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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Peach Upside-down Cake

A sure sign that it's finally summer is the myriad of beautiful, fresh produce at the farmer's market. I'm fortunate to have one right outside my building once a week. Every Wednesday, the office smells like strawberries and kettle corn, and the elevators are full of cheerful folks clutching reusable canvas tote bags filled with organic treasures, and sharing tips about which booth has the best prices on cherries and what, exactly, to do with bok choy.

I ventured down to the market last Wednesday on the excellent advice of my fabulous coworker Nancy, in search of my very favorite summer yield: peaches. After my pineapple upside-down cake post, Nancy suggested a creative (and boozy) variation: peach upside-down cake, with brandy.

I had a very specific taste and texture in mind, with an idea of the ingredients that would achieve that result. I searched through no less than 5 or 6 different recipes and none were exactly what I was looking for, so I took elements of each, made adjustments, and created my own recipe:

*5 peaches (the ones I used were small, characteristic of what you'd find at a farmer's market or pluck off your backyard tree - if you're using large grocery store peaches you probably only need 4).
*1/4 cup brandy
*1/4 cup peach schnapps
*1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
*4 tablespoons butter (melted)

I attempted to blanch the peaches by immersing them first in boiling water for 2 minutes, then in ice water. It really didn't work out for me, save a couple of strips that begrudgingly released their grip (see below picture - that's what's allegedly SUPPOSED to happen), and I ended up peeling them with a paring knife anyway.

I cut them into about 1/4 inch slices, placed them in a bowl with the brandy and peach schnapps, then let them sit in the refrigerator to marinate for about an hour while I turned my attention to dinner (which involved the aforementioned bok choy).

After the peaches had had ample time to soak up the brandy/schnapps mixture, I put 1 Tbps of the brandy/peach liquid into a saucepan and cooked on medium heat until it bubbled, then added the butter and melted that together. I poured that into my cake pan (still haven't gotten a new cast iron skillet) and mixed in the brown sugar, then removed the peach slices with a slotted spoon (to minimize liquid being transferred into the cake pan - don't want the cake to be soggy) and arranged evenly in the bottom of the pan, on top of the brown sugar/butter.

Cake batter:
*3/4 cup flour
*1/4 cup cornmeal
*2 teaspoons cinnamon
*Dash allspice
*2 teaspoons baking powder
*1/4 teaspoon salt
*1 stick butter (softened)
*2 tablespoons heavy cream
*1/2 cup granulated white sugar
*1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
*2 large eggs
*1 teaspoon vanilla
*1/3 cup of the brandy/peach schnapps mixture (that should be about all that's left over)

Mix butter and heavy cream on med, then progressively high speed until light and fluffy, then mix in the sugars. Add the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla and brandy/schnapps. Gradually mix in the flour, cornmeal, cinnamon, allspice, baking powder, and salt, then spread the batter evenly over the peaches.

Bake at 350 for about 35-40 minutes, until the top is browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

The cornmeal gave the cake kind of a rustic texture and added even more crunch to the edges, just as I hoped it would. Thanks for the great idea, Nancy!

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