My CSAcation: That Peach Looks Like It Needs a Drink

I’ve had two bags of peaches – a dozen local CSA peaches – staring at me this week. Some have been eaten whole. A couple were cut up on top of a salad last night for dinner. One obliged us by bathing with balsamic, brown sugar, and basil for a vinaigrette. But there were (and are) more peaches to contend with in the race against rot.

Something had to be done. I had to do something.

And cake was the answer. I searched yesterday for a good loaf cake recipe. I didn’t want to have to frost it, and I didn’t want a huge cake to have to work through. With just two girls living here, we can only eat so much. And let’s face it:  I’m the one who works from home. Alone. And I know that cake is down there. And no one would ever know if I ate just one more slice. And then another. And another. Stem the tide:  make a small cake.

Amaretto Peach Coffee Cake, before baking.

I found a basic recipe for a loaf peach coffee cake. The blogger used canned peaches, and I needed to use fresh. So once I tweaked that, I got a little tweak-happy. And before I knew it, I had a modified list of ingredients, three peaches drying on a towel, and I knew that just like any woman who has ever attended a bridesmaids brunch or a baby shower, those peaches looked like they needed a drink.

Thus begins the saga of transforming the peach coffee cake into a boozy Amaretto Peach Coffee Cake. I love amaretto. I love how it smells, how it tastes, its versatility. To amp up the almond, I added crushed almonds to the crumble. And in the end, I had a jazzed up coffee cake that I’m pretty psyched about, even with the textural funkiness (I’ll get to that in a minute). First, the recipe.

Amaretto Peach Coffee Cake

Amaretto Peach Coffee Cake, after baking (and deflating a little).

Yields 1 loaf

For the topping:

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup crushed almonds

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tablespoons softened butter

For the cake:

1/3 cup butter, melted

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 egg at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons amaretto (almond extract works too)

3/4 cup milk

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup plain yogurt (I used Greek)

3 medium peaches (one peeled and chopped; the other two sliced with skins on or off, according to preference)

1-2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1. Prepare crumble topping by mixing together the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, almonds, and butter. Toss them together with a fork to begin with, and then get in their with your hands, pinching and tossing to combine all dry ingredients with the butter. Set aside and wash your hands.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together (or mix with a fork) 2 cups all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

3. To prepare the cake, cream together melted butter and sugar in/with an electric mixer. Add egg and mix until combined. Add vanilla and amaretto and mix until combined. Slowly add the milk, dribbling the milk down the side of the bowl as you mix to achieve a slow addition.

4. In batches of three, fold the flour mixture into the wet mixture using a rubber spatula. Before moving onto the next step, beat the mixture in the mixer for 15-20 seconds to ensure all flour is absorbed.

5. In a small bowl, toss the chopped peach pieces with 1-2 tablespoons flour. This will allow them to remain suspended in the cake rather than sinking to the bottom of the pan. At this point, preheat your oven to 350 degrees (doing this now will help you save on energy costs – in this case, it’s easy to be green).

6. Fold in the peaches.

7. Fold in the yogurt.

8. Pour batter into greased and floured loaf pan. Sprinkle with 3/4 of the crumble topping. Arrange peach slices on top of the crumble mixture, giving them a little press down into the crumble so that it will raise up nicely around the peaches as it bakes. Sprinkle with the remaining crumble topping.

9. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a knife inserted in the cake portion comes out clean. (Mine went for 54 minutes, and probably could have gone longer.)

10. Set the pan on a wire rack and cool in the pan for about a half an hour or so. When it’s cooled down enough to handle, turn the cake out onto your hand (or an oven mitt with a paper towel over it) and then turn the cake back onto the cooling rack. Cool completely. Serve the cake cooled, or reheated with a little vanilla ice cream. (Or go where the spirit leads you and serve as you like.)

Yeah, it looks a smidge under-cooked, especially around the peach chunks. But it’s tasty. And that’s what counts.

I mentioned some textural funkiness. I’ve been making banana bread for how long now? Once in all that time have I had under-cooked parts in the middle. But this cake just did not want to cook all the way. No matter how many more minutes I added, when I inserted the knife, it came out with cake batter on it. Frustrating!

I have some ideas of how to fix it, but before I declared the whole thing a disastrous disappointment, I tasted it. And you know what? It tastes fantastic. The parts that look a little less done taste a little creamy, a little tart, like perhaps it’s heavier on the yogurt. But the whole thing is tasty. You can smell the almond/amaretto before you taste it, and it makes the whole thing lovely.

My ideas for how I’ll make this next time include:  soaking the sliced peaches in a mixture of rum and amaretto (because everything in moderation, including moderation); decreasing the amount of yogurt (from 1 cup to 3/4 cup, and so on from there, in hopes that it will still help keep the cake moist, but might foster a more complete cooking process, i.e. less wet); arranging my peach slices differently (overlapping on one another around the edges, that way the center is peach-free for testing); and adding a little spice to the cake mixture. Perhaps cinnamon? Or some orange zest? Or both? Something to make the cake match the crumble a little bit better; I also am thinking of forgoing the folding method. It’s a little fussy, and I’m not sure about the science behind it. Typically, we fold things because they’re fragile (like egg whites) and we don’t want to break up air pockets or fruit. But this is a sturdy batter of good solid ingredients like butter, milk, egg, and sugar. So why the folding (aside from the step with the peaches; let’s not break those down)? I also think I can do without melting the butter; softening it should probably be fine. (Here’s a cool explanation of melting vs. softening.)

And what this all goes to show you is that working from home really just fosters a mad scientist mentality in me when it comes to cooking. Take a recipe, change everything you want, try it out, take some notes, and then try, try again. And make everyone you know eat peach cake. They’ll thank you for it in the end.

And now, after all this, this girl looks like she needs a drink. A peach mojito perhaps?

3 thoughts on “My CSAcation: That Peach Looks Like It Needs a Drink

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