Sunday, July 1, 2012

The first peach of summer...

The first peach of summer is the piece of fruit that I look forward to the most.  Even more than lemons and citrus, which brighten up the cold snowy days of January and February, and berries in June, which bring the promise of summer that hasn't quite arrived yet...

Ripe peaches are summer.  Hot days and floaty skirts, pedicures and freckles on my shoulders, icy drinks and treats...

Selecting the best ones is an art.  I never buy them the first week they show up in the grocery store.  I've learned to wait, at least a few weeks, until the display counters are abundantly full, and I can have my pick of the sweetest and juiciest.  I gently press a finger against the fuzzy skin, and if I like how it feels, then I give it a little sniff.  A good peach will smell, well, sweet and peachy!

Peaches are so fantastic on their own, that a pile of them sitting in a bowl on our table are in danger of being eaten before they ever make it into a pie or crumble.  I adore them sliced on top of cereal.

After bringing back a bag of rhubarb from Jamie's parents' garden earlier this month, I chopped and froze the fruit so that I'd be able to use it as I had time.  His mom had made a strawberry rhubarb pie while we were there, and I've come to love the combination of the tart rhubarb with a sweeter fruit.  With peaches in abundance, I thought I would make a Peach Rhubarb Pie with an Oat Crumble Topping.

For a thickener, I used tapioca instead of cornstarch; however, the peaches were so juicy that I was skeptical that the filling would even thicken in the oven, so I cooked my filling first before baking the pie.  You may find that step to be unnecessary, but after my failed Rhubarb Blueberry Pie, which remained completely liquidy and did not thicken at all in the oven (that one with cornstarch), I've decided to always cook my filling first.  It just makes me feel better, knowing that I won't have to wait and wonder if it's going to turn out or not, since every piece of fruit is different and produces a different amount of juice.  I also have come to like the taste of tapioca as a thickener much better than cornstarch, but that's just a matter of preference.

The pie filling was a wonderful combination of sweet peaches and tangy rhubarb, and the oat crumble topping gave it the feel of a deep-dish crumble dessert.

In my opinion, a wedge of summer fruit pie isn't complete without a generous dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of creamy ice cream plopped on top.  I've been wanting to try a Peach Buttermilk Ice Cream, and this was my opportunity.

I cooked more peaches with a little brown sugar, butter and rum, just for a few minutes until they became very caramelly and juicy.  Reserving a few chunks of peaches to stir into the ice cream, I pureed the rest, which, when whisked together with cream and buttermilk lended such a fantastic peach flavor to the ice cream, with the rich sweetness of brown sugar.  Jamie said the tang of the buttermilk made the ice cream taste like a peach cheesecake.  Which would be pretty wonderful, too.

But peach pie with ice cream - that's just the epitome of summer.

Peachy Rhubarb Pie with Oat Crumble
printable recipe

crust and filling:
  • 1 single pie crust (click here for my all-butter perfect pie crust recipe)
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups rhubarb, chopped
  • 2 cups peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced (about 4 medium peaches)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/3 - 1/2 cup minute Tapioca
  • juice and zest of 1 lemon
crumble topping:
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

Preheat the oven to 375.  Line a baking sheet with foil.

Prepare the pie crust and place in a deep-dish pie pan.  Sprinkle the bottom of the crust with the tablespoon of flour to prevent it from becoming soggy.  Place in the freezer while you prepare everything else.

In a large bowl, combine the rhubarb, peaches, sugar, tapioca, lemon juice and zest.  Let stand for 15 minutes.  Depending on how juicy your fruit is, you may need more or less tapioca - I used the full 1/2 cup, though, since the peaches created a lot of juice.

Pour fruit mixture into a saucepan; stirring occasionally, bring to a boil over medium heat.  Once it boils, stir constantly until the juices thicken, about 4-5 minutes.  Set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine the topping ingredients, using a pastry cutter or fork to mash the butter in until coarse and crumbly.  Place topping in the freezer.

Pour the filling into the prepared crust; set pie on the baking sheet.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Sprinkle chilled topping over the filling and bake for an additional 25-30 minutes, until topping is browned and filling is bubbling.

Place pie on a wire rack to cool completely before cutting.

Yields 8-10 servings.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Peach and Brown Sugar Buttermilk Ice Cream
printable recipe
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 ripe peaches, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum
  • 1 cup 2% buttermilk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the peaches, brown sugar and rum; cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes until the peaches release their juices and the sugar is dissolved.  Using a slotted spoon, scoop out half of the peaches into a container and set aside.

Pour the remaining peaches along with the liquid from the pan into a blender and puree until smooth.  In a large bowl, whisk together the pureed peach mixture with the buttermilk, cream, salt and vanilla.  Stir in the reserved caramelized peaches.  Refrigerate mixture overnight, or until very well chilled.

Churn mixture according to the manufacturer’s instructions of your ice cream maker, then freeze until firm, about 4-6 hours.

Yields almost 2 quarts.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen