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A Fuzzy Predicament

When it comes to just-picked peaches, my friend Pam shares a predicament with a few of my other gal pals.

Pam is the creator of ProjectFoodie, an online site that allows you to create a personal recipe box from a wealth of offerings from magazines, newspapers, and cookbooks (Full disclosure: I’m one of her advisors.)

She likes peaches. She just isn’t keen on their fuzzy exterior. Something about their subtle furry covering gives her the heebie jeebies. Even washing the peaches, which usually flattens and masks most of their down, just won’t do it for her.

Which is a real shame when you realize she has a most prolific peach tree in her yard, one that gifts her with about 45 pounds of plump, juicy, yellow peaches each summer.

So Pam usually ends up baking cakes with them, turning them into chutney, and giving quite a few to friends such as yours truly.

I’m no fiend about fuzz, so I happily eat her peaches out of hand, savoring their incredible flavor that’s much more intense than so many others I’ve bought at the farmers’ markets this year. Peaches are my favorite summer fruit, and I can never get enough of them.

I would have gladly noshed on all her peaches like that. But when she heard that I found an interesting recipe for a peach cake in “Rustic Fruit Desserts” (Ten Speed Press), she perked up.

What’s that? Another fuzz-free treat? She was all ears.

The recipe, by Portland, Ore. culinary professionals, Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson, is actually called, “Stone Fruit Tea Cake,” because you can use any type of stone fruit you like.

Although I usually picture tea cakes as loaf-shaped, this one is baked in a tart pan or cake pan. It ends up looking very much like a tart, though its texture is all tender cake-like.

It couldn’t be easier, either. You make the dough in a mixer, freeze it for 30 minutes, then divide it into halves. The first half gets patted into the tart pan (nope, no rolling out required). You chop up your fruit and add it to the pan. Then, you cover the fruit with small pieces of the remaining dough. Turbinado sugar gets sprinkled on top to give it a sweet, crispy crown.

It emerges from the oven really buttery and just sweet enough. It’s perfect all on its own, but you also can serve it with dollops of lightly sweetened whipped cream, if you like.

For my fur-free fruit friends, this one’s for you.

Stone Fruit Tea Cake

(serves 10 to 12)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature, for pan

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 eggs

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups coarsely chopped mixed stone fruit, fresh or frozen (or use all fresh peaches like I did)

1 tablespoon turbinado sugar

Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl. Using a handheld mixer with beater or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream sugar and butter together on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down sides of bowl after each addition, then stir in vanilla. Add flour mixture and stir just until a smooth dough forms. Wrap dough in plastic wrap, flatten into a 1-inch-thick disk, and freeze for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a shallow 10-inch round baking pan or tart pan.

Divide the dough into two equal portions and pat one portion evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Spread fruit over the dough. Break remainder of the dough into tablespoon-size pieces and distribute atop the fruit, then sprinkle the turbinado sugar over the dessert.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until lightly golden and firm. Cool for 30 minutes before serving.

Storage: Wrapped in plastic wrap, this tea cake will keep at room temperature for up to 3 days. (The top will soften a bit.) You can also freeze the unbaked dough; if wrapped well, it will keep for up to 3 months. You can freeze a whole, unbaked cake with fruit (again, wrapped well) for 1 month.

From “Rustic Fruit Desserts”

For another peach dessert: Try this Peach Blueberry Cake