Simple beauty and deliciousness is what makes this recipe from Emiko Davies a keeper.
By Emiko Davies
Simplicity. It’s such a reassuring concept. Everyone knows that the simple things in life are often the best, and honestly, who doesn’t need to simplify their lives every now and then? No one needs to overcomplicate their lives.
And at this time of year, when the holiday rush and madness seems to be over and – well here in the Southern Hemisphere anyway – the long summer days call out for time to be spent enjoying them, you can relish in having a simple and impromptu meal, perhaps whipping this up even at the last minute with the abundance of ripe summer peaches.
I have been eyeing this recipe for a long time, after spotting it in not one but two of my favourite old cookbooks, patiently waiting for peaches to come in to season so that I could finally try it. Now that I’ve finally been able to make and taste it, I can positively say that I’ve found one of the most wonderful, simple summer desserts of all time – it’s going to become a staple dish for as long as peach season lasts.
I first saw it in Ada Boni‘s Talisman – that classic 1920s Italian housewives’ cookbook. Known in Italian as Il Talismano della Felicità (the Talisman of Happiness), my 1950s English edition (found by luck and chance in a vintage shop) is simply called The Talisman Italian Cook Book. It’s an extremely abridged version (with an excellent introduction I must add), with a selection of the recipes that were found “most adaptable” to American 1950s households, as well as the addition of some Italian-American recipes deemed necessary in an Italian cookbook, something that in itself I find incredibly interesting and telling of the kitchens of the time. But, importantly, this 1950s version for American households eliminated any of the recipes that were not strictly of Italian origins – recipes that perhaps served Ada Boni’s original idea behind the book, a collection of recipes for the “modern” Italian woman.
It was indeed a book that, along with Pellegrino Artusi’s classic, printed 38 years earlier in 1891, was intended especially for new brides and made its way to the shelves of most kitchens across Italy.
Ada Boni calls this dish “Peaches Piemonte Style,” which describes a dish of halved peaches, baked with a filling of crumbled amaretti biscuits, a Northern Italian specialty. The 1950s English translation calls them “macaroons”, which is not far off in that they are very similar to coconut macaroons but made with almond meal, egg whites and sugar.
I immediately consulted my bible of Piemonte cuisine, Nonna Genia, a beautiful cookbook full of nostalgia and recipes especially from the Langhe area of Piemonte. Sure enough, there was the recipe for pesche ripiene, stuffed peaches. They are almost identical recipes, with the exception of one ingredient and one detail. Beppe Lodi’s recipe in Nonna Genia includes two spoonfuls of cocoa powder in the filling and insists that these should be served hot or tepid, never cold (Boni states they can be served hot or cold).
Artusi also has a similar recipe in his 1891 cookbook for pesche ripiene but the filling consists of savoiardi (also known as lady fingers) biscuits and freshly pounded blanched almonds – I suppose in the absence of amaretti, you could go this way instead.
I used Ada Boni’s recipe, but taking a cue from Nonna Genia, I added a grating of chocolate on top of the peaches just before serving, which did not go unappreciated. There is something about the almond biscuits, the fresh peaches, and chocolate which are just perfect partners in this easy, gluten-free summer dish.
- 7 peaches
- 2 tbs sugar
- 1 tbs butter, plus extra for greasing
- 5 amaretti biscuits, crushed
- 1 egg yolk
- Some shaved or grated dark or milk chocolate
- Cut 6 of the peaches in half, removing the pits and scooping out some extra pulp from each half to combine with the filling. Add this extra pulp to the mashed or chopped pulp of the last peach together with the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Place the peach halves face up in a well-buttered baking dish and fill the halves with the amaretti and pulp mixture. Bake in a moderate oven (180°C) for about 1 hour or until the peaches are cooked through and browned on top.
- Serve hot or tepid, with a grating of dark or milk chocolate over the top. It would go down nicely with with a glass of Moscato.
Emiko Davies is a food writer, photographer and illustrator who Amanda Hesser calls the "Renaissance Woman for the Internet Era". She lived in Florence, Italy, for seven years where she nurtured her love of regional Italian cuisine and now calls Australia's food capital, Melbourne, her home.