01 Aug Hazelnut-Stuffed Baked Peaches with Mascarpone Cream
Gravity. It makes things fall. It’s why sauces drip and eggs crash to the floor when dropped. It’s why coffee pours out of the carafe and into the mug — not onto the ceiling. It’s why the milk bottle stays on the shelf after you close the refrigerator door. It doesn’t explain why some people leave half a mouthful at the bottom, but that involves behavioural science, not physics, so I’ll move on.
By definition, gravity is “the natural phenomenon by which all physical bodies attract each other.” Based on this, I’m beginning to think the stone fruits of summer arrive with extra gravity. Despite their modest mass, peaches tug at my sleeve as I walk past. Plums turn my head. And small but mighty apricots? They can force me to do an about-face from 20 paces. When I try to resist I just end up circling the fruit stand like the moons of Jupiter. I get dizzy. I give in. I buy peaches. And plums. And apricots.
My theory makes sense. Like the sun and other stars, stone fruits are spherical. Like Earth, they have a solid inner core. Slice them up and the pieces look suspiciously like waxing or waning crescent moons. Coincidence? I think not.
Last week at the Farmers’ Market, the stone fruit sucked me in.
Safely home with my gravity-laden peaches, I looked for a suitable accompaniment. Hazelnuts flew across the counter like Perseid meteors streaking through the August night sky. I ground them into star dust, stuffed them into half-moons, then subjected the new formations to heat. I served the molten dessert with a Milky-Way swirl of cream.
The result? I think I inadvertently created The Black Hole of Desserts. These aromatic hazelnut-stuffed baked peaches are impossible to resist, and once you’re close enough to smell them (aka you’ve reached the event horizon) nothing and no one can escape their pull.
What food has extra gravity for you?
- ¾ cups toasted hazelnuts
- ⅓ cup brown sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 tablespoons hazelnut oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 large freestone peaches (ripe but firm)
- 2 tablespoons Frangelico
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup mascarpone cheese
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon Frangelico
- Prepare the pan and oven: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter an 8-inch square glass baking dish.
- Make the hazelnut filling: In a food processor fitted with a blade, grind the nuts, sugar, and salt until the nuts resemble couscous. Add the oil and butter and pulse until totally incorporated. The mixture will resemble coarse wet sand.
- Halve the peaches: Wipe the peaches with a damp cloth to remove any dirt. Leave the skins on so they will hold together while baking. Slice the peaches in half along the indentation that runs from the stem to the bottom. Cut all the way through the fruit right down to the pit. Twist the two halves apart, remove the pit and enlarge the cavity with a melon baller.
- Fill and bake the peaches: Place the peach halves into the prepared dish. Spoon 1 tablespoon of nut mixture into the cavity. Drizzle the Frangelico evenly over the peaches, and bake 30 to 35 minutes or until the peaches are soft.
- Make the mascarpone cream: In a small bowl, whisk the cream, mascapone, maple syrup and Frangelico until smooth. Set aside while the peaches bake.
- Assemble and serve: Allow the peaches to cool slightly before serving with a generous dollop of mascaprone cream and a drizzle of the pan juices.
This recipe is adapted from Season Fruit Desserts:From Orchard, Farm and Market by Deborah Madison (Broadway Books, ©2010.)