This was not as disappointing as it sounds because a well-tended local peach orchard was only a few miles away. In the summer, every week or so my mother would pile my brother, sister, and me into our old Ford and we would head there. We always had this summer peach crumb cake to make, plus pies, cobblers, and even marmalade planned and needed to stock up on whatever variety was at its peak at that very moment.
Due to the intense fruit aroma that wafts up and grabs you, perfectly ripe orchard peaches, in contrast, are impossible to resist. I can still remember the peachy scent enveloping us as we drove through the orchard front gate and past the groves. I can still taste the burst of sweet-tart flavor and feel the sun-warmed juice running down my chin as I stood by the brimming baskets we’d just bought from the Sewell family.
The only thing missing was a napkin! Well, that, and a promise from my mother that she would bake us something with those peaches as soon as we got home.
Today, I’m on a private crusade to support my local orchards and farmers’ markets, so real peaches and their kind won’t become a thing of the past. Though I sometimes ride by “Sewells’ Orchard,” I can’t stop for their fruit any more. A tidy subdivision has sprouted up and only a few token peach trees still stand at the entrance sign to prove an orchard was once there.
Now, I purchase most of my summer produce, including peaches, from a seasonal market that buys directly from Maryland and Pennsylvania farms and orchards. When I can, I also make forays out into the surrounding countryside to the few orchards and produce farms that do remain. (A post on our family visit to an apple orchard is here.) If you, too, treasure the endangered species, the tree-ripened peach, you may want to do the same. How about it–are you on board?
Peach Crumb Cake
This homey, fragrant cake cake isn’t quite like my mother or grandmother made, but pretty close. Moist, laden with succulent fruit, and topped with a buttery streusel, it is two parts coffee cafe, one part fruit crumble! In fact, the juices from the peaches gradually soak in and soften the cake, so plan to bake and serve it the same day. Either white or yellow peaches are fine, but the yellow ones lend more color to the slices.
1/2 cup all-purpose white flour
Generous 1/3 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose white flour (use a little more for very juicy peaches
2 pounds fresh peaches (10 to 12 medium-sized), peeled, pitted and coarsely sliced or chopped
1 cup all-purpose white flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup softened butter
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract, optional
1/3 cup plain low-fat yogurt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan or a deep-dish
10-inch or larger pie plate.
For crumb topping: Combine flour, sugar and cinnamon in food processor. Process in 6-7 on/off pulses until well mixed. Sprinkle butter and oil over dry ingredients. Process in pulses until fat is cut in and mixture is consistency of very coarse meal. (Alternatively, if processor is unavailable, in a medium bowl stir together dry ingredients until mixed. Cut in butter and oil with forks or pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal.)
For peaches and cake: In a medium bowl stir together sugar, flour and cinnamon until well blended. Add peaches, stirring until evenly incorporated. Set aside. For batter, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a mixer bowl with mixer on medium speed, beat together sugar, butter, egg, vanilla and almond extract (if using) until well blended. Add half the dry ingredients, then the yogurt and stir just until evenly incorporated. Stir in the remaining dry ingredients; do not over-mix. Spread the batter evenly over pan bottom. Spoon the peaches over top. Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over top. Set the pan or plate on a baking sheet.
Bake in middle third of oven for 40 to 50 minutes, until nicely browned and a toothpick inserted in cake center comes out clean; it’s better to overbake slightly than to underbake. Let cool before serving. If using a spring-form pan, if desired, run a knife around the pan; remove pan sides; and transfer cake (and pan bottom) to a serving plate. Serve warm or at room temperature, cut into wedges; add a scoop of ice cream, if desired. Makes about 8 servings.
Another delish, homey peach recipe is an heirloom Ozark peach cobbler recipe here.