Many of us Potrero-Hillians were dismayed when, several years ago, a Whole Foods and yuppie-type housing complex moved in to occupy an entire block which had previously been a barren lot. I worked on the Hill at the time, as a barista at Farley’s, and delighted in grumbling, along with the locals, about the horrific gentrification which was occurring right beneath our bohemian noses.
It went something like this:
Grumble, grumble, small businesses!
Corporate industrial complex, harumph.
Er, one latte, please.
However, I was secretly delighted to soon be able to roll my lazy boo-tay down the hill for last-minute organic produce needs, rather than take a hilly 10 or 20 minute hike to the other options.
But no Whole Foods can ever hold a candle to Rainbow, our local and completely awesome grocery co-op which has been a staple of SF since the ’70s.
I picked up a few things at ‘Whole Paycheck’ the other day, and, placing my purchases in my canvas Rainbow grocery bag, was delighted when the cashier (who was much friendlier than the surly Rainbow employees – excuse me, workers) piped up that she loved Rainbow and did most of her shopping there. ‘Their bulk section is what every bulk section wants to be,’ she said dreamily.
Indeed, Rainbow is the bomb-diggity.
Yet every place has its ups and downs, and some things are hard to come by there.
First of all, they stock no meat… except for pet food! This is a source of heated debate among owners, (or so one cashier told me), some of whom say, Why not stock meat and do it right?, while others (probably vegans who resent the luxurious cheese selection) argue that you can buy meat anywhere. Anywhere except for Rainbow, that is.
Secondly, their avocados are unfailingly rock-hard. You have to plan a week in advance if you want a ripe avocado from Rainbow, and more often than not, after all that anticipation, you’ll cut it open to find it has rotted from the inside out, just to spite you. As we consider avocados not an occasional luxury but a daily necessity, we are sometimes forced to buy these at you-know-where. (In fact, that’s probably what I was getting that day.)
I really wanted this post to be about my very original peach crumble pie with green cardamom ice cream. But was I foiled by Rainbow. I bought three pounds of Blossom Bluff peaches (not cheap!), schlepped them home, made, chilled, rolled out, and blind baked pie dough, blanched and peeled the peaches, made a crumble topping, and baked the pie. It was really good, mind, but the crumble part melted into more of a sugary crust than the loose streusel I was hoping for, and I only want to give you folks recipes which I consider to be pretty perfect. So I went back to Rainbow, ready to shell out the dinero for another 3 pounds of Blossom Bluff peaches, only to find the produce section devoid of stone fruit. I panicked, then asked an worker if it could possibly be the end of the season already. Thankfully I was informed that there was merely a gap in shipments.
So I went to the farmer’s market, found the darn peaches (which were gigantic), and hauled them home (ok, Jay hauled them home). But a few of them got squished on the way and had to be promptly consumed. (It was awful.)
I debated going on a third peach hunt, but finally decided to just go ahead and bake Deb of Smitten Kitchen’s brown butter buckle with the 1 1/2 pounds of peaches that were left. Vanilla bean-infused brown butter baked into a buckle laden with juicy peach chunks and streusel proved a much quicker way to get a peach dessert fix than messing around with pie crusts, peach peeling, and surly employee/workers, anyway.
I’d been curious to make buckle since Cook’s ran a blueberry buckle article and recipe several years ago. The name stems from the fact that the fruit-laden batter ‘buckles’ up as it bakes. The texture of this one is like a sturdy and highly fruited coffeecake; the sort you eat on a plate with a fork with a dollop of creme fraiche for breakfast, or warmed with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for dessert. This buckle would be equally at home made with sliced plums, or poached pears, apples, or quinces.
I will get that darn pie right at some point, though. Just maybe not this season…
To further indulge your brown butter obsession:
Berry-Fig (or anything) Financiers
Chocolate-Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake (Gluten free!)
Pumpkin Chocolate-Chip Coffee Cake with Brown Butter Glaze
Vanilla Brown Butter Peach Buckle
Makes 10ish servings
Adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen
I used a combination of yogurt and half and half for the dairy in this recipe, since that’s what I usually have around, but feel free to use whole milk or buttermilk instead, as per the original recipe. I baked mine in a 9″ springform pan, but any 9 or 10″ cake pan or skillet with 2″ high sides will work.
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus a little extra for greasing the pan
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat or spelt flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup plain, whole milk yogurt
1/3 cup half and half
4 large, ripe but firm peaches (about 1 1/2 pounds), halved, pitted and sliced into 1/2″ thick wedges (4-5 cups)
powdered sugar for dusting (optional)
creme fraiche, whipped cream or ice cream for serving (optional)
1/4 cup reserved brown butter from above
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350º. Grease a 9″ springform pan with butter and set the pan on a rimmed baking sheet.
Place the butter and the vanilla bean pod and scrapings in a medium saucepan and melt over medium heat. Cook over medium heat, swirling occasionally, until the butter browns and smells nutty, 5 – 10 minutes. The butter will foam up, and the milk solids on the bottom of the pan should be a rich brown color, not black. The rest of the butter will remain golden-amber. Watch it carefully, as it can go from brown to burnt in little time. Remove from the heat and let cool sightly. Remove the vanilla pod and discard. Give the butter a stir to distribute the browned bits and vanilla seeds, and measure out 1/2 cup for the cake. Reserve the remaining 1/4 cup for the streusel.
Meanwhile, whisk or sift together the flours, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs. Slowly whisk in the 1/2 cup of brown butter. Whisk together the yogurt and half and half, then whisk into the egg mixture. Add the flour and stir to combine. Spread the batter into the pan. Arrange the peach wedges in concentric circles on top.
For the streusel, whisk together the sugars, flour, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl (like the one that held your dries for the cake, for instance.) Drizzle in the remaining 1/4 cup of brown butter and toss with your fingers until large clumps form. Sprinkle this evenly over the peaches.
Bake the buckle until golden and pulling away from the sides of the pan, 50-60 minutes. It can be a bit tricky to tell when the buckle is done baking, as the fruit lets off a lot of juices, which you want, but makes it hard to tell if what you’re getting on your tester is underbaked batter, which you don’t want. (If you happen to have a springform pan with a glass bottom, this will ensure that you don’t overbake it.) Take your best guess, then let the buckle cool completely.
Dust with powdered sugar if you like. Slice and serve. The buckle keeps well in the fridge for up to several days.