Monday, August 29, 2011

Summer Peach Cake

Eat the pain away.
Before making the delectable circle of peachy goodness displayed above, the closest I'd come to making a cake from scratch was getting the portions wrong on a box of red velvet cake mix and--with a little bit of feverish, not-exactly-detail-oriented improvising--somehow producing something edible.

(Side salad: the combination of staring at that picture and being hungry incited me to get up from the couch and procure leftovers from the fridge. Still delicious!)

This was a little nerve-wracking. I'm not very adept with baking and flour and whatnot all the time. When I made Beef Wellington, I ended up practically painting on the dough, but that's neither here nor there (though that tear-inducing, ultimately-not-disastrous adventure would have made for a heart-stopping post...sponsored by the good folks at Hyphen-City.)

I went to the neighborhood market and picked up my ingredients, including peaches (obviously) and peach schnapps. Cooks Illustrated recommends macerating the peaches in sugar, schnapps, and a little bit of lemon juice to enhance the flavor.

First I preheated my oven to 425 deg, then I chopped up the peaches into roughly 1/2 inch wedges.

Then I set aside about 24 of those and cut the rest of the wedges into thirds. Everything got all macerated, and then I spread the peach chunks (not the elite 24) in a single layer on a pan wrapped in foil and misted with Pam.

Baked the chunks for 20-25 minutes. Here's where Lucie got antsy, because once the baking finished, I had to cool the chunks to room temperature on my makeshift wire rack for 30 minutes. And all I wanted to do honestly is get that cake in the oven so I could eat it in time for work.

Whenever you feel is a good time for you personally, as a human being undertaking this recipe, to start making the batter, you go ahead and do that. But probably don't wait too long. Use your judgment.

I whisked together flour, baking powder, and salt. Then I peeled the label off my new cake pan and Pammed it. Then I remembered I had to melt the butter and cool it completely, so I'm glad I started in on the batter before the peaches were even out of the oven.

(Once you do pull the peaches out, reduce the oven temp to 350 and applaud yourself on being well on way your way to the world of good eating.)

In another bowl, I whisked together eggs, brown sugar, and 1/3 cup of granulated sugar until it was nice and smooth. To that I added sour cream, vanilla extract, and 1/4 tsp of the almond extract. As my peaches cooled, I happily combined the two batter bowls into one delicious batter. I strove heroically to save most of the batter for the cake and to stop being an overzealous "taste-tester."

Peach time! First I crushed up some panko and tossed the peach chunks. Next I poured half the batter into my pan and smoothed it over with a spatula, then added the recently-cooled peach chunks, pressing them down into a single layer. Poured in the rest of the batter. Then I took the reserved wedges and placed them in a circle atop the batter. Then I realized I had them facing the wrong way, so I jumped in for a quick amendment before adding the rest of the sugar, moistened with 1/8 tsp of almond extract, to the top of the cake.

Then with my eyes large and proud with hunger, I put the cake in the oven for about an hour.

After retrieving the cake from the oven, I was forced to watch it cool for two to three hours (I compressed the wait with a little freezer time, so I could enjoy a slice before work.)

And voila! Summer peach cake and a dwindling of my baking fear.

Summer Peach Cake (via Cooks Illustrated)

  • 2 1/2pounds peaches , pitted and cut into 1/2 inch-thick wedges
  • 5tablespoons peach schnapps
  • 4teaspoons lemon juice
  • 6tablespoons plus 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4teaspoon salt
  • 1/2cup packed (3 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar
  • 2large eggs
  • 8tablespoons unsalted butter , melted and cooled
  • 1/4cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/3cup panko bread crumbs , finely crushed

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