Peaches bring out the best and worst in us. It’s not us really. It’s the damn peaches. They are so very, very frustrating to work with. They can rot in an hour. They can be rock hard for days, seeming to never want to ripen. Or they can ripen and have very modest flavor. It’s always a gamble.
I love a sliced ripe peach topped with a little sugar. Okay, drenched with sugar — it brings out the juice. My next favorite peachy thing is ice cream, with pure peach flavor.
And surprisingly, it’s hard to do. First there is the issue of the ripeness and sweetness and flavor level of the peaches. Worse, for some reason, peach ice cream recipes are all over the map. A classic ice cream has a custard base — which may intimidate people although it is nothing more than boiling some dairy products and carefully mixing with egg yolks. Dorie’s recipe below gives you the perfect, and quite simple, instructions for carrying out what is really a modest step.
Yet, today, I was googling recipes and saw all sorts of nonsense: like no custard at all. Just puree some peaches, mix in with milk and raw egg and freeze. Yum. I can see those little germs with their scuba gear on just waiting to swim into my intestines.
No, I want my custard, for texture and safety. And I want sweetness. So on the web I found this wonderful idea from Dorie Greenspan. Cook some of your peaches in honey, to achieve lots of sweet flavor. Of course, the custard is made with egg yolks and sugar too so there is sweetness aplenty here.
Because of the peach issues, some flexibility is always a wise idea. Our peaches today were not hard, but they did not blossom with flavor. So we added the juice of one lemon. If you have serious “underflavor” problems, you can add some peach jam or preserves. Every time is going to be different, but this recipe gives you the foundation you need for success.
And how did this one come out? Great texture with a mild, not overpowering, peach flavor. It’s fine to enjoy by itself, or to pair with a slice of pound cake or angel food cake.
Go ahead. Master making a custard, and playing with your peaches.
Honey Peach Ice Cream
Yield: 1 quart
- 4 large ripe peaches
- ¼ cup honey
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 3 large egg yolks
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
Chop 2 of the peaches into 1/2 inch chunks and toss them in a small saucepan. Add the honey and bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover the pan and cook until the peaches are soft (about 10 minutes). Scrape the mixture into a blender or food processor and puree. Set aside.
Bring the milk and cream to a boil in a saucepan. Meanwhile, whisk the yolks and sugar together until blended in a heatproof bowl. Drizzle in a bit of the hot milk mixture to temper the eggs (making sure they don’t curdle). Slowly add the rest of the milk mixture. Pour the milk/egg mixture back into the saucepan and heat while stirring until it thickens. Remove from the heat, pour into a heatproof bowl, and stir in the vanilla and peach puree.
Refrigerate the custard until chilled. Scrape into the bowl of an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. While the ice cream is churning, dice the remaining 2 peaches and add them just before the ice cream is thickened. When the ice cream is ready, pack into a container and freeze for at least 2 hours until it is firm enough to scoop.
Source: Dorie Greenspan in Baking: From My Home to Yours
“No,” Suzen was insistent.
“I need it for a drink recipe.”
“Improvise.” She walked down the aisle and I just stood there looking longingly at the bottle of peach syrup.
Improvise I did. The first peaches of the season have arrived, and we face the same issue as always: they are rock hard when we buy them and then at some point they are peak and shortly after that they are way over top. That “peak” period may only be a few hours long depending on the temperature.
But pre-peak, at peak, or even post peak, here is the ideal way to use those peaches in a brilliantly bright beverage. The recipe below, from 101 Blender Drinks by Kim Hassarud, does call for peach syrup. For the 1.5 ounces of syrup, I substituted 1 ounce of peach brandy and 1 ounce of simply syrup.
This cocktail is potent with flavor. For appetizers, it is best matched with equally strong flavors: herbed sour cream with celery sticks, crackers topped with roast beef and horseradish, …
It’s a bit surprising but Kim Haasarud lists the fresh peaches as optional, suggesting that all the peach flavor come from the peach syrup. For me, the peaches are essential, adding both flavor and body to this drink.
Frozen Peach Julep
Yield: 1 drink
- · 2 ounces bourbon
- · 1 ½ ounces white peach syrup (such as Monin)
- · 2-3 mint leaves
- · ½ cup fresh peaches, peeled and chopped coarsely
- · Dash of fresh lemon juice
- · Mint sprig for garnish
Combine the bourbon, white peach syrup, mint leaves, mint, and lemon juice in a blender and blend for about 5 seconds. Add about 1 cup of ice cubes and blend to a smooth consistency. Pour into a rocks glass and garnish with a mint spring.
Source: 101 Blender Drinks by Kim Hassarud,