Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Pesche Con Crema

image Go ahead – grab a peach. But let me warn you this is no ordinary peach. This peach won’t be dripping with juice, although there will be a nice surprise waiting for you at first bite.

image It sure looks like a peach, doesn’t it?

image As do all the peaches in this basket.

image They look a lot fuzzier than most peaches, don’t they? But I promise you, you won’t want to peel them. Just grab one and take a bite.

imageSurprise! Look what’s inside! It’s a dessert that’s kind of a cross between a cookie and a cake. It’s made to look like a peach (pesca) and filled with a pastry cream. I first ate these decades ago in Italy when my cousin Lucia served them, and I’ve been wanting to make them ever since.

image

Fortunately, I found the recipe in the terrific cookbook “My Calabria” by Rosetta Costantino. The book is filled with beautiful photos, wonderful recipes and lots of information about Calabria, the region that is located in Italy’s “toe.”  It’s a region that sadly, is frequently bypassed by tourists on their way to more well-known areas, but Calabria offers so much in the way of history, art, beautiful sights and great food that it merits a visit. It also happens to be the region my father’s family hails from, so that’s reason enough to grab my interest. Even if your family isn’t from Italy, and your only trip there may be only an armchair visit,  once you see this cookbook, I think you’ll agree it’s one of the best cookbooks on regional Italian cooking available. For the record, I haven’t been paid to endorse the book. I just think it’s a really well written, well-photographed and well-researched cookbook.

Anyway, back to the peaches. I made them to take to the annual picnic held by my Italian chit-chat group yesterday and they were a big hit.

image The recipe makes 24 peaches, and my basket came home empty. They’re not at all hard to make, but they are time-consuming. Figure on two or three hours from start to finish. Let me take you through the process.

image Here’s what the dough looks like after it’s mixed – kind of like a sticky, bread dough.

image Roll the dough into balls.

image Then flatten the balls slightly.

image Bake for about 15 minutes – they’ll be pale on the top, but brown on the bottom.

image I used a small knife to dig out a little “cone” from the interior. See the pile of “cones” at upper right? I didn’t throw them out. I’ll come back to them later.

image I forgot to photograph making the pastry cream. But take my word for it, it’s easy. You should make the cream before you start the cookies, so it can have time to cool. After the cookies are cooled, you fill the shallow cut-out area with the pastry cream. Place two filled cookies together, and when they’re all filled, let them sit in the refrigerator an hour or so. They’ll be firmer and stick together better when you dip them in the liqueur. Add  food coloring to the liqueur to get the desired shade of peach, then dip the cookie into the liqueur and roll it in sugar. Use a toothpick to pierce a small hole on top, and insert some leaves. I used actual peach tree leaves, courtesy of a total stranger who lives a few blocks from me. I walk by the house frequently and I knew the people living there had to be Italian, judging by the large vegetable garden and fruit trees dominating the yard. The lady of the house, who obviously had been working in her kitchen, since she arrived at the door wearing an apron, told me in her heavily accented Italian, to help myself to whatever I wanted.

The leaves really gave the peaches an even more realistic look, but you may not be as lucky as I was, to have an accommodating stranger with a peach tree in her backyard. If you aren’t, then search out some lemon verbena leaves, which also resemble peach tree leaves, or use mint leaves, which are easy to find this time of year.

image Oh and back to those little “cookie cones” that I cut out from inside the cookie. I used some of them, along with some leftover cream, to make a “peach tiramisu” in a  dessert glass. Just layer some of the cream, some of the “cones,” a sprinkling of liqueur and some cut-up fruit in a dessert cup, then repeat the process, ending with fruit on top. I would have used fresh peaches, had they been ripe and in season, but the mango I had in the house was a nice substitute.

image

Pesche Con Crema

From “”My Calabria” by Rosetta Costantino

Printable Recipe Here

  • For the Pastry Cream
    • 2 cups whole milk
    • Zest of 1 lemon, removed in large strips with a vegetable peeler (I didn’t use lemon zest at all, but instead, used a vanilla bean. I also added 1 T. almond extract.)
    • 4 large egg yolks
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • For the Dough
    • 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 tablespoon baking powder
    • 3 large eggs
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • 3/4 cup milk
    • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
    • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • For Assembling Peaches
    • 1/2 cup light rum or 6 tablespoons Italian maraschino liqueur plus 2 tablespoons peach schnapps (I used peach schnapps and no other liqueur since I wanted the peach flavor to dominate.)
    • Red and yellow food coloring
    • 1 cup sugar, or more as needed for coating
    • Fresh peach leaves or decorative sugar or chocolate leaves
  1. Make the pastry cream: In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring milk and lemon zest to a simmer over medium heat. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale yellow; add flour and whisk until well combined.

  2. Remove lemon zest from milk and discard; slowly whisk hot milk into egg mixture. Return mixture to saucepan and place over medium heat; cook, stirring constantly, until cream thickens and begins to boil.

  3. Transfer pastry cream to a large bowl; cover with plastic wrap, pressing down on the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Let cool completely.

  4. Make the dough: In a large bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder. Whisk eggs in another large bowl. Add sugar and whisk to combine. Whisk in milk, butter, and lemon zest until smooth. Gradually add flour mixture, mixing with a fork, until dough is smooth and stiff. Let dough rest for 5 minutes.

  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with nonstick baking mats; set aside.

  6. Using a lightly mounded tablespoon of dough, roll the dough firmly between your palms to make a smooth round ball, about the size of a walnut. Repeat process, taking care to make sure all the balls are fairly uniform in size. Place balls on prepared baking sheets spacing about 1 inch apart; you should be able to fit 24 balls on each baking sheet. Flatten tops slightly with your fingertips.

  7. Transfer to oven and bake until bottoms are lightly browned, about 15 minutes; tops will remain pale. Transfer to a rack and let cool slightly.

  8. Assemble the peaches: While the cookies are still warm, use a small, sharp knife to cut a circle about the size of a quarter on the bottom (flat) side of each cookie, taking care not to crack the edges. Use the tip of the knife to scrape out enough crumbs to make hollow and hold about 1 teaspoon pastry cream. Set cookies aside.

  9. Place rum or maraschino liqueur and schnapps in a small bowl. Add enough red and yellow food coloring to create your desired shade of peach; set aside. Fill a shallow bowl with sugar; set aside.

  10. Fill each hollowed-out cookie with 1 teaspoon filling. Sandwich two cookies together so that the filling comes just to the edge, taking care not to crack or break. Using a pastry brush, brush "peach" with colored liquor and roll in sugar to coat. Transfer to a large airtight container and repeat process with remaining cookies, liqueur, and sugar. Cover container and transfer to refrigerator; let chill overnight.

  11. Just before serving, pierce each "peach" with a toothpick where the two cookies come together and insert the stem of a peach leaf. Alternatively, you can garnish cookies with decorative or chocolate leaves.

36 comments:

Mister Meatball said...

Yowza!!!!!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Those are so pretty! A beautiful confection. *drool*

Cheers,

Rosa

Marysol said...

You know, for years, I thought Pesche was Italian for 'fish.' I can't tell you how relieved (and not nearly as confused) I was when I learned the actual meaning.

Back to the peach cookies, I love them! You did a beautiful presentation, putting them in a basket.
I've been wanting to make them for about a hundred years, and I think that time has finally arrived.

Gracie said...

My mom bakes the most delicious peaches I've ever tasted! I wish I could try yours too....

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Italian lesson for today:
pesca - peach (pronounced PES-kah)
pesche- peach - plural (pronounced PES-keh)
pesce - fish (pronounced PEH-sheh
pesci - fish - plural (pronounced PEH-she)

Claire @ Live and Love to Eat said...

Those are beautiful and decadent!

Stacey Snacks said...

These are absolutely beautiful! I love My Calabria, it's truly one of my favorite cookbooks.
I won't make these, too difficult on the baking scale for me, but I would love to eat one! What a visual delight, your group must've been thrilled!

Anonymous said...

Such beauties!
Used to make those in Russia some 30 years ago. Baked them on halves of walnut shells. Then you don't need to cut anything from inside. Filled them with cream made of a can of sweetened condensed milk beaten with 250 g of soft room temperature butter and 1-2 tbs. of cognac; and to color them used freshly squeezed beet and carrot juices.
But I love the pastry cream and don't love sweetened condensed milk. So, have to try your recipe. May be would start baking them again.

Saw them on Italian blogs, but google translation is not always accurate.

Thank you very much for the recipe and such beautiful presentation!!!
Rimma

janie said...

These are beautiful! I don't know if I have the patience for all the steps. Great job!

Cathy said...

A knockout dessert! Absolutely beautiful, Linda.

Proud Italian Cook said...

Wow, You're amazing! I love the presentation with the leaves, beautiful, and I can just imagine how they tasted with that rich pastry creamy! Pat gifted me that book when she came here I saw this recipe in there, never would I attempt to make it, but your step by step is tempting me! Very immpressive my friend!

Peter M said...

A very involved recipe but worth it...I'd give them a go! These are pretty beyond belief and I'd pop a few in my mouth.

The Food Hunter said...

Thank you for sharing this recipe. I remember these from when I was little and have not been able to track down a recipe. I can't wait to make them.

Claudia said...

I swore I wouldn't bring a cookbook into my home in 2011 - ha! - I've been eyeing that book for months. I know it's walking in here. I've seen this dish once before - never so elegantly presented. The cookie cone - the bottom part of the peach? - is it harder? - how will I know it? (I'm really interested - I just think I'll cut out the wrong thing).This is astonishing in the best possible way - I need to send it around and share your peaches.

Barbara GF said...

You are too much, Linda! This is one of the most unusual desserts I have ever seen. I really thought they were whole peaches that were sugared or something - how I would have loved to join you in making them! Even more so, I would love to bite into one. Che bella! I will have to add that cookbook to my wish list. And you're lucky to have that Italian neighbor with the peach tree in her yard. :-)

joey said...

Stunning post! I want a bite ... but almost too pretty too eat! If together, dear Marysol and I might just finish them :)

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

I saw. Rosetta make these on Martha Stewart! Yours look as good as hers, Linda! I love this cookbook. My husband actually had tears in his eyes reading some of Rosetta's memories, as they are very similar to his memories of Calabria .

Rosetta Costantino said...

Linda,

The peaches you made look so beautiful. Some of your readers should watch the video where I showed them how to make them step by step on the Martha Stewart show so they can feel confident to make them as they are fairly easy to make. I am so happy to hear that you are enjoying my book.
Here is the link: http://www.marthastewart.com/show/the-martha-stewart-show/the-holiday-baking-show?video_id=d5e11c7ac840d210VgnVCM1000003d370a0aRCRD

black eyed susans kitchen said...

I am so impressed! What a fantastic dessert and such a surprise.

Linda said...

Oh my those look amazing!

Anonymous said...

Hi, Linda. I keep coming back just to take a look at them. Thanks again for sharing the recipe!
Rimma.

Daniela said...

mi piacerebbe provare a fare queste bellissime pesche! se mi verranno bene te lo racconterò! un bacione grande
Dani

Melissa @IWasBornToCook said...

These are beautiful. I bet they taste even better than they look, if that's possible!

A Feast for the Eyes said...

Wow! These really do make a statement. They don't look difficult, you're right. I can see that the painstaking part would be cutting out the cones. I LOVE how you recycled the cones. The tiramisu looks equally beautiful!

bellini said...

I just love surprises!!!!

emiglia said...

Wow! So pretty! I've never heard of these, but am struck with the desire to make them.

lisetta said...

Wow! I've often eaten these little peach cookies at the "cookie tables" of my Italian friends' weddings back in Pittsburgh, but never imagined actually making them myself. Thanks for sharing the step-by-step. These look beautiful!

Lori Lynn said...

Hi Linda - those are fabulous! I adore that cookbook, and love the way you arranged the peaches in the basket.
LL

Patty said...

Wow Linda, these are little masterpieces...so perfect that seems real peaches! And should be so delicious. Your stay in Italy made you a real Italian at heart. I will follow you with pleasure. Baci, Pat

Lucia said...

Wow!!! Sono stupende, complimenti!!!

Antonietta said...

Oh Wow- My mom used to make these at every family party. I love them!

Sue said...

Hi Linda,
How are you?!

I've never seen anything like those. They are absolutely gorgeous. And the photos are incredible.

As far as your Italian lesson, it's amazing what one vowel can do.

Katie Parla said...

wow i am speechless. those are absolutely gorgeous. bravissima!!!

Anonymous said...

These look delicious! I might try doing an apricot or plum version instead of peach...

Thought you should know, though, that the sidebar link for this article (this image http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-8CKGp0lY3n0/TqANO-4ejJI/AAAAAAAAE-w/TDb4lGD6PsU/s187/pesche%2Bcon%2Bcrema.png captioned "pesche con crema") points to your http://ciaochowlinda.blogspot.com/2010/05/spaghetti-ai-frutti-di-mare-spaghetti.html article instead. The image was so tempting I had to search through your blog so I could find the recipe!

Ciao Chow Linda said...

anonymous - thanks for the comment and for pointing out the incorrect link. all fixed now.

AdriBarr said...

Hi Linda, WOW!! Those are just spectacular. I reviewed Rosetta's very wonderful book after it was released, and of all the very tempting recipes, that one tops my list. I have meant to make them for ages, and now you have given me the necessary push! Thanks you for the inspiration.