Northwest farmers markets were overflowing with fresh peaches this past weekend. And the selection is just beginning.
So far, I’ve seen Red Rose, Suncrest, Angelus, August Lady, Blushing Star, Snow Giant, Hale, Red Gold, Regina, September Snow, Summer Lady, and Yukon varieties. There are so many choices that making a decision can be difficult. Unable to make up my mind, I sampled peaches at the Portland Farmers Market on Saturday and then again at the Hillsdale Farmers Market on Sunday.
In Hillsdale, I got lucky and chose Summer Lady for what I hoped would be a divinely inspired peach and blueberry crisp. The flavor was amazing, and the sign sold me further, specifically the claim that Summer Lady is the “peachiest” peach. In addition to full peach flavor and lush juiciness, these peaches have good acidity to balance their sweetness. This is critical when you plan to cook the peaches.
So with fresh peaches and blueberries in hand, I decided to push the boundaries of my fruit crisp repertoire. I could have simply made a standard fruit crisp, with little more than perfect fruit, sugar, and the typical streusel topping. No one would have scoffed or declined dessert. But what fun is that?
Instead, I amped up the flavor with fresh ginger, lime zest, lime juice, and vanilla in the filling and toasted hazelnuts and brown sugar in the topping. I love the result. This fruit crisp easily moves to the head of the pack in The OtherWorldly Kitchen.
I’m hopping over the store right now for a quart of Haagen Dazs Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. Could there be a better accompaniment to a warm, oozing spoonful of fragrant peaches and blueberries studded with crunchy bits of toasted nut pastry?
How to Peel a Peach
Peach skins are tough and chewy, making peeling a necessary step. The easiest and best-looking way to peel a peach is to blanch it first.
Here’s the process:
- Fill a large saucepan halfway with water and bring to a bare simmer.
- Next to the stovetop, set a large bowl filled with ice water.
- Cut a shallow, 1-inch long crisscross at the base of each peach. This will give you a starting point for peeling the peaches later.
- Add 3 peaches at a time to the barely simmering water and blanch for 1 minute, turning the peaches several times to ensure that all surfaces are blanched.
- Remove peaches with a slotted spoon and immediately plunge into the ice water. This prevents the peaches from cooking.
- Beginning at the base of each peach, where you made the crisscross, peel the peaches. If any of the peaches do not peel easily, simply return to the hot water for another minute or so.
The Crunchiest Streusel Topping
I have been plagued the past few season with soggy streusel toppings, even though the method I use has not changed over a couple of decades. What I always did in the past was set the oven at 350°, top the fruit filling with streusel, cover with foil, bake for 30 minutes, remove the foil, and bake for 30 minutes longer. That used to work. Now, it produces a topping that melts into the fruit filling and doesn’t achieve the distinctive crunch that is so appealing.
So with this attempt, I took a wild leap of faith and baked the fruit filling alone for 30 minutes, uncovered it, added the streusel, increased the oven temperature to 400°, and baked for 25 minutes. Bingo, perfectly crunchy streusel!
Ginger-Lime Peach & Blueberry Crisp with Toasted Hazelnut Streusel
When you are hankering for pie but don’t have the time or inclination to make a pastry crust, a streusel-topped fruit crisp is the answer. The aroma, flavor, and contrasting textures of this crisp are so over-the-top delicious, you won’t miss the crust at all.
butter for baking dish or ramekins
Toasted Hazelnut Streusel
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup hazelnuts, lightly toasted, skinned, and chopped
¾ cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
Ginger-Lime Peach & Blueberry Filling
5 cups peeled, sliced peaches (5 large peaches; 30 ounces prepared)
2 cups blueberries, cleaned (8 ounces)
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons peeled, minced fresh ginger
finely grated zest of 1 large lime
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 tablespoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- Lightly butter an 8- by 8-inch (7-8 cup capacity) glass or ceramic baking dish or four to six 1½-cup capacity ramekins. Reserve.
- Set an oven rack in the middle position and heat the oven to 350°.
- To prepare the streusel, combine the flour, hazelnuts, brown sugar, sugar, and salt. Cut in the butter until mixture is evenly crumbly.
- To prepare the filling, in a large mixing bowl, gently combine the peaches, blueberries, sugar, ginger, lime zest, lime juice, vanilla, cornstarch, and salt. Allow to sit for 15 minutes to draw out the juices.
- Spoon the peach and blueberry mixture into the prepared baking dish or ramekins.
- Lightly cover the baking dish or ramekins with foil, and bake at 350° for ½ hour.
- Remove foil and carefully (so as not to burn yourself) sprinkle the streusel evenly over the top of the large crisp or sprinkle ¾ cup of streusel over the top of each individual crisp. Raise the heat to 400° and bake an additional 25-30 minutes, until streusel is nicely browned and fruit is bubbling at the sides.
Makes one, 8- by 8-inch crisp or four, 1½-cup individual crisps.
Cookin’ with Gas (inspiration from around the web)
- We Are Not Foodies: The Easy Way to Peel a Peach
- Saveur: Video: How to Quickly Peel Peaches and Tomatoes
- About.com: Video: How to Peel a Peach
Copyright 2011 Susan S. Bradley. All rights reserved.