Monday, June 14, 2010

Summer Lovin'

Last year, I had whirlwind summer romance…with nectarines. It was love with every juicy, sweet, slightly tart summery bite.

They quickly became my favorite fruit. I don’t know why the sudden swooning, but prior to last summer, I could have cared less about stone fruits. Apricots were better dried, plums were too sour, peaches were too fuzzy and flavorless, and as far as I was concerned, nectarines were just another smooth peach. Maybe it was because everything looks better in the sunshine, or I was overcome by the giddiness of summer love…whatever the reason, I fell for them, and I fell hard. I think I ate a nectarine every day last summer. I cut them up into my yogurt and oatmeal, I ate them whole, juices dripping from chin, I sliced and drizzled them with honey, I baked them under crispy streusel topping, and mixed them into fruit salads. Then the weather turned cold and my summer romance with nectarines came to an abrupt halt. It took a few weeks, but eventually, life moved on, and I moved with it.

A few weeks ago, nectarines were the last thing on my mind, a year had passed without even so much as a post card. There I was, strolling casually through Ballard Market, when my eyes locked on a mound of delicious golden nectarines, practically glowing from atop their display. Together again! All the bitter feelings of our hasty break up suddenly washed away. I greedily filled my basket with nectarines, and, for good measure peaches and apricots. I ravenously devoured a nectarine the moment I arrived home, not even taking the time to empty my shopping bags. It was tart but sweet, firm but juicy… not quite ripe like the nectarines of mid to late summer, but not all love affairs can pick up exactly where they left off, right? I realized we'd better start off a little slower this time around, get to know each other again. I mean… a lot has changed in a year.

I decided to bake the nectarines into a golden stone fruit tea cake, adapting a recipe from Rustic Fruit Desserts (a book I might need to own), featured in Gourmet Magazine. To ease into our love affair, I made it a group hang, inviting along the peaches and apricots, as well as a few of my lovely gal pals. As the fruit became enveloped in tender, moist, almondy cake, I could feel the nectarines soften and lose their sour edge.

I have a sweet summer ahead of me.

Stone Fruit Tea Cake

This recipe is my adaptation. I made a few tweaks to the original recipe, using a mix of different stone fruits, as well as adding in almond flour and almond extract.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature, for pan
½ cup almond flour/meal
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 eggs
1/2 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
½ tablespoon almond extract
3 nectarines, 1 peach, 4 apricots- all coarsly chopped
1 tablespoon turbinado/raw sugar

Whisk together almond meal, flour, baking powder, and salt. With mixer, cream the sugar and butter on medium-high for 3 to 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla and almond extract. Add the flour mixture and stir until smooth dough forms. Wrap dough in plastic wrap, flatten into a 1-inch thick disk, and freeze for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375. Butter a shallow 10 inch round tart pan. Divide the dough into two equal portions and pat one portion evenly into the bottom of the pan. Spread the fruit over the dough. Break the remainder of the dough into tablespoon-size pieces and distribute on top of the fruit, then sprinkle the turbinado sugar over the top.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until lightly golden and firm. Cool for 30 minutes before serving. Serve with loose whipped cream.
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