It was Carol’s turn to create the main menu for our weekly family dinner. (Soon I hope to share some of her recipes.) She always comes up with an array of interesting dishes that go well together. Did I mention she is a good cook IMHO? This past Sunday she made some delicious toasted walnuts with rosemary, sea salt, and brown sugar for the happy hour. The walnuts were impossible to resist. Then she served a salad of tomatoes, shaved fennel and green beans, all from the farmers market. The main dish was grilled shrimp wrapped in prosciutto. Corn on the cob and muffins made with zucchini from the farmers market rounded out the menu. As usual, my assignment was dessert.
This time of year it is so easy to build a meal with offerings from the farmers market, and I followed the theme. Peaches and other stone fruit are at the height of their season along with berries of all sorts. This past Saturday we went to the Torrance Market, one of the largest in the Los Angeles area, instead of our smaller local event. The choices available were astounding. One of the biggest stalls specializes in stone fruit, so I could choose yellow peaches, white peaches, yellow nectarines, white nectarines, pluots, plums, all with several varieties of each. Remembering a classic recipe from the first volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I went with white peaches that, from the samples available, were much sweeter than the yellow varieties. I had to go to the berry booth to find plump and fresh raspberries.
The recipe for pêches cardinal is deceptively simple: poach the peaches in a heavy syrup; make a sauce with the raspberries; cover the peaches with the sauce; serve. Of course, you can embellish the dish with ice cream, whipped cream, toasted nuts and/or whatever appeals to you. However, the devil is in the details, as they say. The peaches should be poached in a single layer with their skins intact. The raspberries should be forced through a sieve to form a puree without the seeds. If you don’t take that somewhat tedious step, the seeds will haunt you in the finished dish, even if you use a Vitamix to make the final sauce. And all of that is worth the effort, because the sauce becomes velvety. Warn your guests that the peaches still have their pits. Even though the preparation is easy, the result is both elegant and delicious.
Fresh white peaches
Peaches, skins on, poaching in vanilla-flavored syrup
Poached peaches ready to be chilled
The finished dish
Poached Peaches and Raspberry Sauce: Pêches Cardinal
- 6 cups water
- 2¼ cups sugar
- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- 6 fresh, ripe, unblemished peaches
- 2 pints raspberries, 18 raspberries set aside for garnish
- ¾ cups sugar
- 6 mint sprigs for garnish
- sweetened whipped cream for garnish
- chopped toasted walnuts for garnish
- vanilla ice cream (optional)
- In a large saucepan that will hold the peaches in a single layer, combine the water, sugar and vanilla extract. Bring to a simmer, stirring to make sure the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the peaches, and return to the simmer. Turning the peaches occasionally, simmer them for 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool for 20 minutes. Drain the peaches on a rack, and peel while still warm. Arrange the peaches in a deep serving dish, and chill in the refrigerator.
- Force the raspberries through a sieve to remove the seeds. You should wind up with about 1 cup of raspberry puree. Combine the puree with sugar. Blend in a Vitamix or conventional blender on a high setting for 3 minutes. The mixture should thicken and turn a beautiful pink color. Chill.
- When both the peaches and raspberry sauce are well chilled, spoon the sauce over the peaches, and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
- When you are ready to serve, remove from the refrigerator and garnish with the reserved raspberries, mint sprigs, whipped cream, and walnuts. Serve in bowls along with a scoop of ice cream, if desired.
When two of our kids were in school at the University of Texas at Austin, we would often visit. At least part of each visit inevitably was spent at a restaurant, Mom and Dad paying of course. A favorite place was the Hyde Park Café. It was fairly close to the campus, and the food was very good. It was a little pricey for college budgets so we often went there when we were in town. The rest of the time, Peter and Sarah would usually eat ramen in their house lovingly called Casa Hillmont, or they would choose takeout offered up at the “roach coach” on the street corner just outside the physics building.
The Hyde Park is still very much a part of the Austin food scene, although it has changed its name to the little more upscale Hyde Park Bar and Grill, and they have opened another location in another part of town.
Whenever we ate there, Susan always got the peach pudding for dessert: a square of warm cake topped with peaches and swimming in a pool of thick cream. It is still on the menu at Hyde Park.
Somewhere along the way, we managed to get a copy of the recipe and it wound up in the family cookbook. It’s still as good as ever, and it makes a great dessert for company or for pot-luck dinners. You can dress it up with whipped cream or crème fraîche or ice cream, but I think it is best warm with thick cream.
Peach slices with sugar and Fruit Fresh®
In the oven
Out of the oven and cooling a bit before serving
Warm peach pudding in a pool of heavy cream
Hyde Park Café Peach Pudding
- 2 pounds canned or frozen peaches (slices or halves, your choice) or fresh if you prefer
- sugar (If you use fresh peaches*)
- Fruit Fresh® or citric acid (If you use fresh peaches*)
- 2½ sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2¾ cups sugar
- 3 eggs, room temperature
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3¼ cups flour
- 1¼ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1¼ cups buttermilk, room temperature
- Thaw and drain the peaches. If you prefer, you can use fully ripe fresh peaches. It will take about four large peaches. Blanch and peel them, cut them into slices and toss with sugar and Fruit Fresh or citric acid the night before. Refrigerate until you are ready to use them.
- Using a stand mixer, beat the butter until smooth. Then cream together with the sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until the eggs are fully incorporated. Add the vanilla and beat until fully combined.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda.
- Add the dry ingredients to the batter, one-fourth at a time and alternating with the buttermilk. Beat well after each addition. Continue beating until smooth.
- Pour the batter into a greased 9 x 12 inch metal baking pan. and arrange the peaches evenly on top. Note: The batter will rise and overflow a smaller pan, and baking will be greatly prolonged in a glass pan.
- Bake in the middle of a preheated oven at 350°F for 25 minutes. Turn the pan around and bake for an additional 25 minutes. Check frequently during the last 15 minutes of burning as the topping burns easily. If it becomes too brown, cover loosely with aluminum foil. When done and the center has set, remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Cut into serving-sized squares and serve while still warm with heavy cream, whipped cream, crème fraîche, or ice cream.
During our recent visit to Shreveport, we stopped at our old neighborhood haunt several times. The chicken-fried steaks, hamburgers, and fries were all tasty and much as we remembered them. But the main purpose of our frequent visits was to get a slice of one of their famous icebox pies. Strawberry is probably the most popular, but the fresh peach and coconut cream are not far behind. Although the names identify the fillings, the rest of the contents are very similar: a good down-home crust, a layer of custard, the fruit, and real whipped cream on top that hides the contents. To assist the serving staff, every pie has a slice of fruit plunked down in the middle of the whipped cream. You can buy a whole pie and take it home. Many folks do that, and we did, too, but an honest-to-goodness North Louisiana lunch consists of the plate special of the day, along with sweetened iced tea (Is there any other kind in Louisiana?) and a big slice of pie.
Sarah decided to create a new dessert for Rich Table based upon Strawn’s peach pie. Hers became a deconstructed version with dollops of custard and whipped cream topped with fresh peaches. Along side were pie-crust sables. It turned out to be a very sophisticated dessert that became a big hit the first night it appeared on the menu.
The deconstructed version of peach icebox pie served at Rich Table, San Francisco
My version is a little more straightforward: cream pie topped with fresh peaches and whipped cream. Since peaches are in season right now, it is a perfect dessert for a patio meal at sunset.
Fresh peaches from the farmers market
Peaches peeled and sliced
Peaches covering the pastry cream, ready for the whipped cream
Peach icebox pie
A slice of peach icebox pie
Almond Pie Crust
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup almond meal
- ¼ teaspoons salt
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract
- 2 teaspoons ice water
Place all of the ingredients in the beaker of a food processor fitted with the metal blade
- Pulse several times and then process until the dough forms a ball.
- Remove the ball of dough from the processor and wrap with plastic film. It may be a little sticky from the heat of the blade. That’s ok. It will firm up in the refrigerator. Refrigerate 30 minutes or until firm.
- When you are ready to bake the crust, press the dough into the bottom and along the sides of a 9 inch metal pie pan, forming an edge of dough on the rim of the pie pan.
- Pierce the bottom and sides of the crust all over with a fork. Bake in the middle of an oven pre-heated to 425° F for 12 to 14 minutes or until the crust is a golden brown. Remove to a cooling rack and cool completely in preparation for filling.
- 1 cup whole milk
- ¼ cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 4 egg yolks, beaten until smooth and slightly foamy
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- In a heavy saucepan, bring the milk to a boil and turn off the heat
- Combine the sugar, four, and salt in a medium bowl. Very slowly pour the hot milk into the dry mixture, whisking continuously to prevent lumps of flour from forming. As you add the milk, you can increase the rate of pouring until it has been completely added to the mixture.
- Return the mixture to the saucepan and adjust the heat to medium. Stirring continuously, heat the mixture slowly until it boils and thickens.
- Remove from the heat and cool for a minute. Beat in the egg yolks. Then return to the heat, and return to the boil for one minute. Remove from the heat, and beat continuously for another minute, allowing it to cool slightly.
- Stir in the vanilla and almond extracts and butter until they are completely incorporated. Transfer to a bowl. Cover directly with plastic film and refrigerate for at least one hour until you are ready to assemble the pie.
Peaches and Whipped Cream Topping
- 5 medium ripe peaches
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar (or to taste)
- Blanch the peaches in boiling water for 10 seconds and then cool
- Peel the blanched peaches and cut them into slices. Sprinkle with sugar and refrigerate, covered, until ready to use.
- When you are ready to assemble the pie, whip the cream with confectioner’s sugar until it forms stiff peaks.
- Spread the pastry cream evenly on the bottom of the pie shell.
- Drain the peach slices if necessary, and arrange over the top of the pastry cream
- Cover the peaches completely with the whipped cream. Refrigerate for one hour before serving.