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Posts Tagged ‘peaches’

spiced peach pie

In baking, desserts, eating in, fruit, late summer, summer on 21 March, 2012 at 11:08 am

As a person who lives in an upstairs flat where the only outdoor space is a balcony just big enough for a couple pots of herbs (and maybe a tomato plant or two), I often find myself getting uncontrollably envious of people who have fruit trees in their gardens. 

It’s a heartbreaking feeling. Like the kid who really wants a puppy but whose brother is allergic: it just ain’t gonna happen. And while feeling this way might be a little irrational – there’s nothing really stopping me from moving to a place with, you know, maybe a lemon tree or feijoas or even nectarines or figs (I can dream!) – there is just no way, in the foreseeable future, that I’ll be able to stroll outside and pick a bagful of plums, or apples or whatever.*

A couple weeks ago, I visited my friend Harriet’s flat in Auckland, and though I didn’t get a chance to stroll around her garden – a combination of terrible weather and an incredibly full stomach after stuffing my face at Barilla Dumpling on Dominion Rd meant that all I wanted to do was stay inside and sit very, very still – I did get a chance to stroll into her kitchen and get smacked in the face by the sweet, heady aroma of vanilla and peach coming from a big pan of vanilla-flecked stewed peaches on the stove. Not just any peaches, mind you: peaches from the peach tree. In the garden. Just outside the window.

 

I couldn’t turn down the chance to sample some, despite the protestations of my full-to-bursting stomach (too many dumplings!). Jealousy sometimes makes you do funny things… or perhaps it was just a fear of missing out: how many of my friends have peach trees in their gardens, after all? In any case, I’m glad I gave in: they were meltingly tender, with that soft, mellow, vanilla-y sweetness that was faintly reminiscent (though a hundred times better) than the canned peach memories of my childhood.

 

And when I returned to Wellington, I couldn’t get those peaches off my mind. What also came to mind was the addition of some spices – Harriet and her flatmate had been talking about adding cloves to the mix, though they didn’t in the end – and in the end, I dreamed up this somewhat-rustic pie, with a sugar-studded golden crust and filled with sweet, cardamom- and clove-spiced stewed peaches.

It’s a little bit more complex than standing over the kitchen sink eating a summer peach (juices dripping down your chin, arm, elbow, of course), a bit more grounded and earthier than, say, this or this. This is a peach pie for autumn.

So, before the peach window closes for the season I’d recommend you go and pick up some of the last of the early-autumn harvest and make this pie. And if you’re getting your peaches off a tree in your garden, please, don’t tell me about it. I’ll be too jealous!

 —

*Though thanks to my happy little herb garden I have lots and lots of sage, and mint, and thyme, and I have a couple pots of vegetables here and there which means I never have to buy spring onions, for instance. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty pleased about that.

 

SPICED PEACH PIE

First, prepare the pastry*:

280g flour
2 Tbsp sugar
¼ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
225g butter, very cold and cut into little pieces
4 – 8 Tbsp ice cold water, as needed

Sift together the dry ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add the butter and rub into the flour using your fingers until the mixture is a grainy, pebbly consistency.

Sprinkle the cold water over the mixture, a couple tablespoons at a time, until the dough comes together but is not too sticky (you probably won’t need to use all 8 tablespoons). If you’ve added too much water, just add more flour. Divide the dough in half, roll into balls and cover with plastic wrap.

Chill for about 30 minutes to 1 hour in the fridge.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling:

Cut up 8 peaches and put in a biggish pan with about 3/4 cup sugar (more or less to taste), a few cloves and cardamom pods (if you’re fussy about removing these you could to tie them up in a muslin cloth or something so you can take them out before filling the pie) and about a teaspoon of vanilla paste (a vanilla pod would also work well here, or even real vanilla extract, but if you only have the artificial stuff please leave it out – it’ll still be fine, I promise). Add a little bit of water - 1/2 cup or so should do – and bring to a simmer. Cook over a gentle heat until the fruit is soft and tender and your kitchen smells amazing.

Preheat the oven to 350C.

Roll out the two balls of pastry on a floured surface so that they’re big enough to fit into a pie dish. Line the pie dish with one of the pastry rounds and prick some holes in it with a fork. Bake for 10-15 minutes or so until it’s set a little and turns a pale golden colour.

Fill the pie with the stewed peaches (I added a couple teaspoons of cornflour/cornstarch to hold the fruit mixture together, as it was quite juicy) and top with the other rolled-out bit of pastry. Cut some holes in the top so the steam can escape. If you like, you can glaze the top with a bit of beaten egg and sprinkle some demerara sugar on top.

Bake 35-45 minutes or until the top is nice and golden brown. Let cool before serving.

*this is the same recipe I’ve used for the pear & feijoa crostata I made last year, and pretty much my go-to pie crust recipe – it’s adapted from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book via this Serious Eats post.

baked vanilla custard with peaches

In desserts, gluten free, late summer, puddings on 15 March, 2011 at 1:49 am

I keep coming back to write this blog post I started on Friday afternoon, then finding myself immobilised in front of the computer screen by the incomprehensibly-scaled disaster unfolding in Japan.

Although I’m fortunate not to know anyone living in the worst-affected areas in northern Japan, this past weekend was another one of jitters, of waiting to hear news of friends and family (luckily I haven’t had any bad news), of watching NHK* and flicking through news sites until my eyes were so sore they were about to pop out of my head. Sleeping poorly. Checking Twitter constantly on my phone (so rude! sorry everyone) for updates.**

I keep thinking of the destruction in Christchurch, and how I can’t even comprehend that, let alone what has happened to the Tohoku region. I keep remembering a family holiday in Iwate Prefecture, in particular a side trip we took to Miyako***, a sleepy little coastal town west of Morioka. The 2-hour winding train ride on this clackety 2-car train that took us through steep hills, high above a winding gorge that widened into a majestic, flat river flowing to sea. The hills blanketed in green, and then, later, the stunning limestone cliffs and rock formations rising out of the clear blue.

It’s funny because I can’t remember much about the town itself, and now it’s too late to go back and remember what it was. And other place-names that keep coming up in the news carry with them faint hues of sitting on trains with my brothers, and I can’t remember much else. I find myself mourning the irretrievability of faded memories. Insignificant, selfish really, in the face of everything else.

The good things have come in waves this weekend, too. First in the form of confirmation from friends and family in Japan (mostly in the Kanto/Tokyo region), that they were safe, even if they did have to walk several hours to reach their homes. Then in the form of a very delicious brunch**** I had at Monterey in Newtown. Later, in a couple hours spent following a pod of orcas around the Miramar Peninsula, one of the most joyous experiences of my life. And throughout the weekend, in this bowl of blackboy peaches (the name! but hey) that ripened one by one.

The first time I heard of these peaches was actually not until last year, when I stayed at a little backpacker’s hostel in Picton on the way to a couple days out in the Marlborough Sounds. Part of the appeal of this place was its gorgeous old-house feel, the other part the freshly baked bread and assorted homemade jams that were set out for breakfast each morning. I ended up buying a jar of blackboy peach jam to take home, enthralled by the somewhat-un-PC name and because, well, I was so excited to discover this as-yet-unheard of (by me) variety of fruit. I had no clue what they actually looked like, though, until Vanille blogged about them the other week, and I was dying to find some.

Then, on Wednesday, success. Spotted a couple of boxes at Moore Wilson’s (there were some at New World as well). Picked up a bagful. And on Thursday, this custard.

I wanted to keep things relatively simple to keep the spotlight (rightly) on the peach. What sprung to mind were the to-die-for cherry custard tarts my friend Rob made for a picnic earlier this summer: a sturdy pastry crust, a vanilla-bean-flecked custard filling, macerated cherries on top. But then I ate a big lunch and was a bit too full for pastry (or maybe just not in the mood), and I started thinking about this baked vanilla custard I’d had at Logan Brown some time ago. And then I saw the perfect recipe in one of my old Cuisine magazines.

The peaches need no explanation; they’re exquisite in themselves. Adding a bit of sugar and leaving them to macerate gives them a bit more sweetness and juice if yours are still pretty tart, as mine were at that stage, and the peachy syrup that forms is wonderful spooned over the custard.

This is one of those custards that makes you want to gasp with joy when you put a spoonful in your mouth, except you’d probably choke. It has the most beautiful wobbly texture, at once delicate and luxurious. When baked custard, whether it’s unadorned or served as crème brulee or flan, reaches that just-set stage (and no more) it’s one of my favourite things in the world.

Now that I think of it, this love of custard probably stems from that trip to Japan, when we spent hours on northward trains and we’d go to convenience stores beforehand to stock up with onigiri and other snacks for lunch, and the thing I ate probably more than anything else on that trip? Prepackaged purin (Japanese crème caramel). Highly processed? Probably. But so good, with that wobbly-creamy texture I adore. And because I was a kid and had the metabolism of a horse, I devoured them, train ride after train ride. There. My memories aren’t lost, after all. Though there’s so much else that is, I’m hopeful that Japan can recover some slices of normal life in the coming days.

*Japan’s public broadcast station, which people have been streaming live through various Ustream channels.

**Maki of the fantastic blog Just Hungry (Japanese food and recipes) has been tirelessly translating and tweeting Japanese news broadcasts for days now. Her Twitter username is @makiwi.

***I’m not posting the video of the tsunami hitting Miyako, but it’s out there, and as heart-crushing as the rest of it all.

****and a to-die-for peach iced tea!

BAKED VANILLA CUSTARD WITH PEACHES (serves 6):
(just barely adapted from Cuisine 127, July 2008. Recipe here)

You will need:
2-3 peaches
caster sugar
vanilla bean
600ml cream
6 egg yolks

Thinly slice 2-3 peaches and set aside in a bowl. If your peaches are still quite firm and tart, you may want to macerate them by spooning over a couple tablespoons of sugar and giving it a stir before letting the bowl sit while you prepare the custard.

Meanwhile, split and scrape out seeds of 1 vanilla bean (alternatively you could use a teaspoon or 2 of vanilla paste but there’s something special about this dessert that deserves a vanilla bean, if you have one). Add the scraped-out bean and the seeds to a smallish saucepan with 600ml cream*, bring this to the boil, remove from heat and let it sit for about 20 minutes.

While you’re waiting for the vanilla to infuse the cream with the most vanilla-y vanilla-ness (oh boy, it’s late, I’m tired), preheat the oven to 160C and separate 6 eggs. Keep only the yolks** and whisk them gently with 2 tablespoons caster sugar. Slowly pour in the vanilla-infused cream while continuing to whisk gently. Pour into a jug through a sieve to catch any eggy bits that may have curdled/cooked (and the vanilla bean if you haven’t already plucked it out). Try not to drink too much of this mixture directly as you’ll need it if you plan on serving the finished product. Then pour into 6 individual 125-ml ramekins.***

Place the ramekins in a baking dish lined with a tea towel and fill halfway up the sides of the ramekins with boiling water. Carefully (do not spill boiling water on yourself!) transfer to oven. Bake for approximately 30 minutes; you’ll want them slightly jiggly. Remove the dish from the oven and then the ramekins from the dish; cool a little and top with peach slices. Add some of the syrup/juices from the bottom of the peach bowl if you like. It’s extra good!

*I used a combination of 450ml cream and made up the rest with milk because I failed to check how much cream I had before starting to make this. It still tasted fine.

**Don’t throw out the whites – you can use them for meringues, or angel food cake, or macarons, to fold into waffle batter, etc. They will keep in the freezer.

***As you can see, I used a variety of receptacles because most of my ramekins are greater in volume than 125ml.

grilled peaches with lemongrass & ginger syrup

In desserts, gluten free, late summer, syrups and cordials on 5 March, 2011 at 12:48 am

Feels like summer came and went in the blink of an eye. A weird, wet, muggy blink of an eye. I was going to say it still feels like summer (it’s plenty warm enough), but there’s no denying the gradual arrival of crisp mornings and cool nights, new season apples and pears slowly creeping their way onto supermarket shelves.

And in this last gasp of (technically not-) summer it feels like a race to do everything you won’t be able to do for another year. Like wearing shorts, even if you have to wear a jumper on top. Going for that last, end-of-summer swim before the water gets too cold (though in Wellington it’s pretty much too cold even in summer!). Shooting hoops at Waitangi Park. Drinking Pimm’s in the afternoon sun, taking walks after dinner, eating as many berries as possible and gorging yourself on stonefruit. Each day is tinged with this subtle sense of urgency: get in while you can.

And while yes, it’s true, the juicy and succulent fruits of summer are slowly making way for the crisp and autumnal, there’s still plenty of peaches left to devour. For the next couple weeks, at least.

I think peaches (and, I suppose, nectarines) are by far my favourite fruit, though of course this thinking is clouded by the fact that I get really excited about whatever fruit’s in season and I’m sure this will change as soon as I take my first bite of a sweet, meltingly ripe pear, or a crisp apple (I’ve resisted thus far in a sort of denial that summer’s over).

But I think that claim of favourite fruit has a little more basis than just the ohmygod-it’s-in-season-and-there’s-nothing-more-delicious mania I’m sometimes prone to. One of my favourite childhood memories is of a trip to Michigan in late August when I was maybe seven or eight, and I don’t remember much except the showers at the place we stayed smelled like rust, the beach was full of flies and – and – we visited peach orchards, eating perfect peach after perfect peach and taking more home in brown paper bags (to help them ripen). Our kitchen for the week or so afterwards had the faint, alluring aroma of ripening peaches.

I always have such good intentions when I buy peaches, planning to make this or that recipe, but usually I can only get so far as rinsing them off before I find myself eating them, standing over the kitchen sink, juices running down my chin, hand, dripping off my elbow. Messy, but there’s really nothing that tastes more magnificent.

Maybe the reason I never make it past the sink is because I sometimes find when peaches are cooked they lose some of that shockingly juicy-sweet quality I can’t get enough of.

Recently, though,  I’ve made an exception for grilled peaches. Somehow they manage to keep that juicy, sweet, meltingly soft quality, with the added bonus of getting all caramelised and intensely good. I served them with the lemongrass & ginger syrup I’ve been making, which I highly recommend – it adds a bit of freshness and tang to cut through the sticky sweetness.

This is probably too obvious to even be a recipe (seems to be a theme in some of my recent posts, but I guess that’s what you want when it’s summer and you’d rather be outside than in the kitchen) but I wanted to post it before summer slips out of reach until the end of the year. I encourage you to try it with the lemongrass & ginger syrup if you can.

GRILLED PEACHES WITH LEMONGRASS + GINGER SYRUP (serves 2):

Halve 2 peaches*; remove the stones.** Place on a hot BBQ, grill pan or place under the grill in the oven**, cut side facing the heat source. Grill for 5-10 minutes (depending on your grilling implement) until the surface is caramelised and the peach halves are tender and warmed all the way through. Top with vanilla ice cream and a liberal pour of lemongrass + ginger syrup (recipe here).**** If you garnish it with a mint sprig it’ll be extra pretty (and it goes well with the other flavours). Watch as the ice cream melts into the grooves of the hot peach and drips down the sides and forms molten pools of amazing with the syrup. Or just eat.

*For this I used both white-fleshed peaches and Golden Taturas. Both were delicious. Use any peaches you like. Nectarines will also do.

**If your peaches are super ripe, you shouldn’t need to do this, but if they’re a bit firm or you’re keen for more caramelisation (OK, who isn’t) you could sprinkle the cut side with a bit of demerara sugar before grilling. I didn’t do this, and found it sweet and caramelly enough.

***I used a panini grill flipped upside down and kept open, because at that stage I couldn’t be bothered going downstairs to turn on the BBQ or look for the grill pan… lazy, or innovative? Your call…

****I suppose you could also make some other sort of glaze, or use another syrup, or even scoop a fresh passionfruit over the top. Which reminds me, passionfruit…!


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