When I was a little girl, I used to play a secret game at the dinner table. I would identify my favorite food on the plate and save a bit of it off to one side to enjoy last. I wanted the special taste to linger in my mouth—and in my mind—after the meal ended. When dinner was almost over, and I’d patiently finished the rest of the meal, I would close my eyes and savor that last luscious bite of goodness. That’s how I feel about summer. While I never want it to end, there are good reasons to look forward to its final moments. Like peaches and sunsets. They are both worth waiting until the end of summer for.
As summer passes the halfway mark and rounds the corner towards Fall, sunsets grow more vibrant and intense until the evening sky is a pigment-streaked painting of gold, pink and red brushstrokes. That’s what I saw the first time I pulled my Baked Sunset Peaches with Amaretti Filling from the oven—golden spheres rimmed in ruby red and awash in a bright magenta syrup. They looked like a late summer sunset in all its glorious splendor and I named them appropriately on the spot. And, after taking the first bite, I knew there was even more reason to love them.
There’s something magical about the combination of peaches and almonds. Both have unique aromatic qualities that are complimented when they unite and intensified when they are cooked. Here, rosy-skinned yellow peaches are filled with ground almonds, sugar, and peach pulp then baked until spoon soft and golden. The sweet crackle of the caramelized surface gives way to a pudding-like consistency of deeply flavored cooked peach followed by a delicate, chewy filling that leaves a whisper of almond essence on the palate. But—like the soul-satisfying taste of a late summer sunset—one must wait patiently until the latter half of the season to make this dish when the right kind of peach is ripe.
Even though peaches come in hundreds of varieties, they are usually only categorized by color—whether they are yellow or white. But an important distinction between peaches—and one that is essential for this dish—is whether they are clingstone or freestone. Luckily, their names give clues to help understand the difference. Clingstone peaches, that are available in early summer, have flesh that clings to the stone or pit. When the fruit is cut in half, it is very difficult to separate because the flesh stubbornly sticks to the pit. They’re the kind of peach you want to bite into and let the juice drip down your chin, but are not appropriate for cooking because they melt. Contrarily, freestone peaches, that are only available in the latter half of summer, have flesh that separates freely from the stone. They are easy to cut in half and separate with a gentle twist, and the pit comes away effortlessly. Freestone peaches have a compact texture that holds up to heat, making them perfect for baking. Only freestone peaches are appropriate for this dish and worth waiting for until late summer.
I love cooked fruit desserts and this one is my own personal twist on a classic Italian dish that fills peach halves with crushed Amaretti cookies before baking. But instead of using store-bought cookies, which can result in a dry, artificial tasting center, I make my own amaretti cookie filling of ground almonds and sugar infused with peach pulp for extra flavor. When baked inside the peaches, it becomes a delicate yet chewy center that surprises and delights. Before baking, I christen the peaches with white wine or Marsala, which mingles with the rosy color of their skins and creates a gorgeous magenta-tinted syrup in the pan. My dressed up Baked Sunset Peaches with Amaretti Filling are quick and easy to prepare and serve warm or at room temperature with a soft dollop of lightly whipped cream. The sensual, satisfying taste and texture will make them one of your favorite desserts and worth the wait to savor that last, luscious bite of summer.
Watch as I make my Baked Sunset Peaches with Amaretti Filling step-by-step in this TV appearance below: