Tuesday, September 25, 2012
I have been sampling a lot of plums, pluots, peaches and nectarines at the farmer's markets lately. People say don't go to the market hungry. Those people clearly don't shop at farmer's markets. In fact, there are different rules there. Go hungry, eat standing up, forget about washing everything before you eat it and let juices drip all over your arms and t-shirt. It's all good.
Some current favorites: Italian prunes, which are deep purple with a yellow interior are juicy and sweet. I've had great white and gold nectarines. Pluots, which are plum/apricot hybrids with stronger plum than apricot characteristics, and can be pale green, yellow, orange, berry-hued and speckled have me particularly obsessed right now. Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia describing different varieties of pluots that would make the driest of dry mouths in the Sahara desert start to water:
-Dapple Dandy: large size with mottled pale green to yellow, red-spotted skin, red or pink juicy flesh, firm flesh, moderately late ripening
-Early Dapple: good flavor, medium-sized, mottled green over red skin with pink flesh, early ripening
-Flavor Finale: medium to large size, purple-red skin with amber-red flesh, exceptional complex flavor, late ripening
-Flavor King: Fruit punch flavor, medium size, with burgundy skin and red super sweet juicy flesh, moderately late ripening, flesh is hard until fully ripe
-Flavor Royal: very sweet, medium-sized, dark purple with crimson flesh, very early ripening
-Geo Pride: medium size, red-skin and yellow flesh, balanced acid-sugar, predominately sweet with unique plum/apricot flavor, moderately late ripening
-Raspberry Jewel: medium, dark red skin, brilliant red, honey-sweet flesh
Pluots are in most grocery stores right now, but if you can make it to a farmer's market you'll have a lot more fun sampling different local varieties. Talking to the growers about their favorites can also be really interesting. Make friends. And seriously, go hungry. Just don't go hungry to Costco. The "samples" in those paper cups will rot you from the inside out. Get your toilet paper/booze/contact lenses and get out.
This recipe is adapted from a 2009 Gourmet Magazine recipe by Maggie Ruggiero, called Nectarine Golden Cake
and can be made with any stone fruit (nectarines, peaches, plums, pluots and cherries.) It's insanely easy if you have a standing mixer. I made one the other morning - it went from idea to cooling on the kitchen counter in under an hour and was a great day time/coffee cake. I made another last night for dessert that was great warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I used only pluots for the first and made the second with pluots, golden nectarines and Italian prunes (these are fresh, not dried - you can see them in the photos, they're the dark purple fruits.) I liked both, but the second had a little more nuance and visual appeal.
I thought of different names for this cake. Necterplum Cake, Pluoterine Cake, Stone Fruit Cake, Stone Cold Foxy Cake (I know, tangents again.) It really doesn't matter what you call it, as long as you make it and eat it.
Plumterine/Stone Cold Foxy Lady Cake
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 c granulated sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract (optional)
1/2 tsp salt
1 c all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
roughly four stone fruits, cut into 1/2" wedges, skin on
1/4 c turbinado or other coarse sugar
Butter an 8 or 9 inch cake pan and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In the standing mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time and beat until incorporated. Mix in lemon zest, vanilla, almond extract and salt. At a lower speed, mix flour and baking powder in to batter until just combined.
Pour batter into prepared pan and then press fruit wedges in to batter in a fan pattern, fairly close together. You can be as neat or messy as you want. No one is looking, but if it's pretty go show someone. Squish them in - you want the cake to be full of fruit. See the picture. Grate some fresh nutmeg on top if you have it and sprinkle the turbinado sugar evenly over everything.