I love summer fruit. Problem is, however, that in recent years, I’ve developed an allergy to a variety of fruits, including all stone fruits. The season’s loveliest and most flavorful peaches, nectarines, plums, and cherries are all off limits to me. As soon as the sweet nectar touches my tongue, my lips, throat, and areas around my mouth itch and develop little blisters, causing me to run for the Benadryl. This reaction seems to be due to the chemical interaction that occurs between the pollens and proteins found in these fruits (see more about fruit allergies at http://allergiesspring.com/fruit-allergies.php).
Happily, though, I have discovered that when these fruits are cooked or dried, my reactions are lessened or disappear completely. This is apparently quite common in allergy sufferers like myself, as cooking or drying (particularly at higher temperatures, I imagine) destroys the pesky pollens and proteins.
So, although I would prefer eating luscious summer fruit out of hand, I have taken to cooking virtually any variety that bothers me in ways that are not only delicious, but celebrate their natural sweetness, perfume, and flavor.
Just about any stone fruit (or other fruits, for that matter) can be grilled, poached, stewed, sautéed, or roasted. I like all of these methods, but roasting is my newest favorite. In only a matter of minutes, pitted and sliced nectarines, peaches, plums, or cherries can be tossed with a little sugar or honey, if desired, spread onto a baking sheet, and cooked into soft caramelized gems that are delicious on their own, served with a dollop of whipped cream or yogurt, blended into smooth purees (for babies, especially), or used to add flavor and texture to other recipes.
Recently, I have been playing with fruited quick bread recipes. Chopped roasted fruit adds unique flavor and moistness to these comforting loaves. The recipe that follows celebrates ripe nectarines. This is a fragrant, moist bread that develops a delicate caramel flavor from the addition of brown sugar, a slight nuttiness from almond extract and whole-wheat flour, and a sweet fruitiness from the roasted nectarines. Serve it warm or room temperature, on its own or with butter and jam (blackberry or apricot would be particularly lovely). This recipe makes one large (9 ½-by-5 ½-by-3-inch) loaf or four small (5 ½-by-3 ¼-by-2 ¼-inch) loaves. Store the baked and cooled bread in the freezer for up to a month or in the refrigerator for up to five days.
Roasted Nectarine Bread
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Butter and flour one 9 ½-by-5 ½-by-3-inch loaf pan or four small 5 ½-by-3 ¼-by-2 ¼-inch loaf pans.
Remove the pits from 4 nectarines, cut them into ½-inch slices, and arrange on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with raw sugar, or drizzle with honey or agave nectar, if desired. Roast until the fruit is tender, lightly browned and caramelized, and fragrant, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside until cool enough to handle. Coarsely chop the fruit and set aside to cool completely (you should have about 1 ½ cups).
Whisk together 2 cups all-purpose flour, ½ cup whole-wheat flour, 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon in a medium bowl.
Combine 2 sticks (1/2 pound) of room temperature unsalted butter, 1 ½ cups packed light brown sugar, and 1 teaspoon almond extract in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy. Add 4 eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth and stopping occasionally to scrape the sides of the bowl.
Reduce the mixing speed to low, mix in the chopped roasted fruit, and gradually incorporate the flour mixture, again stopping occasionally to scrape the sides of the bowl.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan(s), arrange the pans on a baking sheet, and bake until a wooden skewer inserted in the center(s) comes out clean, about 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from the bread from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool in the pan(s) for about 20 minutes before turning out each one to cool completely.