I accidently bought 25 pounds of peaches. I’ve been reading about these peaches from a certain farm that only come to Memphis twice a season. People rave about these peaches. I missed any notification that they were coming, but then one day going about my own business, I got stuck in traffic behind cars turning into a nursery and saw the big sign advertising the peaches. So I figured I better turn in too and see what all the fuss was about. The peaches are only sold in 25 pound boxes, which is a lot of peaches, but I had waited and parked and just decided I better go ahead and buy them. And they are delicious peaches. I gave quite a few to a friend, I made Peach Julep Jam, a peach jalapeno jam, peach chutney, spiced peach butter and vin du peche, a French liqueur.
At the start of peach season, I had some idea about a dessert with peaches and amaretti cookies – my mom used to make delicious peach halves stuffed with buttered amaretti crumbs and baked – but I just couldn’t figure out where to go with it. I wanted something composed, like a tart or an ice cream. I bought a couple of bags of amaretti and they sat on my counter for weeks, taunting me to come up with an idea. In my panic over this spectacular array of peaches I acquired with no coherent plan, the idea came to me while I stirred a pot of peach jam. Creamy, rich, decadent cheesecake with a sweet-bitter amaretti crust and a healthy dose of amaretto liqueur. My niece who sampled the finished result texted me “that cheesecake. I can’t get over it.” So clearly in this case, abundance was the mother of invention.
I live to serve this with some sliced or cubed fresh peaches, for the contrast of the sweetly cooked fruit that almost melts into the filling with the bite of fresh, but a lightly sweetened puree would be delicious as well if you like your cheesecake that way.
Peach Amaretto Cheese Cake with Amaretti Crust
For the Crust:
1 (7-ounce) package amaretti cookies
4 Tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
For the Filling
3 large fresh peaches
4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
¼ cup amaretto liqueur
½ teaspoon almond extract
For the Crust:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.
Set a few of the cookie aside, then place the rest in the bowl of a small food processor and process until finely ground. Drizzle in the butter and process until the crumbs are wet through. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and press them into an even layer completely covering the bottom. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and cool completely. Put the remaining cookies in a small ziptop bag and crush well. Set aside.
For the Filling:
Peel and pit the peaches, then cut into small, bite-sized pieces.
Beat the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for a few minutes, then stream in the sugar, beating until combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl a few times. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the sour cream, amaretto and almond extract until completely smooth. Add the chopped peaches and stir to combine and evenly distribute them. Scrape the filling into the pan over the crust and spread the top evenly. Place a large piece of foil on the oven rack, then place the cheesecake on the foil and bake for about 1 hour, until puffed up, set in the center and just begining to brown. Remove from the oven to a rack to cool for 5 minutes, then run a sharp knife around the edges to loosen from the ring. Leave to cool another 30 minutes, then place in the refrigerator overnight to chill. You can cover the cake after it is firm and refrigerate for up to two days.
Before serving, sprinkle the remaining cookie crumbs over the top of the cake. Serve with sliced peaches if you’d like.