Fancy Fruits: Upside Down Peach Cake

“I don’t want it to end…”

Every summer for the past decade our family has spent a couple of weeks in the Adirondack mountains, helping with my husband’s family forest. This year, because of the timing of two additional events, our time in the mountains was sandwiched by a mini-vacation as an immediate family and then a 50th anniversary celebration with extended family. The result was that almost the entire month of August was time away from home, being with people we loved, doing many fun things, in addition to working in the forest.

When all this special time was coming to an end yesterday, I found my youngest crying on the second floor of the lodge my mother-in-law had rented. I asked what was wrong, and he said, “I don’t want it to end. I want it to be like this forever.”

I understood how he felt because I feel the same way every year as summer closes and the new school year begins. Summertime, with less hustle and bustle and relaxed rules, is a happy time for me with the children, simply being a family. So, as the days draw near for school to resume, I find myself saying the same thing my son did, “I don’t want it to end. I want it to be like this forever.”

Life and time don’t stand still, though, and we leave summer days behind in favor of autumnal comings. For me, I always know that summer is ending when the farm stand up the road from us starts slowing down on the peaches they are able to pick and sell. It is always around now, and I am glad each year that I arrive home from the mountains with just enough time for one more batch of fresh peach shopping.

Because we had company coming over tonight, I used some of the peaches to make an upside down peach cake, and I thought I would share the recipe with folks since it has been a few weeks since my last post (for the reasons cited above!). Since fresh peaches aren’t always available, I included the amount I use for when I make the cake with frozen peaches.

Upside Down Peach Cake

Ingredients:

two cups sliced fresh peaches or one 16 oz bag frozen peaches, no sugar added

2 tbsp dairy free butter

2 tbsp Agave

2 cups gluten free brown rice flour blend

1 cup sorghum flour (can also substitute oat or millet flour)

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

1 cup Tofutti sour cream (you can also substitute mayonnaise or dairy free yogurt)

2/3 cup safflower oil

2 eggs

2/3 cup Agave

1 tbsp vinegar

Instructions:

In a shallow, large pan, melt the 2 tbsp “butter” (I use Earth Balance soy-free, vegan butter) with the 2 tbsp of Agave. Add the frozen peaches and cook for about 4-5 minutes, flipping them after about 2 to 2 1/2 minutes. Remove the peach slices, putting them onto the bottom of a well greased or parchment paper lined 9 x 13 pan. Cook the butter mixture another minute until it’s thickened, and then evenly pour it over the peach slices.

Mix the gluten free flour blend with the sorghum flour, the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.

Mix the Toffuti sour cream with the safflower oil, eggs, and Agave.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet, along with the vinegar, and quickly mix them together just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Carefully spread the batter over the peaches.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 25 to 30 minutes. The cake will be golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean. When you take the cake out of the oven, you should cool it on a wire cooling rack for at least ten minutes and then flip it onto a platter which you can then put onto the cooling rack so the cake and cool completely. Be sure to flip it onto a pretty platter which has a rim for catching any of the syrup. If a peach is stuck on the bottom of the pan, just pull it off and insert it back into its missing space.

When you serve the cake, you can serve it with whipped cream or ice cream (or their substitute counterparts) or plain.

Fruitful Flavors: Peach Pie

“It won’t come off the pit….”

One of the many enjoyments of summer is eating a freshly picked, sweet and juicy peach. We have a farm down the road which grows peaches, and it is always a highlight of our summer when the peaches are ripe and ready for us to purchase and eat. The other day, though, someone asked me how I get peaches off their pits for making pies and cobblers, and I explained that I didn’t.

Peaches come in two varieties, clingstone and freestone. Both yellow and white peaches can be either. The irony is that the variety which is most difficult to remove from the pit, the clingstone, is the sweeter and juicier of the peach varieties. The peaches which fall off their pits, the freestone, are not as sweet and juicy. Most of the peaches one finds at the grocery stores are the clingstone variety because they are sold for taste. Hence, my friend’s frustration with removing the peach slices for baking.

If folks want to make peach pie or cobbler or crisp or muffin or cake using fresh peaches, the best option is to purchase freestone peaches which easily twist off the pits if the peach is ripe. If using clingstone peaches, then folks need to resign themselves to cutting the peach slices off the pit which means the slices won’t be pretty.

I don’t tend to do either, because as anyone who has followed my blog for a while knows, I am lazy and like to cook food as easily and quickly as possible. So I keep frozen, no sugar added peaches in my freezer and just pull them out when I have a hankering to bake with peaches. The fresh peaches, I just eat as a snack, enjoying their flavor as is.

The conversation with my friend of course gave me a craving for peach pie, so I went ahead and baked one yesterday which I’ll share below. You’ll note that there’s no sugar and very little sweetener at all because the flavor and sweetness comes from sauteing the peaches to concentrate the flavor and sweetness. Folks can also switch up the spices to your own tastes. Sometimes I like to use cardamom and ginger instead of cinnamon and nutmeg.

Some thoughts on pie crusts, too.  I made my own, but folks can use a store bought pie crust, whether gluten free or wheat. If you choose to make your own, you can follow a favorite recipe. Otherwise, some information for your use to to make your own pie crust.

Pie crusts are basically flour, fat and water. For every one cup of flour, whether wheat or gluten free, you will usually use 3 to 6 tbsp of a fat, whether butter, shortening or oil, or a combination of the three, and for every cup of flour you usually need 1 to 3 tbsp of water. Depending on tastes, some recipes call for a little bit of salt; others call for the addition of a little bit of sugar. I tend to use neither, opting instead to flavor my crust with spices like cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, etc….

Tips for making “from scratch” crusts:

  1. If using solid fats, the colder the better: Put your butter and/or shortening into the freezer for ten minutes before cutting it into your flour. This is especially good for dairy free versions of butter which tend to be softer in texture. You want the fats to slowly melt in the oven while cooking, not become soft while you’re still preparing the crust.
  2. If using oil, the milder the better: Plant oils are great for crusts because they have healthy fats and you don’t have to cut the fat into the flour. You can simply stir the fat into the flour. You want, however, to use mild tasting oils like safflower, sunflower, canola, etc… because otherwise the oil flavor overpowers everything else. If you are using an oil for the fat, be sure to decrease the amount of water because you only want enough liquid to moisten the crust enough to hold together.
  3. The colder the better for the water: Recipes for crusts will call for ice water. This means literally putting ice into the water, because you want to prohibit gluten development. Now, if you’re making a gluten free crust, that isn’t an issue but if you’re using solid fats, the cold water will help keep the fats cold until the pie goes into the oven. Use just enough water, though, to moisten the flour enough to hold together.
  4. If you want tender, flakier crusts, use acids or alcohol: Acids like lemon juice or vinegar or an alcohol like vodka cook off in the baking process but react with the other ingredients to make for a flakier crust by tenderizing the dough. You only need to replace one to two tablespoons of the ice water.
  5. If want tender, flakier crusts, use lower protein flours: The lower the protein, the flakier the crust, but of course, that makes for a more delicate crust and one which is more carb intense. Find a balance. For example, use a whole wheat pastry flour which has less protein than 100% whole wheat flour but which is a sturdier flour than all purpose white flour. If using gluten free blends, choose a combination of brown rice flour and sorghum or oat which combines a lighter flour with a protein flour.
  6. If you want a crust that is easier to handle: Adding an egg yolks makes for a more pliable, sturdier dough to work with. It also makes for a richer tasting crust.
  7. For easier rolling and handling, cold is better: It is a good rule of thumb to put your crust into the fridge for half an hour to an hour because rolling soft dough makes it more likely that the dough will stick, causes the fats to melt before their time, and will be harder to transfer to the pie plate.
  8. For easier rolling and handling, paper is better: When rolling out the dough, if you don’t want the crust to stick and want an easier way to transfer the crust, use wax paper or parchment paper which you sprinkle flour onto. After putting the dough down, sprinkle it with flour and top with a second piece of wax or parchment paper. Then roll. The papers prevent sticking, and when you’re ready to transfer the crust, you can just pick up the paper and flip it onto the pie plate.

Peach Pie

Ingredients:

3 pkg 16 oz thawed frozen peaches, no sugar added or 6 to 7 cups sliced fresh peaches

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup agave

1 to 2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 to 1 tsp nutmeg

3 tbsp cornstarch or arrowroot starch or tapioca starch

Pie Crusts

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a shallow pan mix the water with the agave, cinnamon, nutmeg and starch.
  3. Add the peaches and stir to coat well.
  4. Continue to stir as the mixture comes to a slow boil and begins to thicken.
  5. When the mixture has become glutinous and is sticking to the peaches, turn off the heat and let the peaches cool.
  6. Line the bottom of a 9.5 inch glass pie plate with a pie crust.
  7. Fill the crust with the peaches, layering the peaches individually into the crust, using your clean fingers.
  8. Top the peaches with the top crust and make slits or create a lattice crust to cover the peaches.
  9. Bake for 15 minutes. Cover the entire pie with aluminium foil and bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the peaches are bubbling.
  10. Remove the pie from the oven to a cooling rack and allow it to cool at least an hour before slicing into it.

 

Menu Suggestion: Sorghum Pancakes with Peach Compote

website sorghum pancakes

 Again?

A couple of months ago, I noticed a special deal on a gluten free flour blend, six 3 lb bags for essentially about $1 each. I decided it was too good a deal to pass up because I bake so much for the workshops I teach, and I put in for two orders of the flour, thinking that 12 bags would hold me for a long while.

When the ordered arrived, it was in two separate boxes.  One contained six bags of the gluten free flour blend I had ordered, but the second batch was six bags of straight sorghum flour. I called up the company, and they apologized and said they’d send out the correct order of flour immediately.

I asked about sending back the incorrect flour and was told that because of certain restrictions, they aren’t allowed to receive food back. I wasn’t sure what I’d do with six bags of straight sorghum flour, but I figured I’d find a use.

When the new box came in, I eagerly opened it, only to discover that they’d sent me another six bags of sorghum flour!

When I called the company again, they determined that something must be wrong with their ordering system and that they would not be able to sell anymore flour under the special deal until they figured out the problem. They refunded my money for the second order of six bags, but once again told me that I had to keep the incorrect flour.

So, in the end I only received six bags of the flour blend at the special price, and I now had twelve bags of sorghum flour which I had neither ordered nor needed.

This morning, I decided I would begin to make use of some of that flour, and I worked out a recipe for sorghum pancakes which not only came out delicious but which the children have asked that I make again with different variations.

Sorghum Pancakes

(This makes a lot of pancakes so cut the recipe in half if you’re not cooking for a large family or want a lot of leftovers.)

Ingredients:

5 cups sorghum flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp cinnamon*

1/2 tsp salt

4 cups “milk” (I used flax this time, but might try soy next time)

4 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp Agave

2 eggs

1/4 cup melted coconut oil**

Cooking Instructions:

1. Whisk together the sorghum flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

2. Mix the milk with the lemon juice and let it sit for five minutes.

3. Whisk together the agave, eggs, and melted coconut oil. Add the milk.

4. Mix the dry ingredients until the wet quickly until all the dry ingredients are incorporated. Let the batter sit for at least ten minutes. It will bubble and thicken.

5. On a heated pancake griddle (350 degrees) or pan over medium high heat on the stove, pour 1/4 cup of the batter per pancake. Let the pancake cook for a couple of minutes until the edges become dry and bubbles form. Flip and cook for another minute until the second side is done.

6. As the pancakes are cooking, make peach compote: Slice eight peaches into six lengthwise slices each and put into a large shallow pan on the stovetop. Mix 1/4 cup agave with 1 tsp cinnamon and pour over the peaches. Cook the peaches for about five to ten minutes over medium low heat until the peaches are soft and the liquid as thickened.

7. Serve the pancakes with the peach compote*** on top.

* If you are planning on serving the pancakes by themselves, they need a bit more flavor, so you should add something besides the cinnamon, like 2 tsp of vanilla or orange peel. If you don’t have sodium issues, you might want to increase the salt to 1 tsp.

** If you don’t want to or can’t use coconut oil, melted vegan butter or safflower oil are good substitutes.

*** You don’t have to use peaches. You could try these pancakes with a blueberry or apple compote, too.

 

 

 

 

The Frozen Chosen: Eating More Fruits and Veggies

website frozen

“New Yorkers really ARE friendly!”

For my oldest daughter’s sixteenth birthday she asked if I could take her to NY city instead of having a sweet sixteen party.  We stayed with a friend in NJ and took the train and subway in and out for five days of visiting.

Since my oldest is on the autism spectrum, I wanted to make sure she knew what to expect on our trip, and the first thing I did was to tell her that despite the stereotype, New Yorkers were actually friendlier than folks in Boston.  She, of course, was doubtful — until she experienced their friendliness on our trip.

She learned that if she smiled at a New Yorker on the street, they smiled back, whereas in Boston if you smile at someone, they look at you funny and cross the street.  She reaped the benefits of helpful pedestrians who pointed out when we were going the wrong way to Broadway as opposed to someone saying, “If you don’t know how to get there, maybe you shouldn’t be here.” (True response to me when I was lost in Boston once!)  When I missed a curb and went sprawling across the pavement, purse and souvenirs flying here and there, she marveled as twelve different people came to our aid, helping me up and returning every item including my purse — all monies and credit cards in place — whereas the one time I tripped in Boston, three people walked over me!   (Again, honest to goodness truth!)  She even chatted with fellow travelers on the subway as folks made conversation with us on every trip in and out of the city.

At the end of our visit, her perceptions about the folks of NY City had changed, and I was glad.

Similarly, I hope to change perceptions about the types of ingredients people can use for their own healthier eating.

Using Frozen Fruits and Vegetables

One of the best things we can do for our health is to eat more fruits and vegetables, but with the price of groceries going up by the minute, especially fresh items like vegetables and fruit, people are actually cutting down on the amount they eat.

But you don’t have to do so.  You can invest instead in frozen fruits and vegetables which are just as good as the fresh.  Because the fruits and vegetables are flash frozen, they retain the nutrients you find in fresh produce, but they are cheaper and also have the benefit of being ready when you need them without going bad.

Frozen Vegetable Ideas

People are always amazed when I tell them that the roasted vegetables they are eating were frozen, but it’s true.  If you roast frozen vegetables like carrots, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, etc… with a little bit of olive oil, garlic and herbs, you’ll have a dish delicious and pretty enough to serve to company.  The trick is to roast the veggies from their frozen state, not thawed.  Similarly, you can throw frozen vegetables into soups and stews.  You can add thawed, frozen vegetables to dips. You can even puree thawed, frozen vegetables to put into your cake recipes.

Frozen Fruit Ideas

Frozen fruits are wonderful to use, too.  You can replace fresh fruit in cobblers and crisps.  (Simply make sure you coat them with a 1/4 to 1/2 cup more flour than your recipe calls for because the fruit will be juicier.)  You can puree them into smoothies for a hot summer day.  You can even chop them up while frozen to add to that favorite muffin recipe.

However you choose to eat your fruits and veggies, know that you’re not limited to fresh produce only, nor relegated to having to eat it canned.

Gluten Free Peach Cobbler

Ingredients:

4 16 oz bags of no added sugar frozen peaches

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 cup Agave

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 cup  Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour*

2 cups additional Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour**

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup soy free vegan butter (or another type you’d prefer)

2 beaten eggs***

1/2 cup Agave

1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum

Baking Instructions:

1.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly coat the bottom of a 11 x 15 pan with an oil such as grapeseed or safflower oil.  (You can use vegan butter or another type of oil or Pam spray if you prefer.)

2.  Put the peaches into a very large mixing bowl and toss with the lemon juice.

3.  Blend together the Agave, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.  Coat the peaches with the mixture.

4.  Sprinkle the flour over the peaches and toss to coat.  Carefully put the peaches into your prepared pan.  Set aside.

5.  Mix the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt.

6. Cut in the butter using a pastry blender or with a couple of forks or knives until the flour mixture is crumbly.

7.  Mix the beaten eggs with Agave and add to the flour mixture, mixing just until everything is moistened.

8.  Sprinkle the xanthan gum evenly over the batter and mix in well.

9.  Drop the batter by small spoonfuls on top of your peaches.  It will not completely cover the peaches, but don’t worry, because the batter will spread when it is cooking.

10.  Bake for 50 minutes or so until the the topping has spread, is golden brown, and fully cooked through, which means it’ll be firm to your touch and not soft in the center.

100% whole wheat flour can be substituted if you don’t need it to be gluten free.

** 100% whole wheat flour can be substituted if you don’t need it to be gluten free.

*** If you’re not making it gluten free and need to omit eggs, you can mix 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed with 6 tablespoons of water.  Let it sit for 5 minutes, and then add it in place of the eggs.