Fresh Baked Peaches

In a moment, I’ll show you how to make this tasty dessert. It’s easy. It’s delicious. It’s summer in a ramekin. I’m horrified that I’ve never made it before.

But first, a public service announcement.

Don’t be scared of ugly fruit.

A blemish, a torn bit of skin, or an asymmetrical shape do not a bad fruit make. Just like a frizzy hair day (read: every day I spend in the South) doesn’t make me a bad person. Contrary to what grocery stores would have you believe, not all squash produce pops out of the ground coated in wax and uniform in shape and size. Embrace variety.

“Seconds”, as you’ll see and hear them called, can provide an extremely economical way to buy fresh, local produce in bulk. While Grade A  (code for pretty freakin’ perfect) produce is usually sold at the farmers market by the quart, pint, or pound,  seconds are usually sold in bulk for a very low price so the farmer can avoid trucking home boxes of excess, super-ripe produce.The first batch of peaches I bought this season (about a month ago, amazingly… NC peaches ripened in mid-May) were seconds, and instead of paying $5 a quart, I paid $2 for an entire bagful that is now mostly sliced and in the freezer. This week was even better: the peach lady only had seconds available by the time I made it to the market, asked me how many I wanted, and wouldn’t let me pay her a dime for the eight peaches she placed gently in a bag.

Not too shabby, right?

If you frequent farmers markets or buy directly from farm stands, keep your eye out for seconds. Some vendors will have a seconds section, others keep them to the side until the Grade A produce is sold. If you don’t see any, ask! Chances are you’ll get a sweet deal.

End of announcement. On to dessert.

This is one of those deceptively simple desserts. Or maybe people will know it’s easy, but they won’t really think about it because it tastes so good. A peach, some sugar, a lightly greased baking dish, and 40 minutes in the oven are all it takes. You can serve it hot or cold, over ice cream, frozen yogurt, whipped cream, or all by itself. And it really is quite easy. The hardest part, actually is peeling the peach.

But wait! There’s a trick for that, too. A quick bath  (25-40 seconds) in boiling water followed by a plunge into cold, and the peach will almost peel itself. Almost.

From there, you just add the sugar, cover it, and stick it in the oven.

When it’s done baking, just plop the peach on top of  something creamy and tasty in a pretty little dish, and I bet your friends will scarf it down before the ice cream melts. Just be sure to warn any dull-witted guests that there IS a pit inside the peach… consider yourself warned. Enjoy!

Fresh Baked Peaches
Adapted from Meta Given’s Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking
Makes one succulent peach

This recipe can be prepared for any number of peaches.  The one-to-one ratio of peach to sugar makes this an easy recipe to adapt for any occasion.

1 ripe peach
1 T white sugar
1/2 T water

Preheat oven to 350 ºF. Lightly grease the bottom of a small, covered baking dish (if you don’t have a cover, you can use aluminum foil.) Wash and thinly peel the peach. If the skin does not peel easily, dip peach in a small pot of boiling water for 25-40 seconds the plunge into cold water. After that, the skin should come off very easily. Place the peach in the baking dish stem-side up. Sprinkle the sugar over the peach keeping as much of the sugar on the fruit at possible. Add water to the base of the dish and cover. Bake for 20 minutes, then turn the peach over with tongs. Restore the cover and bake for another 20 minutes.

Remove dish from oven and remove cover. Flip the peach over again and allow it to cool for 5-10 minutes. For the best wow factor, serve the peach hot over vanilla ice cream. Divine. And seriously, don’t eat the pit.