I usually miss peaches. Not as in long for, but as in see them appear at the market and for strange unknown reasons, don´t buy them. The times I do buy them, they just linger in my fruit basket until I have to work my way around the few pieces that are good to eat.
This time I first found the recipe I wanted and then bought some nice-looking peaches. I have a thing for Maida Heatter, the baker/author behind this kuchen. Her attention to detail in every single recipe is astounding. You will see for yourself when you read the recipe below.
And they work. The recipes and the details. Then there´s the bonus of those little paragraphs she writes preceding each recipe. She does it with such passion and interest in the facts surrounding each cake or pie or cookie, that you´re compelled to want to bake all day long. At least I am.
This cake (kuchen is the German word for cake) has a few steps. As with any new recipe involving yeast I measure all the ingredients and thoroughly read the recipe before starting. I went to bed a few times at ungodly hours because I had to complete some yeasty recipe. You know, yeast is a live thing and has it´s own schedule. This one uses yeast but has no rising time whatsoever. How great is that.
My peaches were tasty, but I guess it´s a way to use not so yummy fruit. The yeast and the baking powder do wonders once in the oven, and you get to eat a wonderful sweet cake that is good warm, at room tº or cold. My favorite is at room temperature with some vanilla ice cream on top.
from Pies and Tarts, by Maida Heatter
Note: I didn’t blanch the almonds; never do because I don´t see the point and it’s a lot of work. I used the food processor for the topping ingredients; just threw everything in the bowl and pulsed until combined. I simply peeled the peaches: pop them in the fridge until they are cold and use a sharp knife. Of course my slices were irregular since I slice the fruit directly, without cutting it in half. Again, I don’t see the point in having perfect slices since they will be eventually covered by the batter and topping. I always line my pans with foil so it´s easier to lift after it’s baked. To thinly spread the batter I use the world’s oldest trick: put mounds of batter in the bottom of the pan, dip the back of a spoon in cold water, shake off excess and then slide the batter with the wet spoon.
For the topping:
½ cup chopped or slivered blanched almonds
3 Tbs (45g) unsalted butter
½ cup (100g) light or dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup (35g) unsifted all-purpose flour
For the cake:
2 Tbs warm water (105º to 115º)
1 teaspoon (for yeast) + ½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
2 cups (280g) unsifted all-purpose flour
1 Tbs baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
4 oz. (115g) unsalted butter
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
Grated zest of 1 large lemon
¼ cup (62cc) milk
4 to 6 cups blanched, peeled and sliced fresh peaches **
For the icing:
1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 ½ teaspoon lemon juice
1 Tbs boiling water
For the topping: Adjust rack to the middle of the oven and preheat to 350ºF/180ºC.
Place almonds in a shallow pan in the oven to bake for about 5 minutes until hot but not colored. Set aside to cool.
In the small bowl of an electric mixer beat the butter until soft. Add the sugar and cinnamon and beat to mix, then add the flour and beat only until the mixture is crumbly. Stir in the cooled almonds.
Set aside the topping to use later.
For the cake: Butter a 9×13-inch cake pan and place in the freezer.
Place the warm water in a small bowl; add 1 teaspoon of the sugar and the yeast. Stir briefly with a knife just to mix. Set aside.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer beat the butter until soft. Add the remaining ½ cup sugar and beat to mix. Add the yeast mixture, the eggs, the vanilla and almond extracts and the lemon rind, and beat to mix. It is ok if the mixture looks curdled now. On low speed mix in half of the sifted dry ingredients, then the milk and finally the remaining dry ingredients. Beat until well mixed.
Spread half of the mixture (about 1 ¼ cups) over the bottom of the buttered, frozen pan – it will be a very thin layer.
Place the prepared peaches in rows, each slice just barely touching the one before it, or there may be a little room left between the slices. Or, if you wish, the amount of fruit can be increased slightly and the slices can just barely overlap.
Sprinkle the optional raisins over the fruit.
Next, using two teaspoons-one for picking up with and one for pushing off with- place small spoonfuls of the remaining cake mixture over all the fruit and the bottom layer. There will be places where the fruit shows through; it is ok but you do not want much of it uncovered.
Then, with your fingers, carefully sprinkle the prepared topping to cover as much of the cake as possible.
Bake for about 35 to 40 minutes until the top is nicely browned.
For the icing: Prepare this 5 minutes before the cake is done.
In a small bowl stir the ingredients with a rubber spatula (I use a fork) to mix. The icing should be smooth and thick, just barely thin enough to flow when some of it is picked up on the spatula.
As soon as the cake is removed from the oven, drizzle thin lines of the icing every which way over the cake.
Serve hot, or let stand in the pan until cool. Cut into large squares and use a wide metal spatula to transfer the portions.
** This is equally good with apples, pears, blueberries or a combination of fruits. If you are using peaches blanch them in a pot of boiling water somewhere between half a minute and a minute depending on how firm they are, until the skin begins to shrivel. Transfer the fruit to a bowl of cold water and peel. Cut them in half, remove the pits and slice into wedges about ½ inch thick at the curved edge. If you use apples or pears they should be peeled, quartered, cored and cut into wedges like the peaches.