A blissfully simple way to serve seasonal peaches
This recipe was inspired by my article on the delicious pleasures of peaches. It is a blissfully simple way to serve thinly sliced peaches in season, by arranging them atop a crunchy biscuit base and a fluffy cloud-like layer of whipped cream and mascarpone. Use a mix of yellow and white peaches for better colour and keep the skins on for the same reason.
The sugar-frosted redcurrants are an extravagance, but they do help the taste as well as the appearance. If frosting them is too much effort, scatter a handful of a contrasting coloured berry: brambles or blueberries or raspberries are all nice. Finally, if you do have exquisite peaches, omit the sugar syrup and simply enjoy the peaches and cream, unadorned and pure.
When I made this with peaches in the UK, nice as they were, it still needed a flavour boost. The biscuit base and cream layer can be made as much as 24 hours in advance, just cover and refrigerate, but put the peaches on just before serving as they need to be room temperature, not chilled which dulls the taste.
250g plain biscuits, such as digestives or petit beurre, coarsely broken
100g unsalted butter, melted
250g whipping cream
1-2 tbsp caster sugar
1 ripe yellow peach, washed and well dried
3 ripe flat white peaches, washed and well dried
For the sugar syrup:
55g caster sugar
1-2 tsp orange flower water
For the redcurrants:
6-8 pretty bunches of redcurrants on the stem
1 small egg white
Caster sugar, for dredging
23 cm springform pan
To prepare the redcurrants. Set a cake rack in a tray to catch the drips. Put the egg white in a small bowl and whisk until frothy. Put a thin layer of sugar on a small plate. Hold the redcurrants by the stem and, using a pastry brush, dip the brush into the beaten egg then brush this over a stem of redcurrant to coat all over. Roll/dredge the currants in the plate of sugar, turning to coat as evenly as possible.
Carefully lay the stem on the rack and leave to dry. Repeat until all the redcurrant stems are coated. Check after about 1 hour, and re-dredge in the sugar if necessary. Leave for at least a few hours until the coating hardens. Overnight is ideal (but do not refrigerate).
Put the biscuits in a food processor and process until you have a fine crumb. Add the melted butter and pulse for a few secs to mix in. (You can also do this by putting the biscuits in a sturdy plastic bag and bashing with a rolling pin, then transfer to a bowl and mix with the melted butter.)
Press the buttered crumbs in an even layer on the bottom of the pan. Refrigerate.
Make the sugar syrup by putting the water and sugar in a small pan and heat till it is just about boiling. Stir to fully dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat, let cool for about 30 mins, then stir in the orange flower water. Potency varies according to brand, so start with 1 tsp then taste and adjust as desired. It should be noticeable but not overpowering. Cover and set aside.
Put the cream and mascarpone and sugar (amount depends on personal taste and flavour of the peaches; err on the side of less if you’re not sure) in the bowl of a mixer and whip until it holds firm peaks.
Spread the cream in an even layer on top of the crumb base, cover with cling film and refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours, or preferably overnight.
When about ready to serve, run a knife carefully round the edge, then loosen and carefully remove the pan edge. It’s impossible to get the cake off the base but, if you like, set this on a larger plate for serving. You may need to put a folded, lightly dampened serviette or something to stop the cake from sliding if the plate is not completely flat.
Halve the yellow peach then quarter the side with the stone in, then thinly slice. Set aside (use a chopping board or large plate to lay them out neatly. A bowl might damage the slices). Repeat with the white peaches.
To arrange, begin by laying about ¼ of the yellow slices on top of the cream, in no particular order—the more willy-nilly, the better. Then add some white peach slices. Continue layering them up, alternating colours, until the cream is mostly covered and you are happy with the distribution.
With a pastry brush, dip into the scented sugar syrup and lightly dab/brush a good coating over all the peaches. Lay the redcurrants on top. Serve soon.
Recipe and image: Laura Hutton