Here’s a recipe for a great summer dessert: Find a perfectly ripe peach. The kind of peach that yields just so when pressed gently at the stem end. A peach that gives off its sweet aroma while it warms up on the kitchen counter. A peach that can barely contain its own juices.
Now, take that peach in your hand; stand facing the kitchen sink, or better yet, outside with the sun on your face; bend slightly at the waist; and chomp and slurp. What could be better than that?
Unfortunately, that perfect peach has been somewhat elusive this season, at least in the Northeast. Because of a cold blast in February that killed off burgeoning peach buds, this year’s supply is way down. And even if the peaches are splendid where you are, there are only so many you can eat out of hand.
Fortunately, we have peach desserts. Even less-than-wonderful peaches can be made into something heavenly with the heat of the oven, a bit of sugar or a swirl through a river of freshly whipped cream. Frozen peaches are even serviceable in a pinch.
First, an ice cream cake. Those three words have the power to make any 5-year-old yip with delight. But a from-scratch version, upgraded with layers of luscious ice cream studded with peaches, raspberry purée and a tender butter cake, would make even the most stoic adult swoon.
It’s nostalgic. It hits a multitude of cravings. It announces the apex of a summer party like nothing else. And it can be put together at home, even if you don’t have an ice cream maker.
No-churn ice cream, usually made by folding together sweetened condensed milk, whipped cream and flavorings, makes a fine substitute for the real thing. But while that concoction can be nice set atop a waffle cone, the sweetness of the condensed milk tends to overpower more-delicate flavors like peach.
A simple solution is to swap out the condensed milk for equal parts fruit preserves and evaporated milk. With the addition of some fresh chopped peach, you have a creamy base full of peach flavor with much less sugar. (Softened store-bought ice cream is a delicious option, too, though a slightly messier one.)
The butter-cake layers add an elegant touch to the finished product. They also give you something to chew on while the sweet cream and tart raspberry layers melt in your mouth.
If this summer’s heat index hasn’t sullied the idea of a warm dessert, peach cobbler is a second, indulgent way to go. Cool vanilla ice cream won’t find a better place to nestle than a bed of bubbly biscuit-topped fruit.
Tiny wild blueberries make a lovely addition; their tart juice works beautifully with the honeylike sweetness of the peaches. If you can buy fresh wild blueberries at the market, use them, but frozen wild berries are widely available and can go straight into the mix, no thawing necessary. (Cooking them from frozen even helps to keep the fruit mixture from overcooking and becoming mushy while the biscuits bake all the way through.)
Large conventional supermarket blueberries work, too, but shouldn’t be your first choice; they are watery and have a weaker flavor.
Some cobblers have biscuits that are rolled out and cut into rounds. Others boast a layer of buttery yellow cake. Even pie pastry makes an appearance once in a while.
These drop biscuits are enhanced with toasted hazelnut flour. Nutty and sweet, the hazelnut adds depth and a pleasant heft. Their crunchy tops and pillowy middles do a fine job absorbing that sweet peach nectar – the taste of summer itself.
Peach and Blueberry Cobbler With Hazelnut Biscuits
Yield: 8 servings
Total time: 1 hour
For the biscuits:
1 / 2 cup/56 grams hazelnut meal
1 1 / 2 cups/190 grams all-purpose flour
1/3 cup/65 grams granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 / 2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 / 2 cup/115 grams cold unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into pieces
1/3 cup/75 milliliters cold heavy cream, plus more for brushing top
1 / 4cup/60 milliliters cold whole milk
Sanding sugar, for sprinkling
For the filling:
2 to 4 tablespoons sugar (depending on how sweet the fruit is)
1 / 2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped (or 1 1 / 2teaspoons vanilla extract)
2 pounds/910 grams ripe peaches (3 to 4 medium peaches), pitted and cut into eighths (no need to peel)
2 cups/320 grams blueberries, preferably wild, either fresh or frozen (no need to thaw)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Pinch of kosher salt
1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a small skillet, cook hazelnut meal over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until golden and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool completely.
2. Prepare the filling: Combine sugar and vanilla seeds in a 2-quart baking dish and use your fingers to grind them together. Add peaches and blueberries, sprinkle with the cornstarch and salt, and gently toss to combine.
3. Prepare the biscuit topping: Combine cooled hazelnut meal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Cut butter into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture resembles coarse meal with a few pea-size pieces. (Pop the flour mixture into the refrigerator for a little while if the butter has gotten warm.)
4. In a small bowl, combine cream and milk and then, with a fork, stir it into the flour mixture just until evenly moistened. Don’t overwork the dough.
5. Drop the dough in 8 to 10 apricot-size balls (a scant 1 / 4cup) on top of the fruit mixture. Brush the tops of the dough balls with cream and sprinkle with sanding sugar.
6. Bake until fruit is bubbling, topping is golden brown, and a toothpick inserted into the center of one biscuit comes out with moist crumbs attached, 40 to 45 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Peach-Raspberry Ice-Cream Cake
Yield: 10 to 12 servings
Total time: 1 hour, plus 8 hours of chilling
For the peach ice cream and raspberries:
1 ripe peach, finely chopped (about 170 grams/1 1 / 4 cups; no need to peel it)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 cups/240 grams raspberries, lightly mashed
1 / 2 cup/154 grams good-quality peach preserves, large fruit pieces chopped
1 / 2 cup/120 milliliters evaporated milk
Pinch of salt
1 1 / 2 cups/360 milliliters heavy cream
For the cake:
3 / 4 cup/95 grams all-purpose flour
3 / 4 teaspoon baking powder
1 / 2 teaspoon kosher salt
5 tablespoons/70 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing pan
1 / 2 cup/100 grams granulated sugar
1 / 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
2 tablespoons/30 milliliters whole milk, at room temperature
1 ripe peach, thinly sliced (no need to peel it)
1 / 2 cup/60 grams raspberries
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan and line with parchment paper. Butter the parchment.
2. Macerate fruit: In a small bowl, combine chopped peaches and 1 tablespoon sugar. In another bowl, combine mashed raspberries with 1 tablespoon sugar. Let both macerate for at least 1 hour while you bake the cake.
3. Prepare cake: In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
4. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium, beat together butter and 1 / 2cup sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl, then beat in vanilla extract and the whole egg. Scrape down sides of bowl again, then beat in egg yolk. With the mixer on low, beat in half the flour mixture, followed by the milk, and then the remaining flour mixture.
5. Transfer batter to pan and spread it into a thin, even layer. Bake until cake is golden brown and springs back when pressed lightly, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool in pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Run a small thin knife or spatula around the cake, then carefully turn out onto rack to cool completely. Discard parchment.
6. Prepare ice cream: In a large bowl, combine preserves, evaporated milk, salt and macerated peaches, plus any juices. In another large bowl, whip cream to stiff peaks (do not overbeat). Gently fold cream into peach mixture.
7. Assemble ice cream cake: Line a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving a 6-inch overhang on each side.
8. Cut cooled cake into thirds, making three rectangles 9 by 4 1/3 inches each. (You want a 1/4-inch border of space around each cake layer once it’s in the loaf pan; depending on the shape of your pan, you may need to trim cake.)
9. Add a third of the cream mixture (about 1 1/3 cups) to pan and smooth into an even layer. Top with one cake layer, pressing down slightly so cream comes up and around sides of cake evenly. Drain mashed raspberries, then spread half the fruit onto cake. Repeat process a second time, adding another third of the cream; a cake layer, pressing down slightly so cream comes up and around sides; and remaining raspberries. Add remaining cream, then top with final cake layer, pressing down slightly so cream comes up and around sides. Use plastic overhang to wrap cake up tightly. Freeze until firm, at least 8 hours.
10. To serve, toss sliced peach with 1 / 2 cup raspberries and 1 tablespoon sugar and let macerate until a bit juicy, about 10 minutes. Remove cake from freezer, unwrap, and lift out of pan. Invert onto a serving plate and let stand at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes. Top with peach-raspberry mixture.