Brown Butter Nectarine Cobbler/Cake

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I have a “secret” pinterest board called “B&B – to make.” You know the secret pinterest boards, the ones you’re supposed to use to “pin” things for your wedding, or a party you’re planning, where you want to organize all your ideas but you don’t want other people to see, lest you ruin the surprise? Well, I have one for my blog, where I pin recipes I want to make at some point in the future (normal, right?). The problem is, I never rarely check my board to see all of the things I’ve pinned, so it’s kind of a wasted effort (much like most of what I do on pinterest, incidentally).

However, two things happened the other day, completely independent of each other. One, I had all these nectarines ripening on the counter, faster than I could eat them, and had been wracking my brain to come up with a way to use them. Two, I was searching for inspiration for a summer dessert (not related to nectarines) and for whatever reason thought to check my pinterest board. And, what do you suppose I found? A recipe for a nectarine cobbler, from none other than my very favorite, Melissa Clark. Kismet!

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Nectarines are a bit of an underrated fruit, I feel like – why is that? When I see peaches I see pies, crisps, cobblers, shortcakesdumplings, ice cream – you name it. When I see nectarines all I ever think to do is eat them. Which isn’t the worst thing in the world, as they’re delicious just sliced up and served plain. But baked into a cobbler, they’re as good as any peach dessert you could dream up. And you don’t even have to peel them!

This “cobbler/cake” is essentially made up of four (very simple) layers – browned butter, buttermilk batter, nectarines, and an effortless topping.  I didn’t read Melissa’s article about the “cobbler/cake” until after I had already made it (she usually includes an article along with each recipe she posts in her column, where she writes about her creations much more eloquently than I ever could) – had I read it sooner, I would have made this in my cast iron skillet (and it would have been adorable).  As it were, I planned to make it in an 8×8 baking dish as the recipe instructs, but couldn’t find my good 8×8 pan so thought I’d get creative with some ramekins instead.

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To start, brown the butter (tips, if you need them).  Whisk the dry ingredients and buttermilk into a batter and pour it on top of the brown butter.  If you were using a skillet, you could melt the butter and then pour the batter right on top and use it as your baking dish (that many fewer dishes to wash!).  In my case, I divided the butter into four ramekins and then dolloped the batter on top. The cooked fruit and syrup go on top, and the cobbler is finished with a crumble topping of sliced almonds, nutmeg, and demerara sugar.

Melissa doesn’t tell you to toast your almonds beforehand, but I’ve had bad luck in the past with almonds never toasting quite enough when they start out raw, so I toasted them in a skillet over low heat for a few minutes beforehand.

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Seriously, have you ever seen anything cuter? They were almost too pretty to eat.  Only almost though, as of course we still managed to inhale them. (You might note that the recipe says it feeds 6-8, but I only had four ramekins so I decided each ramekin was for two people – and if anyone ate a whole one by themselves I’m not telling.)

Everyone that tried it asked me for the recipe, which I always take as a good sign.  Melissa never disappoints – I think this will be my go-to dessert recipe for summer 2014. You could definitely do it with peaches too (although I’ll be saving my peaches for the aforementioned dumplings), or any stone fruit. The nectarines will be hard to beat, though – underrated fruit no longer. Thanks, pinterest!

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Brown Butter Nectarine Cobbler/Cake, from Melissa Clark via The New York Times 

Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes (plus cooling)

3 cups (about 1 lb) fresh nectarines (or peaches), sliced
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar, divided
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons demerara sugar

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.  In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the fruit slices, lemon juice, and 1/4 cup sugar. Stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a simmer, then take the pan off the heat.

2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until it smells very nutty, turns golden, and flecks of dark brown appear, 2-3 minutes. Pour the brown butter into an 8-by-8-inch baking dish (or divide into ramekins, 4 large or 6-8 small).

3. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Pour the buttermilk into the dry ingredients and mix just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Scrape the batter on top of the brown butter – use a spatula to even out the batter but be careful not to mix it into the butter.  Scatter the nectarine slices and juice on top of the batter without stirring.  Sprinkle with almonds, nutmeg, and demerara sugar.  Bake until golden brown, 50-55 minutes (45 for ramekins). Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool.  Serve warm, ideally with ice cream.

Yield: 6-8 servings

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Smitten Kitchen’s Cherry-Almond Galette

There’s just something about cherries and summer, right? Like when you see them at the market, you just can’t not buy them. These local Ranier cherries were on “sale” at my little market, although even on sale they somehow ended up costing $14 ~ so I decided that meant I had to do something fun with them (or rather, with what remained after I ate a good portion of them immediately after purchasing).

I bought a cherry pitter last summer in the hopes of making a sour cherry pie – but alas, sour cherries are hard/impossible to find these days, so my pitter sadly went unused. As I was flipping through my Smitten Kitchen cookbook the other night, however, looking for some new ideas to help a girlfriend throw a dinner party, I stumbled upon this and realized that I had literally all of the ingredients already in my fridge/freezer/pantry – and that never happens.   Needless to say, I didn’t find any dinner party inspiration – sorry Krista! – but I had found an excuse to use my cherry pitter.

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Almond frangipane, yum.

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I’ve had a single pie crust taking up space in my freezer since this experiment back in March, so as much as I love making crust from scratch, this seemed like a great excuse to get rid of it (and also explains why the crust in the photos above looks so perfect). The most time consuming part was pitting the cherries – which technically you don’t even have to do (a lot of what you read says leaving the pits in really helps with the flavor, if not with reducing your dinner guests’ risk of choking). Everything else took about five minutes.

It looked prettier before than after.

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I thought I’d get clever and sprinkle the top with slivered almonds before I baked the galette – but they didn’t get brown and toasty like I imagined they would, so next time I’ll toast them separately and then sprinkle them on top after the galette comes out of the oven – and extra to sprinkle on top of the (absolutely necessary) ice cream.

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This was delicious warm from the oven, but I have it on good authority that its pretty good cold as well. If you like the idea of a galette (so much easier than a pie!) but want a healthier option, I’m going to try this version next (and if you don’t already read Sprouted Kitchen, you should – I love Hugh’s photos and the way Sara writes, as well as the recipes).

Almond and Sweet Cherry Galette, from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Pastry: Smitten Kitchen’s favorite pastry recipe here (you only need half of it for this galette), or your favorite pastry recipe (or store-bought, like me).

Filling:

1/3 cup sliced, slivered, or coarsely chopped almonds, blanched if you can get them (almond meal worked for me)
1 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 large egg white
1 pound sweet cherries, any variety or a mix of varieties

To Finish:

1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon water
1 tablespoon coarse sugar (I used sugar in the raw)
Confectioners sugar, for dusting
Ice cream and/or toasted slivered almonds, to top

Make pastry: the dough should be refrigerated for at least an hour before you use it in this recipe.

Make filling: finely grind almonds and flour in a food processor (if you use almond meal, you can just use a bowl and a spoon – and it just dawned on me that you could probably omit the flour). Mix in sugar, butter, and extract, then egg white. Blend until smooth. Cover and chill until needed.

Prepare galette: preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a floured work surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch round. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spread the almond filling evenly over the bottom of the galette dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Scatter the cherries on top. Fold the border over the filling, pleating the edge to make it fit; the center will be open. Whisk egg yolk with water, brush crust with egg wash mixture and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Bake galette until the filling is puffed and the crust is golden brown, about 30 – 40 minutes, rotating front to back halfway through for even browning.  Cool, and serve with dusted powdered sugar, ice cream, and toasted slivered almonds.