Thursday, August 22, 2013

almond-crisped peaches + uk book tour

almond crisped peach + mine

I hope, if we are going to continue to be good friends, that we can have an implicit understanding that there is no such thing as too many peach recipes. Not in July, not in August, not in New York, which grows surprisingly good peaches for a Yankee. And I know that as a writer and food person, I’m supposed to be on the lookout for my crutches, my overused ingredients. I should probably lay off the tomatoes, the caramelized onions, the feta, Dijon, strawberries, green beans, white beans and butternut squash. Sheesh, I should show some range! Maybe I will, you know, after peach season is over. Because I’m not done with them yet. I’m not done with summer yet. Maybe it’s this mild August we’ve been having or, I confess, the not-supposed-to-be-but-kinda-has-been fun of having a husband out of a job for the last few months, but once you become a summer person, it’s hard to react with anything but venom when you spy apples and butternut squash at the farmer’s market before Labor Day, as I did this week. How gauche!

butter + peaches + almonds + sugar
halved peaches, some freestone

But, you know, September’s not going to be too terrible. School resumes, which is pretty awesome if you’re three-going-on-four, we’ll all be back to the grind (sigh/yay) and oh, there’s this little trip I’m taking across the pond for a UK book tour.

ground almonds, sugar, butter, and maybe oats

Okay, it’s not little. It’s going to be epic. The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook came out in the UK in February, but at the time, I was still book tour-ing over here so it took some time to schedule it. I think it will be worth the wait. I so hope we finally get to meet. I’ve listed the dates and towns that have been scheduled thus far on the Events page but more are still being added. (Sadly, the first London event sold out before I got to tell you about it, which was really rude, I know. But we are in the process of nailing down the details for another! Please don’t be mad.) [The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook UK Book Tour]

dollop almond crisp in peach bellies
spread the cut sides with almond-sugar-butter
almond-crisped peach halves

Anyway, it seems only fitting to usher in this announcement with a little keeper of a recipe from the incredible UK food writer, Nigel Slater, who knows his way around baked fruit. This recipe hails from his 2012 book, Ripe, and just about everyone made it before I finally came around it to as I’d been suspicious of its short ingredient list. It’s my loss. I mean, does it involve peaches? Does it involve a crisp topping? I should have been all over that. But wait, this isn’t just another peach crisp. You see, the peaches are the crisp. A mound of crumbly buttery almond and sugar topping is patted into halved peach bellies, then spread out over their cut sides. Maybe you brush the peaches with bourbon or rum first, if that’s your thing? It can be our little secret. This crisp, so unlike our last one, is insanely simple. There’s no brown sugar, no flour, no cinnamon or salt. There isn’t supposed to be any oats either, but I just can’t leave well enough alone. Nevertheless, what you need to do is get this recipe in your back pocket right this second. It should be easy enough to memorize and although the baking time is slightly longer than it would be with a chopped fruit crisp, in that longer time magical things happen, like the sugar melts against the almonds and bubbles into the peach juices to form an almost chewy peach almond caramel brittle on top. Chewy peach almond caramel brittle. What are you still doing reading this?

almond crisped peach + whipped cream
almond crisped peach + oops

Three years ago: Sweet Corn Pancakes
Four years ago: Summer Pea and Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Salad
Five years ago: Napa Cabbage Salad with Buttermilk Dressing (this is still such a favorite) and Key Lime Meltaways
Six years ago: Plum-Almond Tarts

Almond-Crisped Peaches
Adapted from Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard

Nigel Slater’s recipe is incredibly simple: almonds, sugar and butter. I came so close to following it exactly, and then couldn’t resist adding 1/4 cup rolled oats, a pinch of cinnamon and a pinch of sea salt, because I love all three so much in crisps. Consider it optional; the recipe works with or without them. Without them, the topping is more butter and brittle-like after baking; with them, it is still buttery and brittle-like, but with a little more of a traditional crisp texture and flavor. Both are magical; the peaches are barely sweet and taste fantastic with a dollop of creme fraiche or softly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream on top. As for fruit, you could use peaches or nectarines with roughly the same cooking time, or try it with plums or apricots, or all soon, apples and pears. Feel free to try other nuts, too, any kind that you enjoy with baked fruit.

Slater recommends bakers sugar, which is sold in the U.S. as superfine sugar. I couldn’t resist going in the opposite direction, using coarse raw sugar (turbinado, often sold as Sugar in the Raw here) instead. Regular granulated sugar works as well. I didn’t try it with brown sugar, and suspect it may be delicious, but will not be certain until one of you report back (hint) how it holds up in the long baking time, hopefully not over-browning.

4 ripe peaches
1/3 cup (55 grams) whole almonds
1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar
3 tablespoons (45 grams) cold unsalted butter, cubed

Optional extras: 1/4 cup (20 grams) rolled oats, 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon, pinch of sea salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Halve peaches and remove pits. Place fruit cut side up in baking dish. In a food processor, grind almonds and sugar together until coarsely ground (with a few pebbles left). Add oats and other flavorings, if using, then butter, pulsing the machine until the ingredients are just blended. Spoon the almond mixture into the center of each peach, then press it flat, as if icing the tops of the peaches with it. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour (baking time varies with peach size), until the top is brown and crisp and you can easily slice through the fruit with a fork or spoon.

Serve warm or at room temperature, with creme fraiche, lightly sweetened whipped cream or even plain yogurt, cold, for breakfast.

Without a food processor: Use an equivalent weight of almond meal or finely chopped almonds, stir in sugar and any other ingredients, then the same volume of butter, melted. It will be less clumpy, but the oven won’t know the difference.


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