Thursday, September 01, 2011

Perfect Pairing with Peaches

So I made a pie for my roommate, but surely I deserved a treat, too, before it was back to the grindstone of fall semester. I was in the mood to make a bundt cake, so I did a Google search for "best bundt cakes," and subsequently ran across several mentions of a browned butter almond cake from a coffee cake book by Carole Walter. That sounded right up my alley, so I got to work. The directions call for a springform pan lined with parchment, but I can attest that it works just fine in a bundt.

However, I made two pretty significant mistakes with the batter. First, in a Paula Deen moment, I accidentally added two sticks of butter instead of a stick and a half (which caused it to get a little too brown before the minimum bake time had elapsed), and secondly, I forgot to add baking powder! I guess since you beat the eggs with the sugar for so long, it still had enough lift. But the texture was pretty dense--the baking powder would have helped, no doubt.

Still, this was a delicious cake, especially the second and third day, once the flavors had matured. And it's the PERFECT foil for the wonderful Saturn (donut) peaches that are finally appearing in our markets (from downstate farms like Klein's Kill in Germantown). I cut up a couple of the peaches and sauteed them in butter, then added a tablespoon of brown sugar and a good splashe of rum. Then I spooned this over two slices of cake and garnished with whipped cream. SO GOOD! Try this cake with the stone fruit of your choice, and HURRY, before they are done for the season.

Browned Butter Almond Cake
(Source: Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins & More, Carole Walter)

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 to 2 tablespoons dark rum (I used just one)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups strained powdered sugar
1 cup toasted slivered almonds
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
6 large egg whites
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoon sliced blanched almonds (I doubled this)

Place the butter in a heavy 2-quart saucepan and melt over low heat. Continue to simmer, skimming the foam from the top as it forms; this will take 10 minutes or more, depending on the weight of the pan. The butter is finished when the color is rich golden brown and has a "nutty" fragrance. Watch carefully to avoid burning. Blend in the rum and vanilla and cool to tepid.

Heat the oven to 350. Generously butter a 10-inch springform pan and line the bottom with parchment. (I used a 12-cup bundt that I sprayed with flour-added baking spray.)

Place the powdered sugar, slivered almonds, flour, and baking powder in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse 5 to 6 times, then process for 50 to 60 seconds, or until the mixture forms a fine meal. Set aside.

Place the egg whites, whole eggs, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment. Beat the eggs on medium speed until frothy. Gradually increase the speed to medium high and continue to whip for about 2 minutes, until very light and foamy. Add the superfine sugar, one tablespoon at a time, taking about 30 seconds, then beat for 1 minute longer.

Reduce the mixer speed to medium and pour the tepid butter down the side of the bowl in a slow, steady stream, also adding the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the nut/flour mixture in three additions and mix just to combine.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan (I sprinkled two tablespoons of sliced almonds in the bottom of the bundt pan first), smooth the top with a spatula and sprinkle with the (other two tablespoons) sliced almonds. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes (I advise you to start checking at 30 minutes). The cake is done when the top is golden, firm to the touch and begins to release from the sides of the pan.

Remove the cake from the oven and let stand on a cooling rack for 15 minutes. Carefully release and remove the cake from the side of the pan, invert on a cooling rack and remove the bottom of the pan and the parchment paper. Cover with another rack, invert again and cool right side up. (I cooled the bundt on a rack until the bottom was warm--but not hot--to the touch, and then turned it out onto the rack to cool completely.)

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