Sunday, July 10, 2011

Apricot Pie & Peach Cupcakes

Apparently I'm obsessed with stone fruit this summer. In a 2 week period I made desserts with both apricots and for nectarines and plums...

This first recipe came from one of my favorite authors ever: Ruth Reichl. I learned about Ruth Reichl from another one of my favorite authors: Shauna Niequist.

Both of these women write about real life. If you're look for a scholarly, academic, theologically sound, or scientific read, don't pick up one of their books. But if you love life and want to live it more fully, these are your authors.

Ruth and Shauna write about life experiences that so many of us can relate to...and if we can't relate to their specific life experience (Ruth was the NY Times food critic), we can definitely relate to their feelings and the kinds of people they encountered.

In the end, the best moments of life are not when we win awards or achieve great academic knowledge or have good theology hammered into our brains. The good moments, the best moments, the ones that comfort and encourage us in times of trouble are the real life moments. And those moments frequently involve delicious food.

I'm almost positive you could stop right now and think of many wonderful moments in your life that involved family, friends, and food. If you can't, you should make that the top priority in your life. So many of us remember the events in our lives because of the people who were there and the food that we ate.

I remember my grandmother frying bacon while my grandfather sat at the kitchen table drinking coffee and reading the newspaper. The smell of bacon frying still makes me feel like I am in that kitchen. I remember eating blueberry bread and drinking birch beer in Maine, in the back seat of the family car, with my brother, and laughing until I was crying. I remember my best friend's pancakes and how we ate them at least once a week for dinner while we lived together. I always look forward to my birthday, when my family goes to the same Italian restaurant. One of my first weekends back in Houston, after leaving Portland, we went to dinner with some of my extended family. After several months of loneliness it was so nourishing to my soul to eat at a Mexican restaurant we've been eating at since I was born and to be with people who make me laugh and who I love so very dearly.

I love Ruth Reichl and Shauna Niequist's writings because they remind me to soak in the precious moments of life that involve people we love and the gift of good food. But also to take heart in the hard moments of life because good will come again - like strawberries bloom in the summer, the dreary winters of our lives don't last forever.

Ruth usually includes recipes in her books and I always dog ear most of them, vowing I will make them and actually get to experience a little of Ruth Reichl's world. I've only actually made one - a devil's food cake with 7-minute frosting, but it was so good and is what I think all birthday cakes should taste like.

This apricot pie is one of Ruth's recipes that is featured in one of her books. It originally piqued my interest in the book, but then when I saw it again on her blog, I thought I have to make this! So, here it is:

Apricot Pie
Ruth Reichl
1 pie crust (I used a Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust)
2 pounds apricots
1 stick butter, melted
3/4 cup sugar, brown or white (I used brown)
3/4 cup flour
Nutmeg or cinnamon

Roll out the pie dough, fit it into a 9 inch pie pan, crimp the edges and put it into the freezer for 15 minutes while you preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Break the apricots apart with your fingers; do not peel them, but remove the pits.

Melt the butter.  Stir in the sugar, then the flour.  Sprinkle in a bit of nutmeg or cinnamon.

Put the apricots into the unbaked shell.  Cover them with the sugar mixture and put the pie on the bottom rack of your oven. After ten minutes turn the heat down to 375 and bake for 35 or 40 minutes more, until the top is crusty and golden. Transfer to a cake rack and cool before serving.

Serve with fresh whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, or vanilla yogurt.
The second recipe is for Peach Cupcakes! I cannot recommend this peach cake enough; it was delicious! So fresh and moist from the fruit. I want to make just the cake part again - maybe in loaf form - and maybe with a drizzle of icing or a glaze. These cupcakes had a brown sugar icing, which was good, but not my favorite. I added a little yellow and red food coloring to the icing to make it peach and I garnished them with fresh peaches. The cake batter called for peeled peach, but I was a rebel and left the peels on - it didn't seem to make a difference. Like I said, make the cake part for sure! Amazing!

Peach Cupcakes
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
1 1/2 cups cake flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch of cinnamon
3/4 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
6 ounces plain yogurt
3 small-medium  peaches, chopped smallish

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon and set aside. Cream the butter and sugars together, beating until fluffy. Add the egg, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl periodically, and then the vanilla. Gently mix in the yogurt. Stir in the dry ingredients and fold in the peach chunks.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cupcake liners. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of cupcakes comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes for five minutes in the tin, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting
3/4 brown sugar
1/8 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, cornstarch and powdered sugar. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add the sugar-cornstarch mixture and vanilla, beat until frosting is smooth and light. Chill the bowl in the refrigerator until it thickens back up a bit, about 30 minutes, then spread or dollop on cooled cupcakes.

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