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Peachy Keen

As spring turns to summer, I count the days until peaches arrive at the farmers markets.

I peer into bins, looking anxiously for my favorite stone fruit of them all.

Be they white or yellow, peaches make me think of sunny, carefree days more than any other fruit. I love biting into them out of hand, juice squirting every which way and then some. I also love baking with them, which only intensifies their sweetness.

Over the past few years, my favorite way to showcase peaches is in this recipe adapted from one that originally appeared in Gourmet in August 2005. Luscious peaches get a supporting cast member in juicy, fresh blueberries in this cake that’s almost pie-like in the abundance of fruit it holds.

I wrote about this “Peach Blueberry Cake” a few years back at the San Jose Mercury News. I mentioned how the first time I made it, there didn’t seem to be nearly enough dough to cover a 9-inch springform pan. I labored to make it fit, stretching the dough so thin you could practically see through it. When my story published, a few other readers wrote in saying they had experienced the same perplexing problem.

My answer? I double the pastry portion of the recipe. And I add more fruit to compensate for doing that. The result is a cake that’s as tall as a holiday cheesecake, packed liberally with blueberries and peaches. The cake bakes slowly for a long time so that the fruit doesn’t completely break down, but stays fairly intact. The pastry is alternately cake-like, cookie-like and slightly custardy where the fruit hits it.

If you are using a light-colored springform pan, by all means, bake it according to the original temperature and time: 1 3/4 hours at 375 degrees. But if you’re like me, and use a dark-colored springform pan instead, adjust the baking temperature/time for about 1 1/2 hours at 350 degrees, because the darker pan absorbs more heat and will brown the cake more quickly.

You can find the original recipe as it appeared in Gourmet here. You can find my version below.

Bake it, and prepare to have a love affair with peaches.

As if you didn’t already.

Peach Blueberry Cake

( serves 8 )

For pastry:

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 sticks (1 cup) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

For filling:

3/4 cup sugar

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca

4 pounds firm-ripe large peaches (about 8), halved lengthwise, pitted, and each half cut lengthwise into fourths

About 1 1/2 cups blueberries

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

For serving:

Slightly sweetened whipped cream (optional)

To make pastry: Pulse together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor until combined. Add butter and pulse just until mixture resembles course meal with some small (roughly pea-sized) butter lumps. Add eggs and vanilla, and pulse until dough clumps and begins to form a ball, about 15 pulses.

Press dough onto bottom and evenly all the way up side of a 9- or 9 1/2-inch springform pan with floured fingertips. Chill pastry in pan until firm, about 10 minutes.

Make filling while pastry chills: Put oven rack in middle position. Preheat oven to 375 degrees if using a light-colored pan; or 350 degrees if using a dark pan.

Grind 4 tablespoons sugar with flour and tapioca in a spice grinder until tapioca is powdery, then transfer to a large bowl and stir in remaining sugar. Add peaches, blueberries, and lemon juice, and gently toss to coat. Spoon filling into pastry. Cover loosely with a sheet of foil. Place springform pan on a cookie sheet in case fruit juices bubble out. Place springform pan and cookie sheet in oven, and bake, until filling is bubbling in center and crust is golden, about 1 3/4 hours (if baking in a light pan at 375 degrees) or 1 1/2 hours (if baking in a dark pan at 350 degrees).

Transfer cake in pan to a rack and cool, uncovered 20 minutes, then carefully remove side of pan.

Cool cake to barely warm or room temperature, then cut into thick wedges with a sharp knife. Serve wedges with a little sweetened whipped cream, if you like.

Note: Pastry dough can be made and pressed into the pan 1 day ahead and chilled, wrapped well in plastic wrap. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before filling.

Adapted from a recipe in Gourmet, Aug. 2005