"I hate people who are not serious about their meals."

Oscar Wilde,
The Importance of Being Earnest

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Fresh Peach Upside-Down Cake

No other food makes me think summer like juicy, fresh peaches.  Well.. except perhaps equally juicy, fresh mangoes, but I've discovered the mangoes available in the United States are nothing like the mangoes I grew up with in Australia in looks or taste. They are small and red/green with a pale yellowy coloured flesh, not at all the big, fragrant golden mangoes I am used to. So despite my deep and abiding love for all things mango, I am now avoiding them to stave off further disappointment.  Anyway, back to the peaches. I was initially looking for a recipe to use up a rapidly browning bunch of bananas, and so I settled on a banana upside-down cake.  Unfortunately, when I went into the kitchen to begin baking I discovered that the bananas were rather more browned than I had first thought - that is, they were beginning to turn into complete mush. They would have been fine in the batter, but there was no way I could possibly cut them into presentable looking slices. Looking at the abundance of peaches in the fruit bowl, I decided to wing it and substitute the bananas for peaches. It turned out to be a great idea, resulting in a fabulous looking and wonderfully moist, but not heavy cake - a perfect summer dessert.

Fresh Peach Upside-Down Cake
adapted from David Leibovitz
makes 1 8-inch (20cm) square cake

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons firmly packed soft brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
2-3 peaches


1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons (30 g) melted butter
2 large eggs
1 cup peach puree (about 2 peaches, peeled and blended til smooth)
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract

Preaheat your oven to 350F/180C.
Place the brown sugar and the water into an 8-inch
(20cm) square cake pan. Place the pan directly on your stovetop over low heat, and stir until all of the sugar is moistened. Simmer for 1 minute, remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.  While the sugar mixture is cooling, peel the peaches and cut into 1/4 inch (1cm) thick wedges. Arrange in overlapping rows over the melted sugar.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into a large bowl and mix in the sugar. In a small bowl, whisk together the melted butter, eggs, peach puree, buttermilk, vanilla and almond extracts. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients until just combined.  Carefully pour the batter into the pan over the peaches, and use a spatula to ensure it is spread evenly.  Bake for 35 minutes, or until the centre of the cake springs back when you touch it.

Cool the cake in the pan for 20 minutes. To remove from the pan, run a flat-bladed knife along the edges of the cake and invert on to a serving platter. Carefully lift the pan off to ensure no fruit gets stuck to the bottom - if it does you can always carefully reposition it.

Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or vanilla ice-cream, if desired. 
To reheat the cake, place in a low oven and cover with foil.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Mum's Blueberry Muffins

My Mum makes great blueberry muffins. I remember visiting my parent's house one weekend and awaking to the smell of them baking. Is there anything better? I was out of bed and devouring one practically as soon as it was out of the oven. I first asked for her Blueberry muffin recipe about two months ago, and I haven't managed to have a go at making them until now, for several reasons. Firstly, the oven stopped working properly. Secondly, the weather has been so hot my desire to turn on the oven and do some baking was practically nil. Thirdly, I couldn't find any buttermilk at the supermarket. Crazy, right? Maybe I just wasn't looking in the right place - after more than 6 months in New York I am still getting used to the layout and size of the supermarkets. Some things just aren't where I would expect them to be if I were shopping in an Australian supermarket. So eventually the oven got repaired, and I decided to do some reading up on what I could use as a substitute for buttermilk. There are several different things you can do - yoghurt, etc, but the one I settled on involved adding lemon juice to milk.  This got me to thinking that lemon and blueberries make a wonderful combination, so I added some lemon zest to the recipe to give the muffins a little extra kick. They turned out wonderfully despite the lack of actual buttermilk, and they only have to bake for less than half an hour, so it wasn't so bad, even on a hot day. The house still smells of baking, and I've already eaten two of these beauties. Yum.

Blueberry Lemon Muffins
makes 6 large muffins or 12 small muffins

2 cups Self-Raising flour
3/4 cup demerara sugar
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1 egg
3/4 cup buttermilk (if you don't have buttermilk, put 1 tablespoon of lemon juice into your 3/4 cup measure and fill the rest up with milk, mix, and leave for a few minutes)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
finely grated zest of one lemon

Preheat oven to 200C/400F.  Grease or line your muffin pan.
Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Put the oil, buttermilk and egg into a shaker or small bowl and whisk/shake lightly to combine.  Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and pour the liquid ingredients into it, followed by the lemon zest and blueberries. Stir until just combined, taking care not to smash the blueberries.  Spoon into prepared muffin pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes, then remove from pan. If you're feeling naughty, these are delicious served warm with a little butter. Enjoy!