My Peach Tree

Grilled Peaches and Brown Sugar Pound Cake with Coffee-Mascarpone Cream and Smoky Peach Purée

peaches and cream
I’ve written a tad more eloquently about having only picked or plucked, never grown or harvested, my own food. While I’ve not tested my thumb, I assume it’s black. But the real reason why I don’t plant is that I rent and lack space in the city. And the even realer reason is harder to admit: I’m lazy. Lazy when it comes to this, anyway. I enjoy supporting my local farmers—it makes my summer. But, really, I revel in being able to eat nourishing, soul-hugging, vibrant, delicious food without having to lift that finger, no matter what color it is. I love to sweat, I love the sun, I love produce, I love feeling satisfied. You’d think that I’d work for those things. Maybe one day, when I have the space, I’ll have the incentive to. Because I like most things (crème fraîche, almond milk, nut butter, granola, ice cream, mayo etc.) best when homemade; homegrown would bring things to a new level.

Despite having only an unkempt (but charming!) little swatch of backyard at my current apartment, which I’ve lived in for a bit over a year, I have a peach tree on the property. Yes, a flourishing peach tree, just there in a yard in Eastern Massachusetts. We do nothing and the peaches come. Nothing. It’s glorious. Well, it would be glorious if, in the two seasons I’ve shared a space with this tree, I’d climbed a ladder to pick even one of its rosy fruits. If I had, I’d eat it right there, fly-attracting juice staining my cheeks, my clothes, the ground.

Brown Sugar Pound Cake

But I have missed out on those peaches twice. They’re late boomers, arriving weeks after stone fruit hits the farmers’ market. Like I did summer this year and most years, I wait patiently for the fruit to appear. Why does the tree make me wait? And then, all of a sudden, during the last week of August, the peaches come and go as fast as late summer passes. And I miss out. Last year, I missed out for no good reason; this year, I missed out because old neighbors seemed to have gone up there and taken them. ALL of them. Both years, I’ve been left with sticky, rotten fruit, peppering the ground like miniature smashed jack-o’lanterns the morning after Halloween. They taunt me: “Had you acted faster, my dear, we wouldn’t have seen this fate.” They benefit the bugs and the soil instead.

brown sugar peaches
I’ve had this dessert in mind since last year when I discovered the tree. I would pick those fruits, eat a few over the sink, and use the remainder for something minimally processed, for these weren’t any peaches; these were my peaches—the most local peaches I would ever have. Too local for pie, too local for even a modestly dressed crisp. These peaches were meant for the grill: They’d get some flavorenhancing heat and char without taking on a too-cooked flavor. That’s when the grilled brown sugar pound cake and mascarpone came to mind. It wasn’t until this summer that the coffee idea went into the mix. I was simply eating coffee ice cream and thought: Coffee would go great with peaches. Thank goodness it does.

cake and ice cream

These peaches, like summer, were here for only a hot minute. I didn’t use them like I had hoped to. But, like last year, I shout, “FYI, It’s Still Summer”, and I refuse to mourn its end or utter that 7-letter word (it begins with a “p” and white girls love it in their lattes). It’s here until September 22nd, and its bounty is still impressive. So there will be other peaches. They just won’t be my peaches. Better luck next year.

Grilled peaches and mascarpone
Grilled Brown Sugar Pound Cake and Peaches with Coffee-Mascarpone Cream and Smoky Peach Purée

Serves 8

I got the idea to use reverse creaming for this pound cake from Rose Levy Beranbaum. No more tough pound cakes! I used an 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pan. If you use a 9 by 5-inch pan, start checking the cake for doneness early (the cake with be more squat). If you use an 8 x 4-inch pan, the cake will likely take longer to bake. I don’t dictate how many peaches to grill, because I’m not sure if you will be serving the whole cake at once. The peach purée, grilled peaches, and mascarpone cream are scaled for serving the whole pound cake, but feel free to reduce these amounts if you’ll be enjoying this just a few pieces at a time. I like the brightness of the peach purée and the freshness of the mascarpone on day one, but the cream can be stored for up to 8 hours and the purée for almost a week. I serve each serving with about half a peach, but if you’re feeling more or less generous, you can use more or less peaches. I like the acidity that the peach purée provides, but if you want a simpler dessert, you can omit that and replace the coffee-infused mascarpone cream with plain whip cream-lightened mascarpone or with ice cream—I like vanilla or butter pecan (shown above).

Coffee-Mascarpone Cream
230 grams heavy cream
48 grams (about ½ cup) dark-roast coffee beans
Pinch salt
86 grams (about 6 tablespoons) mascarpone cheese
2-3 teaspoons confectioners’ sugar

Pound Cake
165 grams (1½ cups) cake flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
150 grams (¾ cup) packed dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
168 grams (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into ¾-inch pieces and softened
3 large eggs, room temperature
58 grams (about ¼ cup) sour cream, room temperature

Peach Purée
3 medium peaches, peeled and cut into ½-inch wedges
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Pinch of kosher salt

Grilled Peaches
4 medium peaches, unpeeled and cut into ½-inch wedges

Melted butter

1. For the Coffee-Mascarpone Cream: Combine heavy cream, coffee beans, and salt in small saucepan and scald over medium heat. Transfer cream and beans to airtight container and chill for at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours.

2. Strain cream and beans through fine-mesh strainer into bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk (you should have about 115 grams/½ cup; discard any excess. Add mascarpone and mix on low speeduntil combined, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium and then medium-high and whip until soft peaks form.

3. For the Pound Cake: While coffee-infused cream is chilling, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease loaf pan, line bottom with parchment paper, and grease and flour pan.

4. Sift flour, baking powder, and baking soda into bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle. Add brown sugar, breaking up clumps well between your fingers, and salt. Mix flour-sugar mixture on medium-low speed until combined and there are no brown sugar lumps (smooth out any remaining lumps with your fingers.

5. Whisk eggs and sour cream in medium bowl until combined. Add butter to flour mixture and mix on low speed until coated with flour, about 15 seconds. Add half of egg mixture and mix until flour mixture is moistened, about 10 seconds. Increase speed to medium and beat for 1 minute. Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl, add half of remaining egg mixture and mix until combined, about 20 seconds. Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl and repeat with remaining egg mixture. Give batter another scrape and stir with rubber spatula. Transfer batter to prepared loaf pan and smooth top. Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes, rotating cake halfway through baking. Transfer cake to wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Run thin knife around cake to loose, then invert and let cool completely on wire rack. (Pound cake can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 4 days.)

6. For the Peach Purée: Heat grill or grill pan to medium heat and oil grates. Brush peach wedge surfaces lightly with butter. Place on grill and cook until nice grill marks appear, about 2 minutes per side. Let peaches cool and transfer to bowl of food processor and process with lemon juice and salt until completely smooth.

7. To serve: Heat grill or grill pan to medium heat and oil grates. Slice pound cake and brush slices and peach wedge surfaces lightly with butter. Place cake and peaches on grill or grill pan(in batches). Grill peaches 2 minutes per side, or until browned grill marks appear, and grill cake 1 minute per side, or until browned grill marks appear. Serve grilled pound cake and peaches warm with peach purée and mascarpone cream.

10 responses

  1. In my adult years I have developed an allergy to stone fruit!! isn’t that sad? But I could still eat this because grilled peaches would be just fine. it looks beautiful and nicely paired with the coffee.

  2. Oh, *@%#. What selfish neighbors! Clearly you rallied, though. What a lovely dessert.

    I, too, refuse to use the “P” word. Mainly because (even though I love the real thing … however, only much later in fall), the very thought of those lattes makes me want to barf.

    • Ugh, yes. It’s not even just because I get sad about summer ending. I just don’t understand how the drink can possibly be enjoyable. Well, or most things that Starbuck’s and others pour into coffee cups.

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