With their alluring blush, seductive perfume and luscious interior, peaches are the quintessential summer fruit. Whether eaten out of hand, baked in a pastry crust, dropped in wine or filled and oven roasted, a peach is a uniquely summertime indulgence.
The ancient Romans called peaches Persian apples, for it was the Persians who introduced the fruit to them in the first century of the Common Era. Traditionally Italy’s north and central regions were the centers of the Italian peach industry. However over the last twenty years, the south has risen to dominance in peach cultivation, making Italy the world’s second largest producer of peaches.
Summer markets are flush with this magnificent fruit. Oven heat brings out the best in peaches, so here are two of my favorite ways to bake peaches. With a simple stuffing of Amaretti, sugar, cocoa and butter, Pesche Ripiene are a unique way to enjoy the fruit. And what would summer be without a peach pie? Try the Italian version, a crostata. A sweet crust holds perfectly baked peaches. Served with vanilla ice cream or Chantilly Cream, these desserts are sure to please.
Pesche Ripiene – Stuffed Peaches
Amaretti, those delightful little cookies, make the perfect filling for peaches when combined with brown sugar, butter and cocoa. Select peaches that are ripe, but still firm.
•2 peaches, ripe but still firm
•1 teaspoon Amaretto
•8 Amaretti cookies
•2 teaspoons brown sugar
•1 tablespoon Pernigotti or other dark unsweetened cocoa
•2 teaspoons soft unsalted butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cut peaches in half. Remove and discard pits. Slightly enlarge the hollow in each half using a mini ice cream scoop, a melon baller or a carefully wielded tea spoon. Rub the cut side of each peach with the lemon half and drizzle with a bit of Amaretto. Place peaches cut side up in buttered baking dish.
Crush the Amaretti and combine with sugar, cocoa and butter. Divide mixture between peaches, mounding it in the hollow of the peaches. Bake for about 35 minutes, until a paring knife slips easily in.
Remove from oven and cool slightly. Serve with vanilla ice cream or Chantilly Cream.
This is such a terrific summer dessert. If you really want to keep your kitchen cool, you can bake these peaches in your covered outdoor grill, gas or charcoal. Be sure to place the peaches in a pan that is safe for the grill. Cover tightly with foil. Heat grill to medium, and bake checking at 25 minutes to see if peaches are tender.
Crostata di Pesche – Peach Crostata
I use Italian 00 flour, an all-purpose flour that is milled to a fine texture, however American all-purpose flour will perform beautifully.
•1 ½ cups 00 or all-purpose flour
•2 tablespoons powdered sugar
•½ teaspoon fine sea salt
•¼ teaspoon lievito OR American style baking powder
•10 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 20 chunks
•3 tablespoons ice water
•1 ½ pounds peaches, ripe, but firm
•3 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
•1 teaspoon 00 flour
•1 teaspoon lemon juice
•1 teaspoon lemon zest
•1 tablespoon butter
•1 large egg
•1 tablespoon water
Make crust: Place flour, powdered sugar, salt and lievito (or baking powder) in bowl of food processor fitted with steel knife. Pulse twice to combine. Remove lid and scatter butter over flour mixture. Replace lid and pulse several times until mixture takes on the appearance of coarse meal. With machine running, pour ice water through feed tube and process until mixture just comes together. Remove dough from processor, form into disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate thirty minutes.
Place pizza stone on lower oven rack. Preheat oven to 425 degrees one half hour before you plan to bake the crostata.
Prepare fruit: Wash peaches. Do not peel. Cut in half, remove pit. Cut each half into 6 pieces, for a total of 12 pieces from each peach. Toss fruit with 1 tablespoon sugar, flour, lemon juice and zest. Set aside.
Assemble crostata: On a Silpat or lightly floured parchment, roll dough into a twelve inch circle. Transfer Silpat (or parchment) and dough to baking sheet.
Arrange cut peaches on the center of dough, leaving a two inch border. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon sugar over peaches, and dot with butter. Fold border over fruit, pleating as you go.
Make an egg wash by beating egg with water. Brush lightly over dough. (You will not use all the egg wash.) Sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon sugar over dough. Place on preheated pizza stone on lower rack of oven, and bake 28 to 30 minutes until crust is golden. Remove from oven and place on rack to cool slightly. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or Chantilly Cream.
•1 cup whipping cream
•1 teaspoon granulated sugar
•½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine all ingredients and beat until cream mounds softly. Chill.
Pernigotti cocoa, lievito and Italian 00 flour are available from Amazon.com. Penzey’s makes an excellent high fat Dutch cocoa, available from Penzeys.com.