7.27.2012

A reliable sign of greatness

They say old habits die hard, but for me, it’s the new ones that dig in and don’t let go. 

Stone fruit.  I can’t stop baking it.


I bake apricots because it makes sense.  It’s what you’re supposed to do.  That’s how you get them to sing.  Peaches, though, are a different story, one that typically begins once upon a time in a paper sack on my counter, and ends – happily, drippily – over the sink, where I eat them out of hand.  Last year, intent on baking my favorite pie (which, coincidentally, is also Tim’s favorite pie!), I bought peaches by the half-dozen, week after week.  I’d leave them to ripen, stock up on butter. But the aroma of a perfectly ripe peach is like a search and destroy signal to my brain, and inevitably there I’d be, over by the sink again.  I didn’t bake a pie until September.  September!  It was the season’s last gasp, and it made one hell of a finale.  This year, I’m determined not to wait that long. 

Determined, I tell you, despite a new roadblock that’s plopped itself down in my path.  This:  Nigel Slater’s baked peaches with an almond crust.


When I sat down today to tell you about these peaches, I hesitated.  They’re from Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard, and I’ve already written about so many recipes from it here.  Only I haven’t.  That’s what I realized when I clicked back through my last few entries and discovered that, while Nigel Slater has inspired me left and right and all around town with this beautiful, beautiful volume, I’ve yet to share a single recipe directly from its pages.  There’s been a rhubarb polenta crumble based, in part, on one of Nigel Slater’s cakes, and a pinch of cardamom in with these thanks to a hint on page 105, but that’s all.  This is the sign of a truly great cookbook, I think, when it gets you reading, and thinking, and cooking differently before you take a single recipe for a spin.  Of course, when you do finally move on a proper recipe, if it turns out anything like these peaches, you’ve got a reliable sign of greatness there, too. 


The transformation of peaches in the oven is not as dramatic as it is with apricots, but it’s there. Their flesh goes from sweet and slippery to sweeter and slipperier; they get peachier, somehow, if you know what I mean.  These particular baked peaches also get a crust made of butter and sugar and almond crumbs – that’s all, though you would never believe it.  I hardly believe it, and I’m the one who made them.  (Twice.)  The butter tastes like butter and the almonds taste like almonds. No surprises, there.  But there’s also a faint booziness to these suckers that comes from I don’t know where, as if a shot of amaretto sneaked into the baking dish when you weren’t looking.  It fits, actually, since amaretto is a grown-up thing to taste in a dessert – or to think you taste, whatever the case may be – and I imagine these peaches are what crumble looks like when it’s all grown up:  peach crumble in neat little packages, each halved piece of fruit capped with its own personal crust.  It’s a peach crumble all-in-one, like what deviled eggs are to egg salad. 

“I can see every reason for cream here,” Nigel Slater says, and I agree.  I whipped mine, loosely, with vanilla sugar.  I see every reason for that, too.

Baked Peaches with an Almond Crust
Adapted from Nigel Slater’s Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard

This recipe calls for golden baker’s sugar, which can be expensive and hard to find in the United States.  Nigel Slater recommends raw sugar (demerara or turbinado) whirred in a food processor as a substitute.  I didn’t have any of that on hand, either, so I used plain old white sugar with very nice results. 

4 ripe peaches (or nectarines)
1/3 cup (50 grams) almonds
¼ cup (50 grams) sugar (see note, above)
3 tablespoons (45 grams) unsalted butter, cubed

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Gently wash and dry the peaches, cut them in half, and remove the pits.  Place the fruit cut side up in a baking dish.

Put the almonds and the sugar in a food processor and pulse until the nuts are coarsely ground.  You want them still pebbly enough to crunch.  Add the butter, and pulse until just blended.

Spoon the almond mixture on top of the peaches and bake for 45-50 minutes, until the top is brown and crisp, and you could slice through the fruit with a spoon.

Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled with loosely whipped, lightly sweetened cream.

24 comments:

emmycooks.com said...

Oh, how good. I also do these nut-butter-ish toppings on fruit in other combinations. (I like to add a pinch of salt as well, myself.) Hazelnuts on pears is a particular favorite of mine--once peach season is over, of course.

Tim said...

Jess- this is beautiful! and so wild, I make a version of this using frangipane and peaches. this seems easier, and so good. i'm also obsessed with ripe. i love it so much. we have a lot of favorites in common! xo

molly said...

We recently drove an hour each way to pick up some 80+ (!!!) peaches for canning. 60 or so were leftover. I intended to bake some. I made one crisp. The rest have all disappeared in slices, and wedges, and chin-drips, over said sink.

Next time, Nigel. Because there will be a next time. Peaches and me, we're not done yet.

ALso, I think I could live on nothing but the pages of Ripe and Tender. Maybe Appetite, also. Yes, a shelf of Slater.

london bakes said...

So lovely (as is anything really that comes from Nigel Slater) but you really captured the beauty of this recipe and the bounty of the produce in your pictures and words.

talley said...

Since I can't seem to stop buying apricots by the kilo I think I'll try this with apricots first. And besides, apricots and almonds make good company. Once I'm done with apricots, I definitely plan on trying this with peaches, but I might have to make that pie first, it looks and sounds incredible. Lovely photos Jess, I especially love the second one, the peaches look, well, peachy.

Kasey said...

I couldn't agree more with you, Jess. I can't help buying more stone fruit than I can possibly eat and I inevitably end up making more crisps, crumbles, and pies than usual. I've been eyeing that Nigel Slater recipe in Ripe ever since I got the book, and your post and pictures are making me want to immediately run to my oven. xo

Jess said...

emmycooks - You know, I think you're right that a pinch of salt might be in order here. Thank you! And hazelnuts on pears? Yes, please!

Tim - We do have a lot of favorites in common, it seems! Including restaurant picks, I see, from your latest post. Oleana is the best. Such a special, special place.

molly - Oh, ha ha, silly me, I thought you just said 80+ pounds of peaches... WAIT. (!!!) Frankly, my dear, I am not surprised. Can we talk canning? I've only just been bitten by the canning bug, and while the results have been delightful so far, I'm definitely still figuring things out...

london bakes - Thank you so much.

talley - Ooooo, I like the way you think. Apricots and almonds do get along splendidly. Enjoy!

Kasey - Ah yes, I am familiar with the stone fruit invasion. Listen to this: I was at the farmers' market on Friday, and a vendor offered me a 17-pound box of extremely ripe, slightly bruised nectarines and peaches for 5 dollars! There are 8 jars of preserves on my counter as I type this, and one partially eaten (mostly by me) pie and a bowl full of slices for Mia in the fridge. Such riches!

Hana said...

Am I they only one on the planet who does not own a copy of Ripe?! Thank for the enlightenment. I'll be sure to get to work on those peaches. What a shame that no one else in my house appreciates baked stone fruit, what a shame!

Dana said...

Hi Jess! This looks wonderful and mouthwatering (I just want to reach through the screen and get my hand on some :)) and makes me feel so happy that I’m not the only one so into baking with stone fruits! I can’t get enough of them. My fruit bowl is overflowing with peaches, plums and nectarines as I’m typing these words. I particularly love the combination of peaches and plums. I bake with them almost every week! I should probably stop… But stone fruits make such decadent cakes :)

Hannah said...

Total crush on Nigel Slater, and this recipe. Also in the add-a-salt-pinch boat, yum. I think summer fruit is my favorite when it is over-sink-drippy, but this sort of recipe - the kind that enhances rather than competes with the fruit - this sort of recipe I can do.

(Just not with my FHF apricots ;) )

Rivka said...

Funny, how you read my mind. I don't own this book (though from your recent gushing, I feel I should fix that promptly...), but I've been mulling over this exact concept for a couple weeks now. Why cut the fruit into pieces and top with crumble when you can top them halved, keeping their integrity until the fork breaks them? It's brilliant. Thanks for sharing.

One thing I've been wondering: would it be *even better* if you poured half a cup of white wine (or, better yet, Lillet) and maybe a tablespoon of sugar into the bottom of the pan, so the fruit got soft and spoonable on the bottom?

alexandria said...

I'm so ready to race to the market for peaches and apricots. Thank you, thank you for this post.

Jess said...

Hana - A shame, yes, but more for you then, right? (Be prepared, though. It's
entirely possible that these peaches may prompt a change of heart.)

Dana - I say, go with it! The season will be over before we know it;
we've got cake and crumble and crisp and cobbler (and, and, and!!)
quotas to meet, haven't we?

Hannah - You and your Frog Hollow Farm. You lucky west coaster, you...

Rivka - Hmm, now that's an interesting thought. Kind of a combination
of this recipe and the baked apricot recipe I wrote about a few posts
back. I think it could work, as long as you make sure that the crust
stays nice and crisp. If you try it that way, please do report back!

alexandria - You're very welcome. Off you go, now...

racheleats said...

I often bake apricots with a amaretti at this time of year. I like them very much so I think i will like this recipe too. Marscarpone might be nice too. I blow a bit hot and cold with Nigel and his writing (I mostly read his column in the observer) but never doubt his brilliance. Again so glad to be reading you, nourishing stuff in every sense.

koshercamembert said...

Jess - I can't get your first line out of my mind - it just rings so true. I've somehow been obsessed with stuff in my pantry and have moved from pomegranate syrup to pistachios to rose water. Strange I know in the summer. But I think these peaches, maybe with some oatmeal added to the crumble, are calling my name.

Jess said...

racheleats - Oooo, good call on the mascarpone! I'm making these tonight for a dinner party back home in Ohio. I wonder if I can find any on short notice... Thanks for the tip, Rachel, and for your very kind words. That means a lot to me.

koshercamembert - Maybe not so strange. I get my head stuck in the pantry sometimes, too, even this time of year. (Lentil salad, anyone?) It's cozy in there. xo.

Danielle said...

Am making this tonight! Do I peel the peaches?

Jess, how I love your posts....

Danielle

Jess said...

Hi, Danielle. Oh dear, I just got in and I'm afraid I'm probably too late to be of help... But the answer is no, there's no need to peel the peaches. Did you make them? Did you like? (And thank you, thank you!)

Danielle said...

I didn't peel them (I have nothing against some peach skin) and they were heavenly. That's all I can say.

meg said...

Yes! Ripe is a fabulous book. Slaters other tomes (Real Cooking and Real Food) are also wonderful. He has inspired me many a time. His recipe for almond filling (I think it's part of a recipe for apricot tarts) has become a regular in our kitchen. I'm itching to try more from this book.

sara said...

have his book, love them, but don't try enough of the recipes. I must have breezed right past this one because this is EXACTLY my kind of thing.

Jess said...

Danielle - Excellent.

Sara - Makes perfect sense to me that you and Nigel Slater would get along. Birds of a feather, you two.

Jess said...

Oops, Meg, forgive me! A couple of your comments got flagged as spam for some reason, and I'm just now seeing them. I agree. Every one of Slater's books is a treasure. And did you say almond filling? Sign me up!

bklynharuspex said...

I made these for a dinner -- our hosts are on Atkins and so it was a perfect find, lacking pastry -- and they were a great success, focussed on the delicious fruit but a touch beyond. Fortunately creme fraiche is permitted -- it was the perfect accompaniment.