I can live through the heat of summer knowing that peaches are in their prime.
When I lived in Hawaii during high school, I had no clue what sort of things I would miss from the Mainland. In particular, I took stone fruit and peaches for granted. I knew they existed but I never full appreciated a ripe, succulent peach until I realized Hawaii only had these hard rocks that called themselves peaches. Sometimes they'd ripen but the texture would be off; grainy-like and lacking flavor. Or even worse, they'd be ripe on the outside but hard on the inside.
But now, I know better. Peaches and other stone fruits are best in the summer near the place they were harvested, not imported from the middle of the Pacific. I cringe a little but I will splurge at the farmer's market for rosy-orange peaches. I'm one of those who picks through the pile looking for the best ones; the ones that are heavy like a baseball and give slightly when you squeeze them so they don't over ripen. But I always pick one that is just ripe so I can consume it immediately. Sometimes I cut it into slices and I cheer when the pit comes out easily. Other times, I'll find a nice place to sit and eat it with the juices running down my arm. In these instances, I'll try to be discreet and pick the fibers out of my teeth. Peach eating is never a lady-like activity.
Baking with peaches is another favorite summer pastime. I'll crank on my oven and sweat in my kitchen if it means I can have peach pie, peach cobbler, or peach crisp. And that's what I did a few weeks ago immediately when I got home from my internship after seeing a peach crisp in a copy of Bon Appetit magazine. I wanted that for dessert.
Crisps are one of those desserts that you can throw together with what you have in the kitchen. I just wanted peaches but any berries, stone fruits, apples, and pears will work instead. The fruit should be cut in good sized chunks. I pitted and cut these 5 peaches in 8 wedges and flavored them with brown sugar, white sugar, ground nutmeg, ground cinnamon, garam masala (only because I had it on hand), lemon juice and zest, and a little bit of salt.
To make the crisp, oats are a must in my opinion. You can include nuts or keep them out. I had some honey roasted almonds on hand so I tossed a handful in there too. It's important that the butter is cold before making the topping. I find it's easier to make the topping if you pre-cut the butter with a knife beforehand. Toss the cut butter, oats, nuts, flour, and salt together in a bowl. Then, use a pastry cutter or fork to cut down the topping so the butter chunks reduce to approximately pea-sized pieces and everything is thoroughly combined.
To bake the crisp, you can use any oven proof dish that has some depth to it. I used my cast iron skillet but a pie dish, cake pan, square pan or casserole dish would work as well. Dump all the peaches in a baking dish and sprinkle on the topping. Bake in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 25-35 minutes or until the fruit is bubbling and the crisp is golden brown.
I maybe had it for breakfast too.
Spiced Peach Crisp
Yields: 8 servings
5 peaches, sliced in 8 wedges
½ cup of brown sugar, packed
¼ cup of granulated sugar
1 lemon, grated for zest
3 tablespoons of lemon juice
½ teaspoon grated cinnamon
½ teaspoon garam masala (optional)
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter (1 stick), chilled & diced
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup old fashioned oats
¼ cup almonds (or other chopped nuts)
⅔ cup brown sugar, packed
½ teaspoon salt
Wash, pit, and cut peaches into 8 wedges.
Place in a large bowl and toss with the brown sugar, granulated sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, cinnamon, garam masala, nutmeg, and salt.
Pre-heat the oven to 350ºF.
Place all topping ingredients in a medium bowl. Using a pastry cutter or fork, cut down the topping so the butter reduces to approximately pea-sized chunks and everything is thoroughly combined.
Dump all the peaches in a baking dish and sprinkle on the topping.
Bake for 25-35 minutes or until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden brown.
Serve immediately with ice cream, yogurt, or as is.
It will keep at room temperature for 2-3 days. After that, store in the refrigerator if it lasts that long.