I love this time of year as fall approaches: We say goodbye to peaches and hello to apples as we shift into autumn. Shorter days promise cooler weather and deliver seasonal pleasures like nuts, fruits and vegetables.
I'll miss those beautiful peaches we've enjoyed this summer, so I decided a special dessert was needed for a proper goodbye. Peach Melba is perfect, and there's a story to savor along with it.
Peach Melba can be super fancy or quite simple with only three main ingredients: vanilla ice cream, fresh peaches and fresh or frozen raspberries. Various recipes have been floating around since the great chef Auguste Escoffier created the original more than a hundred years ago to honor the celebrated Australian opera star Nellie Melba. She stayed at the Savoy Hotel during her London appearance at the time Escoffier worked in the hotel's restaurant.
Loving the peach and raspberry pairing, I began experimenting with my own versions of the recipe years ago. Using frozen raspberries for the sauce, I added the raspberry liqueur Chambord to my version. Pushing the blended thawed raspberries through a fine mesh sieve to remove the seeds took a little time. The intensely flavored liqueur made a beautiful finish to the simple remaining puree.
I experimented with a number of fruit and liqueur combinations and even splashed a bit of peach brandy over the poached peaches, hoping to also intensify their flavor. The result left the peaches and raspberries in competition rather than complementing one another. I stuck with just infusing the sauce with the raspberry liqueur. I thought it was the ultimate addition to Peach Melba — until I recently made a discovery.
The folks who make Grand Marnier cognac have produced a lovely new signature collection blend (No. 2) Grand Marnier Raspberry Peach, combining raspberries and rare red peaches from the South of France with their famous Grand Marnier orange essence. I put a teaspoon in the hollow left in each peach half after removing the seed. It was spectacular and just right for an adults-only dessert.
This golden pink-tinged liquid is great for sipping like most brandy, but the marriage of peaches and raspberries is a unique pour reminiscent of Peach Melba.
The $40 price tag on this cognac is a little scary, but it has multiple uses as a flavoring, a tonic for a cold, a mixer for cocktails and recipes, or just a great night cap.
If you prefer to enjoy the dish without the alcohol, I recommend premium peach syrup from the Amoretti Co. You will find recipes for this syrup at amoretti.com.
Exquisite rivulets of Chambord-infused raspberry sauce over creamy vanilla ice cream and poached peaches — be still my heart. Thank you Escoffier and Nellie Melba for your inspiration.
4 peaches, ripe but firm if possible
Water in saucepan to cover peaches
Grand Marnier Signature Collection Blend (No. 2) Raspberry Peach (optional)
¼ cup sugar or peach syrup
1 pint vanilla ice cream (homemade is best)
1 (12-ounce) package frozen raspberries, thawed
½ cup seedless raspberry jam, or substitute an extra ½ cup of sugar
2 tablespoons Chambord Raspberry Liqueur
Slivered almonds for garnish (optional)
Fruit-Fresh or lemon juice
• Fill a large saucepan with enough water to completely submerge peaches, and bring to a boil.
• Prepare a large pan or bowl of ice water while waiting for water to boil.
• Using a slotted spoon, carefully place washed peaches in boiling water for about 1 minute.
• Using the slotted spoon again, carefully remove the peaches from the boiling water, quickly submerging them into the ice water to cool. Allow peaches to stay in water to completely cool them.
• Take each peach out of the ice water, gently pushing on skin to slide it away from the flesh. Discard the skin. Repeat the process.
• Cut peaches in half at natural dividing line. Remove seeds and place peaches in a bowl. Sprinkle with Fruit-Fresh or lemon juice. Move them around gently with your fingers to thoroughly coat the flesh.
• Optional: Place cut and peeled peach halves cut-side up in a shallow dish. Spoon 1 teaspoon of Grand Marnier Cognac No. 2 Raspberry Peach in each well where pit was removed. Sprinkle with sugar or peach syrup. Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator to thoroughly cool, allowing cognac and other ingredients to permeate the peaches while preparing raspberry sauce. Keep peaches covered until ready to serve.
• Thaw raspberries.
• Place raspberries with juices in blender container.
• Add jam or sugar, and process until smooth.
• Pour mixture through a fine mesh strainer using a soft spatula to push pureed raspberry mixture through separating seeds.
• Add raspberry liqueur to the remaining raspberry puree if desired.
• Chill thoroughly.
• Place a large scoop of ice cream in each dish, and add 2 peach halves.
• Drizzle each with about ¼ cup of sauce.
• Garnish with a few slivered almonds.
• Serve at once.