August 20, 2013
Summer Dreams... Basil and Peach Chiffon Cake
Once upon a time.... a long, long while ago, there was warmth in the land
It was a time of rejoicing, of long days and weekend barbecues, stone fruit and salads...
It was known as Summer.
Today Summer seems very, very far away still with snow on our local hills and bitter, icy winds whipping around the windows and cutting through you to your very marrow when you're silly enough to go outside. I have been seeing subtle changes though, like shy blossoms starting to colour on the trees, and wattle wattling furiously along the roadsides, but it wasn't until I came across some imported Summer Peaches at the supermarket that I realised how much I was pining for warmer weather.
Now I grow a LOT of our own veggies, and I'm a great believer in eating locally and definitely supporting Australian farmers rather than overseas producers for fresh, tinned or frozen goodies - but I couldn't help it...they sat there glowing with red and gold, just like a sun kissed cheek and somehow a few of them ended up in my shopping trolley.
It would be wrong not to eat them now, wouldn't it?
Another great Summer love of mine is Basil. You can get it year round, but in the middle of Summer it grows prolifically in my herb garden and when I go outside the smell is so strong that it's glorious indeed. How about pairing the two ingredients for a taste of Summer? Something light as a change from heavy Winter comfort foods, something dreamy.... Basil and Peach Chiffon Cake
sounds just right!
Basil Chiffon Cake
180gm gf SR Flour
200gm Castor Sugar
125ml Basil Juice or Water
125ml Oil - or Basil flavoured oil
1 tsp gf Baking Powder
1 cup Castor Sugar
1 cup Water
1/2 bunch Basil
whipped with two tablespoons of basil juice or basil flavoured oil, and two teaspoons of castor sugar
Now my first challenge was to get the true flavour of Basil somehow. Just blitzing it up would work ok, but I wanted something a bit more refined than that so I decided to use my cold press juicer and managed to extract this much juice from a standard bunch of basil. There's also a great Basil oil available from Coles and Woolies that I thought of afterwards that I'll use next time as well. Care is key here, you don't want a cake that tastes like pesto!
Separate your eggs, be really careful to keep them clean and not let any yolk get into the whites or the cake won't work
Beat the egg whites with 100gms of the sugar until stiff peaks form
In another bowl, whip the egg yolks with the other 100gm of sugar until nice and fluffy and ribbons remain on the surface when you dribble the mixture
Now beat in the water/juice and oil into the yolk mix until well combined
Mix in the sifted flour and baking powder, and stir into a lovely green tinted batter
Beat in a good spoonful of the eggwhites to lighten up the batter and loosen it up a little, then carefully fold through the rest of the whites. You want to keep in as much of the air bubbles as possible for a lovely light-as-a-dream finished cake
I wanted to make two small cakes instead of one regular sized one, so I split my mixture into two 18cm cake tins, but one larger one would be lovely,
DON'T grease the cake pans though. Even a using Non non-stick ones are better as Chiffon cake batter is similar to an Angel cake mix and uses the sides of the pan to cling to as it rises. If you only have coated pans like me, just make sure they are really clean with no greasy residue inside and you should be OK
Bake the cakes at 170*C for about 50-60 minutes until they spring back slightly when touched on top, don't prick these ones with a skewer to check as they can be a bit touchy
Now while your little cakies are in the oven, let's crack on with the Basil Syrup
Mix the sugar and water together in a pan, add in the basil, then simmer until the mix is slightly reduced and syrupy- easy peasy. Let it cool
Peach fuzz isn't the best texture in a cake, so peel them by blanching them in boiling water for a minute than peeling off the skin slowly, or just use a regular veggie peeler. I wanted to keep the blush on the flesh so I used the water method and went nice and slow.
Pop the sliced peaches into the basil syrup and let them mingle their yummy flavours while you bake and cook the cakes. You can do this step a day before if you like for a taste that's a bit more intense
Once the cake is cooked, cool it on a raised rack with the tin upside down. Chiffon cake is really like a cross between an Angel cake and a Sponge, but treat it more like Angel cake for the best results
Once cooled completely, split the cake into layers and give them a brush with some of the basil syrup for a sweet hit
On the bottom layer, plop on some cream, then top with some peach slices. I don't like to take my cream layer to the edge of the cake as it will squish out when cutting and look messy
On the top layer, take a very small amount of cream and spread a thin layer over the entire split surface. This ensures it doesn't dry out, and helps the top layer stick to the peaches underneath without slipping around
Put the layers together then decorate the top of the cake with more cream and those sunny slices of peach
I really was so happy with this cake, and it certainly delivered my Summer Dream. The basil flavour was subtle and spicy, and didn't come across as savoury at all, the peaches were plump and juicy and despite their long journey hadn't forgotten their sweetness, and the cake was soft and fluffy....just like a dream indeed.....
So Dearest Readers, what is your Summer Dream and your favourite taste of Summer?