Given that August is National Peach Month, it seems only natural to have the song “Peaches” by The Presidents of the United States of America running through my head … “Millions of peaches, peaches for me.”
Everywhere you turn, there seem to be gorgeous peaches for sale—at farmers markets, roadside stands, and your corner Piggly Wiggly.
Early summer brings the variety called ‘clingstone,’ as their pits do not easily release from the bright fruit. Come late July, we start to see the ‘freestone’ variety of peaches. These are ideal for slicing open and zipping out the pit. You are left with beautiful symmetrical specimens, perfect for grilling or baking. Toss a dozen halves in a greased Pyrex dish, top with strips of day-old white bread and pour over a mixture of melted butter, sugar and an egg. Bake for about 30 minutes and summer is served.
Looking for something a little more sophisticated? Try this favorite from the Loveless Café in Nashville, Tennessee. Dessert chef Alisa Huntsman created this riff on a classic Brown Betty.
Excerpted from Desserts from the Famous Loveless Cafe by Alisa Huntsman (Artisan Books). Copyright 2011. Photograph by Karen Mordechiai.
Peach Biscuit Brown Betty
Traditionally, Brown Betty desserts are made with slices of bread or crumbs. We have our own traditions at the Loveless, and when bread is called for we often use leftover biscuits instead. Layers of sweetened and spiced peaches alternated with crumbled biscuits are baked to a puddinglike consistency for the perfect simple dessert, especially if served the way we do—with a dollop of whipped cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce.
2⁄3 cup packed light brown sugar
3⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1⁄2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 cups sliced peeled peaches (2 1⁄2 to 3 pounds fresh peaches)
2 cups crumbled biscuits (eight to ten 2-inch biscuits)
1⁄3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about 1 orange)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons cinnamon sugar
Whipped cream and Drunken Caramel Sauce (*see below)
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a medium bowl, rub the brown sugar with the cinnamon and nutmeg to combine. Add the peaches and mix gently to coat the peaches with the sugar. Place half of the peaches in the bottom of a buttered 1 1⁄2- quart baking dish that is at least 2 inches deep. Top with half of the crumbled biscuits. Spoon the remaining peaches over the biscuits and drizzle the orange juice evenly over the dish. Toss the remaining crumbled biscuits with the melted butter and spread over the top of the peaches. Sprinkle liberally with the cinnamon sugar.
3. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the biscuits are an even golden color on top and the juices are bubbly. Let cool for about 15 minutes before serving, with a spoonful of whipped cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce, if you like.
Baking Tip: You could use purchased baking powder biscuits for this recipe or make a half recipe of Sweet Biscuits.
*Drunken Caramel Sauce
Makes about 1 1/4 cups
1⁄3 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 small cinnamon stick
1 inch of vanilla bean, split lengthwise in half
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1⁄4 cup bourbon, whiskey or dark rum
1. In a small saucepan, combine the cream, butter and cinnamon stick. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the pan using the tip of a knife and toss in the pod. Set over low heat to warm the cream, melt the butter, and infuse the flavors, about 3 minutes.
2. In a separate deep saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, and 1⁄4 cup water. Bring to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring to melt the sugar. Using a moist brush, wash any sugar crystals off the sides of the pan. Continue to boil without stirring until the sugar syrup begins to color. Once it turns golden, gently swirl the pan and watch it closely. As soon as the caramel turns an even amber shade, remove from heat.
3. Carefully pour a few tablespoons of the warm cream into the caramel; the mixture will boil up furiously. Whisk until smooth. Slowly whisk in the remaining cream. Continue to whisk until all the caramel is dissolved. Stir in the bourbon, remove the vanilla pod, and let the sauce cool to room temperature before serving.
Given our propensity for a refreshing libation, we’ve created the following concoction for your late-summer fetes. You are encouraged to double (or triple) the recipe, keeping a pitcher full, at the ready.
Savory Peach Cocktail
2 peaches, peeled, pitted and chopped
2 teaspoons sugar
2 ounces fresh squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
4 ounces bourbon
Fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon fresh lime zest
¼ cup super-fine sugar
1. In a large cocktail shaker, fitted with a strainer, combine the peaches, sugar, lime juice, basil leaves and bourbon. Shake vigorously to blend.
To serve, thoroughly blend the lime zest and sugar and pour onto a plate. Coat the rims of two cocktail glasses with lime juice and dip into the sugar mixture. Fill the glasses with ice and strain the liquid from the cocktail shaker.
For testing purposes, we used Old Weller Antique because we are obsessed with its insanely pure flavor. Makers Mark or other high-quality bourbon would make a fine substitution.
Christiana Roussel lives in Mountain Brook, Ala., and enjoys all things food-related. Follow her culinary musings online at ChristianasKitchen.com or on Facebook or Twitter (Christiana40).
And now for your enjoyment, a little peach song: