I envy Northern California for its long growing season, its verdant farms and endless vineyards. But from June to September, Connecticut is in full bloom and I am content to stay close to home, near the local orchards and farms that rival anything I’ve seen in any other part of the US. Our best chefs know that cooking with fresh, local foods can turn ordinary recipes into three-star meals. I’m reminded of that secret when Connecticut’s harvest smiles. I load up on fresh corn, heirloom tomatoes, zucchini, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and herbs. I can never have enough!
And just about now, the orchards are bearing fruit – - pears, apples, and peaches. Ah. Peaches. Perhaps my favorite of all the local produce. Nothing else comes close to that juicy, tree-ripened crop. Their faint fruit perfume floats over the back roads as I drive by the local orchards. I buy them by the bushelful. By the time I get home, I’ve devoured a sizable number and my car seat and steering wheel bear the sticky evidence. It’s a race to reach my saturation point before the trees return to their dormant state. So I eat just as many as I possibly can. But I reserve enough to bake a few special treats.
This peach cake is one. Fresh peach slices, fanned out over the buttery cake, turn this into an elegant dessert that bursts with intense flavor. The cake makes the perfect company dessert that fools most into thinking it’s not gluten-free. Perhaps that’s because I started with a great, gluten-filled recipe. This is a makeover from one I saw in Bon Appetit several years ago. It can also be packed and taken to a picnic or a pot luck meal. Don’t tell, but I make this with frozen peaches when the fresh varieties are not available. They beat the hard, unripened fruit that I find in stores throughout the rest of the year. I’ve also used fresh plums. The purple skin makes for an equally beautiful presentation.
3/4 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour blend *
½ cup sorghum Flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon xanthan gum
¾ cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar, divided
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter or non-dairy buttery spread, at room temperature
1½ teaspoons finely grated orange zest
2 large eggs or egg replacer of choice
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
4 ripe, but firm peaches halved and each half cut into 4 slices*
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon for topping
Whipped cream or whipped dairy-free topping
Second Choice: Cascadian Farms or other brand Organic sliced peaches can be used. Thaw fruit before using. Purchase 2, 10-ounce bags and pick the prettiest slices for this cake. Save the rest for another use.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a 9-inch spring form pan. Combine the flour blend, sorghum flour, baking powder, and xanthan gum in a bowl; set aside.
Beat ¾ cup of the sugar and butter in a mixing bowl until fluffy. Add the dry ingredients and orange zest and beat until crumbly. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the orange juice and beat just to incorporate. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan.
Arrange the peach slices on top of the batter so that they touch and form concentric circles that cover the batter. Press into the batter lightly. Don’t worry if the slices are not perfect. The cake will partially cover the fruit as it bakes. Combine the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar and the cinnamon and sprinkle over the batter.
Bake 55 to 60 minutes, until golden and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Run a knife along the side of the pan to release and remove the side of the pan. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or dairy-free topping.
* If the blend you use does not contain salt and gum, add ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon additional xanthan gum to the dry ingredients.