Sunday, July 22, 2012

"Do I dare to eat a Peach"

From The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Eliot

"Do I dare to eat a peach?"

a line from The Love song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Inspired by so many beautiful Eliot images on the web, I originally wanted to write about T. S. Eliot in my blog. Snippets of poetry from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock were racing through my head, specifically, "In the room the women come and go talking of Michelangelo", "I have measured my life in coffee spoons", and "Do I dare to eat a peach".  Peaches!   In an instant my mind jumped from poetry to peaches.

After nectarines, peaches are my favorite "stone fruit", as food writers now call them. The season is in full swing and the markets are overflowing with varieties like Spring Flame, Suncrest,  Z Lady, Rio Oso, and fragrant white varieties like Babcock. I stocked up, and after letting them mature for a few days (peaches will only soften, not sweeten, after they are picked),  they were ripe, juicy and ready to go. I have four favorite peach dishes that I make when summer sidles into Berkeley; not counting eating them with juices dripping down my chin. (Note: Peach juice stains clothing quite aggressively, so if stains occur, quickly flush the area with cold water and wash with some laundry detergent such as "Planet." The stain will disappear if treated immediately.)

Grilled Peaches
This is a delicious sweet/savory accompaniment to grilled chicken, easily accomplished by anointing clean, dry peaches with olive oil and grilling on a torrid grill until grill marks appear and juices caramelize. In a pinch, these can serve as dessert with ice cream, the juices congealing into a syrupy sauce.

The next three dishes are strictly desserts:

Peach Gallette  ( photo courtesy of Kat's Patisserie)
Peach Gallette
Gallettes are a rustic free-form version of a tart without the tart pan, and the combination of flaky pastry topped with vibrant fresh fruit lightly glazed with sugar and jam is truly scrumptious. Since I use Silpat liners (nonstick silicone baking mats made in France),  there is no need to transfer dough to a tart pan. I can roll out the pastry dough right on the silpat liner, transfer the liner to the baking sheet and then arrange the peaches, apples or plums on top, and bake. No wonder professional bakers love them, and home bakers too.

Peach Kuchen from the Tassahara Bread Book
Peach Kuchen
A treasured recipe from The Tassahara Bread Book (see below) described as "A peach-jewel mosaic set in custard baked on a sweet crust."
2 cups flour
1/4 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
12 skinned  peach halves (dip peaches in boiling water for 10-15 seconds, then peel)
1 t cinnamon
2 egg yolks beaten or 2 whole eggs
1 cup heavy cream or sour cream
                                                                                                [serves 2-12 (did they eat dinner first?)]
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and 2 T. of the sugar. Cut the butter into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter or in the food processor until it looks like coarse meal. Press this firmly into a baking pan (9"X 13"). Arrange the peach halves on the surface. Mix the remaining sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle it over the fruit.
Bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees, then beat the yolks together with the cream and pour it over the top, and bake an additional 40 minutes at 375 degrees or until the peaches are soft and the custard has thickened.
(Note: I halved the recipe with good results in the photo above and did not peel the peaches, which adds color and texture.)

Raspberry sauce for Peach Melba
Peach Melba
A simple but perfect combination of peaches, poached quickly in a sugar syrup, skinned, halved with the stones taken out, and served with vanilla ice cream covered with raspberry sauce. This dessert was created by Auguste Escoffier for the famed Australian opera star Nellie Melba in 1892.

Raspberry sauce is easily accomplished by swirling fresh raspberries with sugar-to-taste in a food processor and then forcing the mass of red pith and seeds through a fine strainer. Straining is actually quite tedious and I have yet to find the perfect tool. The beautiful ruby sauce keeps for weeks in the refrigerator. Beware of folks who suggest that frozen berries are as good as fresh; in my experience, fresh is best!

Peach segment from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

sign in Tassahara Zen Center Kitchen

Featured books:

Those of us who made bread in the '70s are very familiar with The Tassahara Bread Book by Edward Espe Brown. We relied on his thorough recipes and  that familiar type face to teach us the rudiments of bread-making and reminders of the Zen method: "bread makes itself" and "recipes don't belong to anyone, given to me, I give them to you." The book is rooted in the Tassahara Zen Center, the first one in the US, started in Carmel Valley in the 60s.  Ed Brown was the cook and gentle teacher of Zen Buddhism to all  who shared his passion for freshly made bread and the joy of baking it. Published in 1970, we now see the paperback twenty-fifth anniversary edition in bookstores. Yet, however much I enjoy bread making, my copy opens most readily to the stained page 131 with recipe #99 for Peach Kuchen.

Epitaph for a Peach by David Mas Masimoto is a story of one critical year in the life of an organic peach farmer. The book chronicles the year Masimoto attempts to save the 'Sun Crest', one of the last remaining truly juicy peaches. It is a lyrical, sensuous and thoroughly engrossing memoir, and it has it all: drama, suspense, poetry and peaches! The book originated with an article the author sent to The Los Angeles Times and then expanded into this book which was published by Harper San Francisco in 1995. He has now gone on to write other wonderful books.


Disclaimer: No books were harmed or composted in creating this blog


  1. This made me want to go to my bookshelf and get down my old Tassajara Bread Book. It's been unused for such a long time. I'm also so intrigued to read EPITAPH FOR A PEACH. I'm thrilled to say that it is still in print and available on Amazon. Your knowledge of books is so praiseworthy. So is the beautiful photo of the peach kuchen.

    1. I must admit, after I took many mediocre peach kuchen photos, Dean snapped this one

  2. this blog made me think of the song "Peaches" by The Presidents of the United States of America

    "I took a little nap where the roots all twist
    Squished a rotten peach in my fist
    And dreamed about you, woman,
    I poked my finger down inside
    Make a little room for an ant to hide
    Nature's candy in my hand or can or a pie"

    I actually never liked peaches growing up. I think it had something to do with the fuzzy skin. But I actually like them now. I recently made peach margaritas and they were fab!