I have to apologize in advance: this is a cookbook reject. I know! “A reject?!” you’re probably thinking. “Now why would I want your rejects?” Because this is a delicious reject; it failed because I decided to go in another direction, such a different direction that about the only thing the other one has in common is the word “buckle” and I’m probably renaming it anyway. Gosh, I sure like to make things difficult, though that’s not really news.
Needless to say, working on a cookbook is keeping me busy. Well, that and this (and this lost kneecap; we can’t find it anywhere!). I’m learning a lot I probably should already know. Just Monday, I learned that if I didn’t bake a cake long enough, it would sink in the middle! The week before, I realized if I had my camera on the wrong settings, everything would come out blurry and I’ve have to start all over again. Because I’m cooking seasonally, I’ve learned that things only go out of season when you need them most. (Rhubarb, baby, come back! I wasn’t finished with you!)
But mostly, however, it’s been fun. For years, I’ve kept lists of things I thought I might like to make one day. Now, I’m shaking them down and seeing what they’re worth. Some of them — like this — were pretty formed ideas that worked almost exactly the way I’d hoped they would. Those times are awesome, by the way. Others I’ve looked at and said “What the heck is a ‘butter mustard sauce’, Circa 2007 Deb?!” Friends, I still have no idea but if you figure it out, I apparently wanted to dip pretzels into it real bad a few years ago. Actually, I still kind of do, so hurry if you can.
So how about this buckle? At any time, there are two versions of something brewing. This came out of “Buckle Week”, which spilled (oops, but typically) into Buckle Month but it didn’t get evicted from the lineup because we didn’t enjoy eating it, promise. Need convincing? There is butter in here, butter that has been browned. It shows up in two places, the cake and the streusel. Nestled in this cake are hearty wedges of perfect summer nectarines, a sweet/tart contrast in a sea of rich cake. Cakes like this are called buckles because as the cake bakes, it “buckles” around the fruit. They taste a lot better if you don’t badly overbake them, like I did. (Details.) They will make you friends if you bring them to a pot-luck. But it can be our secret if you hoard it for yourself.
Nectarine Brown Butter Buckle
The brown butter flavor in this cake is woefully subtle; I’d hoped it would be louder but there are too many other flavors clamoring for your tastebuds’ attention. This isn’t a bad thing, really.
Just a heads-up on the baking time; I had a hard time guessing when the cake was done. I felt that it wasn’t at 45 minutes, and kept going, landing myself with a burnt bottom cake. Oops. The wetness of the nectarines makes it hard to tell whether your toothpick is picking up raw cake batter (bad) or just a really moist one (good), but I feel pretty confident that if I’d removed it at 40 to 45 minutes, it would have been just fine.
3/4 cup (6 ounces or 170 grams) unsalted butter, plus additional for greasing pan
1 1/2 cups (6 3/4 ounces or 190 grams) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons (9 grams) baking powder
3/4 teaspoon (4 grams) salt
Pinch of allspice
1 cup (7 ounces or 200 grams) sugar
2 large eggs
2/3 cup whole milk or buttermilk
1 1/2 pounds nectarines, halved, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch thick wedges (about 4 cups)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Reserved butter from cake (above)
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces or 100 grams) sugar
1/2 cup (2 1/4 ounces or 64 grams) all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of salt
Brown your butter: Melt butter in a small/medium saucepan over medium-low heat. It will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty. Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom as you do. Keep your eyes on it; it burns very quickly after it browns. Set aside and let cool (the fridge will hasten this along).
Prepare you pan: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of a 10-inch round cake pan, springform or cast iron skillet with parchment paper and butter the paper and rest of the pan generously; set aside.
Make the cake: Whisk flour, baking powder, salt and allspice in medium bowl to blend. In a large bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup cooled browned butter (set aside remaining 1/4 cup for topping), sugar and then eggs, one at a time. Stir in milk or buttermilk. Stir dry ingredients into this wet mixture; mix until just combined and spread batter in prepared pan. Toss nectarine wedges with lemon juice and arrange them in a single layer on top of the batter.
Make the streusel and bake the cake: Stir remaining brown butter, sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt together until large crumbs form. Sprinkle the nectarine-topped batter with crumbs. Bake until top is golden brown and tester inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs, about 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes before flipping out onto a cooling rack.