Summer fruit with sweet stuffing

Peaches, apricots, nectarines and plums make a great dessert when you replace the pit with a delicious filling.

peach 521 (photo credit: Creative Commons)
peach 521
(photo credit: Creative Commons)
A perfect peach is delicious on its own, and the same could be said for summer’s other stone fruits – apricots, nectarines and plums. For a festive meal, however, each of these fruits can be turned into a delightfully simple dessert. An easy way to make a sweet finale from summer fruits is to stuff them. There’s no need to core them like apples. You just remove the pit, and you have a natural cavity ready for a spoonful of sweet stuffing.
Cooks in Italy are fond of stuffing peaches, especially with a mixture made from amaretti, or small macaroons. To make this dessert, wrote Nick Malgieri in Great Italian Desserts, you puree a few peaches and mix them with the crushed macaroons, sugar and egg yolks. You cover the pitted peach halves with the filling, drizzle them with butter and bake them.
This popular Italian dessert has inspired creative cooks to come up with other nut fillings for fruit. Deborah Madison, author of Seasonal Fruit Desserts, chooses a hazelnut filling for her peaches. The ground roasted nuts are mixed with sugar, butter and a little hazelnut oil.
Roasting is a favorite technique of Madison’s for cooking stone fruits. “Heat brings out the flavors of fruits, while high heat, produced during roasting... brings out fruits’ sugars. The result is a slick of caramel on the base of a ...baking dish, which, when diluted with a little water, alcohol or cream, adds a hint of burnt sugar.”
In addition, roasting can improve fruits whose flavors lack luster. “And when fruits are at the peak of their flavor, such cooking concentrates their sugars and flavors.”
Lindsey Remolif Shere, author of Chez Panisse Desserts, likes to stuff nectarines, which “have slightly firmer flesh and a tarter, spicier flavor than that of their peach relatives.” Her nut filling is made from chopped toasted almonds mixed with crushed amaretti cookies, butter, sugar, egg yolks and kirsch (clear cherry brandy). She advises baking the fruit until it is tender when pierced with the tip of a knife but still holds its shape. Berries are the ideal garnish, and bitter almond or sauternes ice cream make the best accompaniments.
Marlene Sorosky prefers her stuffed apricots uncooked. In The Dessert Lover’s Cookbook, she uses a stuffing of macaroons mixed with toasted pecans, butter and cinnamon. The stuffed apricots “make a beautiful addition to a fresh fruit platter.”
For a quick treat, Madison fills halved apricots with honey, broils them briefly and serves them with cold creamy yogurt, creme fraiche or mascarpone and a garnish of pistachios. This simple dessert reminds me of a Turkish treat made of poached apricots stuffed with kaymak, the superb clotted cream, and sprinkled with pistachios; I tasted the traditional version, which makes use of dried apricots, but I have no doubt that fresh ones would be great this way, too.
Americans often use cream cheese in fillings for fruit. Sorosky flavors cream cheese with sugar, grated lemon zest and lemon juice and uses it to stuff lightly poached peaches, which she serves with blueberry sauce.
Stuffed fruit also plays a part in French haute cuisine. The stuffing can be a glazed walnut inserted into a vanilla- syrup-poached peach in place of its pit. For an elaborate presentation, the legendary French chef Auguste Escoffier served the stuffed peach on a bed of vanilla and raspberry ice cream, covered it with praline-flavored whipped cream and finished it with pink spun sugar.
Another classic creation uses vanilla ice cream as a filling for poached peach halves, which are glazed with thick apricot sauce and rolled in caramelized slivered almonds. This sounds lovely already, but the recipe, named ‘Empress peaches,’ calls for setting the peach on a bed of genoise cake moistened with kirsch, which in turn is placed on an apricot-glazed pastry base. It, too, is covered with spun sugar.
Unlike fall fruit such as apples and quinces, summer fruit needs only brief baking. Madison suggests using a toaster oven when roasting a small amount of fruit to avoid heating the kitchen.
The writer is the author of Fresh from France: Dessert Sensations and, in Hebrew, of Sefer Hakinuhim, the Book of Desserts.
This recipe is from Deborah Madison’s Seasonal Fruit Desserts. To sweeten the filling, Madison recommends using maple sugar or organic brown sugar.
“When it comes to peaches, leave the skins on, as they act as a container for the flesh and make them easy to handle. Look for freestone varieties,” she wrote. “The filling keeps for weeks in the refrigerator or freezer, the makings for a last-minute dessert.”
3⁄4 cup toasted hazelnuts (see Note below) 5 Tbsp. brown sugar, plus extra for the top 1⁄8 tsp. salt 11⁄2 Tbsp. hazelnut oil 11⁄2 Tbsp. unsalted butter 4 freestone peaches, ripe but still firm Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur), sweet wine or water
Preheat oven to 175ºC (350ºF). Grind the nuts with the sugar and salt in a food processor until small but gritty pieces remain. Add the oil and butter and pulse until the mixture is moist and almost sticky.
Wipe the peaches with a damp cloth, then slice them around their seams (the indentation in the skin), going clear to the pit. Twist the halves apart and remove the stones. Enlarge the cavity a bit with a teaspoon.
Mound the hazelnut mixture into the fruits, then put them in a baking dish. Pour in a little Frangelico and bake until the filling is lightly browned and the fruits are soft, about 25 minutes. The peaches will give off their juices, which mingle with the Frangelico and butter to make a sauce. Serve while they’re still warm, but not piping hot.
Note: To toast hazelnuts, bake them in a shallow baking pan in a preheated oven or toaster oven at 175ºC (350ºF) about 8 minutes or until their skins begin to split. Transfer them to a strainer and while they are hot, remove most of skins by rubbing nuts energetically with a towel against strainer. Cool the nuts completely before grinding them in the food processor to make the filling.
Makes 4 servings
This dessert is made from uncooked apricots. Use ripe, tender ones. Chilling them with a sprinkling of sugar softens them slightly.
You can stuff the apricot halves by spooning or piping whipped cream into each one. For a faster dessert, simply cover all the apricot halves with whipped cream before sprinkling them with the sugar-glazed almonds.
12 apricots 5 to 7 Tbsp. sugar 6 Tbsp. blanched almonds, chopped 2 Tbsp. sifted powdered sugar 1⁄2 to 1 cup whipping cream 1⁄2 to 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract 2 Tbsp. kirsch (clear cherry brandy)
Hale and pit the apricots. Put them in a serving dish and sprinkle them with 4 to 6 Tbsp. sugar. Refrigerate them for 1 hour.
To make sugar-glazed almonds, preheat oven or toaster oven to 200ºC (400ºF). Put the almonds in a baking pan and sprinkle with the powdered sugar.
Toast for 5 or 6 minutes or until they brown lightly, stirring once or twice. Take care that the sugar doesn’t burn. Immediately transfer them to a plate to cool. A short time before serving, whip cream with 1 to 2 Tbsp. sugar and the vanilla in a chilled bowl until stiff. To serve, sprinkle kirsch over apricots. Spoon whipped cream into each one and sprinkle with the chopped roasted almonds. Serve immediately. Serve remaining whipped cream and any extra glazed almonds separately.
Makes 6 servings