Fresh Peach Torte
Peach season is at its peak where I live, so make sure to bake this scrumptious torte now. About thirty years ago I made a recipe for Plum Torte, a New York Times classic that became that paper’s most popular recipe ever. I’ve baked it every year since. This year, thanks to fantastic local peaches grown by Tom and Lynn McCamant at their Forbidden Fruit Orchards, a friend suggested I try making a peach torte. Because peaches are such a juicy fruit, I knew I couldn’t simply use them as is. Recently I watched a Cooks Illustrated video on roasting peaches to remove much of their moisture and I decided to give the method a try. It worked!
I made the torte batter and arranged wedges of cooled roasted peaches on top and the torte baked up perfectly. Here’s what to expect when you dig into a slice. The texture of this torte changes from tip to edge, and therein lies its magic. Your first few bites from its tip are moist and pudding-like. Then, as you eat your way towards the outer edge, the torte becomes more cake-like with a consistency that blends perfectly with the oven-roasted peaches. By the time you get to the crusty edge, you’ve experienced a world of textures just in this one slice.
Here’s the recipe. The roasted peaches work well in savory dishes as well as desserts.
Make sure to bake the torte for the full time. Check your oven temperature for accuracy. The edges of the baked torte will be about 1 1/2 inches high, and the center about 1 inch.
2 pounds firm, ripe freestone peaches, peeled, halved and pitted
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (5 ounces, measured by dipping the dry measure into flour container, filling to overflowing, and sweeping off the excess)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the peaches, bring a large pot of water to the boil and have a large bowl of iced water nearby. Add the peaches to the boiling water and let them sit in the water for 10 to 20 seconds. Transfer them to the iced water with a slotted spoon. Wait a minute or so. One by one, remove peaches from water and slip off their skins. Cut peaches in half along their seams and separate the halves. Remove and discard the pits.
Adjust an oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a large baking sheet (17 x 11-inches) with heavy-duty foil. Set peach halves cut side up on the foil and sprinkle them with the 2 tablespoons sugar. Bake for 30 minutes, then flip the halves over and return pan to the oven for 30 minutes more. Remove from oven and let peaches cool completely. You’ll need 1 pound of roasted halves for the torte, about 12 (6 peaches). Cut each half in two to make 24 wedges.
For the torte, butter a 9-inch spring-form pan. Reset the oven thermostat to 350 degrees. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium size bowl.
Beat the butter until smooth on medium speed with an electric mixer, about 1 minute. While beating, gradually add the sugar in a thin stream. Scrape the bowl and beater and add the vanilla. Beat 2 to 3 minutes on medium speed until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Add the dry ingredients and beat on low speed just until incorporated and batter is smooth and very thick.
Spread batter evenly in the prepared pan. It will be about 1/2-inch thick. A small offset spatula is ideal for the job. Arrange the 24 peach wedges in tightly-packed concentric circles on top of the batter. Drizzle lemon juice over the fruit. Combine the 2 tablespoons sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over the peaches.
Bake for 1 hour, until top of torte is well-browned. The peaches will have been engulfed by the batter during baking. Cool the torte completely in its pan on a wire rack.
Remove the sides of the pan, cut the torte into wedges, and serve. The torte needs nothing else. Best when very fresh.
Makes 8 servings.