With the ingredients nectarines, cornmeal, almonds and green tea for this month’s Paper Chef, I immediately thought of an upside-down cake that I used to make — every summer it seems — but forgot about in the last couple of years. I’ve made it with both plums and nectarines. Nectarines are in full season now, with local orchards and farmers’ markets burgeoning with fruit. It’s all we can do to keep up with the produce these days.
Managing your food is a pretty challenging task, whether it’s in season or in the pantry. And of course it’s related to time and money, with health and quality of life taking first priority for us. Our CSA offers the highest quality organic produce at about a fifth of what it would cost in a supermarket chain, if you could even get it. For me, with the motto “waste not want not” as my middle name, I need to restrain myself from harvesting anything that might go to waste. Or not make myself crazy if it simply needs to go to the compost heap. The bounty of last summer and early fall taxes my willpower.
Many people use the recent long Labor Day weekend to catch up on reading, gardening, sleep. I used it to catch up on tomatoes, peaches and other produce, cooking and preserving them for the pantry. I was planning on making a nectarine and raspberry jam when Paper Chef came out with this challenge, so I already had the non-pantry ingredients on hand.
I like this cake. The batter, with ground almonds and cornmeal, is substantial enough to hold the fruit and is not too sweet, creating a taste and textural contrast. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth myself, and so still find the tart too sweet. I thought that the addition of green tea – in the form of Japanese matcha, green tea powder – would do the trick. I thought of adding it to the batter but decided it would not have the same effect as a green tea whipped cream, or ice cream. (Not to mention it would look like a St. Patrick’s Day trick.) I was right about the taste combination: the grassiness of the matcha counteracted and complemented the sweet fruit. For the ice cream, I consulted David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop but adjusted the dairy to a lower fat content.
My only regret is that I should have sprinkled toasted almonds on top after the cake was unmolded, which would have added a welcome level of crunch.
Nectarine and Raspberry Upside-Down Cake
This consists of a fruit topping layered into a baking pan, a batter poured on top, and garnishes that are added after the cake is unmolded.
2 tbsp melted butter
1/3 c brown sugar
Juice of ½ lemon
5-6 nectarines, ripe but still firm
Handful of raspberries
¼ c stone ground yellow cornmeal
¼ c almond flour (or finely ground blanched almonds)
¾ c all-purpose flour (can use gluten-free)
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
7 tbsp butter
½ c milk
½ c granulated sugar
Toasted almonds (optional)
Whipped cream or ice cream
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the fruit topping. Spread the 2 tbsp melted butter in a 10-inch round baking pan and sprinkle the brown sugar on top. Squeeze the lemon juice onto a dinner plate. Halve the nectarines, one at a time, removing the pit and cutting each half into 6 wedges. Slide the nectarines in the lemon juice and arrange them in the pan in concentric circles, starting with the center. Intersperse a few raspberries. Sprinkle any remaining lemon juice on top.
Make the batter. Stir together the dry ingredients, sifting it if it appears lumpy (almong flour may not sift, so add it afterwards.) Place the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. As soon as the butter is half melted, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the milk, eggs and sugar. Mix in the dry ingredients and stir until the batter is smooth. Pour the batter over the fruit, smoothing to make sure everything is covered,
Bake 35-40 minutes, until the cake is golden and firm to the touch. Let cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes and unmold. (If you wait longer to unmold, place the bottom of the pan in hot water for a few minutes to help the unmolding process.)
Garnish with a few raspberries and toasted almonds. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.
Green Tea Ice Cream adapted from David Lebovitz
1½ c heavy cream
4 tsp green tea powder (matcha)
1½ c milk (I used low fat)
¾ c sugar
Pinch of salt
6 egg yolks
Whisk the matcha into the cream in a large bowl. Place a strainer on top.
Warm the milk in a medium saucepan and stir in the sugar and salt, continuing to stir until the sugar dissolves. Heat the milk until hot but not scalding (140 degrees if you have a thermometer handy). Lightly beat the egg yolks in a medium bowl and pour a small amount of the hot milk into the yolks, stirring. Gradually add more milk, taking care not to cook the eggs. When all of the milk is incorporated, return the milk mixture to the saucepan and cook, stirring, over medium heat until a custard forms, thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add the custard to the matcha cream mixture and whisk to make sure that the tea powder is fully dissolved. Stir until cool over an ice bath.
Chill the mixture thoroughly – for several hours in the refrigerator. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.