dessert

peach-plum buckle

Image & styling: Olaiya Land
Image & styling: Olaiya Land

I’m celebrating!

I baked this cake in honor of the fact that I am officially done with diets. Hopefully forever.

As I wrote here I have tried pretty much every form of controlling my body known to (wo)man. Starting with disordered eating in my teens all the way through the latest vegan, paleo and keto crazes.

We’re talking ALLLLLLLL the diets. And the un-diets. And the cleanses. And the “lifestyle overhauls”. Always seeking to be thinner. Smaller. To take up less space.

But I am done with that.

Image & styling: Olaiya Land
Image & styling: Olaiya Land

I am done feeling ashamed that I’m not a size 4. I’m done feeling like a failure because I don’t fit the beauty standard laid out by the diet industry. And fashion magazines. And mainstream advertising. I am done waging war on a body that keeps me healthy and strong. That allows me to experience the joy of playing tennis and lifting weights and hiking in the forest. I’m ready to start treating my body like the miraculous gift that it is.

Oddly, Instagram is largely to thank for this new-found liberation. I’ve started following fitness bloggers who value strength and self-acceptance over thinness. (Whassup @shethrivesblog and @anniemiller.co!) And brands that use models of all shapes, sizes, colors and ages. (Hello @chromat and @universalstandard!) And plus size models who show me that you can be sexy and self-confident at any size. (Yes @jenniferatilemile and @jessicavanderleahy!) And anti-diet crusaders who have made me rethink my attitudes toward how I feed and care for myself. (Thank you @susanhyatt and @thefuckitdiet!)

Following all these women who choose to celebrate the female body in all its amazing forms has helped me realize I don’t need to change a single thing about my beautiful body.

And neither do you.

Image & styling: Olaiya Land
Image & styling: Olaiya Land

I know that if you are currently feeling the body shame I felt for years, this message is going to sound like a pile of blissed-out bullshit. I have been there. I mean let’s be honest: I’ve lived there for most of my life.

But something has shifted in me lately. Maybe because I’ve gotten older and a little bit wiser. Maybe because I’ve been spending a lot of time in Europe where I feel more balanced and at ease with myself. Who knows. I’ll take it however it comes.

If some part of you thinks you might want to make peace with your body, I highly recommend you check out the bloggers and Instagrammers I linked to above. Taylor Gage and Caroline Dooner have been especially valuable to me on my path towards greater self-love and acceptance.

And wherever you’re at on the path towards loving and cherishing yourself, celebrating yourself with a cake is never a bad move.


Peach Plum Buckle

  • 225g (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus extra for the pan
  • 250g (1 cup plus 4 tablespoons) sugar, divided
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 215g (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 70g (3/4 cup) almond flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 firm-ripe peaches, sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • 225g (8 oz.) plums, pitted and halved (if small) or sliced cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices (if larger)

*Notes: I love, love, love this cake! I've been making versions of this one since way back in 2006. I almost never make recipes twice. So I guarantee you it's a good one!

- I made this version with cherry plums because we have a cherry plum tree in our front yard. I had never heard of cherry plums until we moved into this house so I don’t think they’re particularly common. I’ve made this with tons of different kinds of plums though and it’s always delicious.

- You can use any variety of stone fruit you like: peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums, cherries, sour cherries (mix these with a little extra sugar if you go that route). Whatever.

- This cake magically gets better and better as it sits. I leave mine covered with a tea towel on the counter and on days 2 and 3 it is PHENOMENAL. (Did I mention I love this cake?)

Image & styling: Olaiya Land

Position a rack in the center of your oven and preheat it to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch cake pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment. Butter the parchment. Then flour the pan, tapping out the excess flour.

Cut the vanilla bean in half and scrape out the seeds with a paring knife. In a small bowl rub the vanilla seeds into 1 cup of the sugar until they are well distributed. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, almond flour, baking powder and salt to remove any lumps. Using a stand mixer, beat the butter until fluffy. Add the cup of vanilla sugar. Beat until well blended. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. On low speed, add the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated.

Transfer the batter to your pan (it will be VERY thick). Spread the batter evenly in the pan then arrange the fruit over the batter, pressing it down slightly.

Bake the cake until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 80-90 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 20 minutes. Run a small knife between the cake and the pan to loosen it. Then turn the cake out onto a large plate. Remove the parchment paper. Place another large plate or serving platter on top of the cake. Using both hands, hold both plates firmly together and flip the cake again, plum side up. Cool completely before serving.

Makes 8-10 servings

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Image & styling: Olaiya Land

grapefruit curd tart + how to plan your perfect birthday

Image + styling: Olaiya Land

I had a birthday over the holidays. In honor of which I made myself this grapefruit curd tart. Because grapefruit is one of my favorite flavors. And because grapefruit goes really well with champagne. And because I love champagne.

Some people might think a person shouldn’t have to bake her own birthday dessert. I have to disagree.

We live in an age of endless to-do lists. Tsunamis of work obligations. The creeping suspicion (developed after too many hours on Instagram) that our ass is too big. Or too small. Or not clad in the right brand of aggressively tight workout gear. Or too often glued to our couch as we binge-watch Netflix.

Image + styling: Olaiya Land

Which is why we need a day set aside to remember that everything about us is OK. Beautiful even. Regardless of how few items we’ve checked off our productivity app. Or how our boss feels about our TPS reports. Or the size of our backside.

And what better occasion to proclaim “fuck it” to all the obligations of adulthood and spend the day doing exactly what you want than your birthday?

Yes, it is impractical. Yes, you might feel like you don’t deserve it. Yes, it might even feel a little sinful. And yes, it will be 100% WORTH IT.

To help you fully celebrate yourself, I’ve put together a list of the 10 Birthday Commandments. As someone with a Christmas birthday who still manages to make the day her own, I consider myself something of an expert. Consider this your modern self-care manifesto.

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The 10 Birthday Commandments

  1. Sleep in. Ask your partner to get the kids ready for school. Tell your roommates to wake you under absolutely no circumstances. Because you need plenty of delicious sleep to wake up feeling like the goddess that you are.

  2. Skip work. Yes, I mean it. Take a personal day. Call in sick. Bribe your boss with cronuts for a month. I don’t care. Do whatever it takes to get the whole day to yourself. Remember: work is highly detrimental to the art of celebrating yourself.

  3. Start the day out by eating your favorite things. Chicken and waffles? Pancakes? Leftover pizza? Birthday cake? Yup. Kick that diet mindset to the curb. Nothing is verboten on your b-day. To make your birthday morning extra delightful, make sure you have what you need for said breakfast on hand. Hangry is no way to start the day.

  4. Wear your favorite outfit. Feel like zipping into a skin-tight dress and super high heels that make you feel sexy AF? Do it. Prefer to spend the day in your softest tights and hoodie? It’s all good. Today is a day for living your best life.

  5. Proclaim yourself queen for the day. Seriously. This is a thing we do in my family. When it’s your birthday, you get to choose the food, the music, the pace, the movie. Make sure your friends and fam are on board beforehand though or things could get a little heated.

  6. As Your Royal Highness, you now have permission to fill your day with things you love to do. Get a massage. Take in an art exhibit solo. Hit a spin class to get yourself energized. Have lunch with your best friends at your favorite restaurant. Make it happen!

  7. Buy yourself a present. As nice as it is to receive presents from others, your friends and family are not mind-readers. Only you can buy yourself exactly what you want. Right color. Right size. Right details. Buy yourself something that brings you joy, and feel no guilt.

  8. Let your squad celebrate you. Even if you aren’t used to being the center of attention. Letting your friends and family shower you with love is one of the best parts of having friends and family.

  9. But don’t expect anyone to make your day unforgettable. Don’t get me wrong--a perfectly executed surprise party or a bottle of champagne for two by firelight are pretty special. But unless you are supremely lucky, they aren’t going to happen every single year. Which is why I’m a big fan of taking matters into your own hands. Communication is key. Let those around you know what you want and need on your special day. Then plan some (or all) of the festivities yourself. It’s your day; you get to live it however you like.

  10. Disregard any (or all) of these commandments if they don’t fit your personality. Add your own birthday commandments if you want. The most important thing is that you fill your day with all the things and people you love most. And that you create a moment to celebrate your beautiful, amazing, perfect self.

Image + styling: Olaiya Land

Grapefruit Curd Tart

  • 1/2 recipe pâte sucrée (see below)
  • 1 teaspoon unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 160g (3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon) granulated sugar
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 160mL (2/3 cup) freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated grapefruit zest
  • Pinch kosher or sea salt
  • A few drops red food coloring (optional)
  • 70g (5 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 5 pieces
  • 240mL (1 cup) heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar (optional)
  • Few thin slices grapefruit to decorate the tart (optional)

Pâte Sucrée

  • 320g (2 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher or flaky sea salt
  • 220g (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 60mL (1/4 cup) ice water, plus more if needed

*Notes: The pâte sucrée can be frozen up to 1 month. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator before proceeding with the recipe.

- The tart shell can be baked a day in advance. Cool it completely in the pan then wrap tightly in plastic wrap until you’re ready to fill it.

- I prefer to top the tart with the whipped cream just before serving. But it can be assembled and topped with the whipped cream up to a day in advance without losing much in terms of texture. If you go this route, be sure to use powdered sugar in the whipped cream as it helps stabilize it. Place the tart on a large plate and invert a large bowl over the top to protect the whipped cream before putting it in the fridge. (This is also how I stored the leftovers.)

- Remove the tart from the fridge 30 minutes before serving.

Image + styling: Olaiya Land

For the crust: Pulse the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor to combine. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds. Add the yolks and pulse to just combine. With the machine running, add the ice water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube until the dough just holds together (no longer than 20 seconds). Check the dough by stopping the machine then pinching some of the dough together in your hand. It should come together into a ball when you squeeze it. Don’t wait for the dough to come together in the machine.

Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface. Gather it together into a ball then divide the dough in half. Shape each half into a 1/2-inch thick disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour (and up to 2 days).

Roll out one disk of dough to roughly 1/4-inch thickness. Transfer the dough to an 8-inch shallow, removable-bottom tart pan. Lift and press it into the edges of the pan. Do not stretch the dough into the edges as this will make your crust shrink as it bakes. Trim the edges of the crust. One trick I use is to press the sides down into the flutes of the tart pan to make them a little thicker then the bottom. I use a rolling pin to roll over the top of the tart, trimming off any excess dough. Then I use my fingers to push the sides up just slightly past the top edge of the pan. Use a fork to prick holes evenly over the bottom of the tart (this is called docking). Place the tart pan in the freezer until the dough is frozen solid (15-20 minutes).

When you are ready to bake the tart shell, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat it to 400°F (205°C). Line the frozen shell with parchment paper and then fill it with pie weights (I use beans. You can also use rice.)

Bake the shell until the edges are starting to brown, about 25 minutes. Carefully remove the parchment and pie weights (they will be very hot), reduce the oven to 375°F (190°C) and continue to bake until the center is golden brown and dry, about 15 minutes more. (Cover the edges with aluminum foil if they are darkening too quickly.) Transfer the tart shell to a wire rack and cool completely in the pan. When you’re ready to fill the cooled tart shell, carefully remove it from the tart pan and place it on a serving plate.

For the curd: Whisk together the gelatin and cold water in a small bowl, and set aside to let the gelatin absorb the water. Set a fine mesh sieve over a medium bowl and set aside.

Place the sugar, eggs, juices, zest and salt in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Whisk well to combine. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until just warm to the touch. Add 1 piece of the butter and cook, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula to prevent scorching, until the butter is almost melted. Repeat with the remaining pieces of butter. If using, add food coloring 1 drop at a time, stirring well after each addition, until you reach your desired color.

Cook the mixture, whisking frequently, until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. If you want to use a candy thermometer, cook the curd until it reaches 175° F (79°C).

Once the curd thickens, remove the pan from the heat and pour the curd through the fine mesh strainer into the bowl to remove any bits of cooked egg. Microwave the small bowl of gelatin for 10 seconds, until it is liquid. Add the liquefied gelatin to the bowl of grapefruit curd and whisk well.

Pour the curd into the baked and cooled tart shell and transfer it to the refrigerator. Chill until the curd is set, at least an hour.

To serve: Place the cream and powdered sugar (if using) in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat at medium-high speed until firm peaks form. Take care not to overwhip the cream. Mound the whipped cream in the middle of the chilled tart and spread with the back of a spoon to make decorative swoops. Arrange the grapefruit slices over the whipped cream and serve.

Makes 1 8-inch tart

Pâte Sucrée recipe from Martha Stewart’s Cooking School. Curd recipe adapted from SugarHero!

Image + styling: Olaiya Land

grapefruit vanilla bean trifle

Image: Olaiya Land

In the dreary days of February, my mind turns to spring dreams. Green grass and tiny daffodils elbowing their way up through the soil. The season's first asparagus stalks and baby morels. Raspberries. Strawberries. Apricots! Easter hams and rhubarb pies.

All of which leaves me feeling rather let down when I come back down to Earth and remember we’re still sailing through the mid-winter doldrums.

Image: Olaiya Land

This is a time of year that requires extra creativity in the kitchen. The novelty of autumn’s bounty of apples, pears and squash is long gone. Tender spring things are still weeks away. And Kale, popular and Instagram-friendly as it is, can only take you so far.

Luckily, this is the month we are given citrus.

Image: Olaiya Land

Jewel-toned citrus in all its shapes and forms is the answer to the culinary blues. Bright and subtly floral, it’s the winter ingredient that tricks our palettes into thinking spring is nearly here. 

Sweet-tart grapefruit is my very favorite member of the citrus family. It's annual appearance at the grocery store never fails to brighten my day. Sort of like a beloved uncle who comes around once a year with bad jokes and pocketfulls of candy. 

Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

It’s difficult to improve upon a perfectly ripe grapefruit section scooped straight from the rind. But as I looked around our kitchen at the mounting piles of grapefruit, I decided it was time to kick things up a notch and transform my winter citrus bounty into something a touch more fancified. 

Which leads us to this Grapefruit Vanilla Bean Trifle. It’s a delicious pile of controlled chaos--towering layers of cake, cream, meringue and citrus that collapse into a fluffy, creamy mess when you scoop them into your bowl. This is the sort of dessert that will help you shake off a winter funk. The sort of dish that will make you forget winter all together.

At least until you reach the bottom of the trifle dish.

Image: Olaiya Land

Grapefruit Vanilla Bean Trifle

  • 5 large, ripe grapefruit (I used a mix of red, pink, gold and white grapefruit)
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 recipe Grapefruit Curd, chilled (see below)
  • 1 recipe Vanilla Bean Meringues (see below)
  • 1 recipe Grapefruit Olive Oil Cake, cooled completely (see below)


*Note: This trifle is most beautiful right after you assemble it, before the citrus can release any juices. But it is about a gazillion times more delicious the next day. I recommend you make this a day in advance and store it covered in the fridge until you’re ready to serve it. Leave off the last layer of meringue crumbles until right before you serve it so they stay crunchy.

- Almost all the components of this trifle can be made in advance. The cake can be baked up to 2 days in advance. The curd can be made up to a week in advance. The merengues can be baked a week or more in advance if you bake them fairly dry and store them in an airtight container. 

Image: Olaiya Land

Remove the skin and pith from the grapefruit. Cut the flesh into supremes over a medium bowl so you catch all the juices. (Here’s a video on how to do it.) Set aside.

Place the cream in the bowl of a stand mixer along with the sugar and beat to stiff peaks using the whisk attachment. (You can also use a hand beater or a wire whisk and a mixing bowl.) Take care not to over beat the cream--you want it stiff, but not grainy. Gently fold the chilled grapefruit curd into the whipped cream until only a few faint streaks of yellow remain. 

Cut the cooled cake into roughly 1-inch pieces. Arrange the cake pieces in the bottom of a trifle dish or large bowl in a tight layer. Depending on the size of your dish, you may not use all the cake pieces. You can freeze them for another use, or--my favorite option--snack on them alongside your afternoon cup of coffee or tea. 

Spread half the grapefruit cream mixture over the cake. Arrange half the grapefruit sections over the cream. (Take care to lift them from their juices with your fingers or a slotted spoon so the trifle isn’t too wet.) Crumble a layer of meringue pieces over the grapefruit. Spread the rest of the grapefruit cream over the meringue and top with the rest of the grapefruit sections. Crumble additional pieces of meringue over the trifle just before serving.

Serves 8-10.


Grapefruit Curd

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon finely grated grapefruit zest (from 1 large grapefruit--grate an additional 2 teaspoons zest for the olive oil cake, below)

  • ¾ cup freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice

  • ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 5 large eggs

  • 4 large yolks (save the yolks from your meringues for this)

  • Pinch kosher salt

  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces


Set a fine mesh sieve over a medium bowl and set aside.

Place the juices, zest, sugar, eggs and salt  in a medium heavy saucepan. Whisk well to combine. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often with a heatproof spatula, until just warm to the touch. Add 1 piece of the butter and cook, stirring constantly with the spatula to prevent scorching, until the butter is almost melted. Repeat with the remaining 9 pieces of butter. 

Continue to cook, stirring often until the curd has thickened and is beginning to bubble, about 1 minute longer. 

Strain the curd into the bowl and discard the zest and any bits of cooked egg. Cool for 15 minutes then place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd (to prevent a skin from forming) and chill in the refrigerator until very cold, at least 4 hours.

The curd will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for a week or frozen for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator before serving.

Makes about 3 cups.


Vanilla Bean Meringues

  • 9 oz superfine sugar (about 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons)

  • 1 vanilla bean (I used a Tahitian vanilla bean since they are beautifully floral)

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

  • Pinch salt

  • 6 oz egg whites (from about 5 large eggs)--reserve the yolks for curd

  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar


Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 250° F. Line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper. 

Place the sugar in a small bowl. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with a paring knife. Add the vanilla seeds to the bowl with the sugar. Using your fingers, rub the seeds into the sugar; this will keep the vanilla from clumping together in the meringues. Add the cornstarch and salt. Whisk to combine and break up any clumps.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites at medium speed until soft peaks form, 2-3 minutes.

Increase the speed a little and slowly sprinkle in the sugar mixture. It should take you about a minute or more; adding the sugar too quickly or before the eggs form soft peaks will result in a less stable meringue that might spread or weep. A minute or so after all of the sugar mixture has been added, add the vinegar. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to whip until the meringue forms very stiff peaks, 5-8 minutes longer. You will know the meringue is stiff enough when it will hold the whisk attachment perfectly upright with no other support.  

Spoon the meringue into 6 heaping mounds, each about 4 inches wide on the parchment-lined sheet pan (be sure they aren’t touching). If you want drier, crunchier meringues, use the back of a spoon to flatten each meringue a bit so they are thinner. If you like more marshmallowy meringues, leave them as fluffy mounds.

Bake the meringues until they are crisp and dry to the touch on the outside but still white (not golden or cracked), about 80-90 minutes for flat meringues and about 2 hours for thick ones. Check on the meringues periodically to make sure they aren’t coloring or cracking. If they are, rotate the sheet pan and reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees.

When the meringues are done, turn off the oven and let the meringues cool completely in the oven. If you're not using them right away, store the cooled meringues in a tightly sealed container (I like a large mason jar). They will keep for a week or two, depending on how dry they are cooked, in a well-sealed container.

Makes 6 large meringues.
 


Grapefruit Olive Oil Cake
Adapted slightly from Yossy Arefi

  • 1 cup (200g) sugar

  • 1 3/4 cups (225g) all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 3/4 cup (175ml) fruity olive oil

  • 1/4 cup (55g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

  • 1 tablespoon finely grated grapefruit zest

  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature

  • 1 cup (240ml) whole-milk kefir or buttermilk, at room temperature (I used kefir)


Follow this recipe, omitting the rosemary and substituting 1 tablespoon finely grated grapefruit zest for the lemon zest.