with strawberry preserves and fresh slices of strawberries. Topped with a sugary glaze, sprinkles of powdered strawberries. Simply the best. I love how these turned out.

LIEGE WAFFLES. This is not your average waffle. It is a yeasted dough, almost like brioche, that you make over the course of several days. It spends several hours at room temperature to develop a really yeasty, amazing flavor and aroma. You knead in cups and cups of chunky pearl sugar, to the dough's capacity, let it rise, and press the dough into a waffle iron. The sugar on the outside melts and caramelizes, leaving you with a chewy, crunchy, yeasty, sweet piece of heaven. Once people get a taste of these, they never stop craving them. 

My absolute new favorite sweet: vegan coconut cake with a ribbon of pistachio-cardamom streusel, and a coconut-strawberry-rose glaze on top. With salty roasted pistachios. The stuff dreams are made of. Heaven. Pictured along side my mom's amazing peach dumplings. We hosted a bunch of Brits who buy a ton of Nebraska beef (long story, but this has to do with my dad's work) for an annual BBQ last week. My mom made her famous red velvet cake and dumplings. I made vegan cake. For a beef BBQ. 

This cake was just for fun. It was for friends and for my husband. Chocolate cake with slices of banana, peanut butter buttercream, fresh strawberries, Nutella drizzle, and cashew praline. Once Sunday rolled around, NOT being in the kitchen was weird for me. This was a super fun one for me to make. Super relaxing and energizing.


Feeling Carby // Why I Stopped Following Fitstagram Pages

fit ladies.jpg

At some point in the past year, I found Fitstagram Queens on Instagram. At first, I loved being able to see new workouts that people were posting. It helped me switch up my routine at the gym when I was in a rut. There were also some great snack ideas that people posted. Somewhere along the way, though, once I started following more and more of these accounts, I realized that I was just getting ab and booty glamour shots. A lot of it was product-based and all of the posts had about, oh, fifteen hashtags that mostly didn't even relate to their post. But, because we're all desperate to look and feel our best, we find these pages one way or another, and we follow them because, well, we want to attain that "level", whatever it is. For some of us, it's a new diet. For others of us, it's our workout regime. For me, it was both. 

I started lifting weights about a year and a half ago. I saw really amazing results in the first year, but those have sort of petered out. I work A LOT and I really love to socialize and see my husband and family. Prioritizing my workouts is still high on my list of things to do, but getting there right after work, or sacrificing my early morning hours, just really isn't worth it to me right now. I do still work out about four times per week, but I'm not as invested in it as I was. Realizing that is a serious process of acceptance. Exercise is addictive and the results are even more addictive. You look good, you feel even better, and you basically always feel like you're high. IT'S AMAZING. Literally nothing can bring you down. Except not working out as much, that is. 

So, with my adjusted routine and priorities in the past several months, I've been scrolling through Instagram, seeing these babes who lift constantly popping up in my feed. The amount of glamour shots in workout clothes started to decrease, and I started seeing more in "normal/regular" clothes. There were head shots, laying-on-the-beach shots, and everything in between. I was putting myself down for not achieving the same results as the people on Instagram. Which, by the way, writing that sentence is really, really depressing. Can you believe we do this stuff? I realized one day that, you know, my main goals in life are not to be in figure competitions. I have a full-time job+, a family, dogs, friends, and my hobbies - so lifting weights can't really define me / did I ever really want that anyway?? 

I have spent a ton of time at my gym in the past year and a half. I lift a ton heavier than I did even six months ago. For example: a year ago, I was doing 7.5# shoulder presses and I now can use 22.5# dumbbells. That's a lot of weight. I went from having trouble squatting 40#, to doing 140# with little trouble, in about six months. HOWEVER, numbers aside, the visible results with my body are not extreme. I really like to eat cake. I probably eat cake every single day. Or I have an ice cream cone (I had two in one sitting on Monday). That stuff doesn't feel indulgent to me, it's just part of who I am. So, do I have a defined six-pack? HELL. NO. Do I want one? God, I don't know, I guess it would be nice? But giving up the things that make me who I am (read: cake, cookies, ice cream cones) just isn't worth it to me. It would severely reduce the quality of my life.

Our sweet Fitstagram Queens eat tuna, straight from the can, with a fork. I can't roll like that, y'all! Because of the education I've received from the trainers and nutritionists at my gym, I have changed my diet quite a bit. I have cut down on carbs, increased protein, included some pre-workout drinks, etc. I feel like my diet is in a great place. A place that makes me really proud.

Until it comes to the carbs. Reminder that I do not consider cake and ice cream cones as carbs - that's like thinking of shoes as an accessory. They stand alone. I'm talking about homemade bread, non-sprouted grain bread, flour tortillas, etc. I made brioche for a wedding last week for French toast and, man, diving into that stuff was heavenly. I made challah on Monday night and it's rocking my world! I've been enjoying it so much!

I started unfollowing these Fitstagram Queens last week. I think I still follow 3-5 because these few actually post great free workouts and, I feel, don't 100% subscribe to the nastiness I hate. I think my uptick in eating delicious homemade bread and the unfollowings happened about the same time. I feel great and I feel pretty free

Vegan Challah

You may have seen the challah I posted on Instagram (What do you call pastry ladies with Insta pages? Cakestagrams?), and maybe you didn't. It's a Post Punk Kitchen recipe that I altered, so it is vegan. I used mostly the same ingredients as the recipe calls for, but adapted it to be more like how my grandma makes bread.

  • Ditch the water, use all soymilk. It makes a richer dough. 
  • Combine all of the liquid at once. So, the 1-1/2 c soymilk from the first part of the recipe with the 1/3 c soymilk in the second part of the recipe. 
  • Heat all milk, the tumeric, sugar (both the 1/2 c and the 1 Tbsp) together until warm to the touch (a chef in school said "baby's got a fever" temp). Then add in the yeast and let it sit 'til it bubbles. Then add in the bananas, coconut oil, etc. and follow the recipe as it stands!
  • Knead the bread for about five minutes. The strands shouldn't tear apart like in the picture on the PPK site. You want these to be well-formed strands of gluten.
  • I added Maldon salt and sesame seeds to the top of the loaves (I made four with this recipe). 

Life And Business Lessons From My Pastry Kitchen

cherry pies 1

Check out this related article from NPR posted earlier this week.

There are all of the things I learned during my time in professional kitchens and studying at The International Culinary Center. Things that working in the basement of Jean Georges with amazing pastry chefs taught me. Things like: Why would you ever not pick up a tiny piece of trash if it's on the ground? Things like: Why wouldn't you have a pristine work space? Things like: Why would you lean any body weight against your work surface, even if you're exhausted? Things like: Why would you ever work for less than 18 hours at a time?

I abide by those rules, but they aren't what I'm talking about here.

I'm talking about real lessons that apply to every area of my life. I spend a lot of time alone, in my kitchen, working on orders - but last week when I was preparing 300+ lil' pies, I had a lot of time to think. I wasn't switching things up, by making lots of different things like cakes, fillings, buttercream, cookies, crumbles, etc., etc. - I was making a lot of the exact same thing. Pies. Over and over. Monotonous tasks like that can mean boredom, but this time it just really made me think. It made me think about my last 12 years (Is that all?/Twelve years already?) in professional baking.

all pies 1
  1. Plan ahead. Like the article NPR just released, if you are not prepared, then what is the point? If I haven't made lists over and over, both written and in my head, my baking will fail. I will fall behind schedule, which means I will be rushed, and then my customers will not end up with the highest quality product possible. Mise-en-place your life. How can I get my business in order from a higher level? How can I organize cleaning and organizing around the house in a more structured way? It can be completely obsessive once you start, but the calm it brings is outstanding.
  2. Keep your head down and work your ass off. I don't know, maybe I'm a little too crazy with this stuff, whatever. We have so much to learn from people who have been at "It" longer than we have. "It" can be baking, it can be computer programming, teaching, landscaping, or anything! Listen to people who have suffered the consequences of poor decisions. Hear their reasons for working in a certain way. Once you know the rules, you can break them. Once you've proven to yourself, and to others, that you can slog through the boring stuff - reward yourself with the fun stuff that is meaningful to your life!
  3. Minimal, temporary monotony is OK. This has a lot to do with number two above. When I was working as an intern at Jean Georges in NYC, I basically started as the lowest human being to ever exist. I was lucky to be there and I knew it. When i was cutting apples for pies this weekend, I remembered slicing boxes and boxes of apples for overnight confit apples at JG. I had a giant blister inside my forefinger and my lower back was just killing me. I sliced and I sliced and I sliced. When I was finished, I was so proud of myself - and I was the only one who was! Another night, we had to pipe macarons. Hundreds and hundreds of tiny macarons. The other interns said they didn't want to do it (THAT WAS AN OPTION??), but I hung around and piped those goddamn macarons until 1am. I think that was the night I earned the respect of my coworkers. Moral is: You want to be the best at something? Work hard from Day 1 and treat each step as an opportunity. 
photo 4.JPG
But practiced at its highest level, mise-en-place says that time is precious. Resources are precious. Space is precious. Your self-respect and the respect of others are precious. Use them wisely. Isn’t that a philosophy for our time?
— Dan Charnas, NPR, The Salt

At the end of the day, I think about the amazing, focused, disciplined chefs and cooks that have come before me, and I'm just overwhelmed. It's really emotional for me. Watching people who have dedicated their lives to passion, but have built an effective, defined lifestyle around it - that is amazing. I guess anyone can be passionate, but without discipline and extreme, almost psychotic motivation, what comes of it? 

This extreme discipline, I've realized recently, really dictates my life. I think it's something to watch and be mindful of, though, because it can be really annoying to the people closest to you. Freedom and spur-of-the-moment actions are wonderful - and those should never stop. I just think the greatest and most powerful thing for my work and my business, is to stay incredibly motivated and focused.