Monday, October 3, 2011

end of summer means peach cake

First, let me just repeat, Cook's Illustrated is the most reliable source of fool proof seasonal recipes and useful tricks.

This recipe comes from their August, 2011 issue number 111.

Let me begin by explaining that I many of the people closest to me suffer from food allergies. I have developed an allergy to sesame seeds. Over the years I thought it was a bizarre thing to be allergic to. My dad and some of my sisters, though, also suffer from what some would consider strange allergies. Growing up we often had to eat certain fruits and vegetables cooked so that everyone could eat them and my mom would only have to prepare food one way.

My dad and sisters have allergic reactions when they eat apples, carrots, peas, pears, peaches, cherries and other things raw rather than cooked. My dad's fruit allergy basically meant that my mom became a master pie-maker. Pie dough is something that challenges me to this day. Over time my sisters seem to have grown out of certain allergies, but J has only begun to develop them in the past year or so.

So when I saw the bushels of peaches for sale at the grocery store shortly after moving in, I jumped at the chance to bake with them so that J could taste them. Though I may have difficulty manipulating pie dough, cake batter is something that I have no problem with.

A tip for juicing lemons:
Slice the lemon in half. The lemon should have its ends pointing to the left and right, not up and down.

Put the cutting board and knife aside and get a small bowl

Insert a fork into the middle of the lemon.

Over the bowl, hold the outside of the lemon firmly in your left hand and the fork in your right and give it a good quarter turn.

Keep rotating the lemon around the fork (or the fork inside the lemon) until all the juice is extracted and it looks like this.

Using the fork, fish out any seeds or large bits of pulp that may have fallen into the bowl.

The juice can then be measured from the bowl as needed. Any extra juice can be put in an airtight container and used in salad dressings, smoothies, tea, dips, or marinades.

Who needs a stand mixer? I have a sweet whisk, two strong arms, and someone to take over when they get tired.

Mmmmm, creamed butter, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, and eggs.

There were two key elements that made of the Cook's Illustrated recipe so perfect and they came in the first and final steps.

First, the peaches were prepared in two different ways. About 30 slices of peach were sliced and reserved in a separate bowl to macerate with sugar, peach schnapps (the store didn't have any so I used Grand Marnier) and lemon juice.

The rest of the peaches were chopped roughly and then roasted (that's right!) to caramelize, and more importantly concentrate excess juice.

The cake batter was poured out in two stages too.
the first layer went in and then the roasted peaches were added and spread over the batter. After pouring in the remaining batter and spreading that carefully over the peach layer, the reserved peach slices were arranged on top, the smaller ones going in the smaller ring in the centre.

The other trick was to prepare a sprinkle of sugar and almond extract to go over the cake before putting it into the oven.

When the cake came out the fragrance filled the kitchen and then the apartment. I forgot about the dinner on my plate and ran to my camera. There was no way to capture that aroma. I felt like a cartoon levitating towards a visibly wafting sent pulling me to a pie cooling on a window sill.

The cake was a total surprise to J. He's been out in the country working all day. We ate half the cake that night.
It was perfect.

Big morsels of summer sweet peaches, rich and crumbly crumb, and the gooey, crispy sugar and peach coating on the top.

Once again, a tip of the cap to Cook's Illustrated.

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