Monday, August 16, 2010

This buckle goes fast.

This photo was snapped outside my office at approximately 11:00 AM on Thursday.

I think it's safe to say that - at least when it comes to baked goods - I have some damn lucky coworkers. My 12th Floor colleagues routinely enjoy the fruits of my baking experiments, and said experiments have increased exponentially with summer's onslaught of obscenely tempting fruits. I've flirted with peach-plum cake and taken blueberry buckle for a spin, but my heart (and that of the 12th Floor as a whole) belongs to peach browned butter buckle.

That's right. Peaches. And browned butter. That sound you hear? It's me, dying happy.

I first discovered the concept via the ever-awesome Deb of Smitten Kitchen. She made her buckle in a super-picturesque (but not at all commute-friendly) cast-iron skillet, and I was, indeed, smitten. The cake combines two of my favorite things: tangy buttermilk and nutty browned butter. The topping does the same, with its copious amounts of peaches (Deb used nectarines, which would also be delicious.) and - again - browned butter.

However. The first time I brought this in, we thought there was just too much cake. Don't get me wrong - the cake part is truly delicious. But the fruit and the topping? They are the stars. They need a modicum of cake - it imparts dignity and allays the notion that you are simply slurping up peaches, sugar and butter - but they don't need quite so much.

And so, on the second go-round, I halved the amount of cake. The result? A moist, delicious, slumpy buckle. And one that went in record time. A vote of confidence if ever there was one.

Peach Buckle with Browned Butter
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

For the cake:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, plus additional for greasing pan
3/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
Small pinch of allspice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup buttermilk
3/4 lb. peaches, pitted and cut into wedges (about 5 peaches)
1 tablespoon lemon juice

For the topping:
Reserved butter from cake (above)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
Pinch of salt

Brown the butter:
Place the butter in a small saucepan or skillet set over medium-low heat. The butter will melt, then get foamy. Eventually, the butter will turn a golden color and then begin to brown. Stir the butter frequently as this happens, scraping up any bits that settle to the bottom. Once the butter is a warm brown color and smells nutty, remove from the heat. Pour into a heat-proof dish and place in the freezer to cool down. (This is a good time to slice your peaches!)

Make the cake:
Once the butter is close to room temperature, remove it from the freezer.

Place a rack in the middle of the oven and pre-heat the oven to 350 degreees Fahrenheit. Butter a 9-inch cake cake, then line the bottom with parchment paper. Butter the paper and set the pan aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and allspice. In a large bowl, whisk together half of the browned butter and the sugar. Add the egg and whisk to combine well. Using a spatula, stir in the buttermilk, then the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepare cake pan, and use the spatula to smooth it out and around, making sure you have any even layer over the bottom of the pan. Toss the peaches with the lemon juice and arrange the slices in concentric circles on top of the cake batter.

Top & bake the cake:
Stir together the remaining butter with the flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt until the mixture forms large and small crumbs. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the peaches.

Bake the cake for 30-40 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean of cake batter (you'll still see some peach juice on the tester). Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack until just warm, or until completely cool. Serve warm or at room temperature. The cake keeps well overnight in its pan, sealed with plastic wrap.

Serves 8.

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