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Just peachy: Favorite summer fruit is at its most bounteous

By Sara Pitzer
For The Salisbury Post
I’ve never met a soul who didn’t like fresh peaches, maybe because they’re available for such a short time and are so delicate. Last year was a big disappointment for local peaches, but this year they’re in good supply and are especially nice. I like to buy them when they’re ripe, or nearly so. A little time stored in a loose brown paper bag is a good way to finish the ripening process when necessary.
When you can find peaches as nice as those we’re getting this year, the logical thing to do with them at first is ó nothing. Just peel, slice and eat. I know some people who eat them like apples, not even bothering to peel.
But after you get over that initial gobble, it’s nice to have a few simple treatments for variety. My very favorite is peaches with whipped cream and cream puffs. Somehow, cream puffs have gotten a reputation for being difficult to make, but it’s actually easier and quicker to make a cream puff than it is to bake a cake or pie. Another thing I like about this recipe is that you can make it for as many or few people as you wish. The cream puffs freeze beautifully, so you can have some always on hand.
Peaches and Cream Puffs
For the peaches and cream:
Heavy cream
Sugar to taste
A few drops almond extract
Sliced peaches
Whip the cream until it is stiff enough to stand in soft peaks, then whip in a little sugar and the almond extract. Puree enough of the peaches in a blender or food processor to make about half the volume as the whipped cream. Fold together the puree and whipped cream, then mix in the sliced peaches. Serve with tiny cream puffs, like cookies.
For the cream puffs:
1/2 C. water
4 T. butter
1/2 C. all purpose flour
2 eggs
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bring water and butter to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat and stir in the flour, all at once, beating hard with a wooden spoon. The flour and water will come together to form a stiff ball. Next, beat in the eggs, one at a time. At first it will look as though the flour ball won’t absorb the egg, but keep beating for a minute or two and it will. Then beat in the second egg. Using a half-teaspoon, spoon the dough into little mounds onto two baking sheets lined with parchment. Bake one sheet full at a time, for about 20 minutes. (You can work on filling the second sheet as the first one bakes.) The cream puffs should be golden and crisp. When baked, move them to a wire rack and make a slit in the top of each puff to allow steam to escape.
If you want larger cream puffs, just make the mounds larger and increase the baking time proportionately. Makes about 30 small puffs.
Peach Crumble
This old recipe is so easy you can make it almost without thinking. Using brown sugar instead of the more typical white lends an extra layer of flavor. This crumble is really good served warm with ice cream.
2 C. sliced peaches
1 T. lemon juice
1/2 C. brown sugar
1 C. graham-cracker crumbs
2 T. melted butter
Sprinkle the peaches with the lemon juice, then mix in the brown sugar, graham-cracker crumbs and melted butter. Spread in a shallow greased baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Makes about 6 servings.
Peach Longcake
When the late Betina Spaulding was innkeeper at Hickory Nut Gap Inn, one of her specialties was Peach Longcake ó her answer to all those shortcakes. This is my version of her idea, and it’s a rare instance in which I find a freezer-case product, Sara Lee pound cake, works just fine. If you’re inclined to bake your own pound cake, though, so much the better.
1 pound cake
1/2 C. marmalade or strawberry preserves
2-3 C. sliced peaches, sweetened to taste
Whipped cream
Slice the pound cake in half, lengthwise, and toast it lightly. It may fit in your toaster oven. Otherwise use the broiler. Cool. Spread a thin layer of preserves on one half of the cake. Add a layer of peaches. Top with the other half of the pound cake and cover with sweetened peaches. Serve with generous dollops of whipped cream. Makes 6-8 servings.

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