Food quote of note

"The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience"…Eleanor Roosevelt

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The perfect peach-to-cake ratio

     It's summer in the South...the abundance of fruits and vegetables is a beautiful and delicious gift...and nothing says summertime in Georgia like the glorious peach!  So, when selecting my cake for July, I of course selected our fuzzy friend the peach to be the star of this month's cake.

     I know, I know - you thought I had forgotten about The Year of the Cake - didn't you?  You didn't really want to say anything - but, gosh, I've been so busy with all of this travel, life-change and culinary internship stuff that it seems like my monthly homage to The Cake may have fallen by the wayside...not so!! I am still committed to making a different cake each month - and, when at all possible, baking with friends...and July is no exception.

     My dear friend Kim sent me a LOVELY cookbook for my birthday this month - America's Test Kitchen's Best Summer Desserts - what a great gift!  If you don't know, America's Test Kitchen/Cook's Illustrated is one of my absolute favorite cooking resources - their detailed, exacting and thoroughly tested recipes are just perfect for this engineer-aspiring-to-be-a-baker.  So,when I got this book in the mail, I immediately started flipping through it to find a recipe for this month's cake...and it didn't take me long to settle on their Summer Peach Cake, which promised to deliver all sorts of lovely peach taste without any of the dreaded sogginess that often accompanies this type of recipe.

A fabulous birthday gift..and the source for this month's Summer Peach Cake recipe. 
     I share my July birthday with my-best-friend-from-junior-high Susan.  As we have for many years, we spent some time this year just hanging out with our husbands and celebrating our joint birthday-month.  In addition to being one of the people who knows me better than almost anyone, Susan is a great cook and entertainer, so it seemed fitting that I bake my July cake with her.

     The Summer Peach Cake has a moist, rich texture with a layer of peaches in the middle of it as well as a layer of peaches on the's a little bit like a cross between a cobbler and a poundcake.  As promised in the cookbook, this cake is a relatively simple recipe that relies on a few tricks to make it something special.  The first trick is that you actually toss half of the peaches in peach schnapps and then roast them in the oven - this concentrates the flavors and ensures that the cake isn't soggy from incorporating the fresh fruit.  The cake is made in a springform pan - part of the batter is layered in the pan, next comes the layer of roasted peaches, than another layer of batter, and finally a layer of peach slices fanned out on top of the cake.  This final layer of peaches is topped with some almond-extract-infused sugar - just to give the top of the cake a slight crunch. 
     Well, I must admit - those folks at ATK do know what they are doing...this was a very yummy cake.  According to our husbands, the official taste-testers, all of this layering resulted in a very satisfying cake-to-peach-ratio in the final product - just the right mix of moist cake and juicy peaches.  And, as promised, the peach flavor was deep and intense - roasting the peaches definitely ensured that we captured all of the sunny goodness of our peaches (and, of course, adding Schnapps to any recipe can only be a good idea!) 

The Summer Peach cake - layers of batter, alternating with layers of peaches,
topped with a heavy sprinkling of sugar -- all in one pan.  A relatively easy
recipe that highlights the beauty of THE PEACH.

The perfect peach-to-cake-ratio
     So - if you want to savor some of summer's bounty, head out to your local farmstand or farmer's market and get some a few straight from the basket and use the rest to make this simple Summer Peach's a simple and tasty treat.

PS - Susan - Happy Birthday to us!!

Summer Peach Cake

Serves 8 to 10
  • 2 1/2pounds peaches , pitted and cut into 1/2 inch-thick wedges
  • 5 tablespoons peach schnapps
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup packed (3 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted and cooled
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs , finely crushed
1.   Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with vegetable oil spray. Gently toss 24 peach wedges with 2 tablespoons schnapps, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar in bowl; set aside.
2.   Cut remaining peach wedges crosswise into thirds. Gently toss chunks with remaining 3 tablespoons schnapps, remaining 2 teaspoons lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar in bowl. Spread peach chunks in single layer on prepared sheet and bake until exuded juices begin to thicken and caramelize at edges of sheet, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer sheet to wire rack and let peaches cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
3.   Spray 9-inch springform pan with vegetable oil spray. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in bowl. Whisk brown sugar, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, and eggs together in second bowl until thick and homogeneous, about 45 seconds. Slowly whisk in butter until combined. Add sour cream, vanilla, and 1/4 teaspoon almond extract; whisk until combined. Add flour mixture and whisk until just combined.
4.   Transfer half of batter to prepared pan; using offset spatula, spread batter evenly to pan edges and smooth surface. Sprinkle crushed bread crumbs evenly over cooled peach chunks and gently toss to coat. Arrange peach chunks on batter in even layer, gently pressing peaches into batter. Gently spread remaining batter over peach chunks and smooth top. Arrange reserved peach wedges, slightly overlapped, in ring over surface of cake, placing smaller wedges in center. Stir together remaining 3 tablespoons granulated sugar and remaining 1/8 teaspoon almond extract in small bowl until sugar is moistened. Sprinkle sugar mixture evenly over top of cake.
5.   Bake until center of cake is set and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack; cool 5 minutes. Run paring knife around sides of cake to loosen. Remove cake from pan and let cool completely, 2 to 3 hours. Cut into wedges and serve.

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