Bey to Bay: Cornmeal Peach Whiskey Cake

This is the second post for the Bey to Bay coffee and pastry pairing collaboration project with my dear friend Jeremy Kelley. We grew up on opposite sides of the world (Beirut x Bay Area) but with the same Mediterranean climates and ingredients. Follow along our posts and our hashtag #BeytoBay on Instagram!

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As we head into fall season, this is the last chance to use up perfectly ripe summer fruits. And what better way to end summer than with a boozy fruity cake? I’m such a fan of a simple cake like this one that might seem sophisticated at first but is in fact very easy to put together and I’m sure you’ll be making this again and again with different seasonal fruits. Moist, buttery, with a barely there crunch, it’s a cross between a coffee cake and a cornmeal bread. The peach slices are soaked in whiskey and sugar overnight to infuse the flavors and enhance the peaches’ sweetness. Then they are arranged on top of a whipped cornmeal cake batter and baked until fragrant, golden in color, and the sides barely pulling away from the pan. Serve it warm with great coffee (more on that below), or with some more fresh fruit, whipped cream or maybe even a delicious scoop of crème fraîche ice cream if you’re feeling adventurous.

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We wanted a really special coffee that would take the soft, delicate flavors of the cake to yn,the next level but still be light on the palate. Jeremy went with an Ecuador La Papaya by Sey Coffee, which just opened their new roastery in Bushwick. These beans were grown at some of the highest altitudes on earth, giving them a really unique flavor profile of botanical complexity. Its light pomegranate notes and herbal hints of vanilla and blossom were getting infused the butteriness of the cake’s crumbs and brought out the taste of whiskey. This shift of flavor in your mouth from start to finish made the entire pairing highly addictive. We couldn’t stop wanting more.

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Topping:
4 medium firm peaches (can also sub with other seasonal fruits like 300g of pitted cherries, strawberries, raspberries)
1½ Tbsp whiskey or bourbon
1 Tbsp granulated sugar

Cake:
113g unsalted butter, room temperature
160g unbleached all-purpose flour
85g fine cornmeal flour
1½ tsp baking powder
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
zest of ½ a small lemon
110g granulated sugar
110g packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsp whiskey or bourbon
150ml whole milk, room temperature
Turbinado sugar for sprinkling

1. Soak the peach slices in whiskey and sugar for at least 4 hours preferrably overnight. The next day, drain the peaches from their juices and set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Butter a 9″ (23cm) round cake pan, butter and flour the pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest. Set aside. Beat butter with the sugars on medium-high speed until light and creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating to combine after each addition and beat in whiskey. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with milk and beginning and ending with flour; beat until just combined.
4. Transfer batter to the prepared pan. Arrange the peach slices on top, pressing some down into batter. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake until edges begin to pull away from pan and top springs back when lightly touched, around 50 minutes.
5. Let cool in the pan for 20 min then carefully turn out onto a wire rack (it’s fragile when warm). Let cool completely before serving.

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Cherry Pie spiced with Mahleb

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Baking pie from scratch will test your patience. The pie dough is refrigerated overnight, the cherries are halved, pitted and macerated with sugar, the assembled pie is chilled in the fridge then baked for over an hour for an ultra flaky and fantastically browned finished. And finally – just when you thought that you were going to serve it – you will have to let it sit on the counter for a few hours to set the cherry filling completely. I’m not scaring you away, the process is not as challenging as an elaborate pastry project, but it does require prepping ingredients in advance so it’s a good idea to read this recipe carefully before getting started!

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I used sweet dark cherries for this recipe and a hint of mahleb powder which is completely optional but I was looking for something unique to complement the cherry flavor. Other options include a splash of rum, lemon zest, a hint of cinnamon etc. Don’t be afraid to experiment with flavors!

Pie Dough: Recipe from Serious Eats
350g (2½ cups) all-purpose flour, cold
25g (2 Tbsp) granulated sugar
5g (1 tsp) kosher salt
280 grams (2½ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
85ml (6 Tbsp) ice cold water

1. Make ice water by combining enough water with ice and have it ready.
2. Cut the butter sticks into cubes and chill if needed.
3. Combine flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine (I usually put it in the fridge at this point to turn it cold).
4. Spread the butter cubes over the flour surface and pulse until the butter is the size of a large pea. Trickle ice water through the tube a tablespoon at a time while pulsing to evenly distribute the water in the mixture until the dough just starts to collect in clumps up the sides of the bowl (the dough will look sandy at this point but holds together when squeezed in the palm of your hands).
5. Tip the dough in a large bowl and get rid of any gooey clumps that usually collect around the blade. Take half of the mixture and wrap in plastic wrap then using a roll pin, roll the plastic packet into a circle about 6″-8″ wide, making sure to roll it very tightly especially around the edges. Repeat with the other half.
6. Chill overnight (8 hours or up to 3 days) or the freezer until later use.

Filling:
925g pitted cherries
100g granulated sugar
2 tsp lemon juice

1 vanilla bean, scrapped
1 tsp lemon zest
2 Tbsp cornstarch flour
1 Tbsp ground mahleb
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
Pinch of salt

Cubes of butter (Roughly ¼ in. or ½ cm)
Egg wash (beat 1 small egg with 1 tsp water and a pinch of salt)
Turbinado sugar for sprinkling

1. Mix the pitted cherries with the granulated sugar and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Cover and let sit overnight in the fridge.
2. The next day, drain the cherries from their juices and set aside. In a small bowl, mix the vanilla bean, lemon zest, cornstarch, ground mahleb, sugar and salt making sure that the vanilla bean paste is evenly distributed. Sprinkle mixture over the strained cherries and toss to combine.
3. Roll out the first disk on a lightly floured surface into a 14″ (35 cm) round for a 9″ (23 cm) pie pan. Wrap dough lightly around a rolling pin and transfer to the pie pan. Gently press dough into the bottom and sides of the pan. Trim the dough to allow a 1″ (2.5 cm) overhang. Pour the cherry filling into the pastry shell. Roll out the second pie crust to top the filling and create small slits to allow venting or create a decorative lattice top.
4. Brush the pie crust with the egg wash, dot with small cubes of butter through the lattice crust, sprinkle generously with turbinado sugar. Refrigerate the pie for at least 30 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC) and place a large baking sheet in the middle rack. Place the pie on the baking sheet and bake for 80-90 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. Remove from the oven and let cool completely at least a couple of hours on a wire rack before serving.