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Whole Roasted Peaches with Fresh Almonds and Pistachios
Recipe from pastry chef Jacques Torres' cookbook Dessert Circus: Extraordinary Desserts You Can Make Everyday William Morrow & Company Inc. Publishers 1998

Yield: 8 servings

  • 1/2 cup slivered pistachios
  • 1/2 cup slivered blanched almonds
  • 8 peaches
  • 1 1/2 cups vanilla sugar* (see below)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup + 2 Tbls. water

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

If you cannot find slivered pistachios, buy whole ones and sliver them yourself. To do this, use a sharp paring knife to cut the pistachios in half lengthwise. If the pistachios are large, cut them in half again lengthwise.

Randomly press the slivered pistachios and almonds into the peaches. The skin of the peach will help to hold the nuts in place. The nuts should be spaced about 1/3 inch apart. Sprinkle half of the vanilla sugar evenly over the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking pan. I prefer to use a heavy copper pan because the copper distributes the heat evenly. It is important to use a pan deep enough to catch the juices of the peaches as they roast. Place the peaches on top of the sugar. Liberally brush the peaches with the melted butter; I use my spray bottle to squirt the entire peach with butter. Sprinkle with the remaining sugar. This will give the peaches a nice crust when baked. Pour the water into the bottom of the pan.

Place the pan in the oven and roast for 10 to 15 minutes. The roasting time will vary according to the ripeness of the peaches. As the peaches are roasting, baste them about every 5 minutes with their juices to keep them moist and flavorful. The peaches are ready when they are slightly brown on top, the skin has loosened slightly, and they can be pierced easily with the tip of a paring knife. Their consistency will be similar to that of the flashy part at the base of your thumb.

Remove the pan from the oven and place the peaches on a plate. Strain the peach juices through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl. If you are serving adults, you can add a little Stoli Persik vodka to the juice to give the sauce a little pizzazz. Pour the sauce over the peaches and serve immediately. I think vanilla ice cream is an excellent complement to this dessert.

*Vanilla Sugar: To make vanilla sugar, place any cleaned, used vanilla beans on a baking sheet and set aside until dry. There is really no specific recipe for vanilla sugar. Any amount of granulated sugar will do. With less sugar, the vanilla flavor will be strong. I usually mix one vanilla bean with about 2 cups sugar. When the vanilla beans are dry, place them in a food processor with the sugar and process on high speed until the vanilla and sugar appear to have the same texture, about 1 minute. Pass the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any large pieces.

If you don't have a food processor, you can simply place the dried vanilla beans in some granulate sugar and store in an airtight container. The sugar will take on the flavor of the vanilla. Another way to make vanilla sugar is to use the vanilla seeds. Use a sharp knife to slice the beans in half lengthwise. Separate the seeds from the skin by scraping the blade of the knife along the inside of the bean. Mix the seeds and some granulated sugar together in a bowl. I rub the vanilla seeds and sugar between the fingers to ensure that the seeds are evenly distributed.

Vanilla sugar will keep indefinitely in an airtight container at room temperature.