People are already starting to talk about summer in the past tense. And it makes me want to weep.
I am evidently the vulnerable sort. Or just a trifle prone to the dramatic. Either way, its making me a bit emotional. We're only just barely two weeks into the month of July, and I've heard the hushed mention of back-to-school. Really?
A few days ago I was innocently flicking through a clothing catalogue and noticed sleeves were getting longer than those shown a month before. And while I might have gazed longingly at a particularly-tweedy ensemble for a nanosecond, I rallied myself against that affection. Surely the season cannot be over already, before it has even really begun?
We've only had one carnival, the tomatoes are still green and I have not had nearly enough time in the pool. And the other night, there were fireflies. There is still so much of summer left.
I hope that there are days to come with time for walks on warm evenings, the sort that lead you to meander through neighborhoods until the last of the light. For strong coffee in the quiet of the early morning, when the air is already thick with heat. And opportunity to savour sunwarmed peaches, and raspberries picked by eager hands, brought home in baskets stained purple with juice.
And picnics. Days and days for picnics, please and thank you. Did I tell you? We've become the sort to picnic. Picnic folk, if you will. Give me a tree, a patch of grass, even a rock and a box of takeout, I am blissful to sit and while away a minute or an hour or an afternoon. I will find each and every possible excuse to pack up our boys, pack up some nibbles, and make our way to the great outdoors - even if that just means the backyard.
I consider this cake, this raspberry-rippled marvel you see before you, to be my sticking point, my line drawn in the sand against all of those eager to write off the season and look forward to fall.
A buttery base is drowned in an ocean of blue-black raspberries, dolloped with more batter, then covered in a nut-flecked crumble. It is a cake full of berries and peaches and it is ideal for a picnic. Pretty as it is, it is a sturdy sort of beauty. It is a cake as easily eaten out of hand as it is with a knife and fork, and truth be told, I prefer the former method. It makes for effortless picnic-ery.
No siree Summer, I'm not letting go of you yet.
Raspberry Peach Crumb Cake
Adapted from a Better Homes and Gardens recipe, via Inn Cuisine. It is a fine dessert, a grand snack, and I'm sure nobody would sneer if it was offered alongside that aforementioned early-hour coffee. My wonderful (and super cool) nephews, ages 5 and 10, were kind enough to pick these for us - bringing in not one, but two generous harvests. Thanks to you both for your enthusiasm and stained knees.
6 ounces raspberries, fresh or frozen, I used fresh wild black ones
2 medium peaches, peeled and sliced into chunks
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup butter, cold and diced
1/3 cup sliced (flaked) almonds
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
coarse sugar for dusting
Preheat an oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter and flour a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, or a 10-inch springform pan.
In a medium saucepan, toss the raspberries and peaches with the cornstarch to coat. Stir in the sugar and cook over medium heat until bubbling and thick. Remove from the heat and mash the berries and peaches slightly. Take approximately 1/3 of the mashed fruit and transfer to a medium bowl. Set a sieve over the same bowl, and a little at a time, push the remaining fruit through the mesh to remove any seeds and large pulp. Remove the sieve, discard the seeds and pulp, then stir the purée to combine with the reserved fruit. Set aside to cool slightly.
For the cake, in a medium bowl stir together the sour cream, milk, egg and vanilla. Set aside.
Combine the flour and sugar in a large bowl. Using fingers, two knives or a pastry cutter, cut the cold butter into the flour mixture until you have a texture that resembles coarse meal. Remove 1/2 cup of the crumb mixture to a small bowl and stir through the almonds. Set aside.
To the remaining flour mixture, whisk in the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquids. Using light, quick strokes, stir until only just combined. The batter should be thick, but smooth.
Take about 2/3 of the batter and spread it across the bottom and up 1-inch of the sides of the prepared pan. Damp fingers or a wet palette knife make easy work of this. Spoon the reserved raspberry filling over the batter, gently spreading to cover and leaving a 1/2-inch border at the edge. Dollop irregular mounds of the remaining dough over the fruit layer, again using damp fingers or a wet palette knife to coax the batter to almost cover - some gaps are good. Top with the crumb topping over all and then sprinkle with a couple of teaspoons or so of coarse sugar.
Place on a sheet pan and bake in a preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the centre comes out clean and the cake starts to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cool, in pan on a rack, for 15 minutes. Remove from the tart pan and serve at warm or at room temperature.
Makes one 10-inch cake.
• Although I have not tried it, I am certain another berry or fruit could be substituted in the filling. The original recipe asked for all raspberries, with all the pulp and seeds removed. I am one who believes that sometimes a bit of seeds is a good thing, somehow making the berries taste all the more like themselves, and so I kept some seeds for texture. By all means though, follow what is your preference.