Peach Baked Alaska

Peach Baked Alaska

Oh, meringue, how you continue to make a fool of me. Meringue and I have a love/hate relationship dating back to my French cooking class in 2008 with Chef Francois. He taught us how to make delicately light and crisp (and let’s not forget “easy!”) Pavlova meringues with passion fruit. When it came time for me to replicate this marshmallow-y sweetness at home, I was left with a burnt pan of flat liquid egg whites. Hmmf! Two more failed attempts at tweaking the recipe, I broke up with meringue and wrote it off forever.

When I found this recipe in Real Simple this month, I decided to give meringue a second chance. Maybe it was my craving for ice cream. Or summer peaches. Or Francois’ cooking. I don’t normally give second chances… I mean, it’s a break up for a reason… but I thought the recipe looked simpler.

Then I quickly learned my dating mantra was yet again true when my roommate described my first attempt at Peach Baked Alaska as “melted Eggs Benedict.” Fail.

But if you personally know me, I don’t give up on something I believe in. I believed in this Peach Baked Alaska. I researched tips for making meringue and Baked Alaska. And with my last peach, I succeeded!

So follow my tips included in the recipe. It will keep it from looking like melted Eggs Benedict.

Peach Baked Alaska

Peach Baked Alaska

Adapted from Real Simple

2 peaches, halved and pitted
Vanilla ice cream
2 large egg whites at room temperature
Pinch of salt
Pinch of cream of tartar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Approximately an hour before you’re ready to serve the Peach Baked Alaska, place a baking sheet in the freezer. Wash, cut in half and pit the peaches. Put a large scoop of vanilla ice cream in the center of each peach like a bowl. Put peaches filled with ice cream in the freezer.

Tip 1: Freezing the pan and the peaches will keep the meringue from melting instantly off of the ice cream when baking. This will also give you the combination of frozen fruit, smooth ice cream and crispy, warm meringue when finished.

When you’re ready to serve, preheat the oven on broil at 450 degrees.

Tip 2: Broiling will cook the meringue a lot quicker than baking. If you wait for it to bake, the ice cream is going to melt. If you have a mini torch for creme brulee, you could also lightly torch the meringue. If you choose to use this method, I would skip the step of freezing the pan, peaches and ice cream since that is strictly needed for the oven!

Separate the egg whites into a metal or glass bowl. Add a pinch of salt and beat with an electric mixer until foamy. Next, add the cream of tartar, and beating on medium-high speed, slowly add 1 tablespoon of sugar at a time over 2-3 minutes until meringue becomes smooth, glossy and stiff. 

Tip 3: It is best to use a metal or glass bowl when making meringue. Plastic bowls are more porous and tend to keep oils or grease even when clean. The slightest trace of oils can keep meringue from stiffening.

Place frozen peaches on the pan from the freezer. Cover the ice cream with the meringue. Broil in the oven for 2-3 minutes until meringue lightly browns and becomes slightly crispy. Generously serves four!

Peach Shortbread

White Peach Shortbread

I hope everyone enjoyed the long 3-day holiday weekend. The weather was beautiful and marked the end of summer, but a welcome of cool, fall evenings. I enjoyed reading by the pool and on the balcony, dinner and outdoor drinks with friends, and baking the last of summer’s fruit before fall hits full force with football Sundays, chili, pumpkins, apple crisp, and turkey.

This week’s posts will all be an ode to summer with some of my favorite seasonal recipes I’ve made over the last few weeks. You still have a few weeks to enjoy them, too!

When I found today’s recipe for peach shortbread over at Smitten Kitchen last week (you have to check out her pictures, they are so lovely!), I just knew I had to make it immediately. I often find recipes I want to try and they sit in my queue for weeks or months.

If you check out the pictures of the peach shortbread over at Smitten Kitchen, you will notice the beautiful yellow and red colors from the peaches. Yellow peaches have higher natural acidity, so while they’re sweet, you also have a tangy taste with each bite. When I went on my hunt for peaches, I found beautiful, large white peaches for my shortbread. White peaches are lower in acidity. You’ll taste no tartness, only a floral sweetness. I thought this was perfect for such a sweet dessert.

I also added water to the recipe based on the comments from the original recipe. When you “brown” butter, it evaporates the water. Adding water back into the recipe helps make the shortbread more moist.

Peach Shortbread

White Peach Shortbread

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1 large egg
4 teaspoons water
2 peaches, pitted and thinly sliced (between 1/8 and 1/4-inch thick) 

First begin by browning your butter. The extra time spent browning the butter is definitely worth it and adds a nutty flavor to the shortbread (my taste-tester even agreed the butter made this recipe complete). To brown butter, melt butter in a small or medium saucepan over medium-low heat. It will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty (this took approximately 30 minutes).

Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom as you do. As it begins to brown, you will see brown particles at the bottom of the saucepan. Keep your eyes on it; it burns very quickly after it browns and the very second that you turn around to do something else. Set it in the freezer until solid (about 30 minutes).

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9×13 inch pan with a non-stick spray. In a medium bowl, stir together sugar, baking powder, flour, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg with a whisk. Using a fork or your fingertips, blend the solidified brown butter, egg and water into the flour mixture. It will be crumbly.

Layered Peach Shortbread

Pat 3/4 of the crumbs into the bottom of the prepared pan, pressing firmly to create a crust. Layer the  peach slices over crumb base. Scatter remaining crumbs evenly over peaches.

Bake for 30 minutes, until top is slightly brown and you can see a little color around the edges. Cool completely in pan before cutting into squares.