Nectarine Upside Down Chiffon Cake

this is my invariable advice to people:  Learn how to cook, try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and have fun.   Julia Child.  From My Life in France.

This has been my mantra for the past week getting ready for this recipe..   Learn from your mistakes, try something new, have fun, try new recipes, have fun... be fearless.  Got it!

As one of this week's Tuesday's with Dorie recipe hosts, my job is to provide the Nectarine Upside Down Chiffon Cake recipe, and give you the best tips and tricks I can.  Marlise, from The Double Trouble Kitchen, is your other host. I've been wanting to be a host for a long time.   I'm so happy to provide you with the recipe and be one of the "blogs of the month"!  It takes me back to being the child in school who got to pass out the graham crackers, or put up the calendar numbers on the bulletin board.    When I saw the title, my first reaction was, chiffon?  Oh boy...     I really wanted, and hoped it would be fine on the first try.  After all, I'm supposed to know what I'm doing and be able to teach others.   Time for some fun and fearlessness.

peaches-in-basket-1
peaches-in-basket-1

This is a grand, big girl/boy recipe.  It's a  boeuf bourguignon of desserts.  Multiple steps, a few tricky details, and magnificent results.   I know you can do it.  Follow the recipe and the tips, and you'll have a great, fancy dessert to share.

The first step was to find a 10" spring form pan.   I rummaged through my collection of pans, got out the ruler to measure, and ta-da... check.   Don't be tempted to use a smaller pan.  The recipe just fits into the 10" model.   If you must, just don't put all the batter into the pan.   It will be almost to the top.

This recipe used the last of my vacation peaches.  What a perfect recipe for such wonderful fruit.   The recipe calls for nectarines, so what's the difference?  Peach fuzz.   I popped the peaches in boiling water, counted to 20, rinsed under cool water, and slipped off the peels.   They were juicy, and perfect for the recipe.

You'll start the recipe by melting some of the butter in the bottom of the pan, adding brown sugar, and arranging the sliced fruit on top of the sugar.  Not so bad at all.   Be sure to wrap your pan in foil so the butter doesn't drip on to the floor of your oven when the cake goes in.  Even with the best foil work, you may still have drippage.

Butter Sugar Fruit Layer
Butter Sugar Fruit Layer

Now on to the streusel.  I used chopped pecans instead of almonds, and didn't toast them before adding them to the other ingredients.   Add the ingredients to the food processor and pulse until you have nice clumps of streusel.  The baking time of 12 minutes was perfect.  The kitchen smelled great!   Warm, buttery and delicious.

streusel-toppping-3
streusel-toppping-3

The third step is the chiffon batter.   You'll be making a classic French meringue.  Be sure your egg whites are in an extra clean bowl, free of any yolk specs.  You may want to place the bowl over another bowl of warm water to gently warm the egg whites.  They'll whip faster and fuller than if they're cold.

What makes this French meringue?   Since the cake will be baked, the egg whites are not  heated as they are in Swiss Meringue.  The sugar in French meringue is not cooked (that's Italian meringue!).   This meringue is medium peak egg whites whipped together at the end with sugar until shiny and firm.   This is the easiest of meringues, but still requires special attention.   Once your meringue is shiny, and firm, you'll fold it into the yolk mixture.

To fold:  Hold your spatula perpendicular to the surface.  Cut straight in and down, then follow the edge of the bowl, up and over the top allowing the whites and yolk mixture to gently fall from the spatula.  Gentle!  Rotate the bowl, about 1/4 turn and repeat.  It will take several folds.  The batter should be light and homogeneous.

Place 1/2 of the over the fruit, add all but a few tablespoons of streusel, then add and smooth the remaining batter over the streusel.   The chiffon cake recipe states that it should be for 45-50 minutes.   I checked mine at 45, 55...65...75...85...90... minutes.   At this point, I was worried sick, and making plans for a redo, and writing the story in my mind about how I had tried and failed at this classic dessert.  Remember... be fearless and have fun!   Just past  1  1/2 hours of baking, the cake was firm to the touch and the toothpick came out clean.  The surface was golden brown, but I had no idea of what the fruit and sugar were going to look like at the bottom.   In another 25 minutes, I'd find out.

Puffed and fully baked
Puffed and fully baked

Twenty five minutes later, I attempted to release the springform ring.  The edges were stuck and I was about to rip the cake.  Whoops!   I used a butter knife to gently release the cake from the side of the pan.  It released perfectly, and was ready for the flip.

chifon-3-1
chifon-3-1

You can see the little dimples from the bottom of the spring form pan.  A sprinkle of streusel and the beautiful chiffon cake was finished.

To print this recipe, click HERE

Nectarine Upside-Down Chiffon Cake

For the Topping:

1/2 stick (2 oz) unsalted butter

1 cup, packed brown sugar

3-4 ripe medium nectarines (the number will depend on size), each cut into 8 pieces

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Cut the butter into 3 or 4 chunks and toss them into a 10 inch springform pan that's 3 inches high.  Place the pan directly over medium-low  heat and melt the butter, tilting the pan so that the butter covers the bottom evenly.  Remove the pan from the heat and scatter the brown sugar evenly over the butter, patting it down with your fingertips.  Arrange the nectarine pieces in concentric circles over the sugar.  For a fancier effect, alternate the way the nectarines face from circle to circle.  Wrap the bottom of the pan in aluminum foil to catch any butter that might drip during baking and set the pan aside.

For the Streusel:

1/4 cup unblanched whole almonds

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ginger

1/2 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1/2 cup quick cooking oats, (not instant)

Put the almonds on an ungreased jelly roll pan and bake them until golden brown and fragrant.  About 10-15 minutes.  Stir frequently so that they toast evenly.  To test for toastiness, break on open, it should be light brown in the center.  Cool the almonds before proceeding.

Line the jelly-roll pan with parchment paper and keep at the ready.

Put all the struesel ingredients, including the almonds, into the work bowl of the food processor fitted with the metal blade and pulse just to mix the ingredients and chop the almonds and butter.  The mixture will be rough and crumbly.  Spread the streusel out on hte pan and if you'd like to have a few largish lumps for textural interest, squeeze some the streusel lightly between your hands and then break the big clumps into smaller bits.

Bake the streusel for 10-15 minutes, stirring once or twice, until golden brown.  Transfer the pan to a rack an cool while you make the cake.  Keep the oven at 350 degrees F.

For the Cake:

1  1/2 cups sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

4 large eggs, separated

1/2 vegetable or safflower oil

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

2 large egg whites

Ice cream or whipped cream, for serving (optional)

Sift together 1 sup of the sugar, the flour, baking powder, and baking soda onto a sheet of parchment or waxed paper; add the salt.

In a large bowl, whisk together the yolks, oil, and lemon juice until blended.  Gradually add the dry ingredients to the yolk mixture, whisking all the while; set aside.

Beat the 6 whites in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or work with a hand-held mixer.  At low speed, beat the whites until thy're foamy and form very soft peaks.  Increase the mixer speed to medium -high and gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, beating until the whites are thick and shiny and hold peaks.  (If you run a finger through the whites, it should a leave a smooth, even path.)  Fold about one third of the whipped egg whites into the yolk mixture to lighten  it, then turn the yolk mixture into the whites and fold it in gently but thoroughly.

Baking the Cake:  Pour and scrape half of the batter into the fruit-lined pan.  Smooth the top, using an offset spatula, and sprinkle ever the streusel, keeping a little in reserve for decoration the finished cakes.  Top with the remainder of the better, smoothing it with the spatula, an place the pan on a jelly-roll pan.  Bake in the 350 degree oven for 45-50 minutes, or until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove the cake to a cooking rack and let it cool for at least 25 minutes before inverting onto a cardboard cake round or a serving platter.

Serve the cake with ice cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream if desired and a sprinkle of the remaining streusel.

Storing: The cake is best served just warm or at room temperature the day it is made.  However, you can cover the cake and keep i t at room temperature over-night.

Makes 8-10 servings.   Contributing baker, Mary Bergin

 

chifon-cake-1-2
chifon-cake-1-2

The cake is just as it's described in Baking with Julia.  It's  light, buttery and delicious.  The streusel and peaches were a perfect pair.  I hope you'll try this recipe.   Try a new recipe, be fearless and have fun!

chifon-cake-2-6
chifon-cake-2-6

Popovers

beef Wellington, check.   Blue cheese Souffle, check.  Graham crackers, check.   These are all things I've made in the last year that I've always wanted to try.  Call it a culinary bucket list of sorts.  What's on your list?   Maybe it's simply roasting a chicken.  No one will make fun of you.   Give it a try.   What's the worst thing that can happen?  Frozen pizza?

three-popovers-4
three-popovers-4

I can't believe that this is the first time I've ever made popovers.  In the past I've tried to make the Dutch/German puffy pancakes without much success.  It seemed like a popover was in the same mystery family, so I've always found another option.  Today was the day.  Thanks to Baking with Julia and the Dorie Greenspan Tuesdays with Dorie group, Popovers made it on the calendar.

Much to my surprise, they were easy!  A quick brrrrr in the blender, 45 minutes in the oven and ta-da!  Tasty, dreamy popovers.  And without gooey centers, I might add.

The ingredients are super simple.  Flour, eggs, milk, salt and a butter.  The usual suspects.

ingredients-1
ingredients-1

 When all the ingredients are at room temperature, they get a quick brrrrr in the blender.  I've always wanted to include an overhead blender shot, so here it is!

Blender with popover batter
Blender with popover batter

I don't own a popover pan, so I opted for the muffin cups with 1/4 cup batter in each cup.  I very skeptically put the pans in the oven and walked away.  Then walked back and turned the oven light on.  This was too good to miss.   After a few minutes the popovers started to pop, and I knew I was in business.  Twenty-five minutes later, I reduced the oven temperature and waited for the finished beauties.   They were crisp, light, and best of all... not gooey in the middle.   I split one open, spread a little more butter and drizzled it with honey.  Why was this the first time I'd made these?    I hope you'll go to Paula's blog, Vintage Kitchen Notes, or Amy's blog, Bake with Amy to find the recipe and give popovers a try.

popovers-on-tray-3
popovers-on-tray-3
single-popover-5
single-popover-5

Now on to the next new-to-me recipe...  I think it might be pretzels using real lye!  Stay tuned.

Hazelnut Biscotti with Affogato

Happy Summer!  What have you been doing to enjoy summer?  Popsicles?  Pedicure?  Any good summer books?  I'm reading Lies Beneath, by Anne Greenwood Brown.  It's young adult fiction (beachy!) It takes place near and on Lake Superior. The vampire stuff didn't appeal to me, but this book is all about mermaids.  It will make you think twice before you hop on an air mattress. This summer I've been really enjoying an occasional affogato.  What's that you ask?  It's SO good.   Two small scoops of vanilla gelato or ice cream with espresso/strong coffee poured over the top.  A perfect dessert.   Think... root beer float for grown-ups.   Add salted caramel ice cream and it's even better.  Crunchy biscotti are meant to be dunked.  Wine is good, coffee is good, and an affogato... great!   There's really not a fancy recipe for the delight.  Find a cute, small clear glass, add the ice cream, top with coffee/espresso and ta-da!  You'll love it, I promise!

The hosts this week for Baking with Julia are Jodi of Homemade and Wholesome, and Katrina of Baking and Boys.  Just click on one of their links and you'll find the biscotti recipe.

I'm late getting this post out, but... better late than never, as they say!  It's been so hot, and so dry, and I really didn't feel like baking today.   However,  biscotti recipe is very easy and fun.  So I cranked up the A/C and here they are!

Biscotti require two baking sessions.  The first time is about 35 minutes.  This bakes the log shape.  Then, after a short cooling period, the biscotti are sliced, they're baked again on a wire rack to dry and toast the sweet cookies.  I found that it went quickly.  There was the perfect amount of dough to make about a dozen good sized biscotti.  Some to eat, and some to share.   I stayed pretty true to the recipe.  Though I used chopped hazelnuts that I only toasted and didn't boil, and used Cointreau for the liqueur for the nice subtle orange flavor.

sliced-biscotti-5

First the dough is pressed into a log and 12 inches by 3 inches.

biscotti-dough-1

 

Once it's baked, it's sliced on the diagonal and placed on a wire rack.  Then back into the oven for another 15 minutes or so, until light brown and crunchy.

precut-baked-biscotti-2

biscotti-ready-for-second-bake-3

 Stay cool, bake when you can, and try an affogato soon!

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Strawberry Cream Cake

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What a treat!  Don't you LOVE strawberries?  I do.  Very much!

Last summer I went to the close-out sale of the Farm & Fleet garden center.  They set it up each spring, and close it sometime in June, or July.  I found four strawberry plants that needed a home.  They didn't have a variety or pedigree, they were marked "strawberry".   I brought them home and planted them in the little herb garden behind the wood oven next to the oregano and thyme.   I ddn't expect much from them, but hoped they would at least survive.  And survive they did.   One day on late May I was weeding, and found at least three that were nearly ready to pick.   They were very early... with a few others nearly ready as well.

My parents were visiting (inportant note:  My dad has a degree in horticulture and agronomy...) and I proudly picked two ripe berries.  We shared them, and ooh'ed and ahh'ed about how delicious they were.   I named them One and Two.   A few days later,  I picked Two and Three, followed by Four, Five, Six and Seven.    I won't bore you with the details, but suffice to say that I grew 14 strawberries!

The berries in the photo came from a berry farmer about 1 mile from our house.  We picked them on the second day of the season.   The berries have had a tough year.  Early, dry, hot, and just plain mixed up.  I'm hoping that my berries will be back next year, I'd love to be able to make a whole cake with them!  The berry on the top of the strawberry cake is one of mine.

The best part of the dessert this week is that I was able to take it to dinner with good friends celebrating their 40th Anniversary! 

The recipe this week is hosted by Sophia of Sophia's Sweets and Allsion of Think, Love, Sleep, Dine.  They'll both the recipe for you.

I've said it again and again.  Simple recipes with few ingredients are some of the most difficult.  Genoise is in that group.   It's not hard, though it takes a great deal of respect for the ingredients.

Eggs are the leavening agent in this tender cake.  They need to be at room temperature to maximize the loft from whisking.   Rather than leave them at room temperture to warm, here's a tip.   Place them in the stainless steel bowl, then place that bowl over warm water.   I like to swish them around a little bit.   Once the chill is off, you're ready to go.

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After several minutes of whisking, the eggs and sugar reach the "ribbon" state.   A gentle ribbon of the mixture will set on the surface when drizzled from the whisk.

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Then, the sifted flour is carefully folded into the egg/sugar mixture.  The last step, folding the melted butter into the mix.

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The genoise smells SO good as it bakes.  Once it's cool, top the layers  with the macerated (berries mixed with sugar), and fluffy whipped cream mixture.

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 I decided not to frost the whole with cream, but just dollop it on the top.

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Hungarian Shortbread - Baking with Julia

 This week's recipe is really fun, and very good.  If you'd like to follow along with the recipe, this week's hosts are Lynette of 1smallkitchen, and Cher of The Not So Exciting Adventures of a Dabbler.  They've got the recipe posted on each of their blogs.  

The main ingredients for the shortbread are butter, flour, sugar, eggs & salt.   Nothing strange.   It's the way the ingredients are put together that makes this really unique and  fun.   After the ingredients are combined, the dough is divided into two portions, wrapped and frozen.   When the dough is really firm, it's grated with a box grater into the pan.  Topped with jam, then the second portion is grated onto the top.  The pan is baked until golden, then topped  while still very hot with powdered sugar.  The sugar immediately melts into an icing for the shortbread.    I was so amazed with the process that I forgot to get some action shots.  There's nothing really tricky about the assembly, so you'll be a-ok.  I bet some of the other bloggers have included some process photos.

I didn't make the rhubarb jam from scratch as suggested.  I had some fig jam that looked perfect for the filling.  It was sort of a Fig Newton vision.

The shortbread is the perfect tea party sweet.  Sweet, buttery, crumbly in a cute way, and no strong flavors to interfere with a lovely cup of tea.

Speaking of tea.  I'd like to share two of my favorite teas, and their corresponding tea bags.  I know that real tea drinkers steep loose tea, but these little charmers are so cute that you'll want to use a tea bag instead.  The first one is from Fauchon.   The shop is located on Place de la Madeleine, Paris and is a destination for food lovers everywhere.  The first things you'll notice is every vegetable artistically placed, and each jar and box presented like a gift.  A trip inside, and you'll be swept away.  I refer to their tea bags as "underpants tea bags"  They're made a sheer silky fabric that you can't believe someone used just to make a tea bag.  Inside, the perfectly cut tea leaves.  This one is arome du pomme, apple tea.  it sounds strange, but it was recommended to me to try on my first visit, and has been a favorite ever since.

 

The other tea bag is form  Mariage Frere,  a shop in the Marais, Paris.  The tea bags are made of muslin, and also very cute.  This is the tea salon to hit after a big day of sight-seeing or shopping in Paris.  The waiters are very handsome and dressed in cream-colored linen suits.  The retail area sells beautiful tea pots and exotic tea from all over the world.   Here's a tea bag with Sur le Nil, or On the Nile.  It's an infusion tea which is very fragrant and delicious without a lot of caffeine.  You can find both teas on online and sometimes in specialty shops here in the United States.

If you're heading to Paris and would like better directions and more tips and tricks,  you can visit my Notebook.   It's got addresses and more locations for food-related travel in Paris.

I hope you'll make the shortbread, wrap it in waxed paper, tie it with a ribbon, then share it with a friend or two.   Then, brew any kind of tea and spend some time savoring the sweetness of Spring.

p.s.  Just in case you'd like help on how to brew that perfect cup of tea, a found a nice article  from the Telegraph to help.  British of course!