Peac[h]ing Out

I leave the wonderful city Chicago for Costa Rica tomorrow morning; the urban jungle for the literal one. City of the Big Shoulders to land of the Cavendish and mangoes. Yum!

It is hard to leave Chicago where I am surrounded by culture and humid wind pouring off the lake. I know Chicago down to the timber of the L rolling down the track. I feel a particular pride with my city that I try to impart on my traveling companions. Because who doesn’t love the distinct smell of the red line in the morning? Or the Matrix-like method of biking on the lakefront, avoiding dogs and runners and rollerbladers… or the general NOISE. Chicago is noisey, and I’m eager for a lil respite; replacing city commotion with bug chirpings and whirrings.

I’m a city girl gone rogue.

In the days that remain in Chicago, I have used the kitchen to its full advantage.  Once again, I found peaches on the counter that were on the brink of decay. This time, Peach Crumb Coffee Cake was the solution.

Peach Crumb Coffee Cake

Peach Crumb Coffee Cake

Recipe for a variation on Nick Malgieri’s Peach Crumb Coffee Cake

  • For the cake:
  • 1 (1/2 c.) stick butter 
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 5 peaches, peeled and cut into 10 slices
  • For the Crumbs
  • 1 1/4 c. all purpose flour
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 stick (1/2 c.) unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350. Butter a 10in. round cake pan (springform works well). Peel and cut peaches. Place in a bowl and sprinkle with cinnamon. Let sit until the cake is ready. Cake: Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy (5 min). Add the whole egg and beat until incorporated. Then add the yolks, one at a time, and beat well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into the batter. Stir until combined, then pour into the cake pan. Lay the peaches evenly over the top in a spiral. Crumbs: Mix the flour, sugars, and cinnamon in a bowl. Add melted butter and mix with fingers or the paddle attachment to achieve coarse crumbs. Evenly layer crumbs over the cake. Bake until center comes out clean, 45-55 minutes. 

This yields a delicious coffee cake. Try to let cool completely before slicing and eating with tea or coffee: a perfect send-off from a Midwest summer


Zucchini Bread

I cannot get enough of the show Top Chef, so when I saw Gail Simmons’s book “Talking with my Mouth Full” at the library, I checked it out immediately. The importance of food in Gail’s life was apparent; the memoir moved between food-driven anecdotes such that I felt the stress of her crazy schedule, and seamlessly transitioned to the kitchen, eating her mom’s Zucchini Bread… 

… which is what inspired this loaf. It is summer, and “4 giant zucchinis for $3” at the farmers’ market means that there is an excess of zucchini lying around. Hopefully, with this bread, the zucchini purchasing and consumption will reach an equilibrium:

Zucchini Bread

            Zucchini Bread

          Zucchini Bread 

      (makes 2 loaves, adapted from Gail Simmons)

  • 1 c. Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 c. White Flour
  • 1.5 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1.5 cup sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (or replace 1/4 c. sugar with vanilla sugar and omit)
  • 2-3 cups shredded and drained zucchini
  • 5 chopped Medjool Dates

Preheat oven to 350. Butter two 9x5in loaf pans. In a medium bowl, combine flours, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and baking powder. In another bowl, beat eggs until frothy. Add in sugar, oil, and vanilla and mix well. Add in the zucchini and dates and mix. Add flour mixture and stir with rubber spatula until JUST COMBINED. Divide batter between loaf pans. Bake 45 min or until center is fully baked. When cooled slightly, invert the loaves and serve or cool completely and store. 

The dates and zucchini make for a very moist and satisfying loaf. There are many possibilities to tinker with and modify this recipe. Enjoy enjoy and savor the zucchini while still summertime fresh. 

Peach Crumble

Peaches seem to ripen in the span of minutes. One moment they are perfectly palatable and the next they have fuzzy white fungi hanging out and having a party that gets a little out of control. So, when there are a bushel of peaches, it is crucial to make something out of at least 5 of the most ripe to save the remaining few. The easiest way to peel and cut peaches is by hand; when they’re ripe the skin falls right off. 

Peach Crumble

Peach Crumble made with Michigan Peaches


Recipe for Peach Crumble

  • 5-7 ripe peaches, peeled and cut into slices or 1/4 inch segments
  • 1/4 c. Brown Sugar
  • 2 T. Flour or cornstarch (or thickening agent– potato starch works, as does tapioca flour)
  • Seeds of 1 vanilla bean or some vanilla extract (1 tsp)


  • 2/3 c. Oats
  • 1/3 c. All Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 3 T. cold butter, cubed

Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9×5 loaf pan (I used glass). Add the peaches, brown sugar, thickener, and vanilla to the loaf pan and mix to coat evenly. Let sit as you mix the crumble. In a medium bowl, combine all the oats, flour, cinnamon, salt. Cut in the butter with your fingers or using the paddle attachment on a stand mixer until the mixture is crumbly. Depending on the amount of flour and oats, more or less butter may be required, so add in stages.  Once the crumble is ready, sprinkle evenly atop the peaches in the loaf pan. Bake 40-50 minutes until the crumble is brown and the peaches are bubbly. 

Serve warm, perhaps with vanilla ice cream but not necessary, or the next day for breakfast with unsweetened greek yogurt. 

Beer Bread

I have a casual obsession with baking bread, and recently, bread made with beer. The beer contributes wonderfully– each slice evolves to have distinct snippets of flavor while the entire loaf is cohesive because of caramely-hops undertones. I have been popping in the Half Acre brewery to take some spent grains (grains from the beer-making process) off their hands to use in the bread. This is a work in progress, and the recipe is flexible:

Spent Grain Beer Bread

Spent Grain Beer Bread

Recipe for (my roommate’s dad) Brian’s Beer Bread

  • 1 c. H2O
  • 7-8 g fresh yeast (or 2 tsp of active dry yeast)
  • 7 g sugar (about a tablespoon)
  • 450 g Bread Flour (3 cups)
  • 155 g Whole Wheat Flour (1 cup)
  • 180 g Bob’s Red Mill 10 Grain cereal (or another dry cereal, 1 cup)
  • 25 g salt (1 tablespoon)
  • 150 g spent grains (or granola or nuts and/or dry fruit, or exclude, 1 cup)
  • 12 oz beer (usually one bottle or can. I have been using Two Brothers)

 In a 1 cup liquid measuring container, mix water, yeast, and sugar and let stand while you mix the dry ingredients. In a large bowl, combine the flours, salt, and cereals. Mix together. Add the yeast mixture and the beer. Stir until fully combined. When cohesive, cover with a wet cloth or plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour. At any point, it is nice to give it a few kneads/folds in the bowl. After the hour, knead the dough a few times by folding it, then shape the dough into the desired loaf and coat with extra cereal and flour. Let sit while the oven heats to 500 degrees. (If you want to use a Dutch Oven at this point, put it in the oven as it preheats. When the oven is ready, put the loaf in the dutch oven and cover with the lid and bake at 475 for 30 with the lid on, and 10 minutes with the lid off). Bake on a baking sheet dusted with cornmeal or cereal or just parchment paper. Lower the temperature to 475 and bake for 38-45 minutes. It is done when deeply carmel-brown and a rap on the loaf yields a hallow sound.

I am indebted to Brian for geeking out about bread with me and teaching me his way and suggesting the spent grains. If you are near a brewery and can ask for them, they are worth it!