Peaches are one of my favorite summer fruits. Although they originated in China, Europeans originally thought the peach tree was from Persia which explains the scientific name Prunus persica which later became ‘peach’. From China the peach was taken to India and Western Asia, then by Alexander the Great to Persia. After that, it travelled to the Americas, Northern Europe and finally to the North American colonies in the 17th century.
Interestingly, peaches and nectarines are different cultivars of the same species. Those with white flesh are sweeter and more prized in East Asia; the more acidic, yellow-flesh cultivars are popular in Europe and North America. Peaches are closely related to plums, cherries, apricots and almonds; and within the larger Rosaceae family to roses, apples, pears, strawberries and raspberries.
Although California produces 65% of the peaches in the United States, in my mind the fruit is most closely associated with Georgia, the ‘Peach State’. Over the summer, when we were invited to dinner at the home of a friend originally from Georgia, I used the opportunity to create this peach dessert.
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup white sugar
12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons peach or apricot jam/preserve
1-2 peaches, thinly sliced
1. Preheat oven to 300 F.
2. To make crust, in a large bowl mix graham cracker crumbs, melted butter and sugar.
3. Using your fingers or the back of a spoon, pack the crumb mixture so that it evenly covers the bottom and sides of a 9-inch metal pie tin.
4. To make filling, in another large bowl beat cream cheese, sugar and eggs until smooth. Pour into the pan and bake for 40 minutes or until the surface is very light brown. Let the cheesecake cool for 30-60 minutes at room temperature.
5. Once cooled, gently spread jam/preserve on top of the cheesecake. Arrange peach slices on top. Serve chilled or at room temperature.