(Bloomberg) – Editor’s Note: As we leave our home kitchens to dine more, the weekly Lunch Break column will evolve to highlight dishes from a variety of sources: a new or reopened restaurant; a person, a place or a recipe that makes the news; or, of course, a great cookbook.
Yes, pumpkin spice season arrived early this year (as it seems to do every year). But that doesn’t stop the peaches, which still grow after a strong summer. It’s time to catch them from the market stalls before they are gone with the onset of fall.
This is what Gina DePalma would do. The legendary pastry chef ran Babbo’s kitchen in downtown New York City in its prime before she passed away in 2015 at the age of 49, with a second unreleased cookbook. She created unique desserts that lean towards Italian, such as maple mascarpone cheesecake and a bewitching saffron panna cotta. It was an intoxicating take on Italian-American cuisine that has since been popularized by the Carbon crew; with the savory menu it was a sensation in the late 90s in NYC.
“When Babbo first opened, restaurants really changed, upscale places didn’t serve food like brain dumplings,” says Ruth Reichl, who awarded the place three stars as a restaurant reviewer. for the New York Times. “Back then, when you went to Italian restaurants, it was tiramisu, tiramisu, tiramisu. Gina’s desserts have pushed the boundaries. I’m not a big candy eater, but her desserts, I wanted.
Now a former colleague is trying to present DePalma’s book to the public. Food writer Adam Reiner, author of the Restaurant Manifesto blog, calls “My Sweet Italy” “the greatest cookbook ever published.” The manuscript includes over 100 recipes, almost all of them desserts, and chronicles trips to Italy in a style the late Anthony Bourdain, a DePalma fan, would have admired.
“Very few people made Babbo more special than Gina,” says Reiner, who worked with her there for about 10 years as a waiter. “She emerged during the era of emerging rock star chef culture, where women weren’t invited to participate,” so she didn’t get the attention she deserved, he notes.
Yet Babbo regulars and dessert fans knew and appreciated DePalma beyond her popular cookbook, Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen (WW Norton; 2007).
What makes his unpublished cookbook important is that it demonstrates what the chef can create beyond the constraints of restaurant desserts. Reiner points out that many of DePalma’s best-selling candies were designed without field research. “She was the first Italian pastry chef in America and had never been to Italy,” says Reiner. (DePalma didn’t make her first trip there until 2004.) “This book shows what she could really do.”
“My Sweet Italy” includes treats such as a budino with fresh figs and a honey semifreddo sprinkled with pistachio. These are evocative and simple desserts that make you want to run into the kitchen and start measuring. One of the simplest recipes is Mom’s Peach Cake. While the main focus is on regional cakes, pies and cookies, DePalma has included a “Tradizione” section filled with her most personal pastry efforts. “Traditional recipes represent important and cherished beliefs,” DePalma wrote in the chapter title, “contained in the form of a family favorite or a local delicacy that may seem insignificant to outsiders but are wealthy. in symbolism and meaning “.
DePalma’s cake is all that and a late summer blast: the tender cake practically melts in your mouth. Sweet peaches cook in the batter, scenting the top with fruity notes. DePalma added a little cornstarch to the fruit to retain the juice, giving the peaches an appealing pie quality.
To those who were big fans of DePalma, this sounds like a charming and unexpected connection. In season, she served her saffron panna cotta with poached peaches. It was my favorite dessert in all of New York.
The following recipe is adapted from the unpublished manuscript “My Sweet Italy” by Gina DePalma.
Mom’s peach cake
Makes 6-8 servings
1 ¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour ½ tsp. kosher salt½ tsp. baking powder ¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg ½ cup unsalted butter, softened¾ cup plus 1 extra tablespoon granulated sugar 1 large egg 1 large egg yolk½ tsp. pure vanilla extract The freshly grated zest of 1 small lemon ½ cup whole milk 4 small, ripe juicy peaches 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice ½ tsp. cornstarch 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar (optional) vanilla gelato or ice cream, for serving
Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder and nutmeg.
In large bowl, beat softened butter and cup of sugar until fluffy. Add the egg and egg yolk, vanilla and lemon zest, and beat until blended, scraping down sides of bowl if necessary. Stir in flour mixture on low speed until incorporated, then add milk and beat on medium speed until dough is creamy and emulsified. Spread the dough evenly in the prepared pan.
Rub the peaches under running water to remove any fuzz, then cut them in half and core them. Cut each peach into eight slices. Place the slices in a bowl and toss with the lemon juice, cornstarch and remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar. Arrange the peaches in a circular pattern on top of the cake batter, pouring the juice accumulated on top. If desired, sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
Bake the cake for about 40 minutes or until puffed, firm to the touch and golden and moving away from the sides of the pan.
Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edges and then gently turn it over on a large plate. Place another large plate on top and turn it over so that it ends with the peach side up. Let cool. (You can also serve the cooled cake in the pan.) Cut into wedges and serve with vanilla ice cream or ice cream.
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