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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!