One of my favorite flavors in a baked good is yeast. Sourdough bread, maple bars, cinnamon rolls, challah – it’s all good. My love for yeasted pastries and breads is so real that I have cultivated my own sourdough starter. While I love using my starter to make interesting breads, my absolute favorite thing to do with yeast is an active dry application, my Grandma Helga’s fruit cakes.
Grandma is from Germany, or Poland, or a city that is now Poland, but was annexed by Germany when she was growing up before World War 2. All of her recipes are characteristically Eastern European, and have a very strong Jewish influence. Her cakes are not what American’s think of as cakes. No buttercream, no pretty stacked layers of the spongy stuff, and not overly sweet. These fruit cakes are a yeasted dough, similar to challah or brioche, with a layer of fruit and either a streusel topping or a dusting of sugar.
I grew up on two version: apple cake with a streusel crumb topping, and plum cake with lemon juice, melted butter and sugar poured on top. The plum cake is a family favorite made with italian prune plums that are only in season towards the end of summer ( I’m already checking the farmer’s market for them). Legend says that Grandma used to make one of these cakes when the plums were in season and freeze it so my dad could have his favorite cake on his birthday (Christmas day) when he was younger.
My mom learned how to make these cakes after my parents got married, and she would make them occasionally. I would help as much as I could, and after dough was all mixed we would always separate the dough into halves and one of the halves into quarters. My mom would make the real sized cake, and me and my sister would both have our own ball of dough to make our own miniatures. I remember loving the smell of the proofing dough; I’d even sneak in to take a pinch off of the dough ball and eat it raw.
Since then, I’ve taken over the cake baking. I started playing around with the recipes and straying from the traditional apple or plum. Any type of stone fruit works well in place of plums; nectarines are fantastic, so are apricots and even cherries. But today I used peaches, correction – A peach. It was so big I only needed one!
Since I was on the fence about if I should make a cake or a tart using James’ giant peach, I thought I’d try a hybrid idea and add a layer of a frangipane-like almond cream to a yeasted base. To add some extra texture to the cake and tie the flavors together, I decided to use almond meal in the place of some of the flour in the dough as well. Success!
Too much of a success – my dad cut into it before I was able to take a picture of the finished product. And our pastry loving pup wouldn’t leave my side as I was photographing it. Ill be submitting this to yeastspotting!
Layla is a seriously strange dog. If that were a steak she would have no interest, but pastry! carbs! She goes nuts for the stuff. Dogs really do resemble their owners…
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup almond meal
1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup luke warm water
1/2 cup milk
3 Tablespoons butter melted
1 package yeast
1 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3.5 oz (1/2 tube) almond paste
4 Tablespoons sugar
1-2 Tablespoons cream or milk
1 peach the size of your head
4 tablespoons sugar
juice of 1/2 a lemon
To make cake:
- Mix flour, almond meal and sugar together on a large mixing bowl
- Place warm water, warm milk and yeast in a small bowl and let proof
- Pour yeast mixture into the flour and add the extracts and butter. Mix together. I prefer to use my hands, but you can do this in a stand mixer with a dough hook
- Add more flour if needed to create a dough. You want it to spring back and not be too sticky
- If mixing by hand knead a few times on a floured surface before placing in a lightly oiled bowl
- Place in a warm, draft-free place to rise for about an hour, or until doubled in size
To make filling:
- Place almond paste in food processor and pulse to break up.
- Add sugar and keep pulsing (the sugar crystals will help break up the paste further)
- Add the eggs and keep the processor running
- Add a tablespoon of cream or milk, if it seems to stiff and that it would not be pour-able, add 1 more tablespoon.
- Cut peach
- Grease a 13 x 9 glass baking dish
- Take the dough out of the proofing bowl and roll out into a rectangle and press into the baking dish
- Poor the almond cream filling over the dough
- arrange the peach slices on top of the filling carefully
- Squeeze half of a lemon over the peaches
- Sprinkle with sugar
- Cover with plastic wrap and let proof for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375° F
- After it has risen for a second time bake for 45 minutes to an hour – until the top is golden and the dough the glass is nicely browned.
- Serve warm, or have it room temperature for breakfast the next morning, or really anytime