A peach twist on an old favorite

September 1, 2015

Move over, cherries. It's peach season!

Move over, cherries. It’s peach season!

Anyone who’s ever attended a church pot luck in the South has partaken of cherry cheese pie. This simple and sublime concoction consists of sweetened condensed milk, cream cheese, vanilla and a little lemon juice, whipped together until it’s smooth, poured into a pie shell, and stuck in the fridge to firm up. After a few hours, it’s topped with some cherry pie filling,and then it’s ready to run a close race wtih the pecan pie for first empty dish on the dessert table.

Here’s a twist on that. Forget the cherries. Top that baby, instead, with a concoction of fresh peaches and a thick glaze.

Sweet Baby Jesus.

As noted, the pie is simplicity itself. Soften an 8-oz. package of cream cheese until it’s room temp. Start beating it with your mixer — a stand mixer is a fine, fine thing — and add a can of sweetened condensed milk. (If, btw, you don’t believe me and google “cherry cheese pie,” the first or second entry that pops up is the Eagle Brand version of the recipe, which is what I’m giving you here.) Add a third of a cup of lemon juice, and a teaspoon of vanilla, and beat until it’s absolutely smooth.

During the process, especially if you’re using a stand mixer, you will want to stop and scrape down the sides and along the bottom of your bowl to get the cream cheese the beater doesn’t reach. Otherwise, you’ve got lumps, and lumps ain’t good.

Pour the batter into a deep-dish graham cracker crumb pie crust. If you don’t have such, it wouldn’t hurt to make it crustless, but for the fact it’d be hard to get out of the dish. If this doesn’t bother you, go for it. I also expect you could use a regular pre-baked pie crust.

Anyway. Cover that with plastic wrap, stick it in the fridge, and set about licking the bowl and the beaters clean. Then turn your attention to peaches.

Pit, peel and roughly dice a large peach, and put it in a saucepan. Cover it with a cup of water, a half-cup of sugar (you can use more if the peach is really tart, but it’s easy to get it too sweet) and boil it until it’s completely soft. Take your immersion blender to it and puree it until it’s smooth. Add a teaspoon of almond extract. Almonds go marvelously well with peaches.

In a small bowl or cup, mix a tablespoon of cornstarch with a couple of tablespoons of water until smooth. Add that to the peach sauce, and cook it, stirring periodically, until it thickens. Set it aside to cool.

Meanwhile, pit, peel and slice enough peaches — I think I used three — to cover the top of your pie. Once the pie’s cooled and firmed up a bit, arrange the slices on top in a nice spiral pattern.Then take your completely cooled glaze and pour over the pie, being sure to coat every peach slice (so they won’t turn brown in the fridge, and thus make your pie lag in the race for the empty dish award on the dessert table). Cover it back up, try to forget it’s there, and unveil it to many ooohs and ahhhs. And that’s before they try a bite.

This stuff, folks, is only one bite short of heaven. A small bite. If you really wanted to gild the lily, you could pipe some barely-sweetened whipped cream on top before you served it. I’m afraid that might actually be overkill. Personally, I think this version is FAR beyond the cherry variety. But then, I do love me a peach.

This sauce is a versatile one. It’s what I used for my peaches and cream bars last week, and I’ve used it with chopped fresh peaches stirred in as a topping for cheesecake. You can also go a more savory route, eliminating the sugar and using some salt and chile peppers of some variety, along with maybe some allspice and cumin, to make a sweet-hot sauce that’s excellent on pork or chicken. You could leave the sugar, add a healthy helping of horseradish, and have a fine Jezebel sauce. The addition of some Asian seasonings would make it a great sauce on chicken or shrimp over rice, and dosing it liberally with curry powder would take you in an Indian direction.

You ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em get busy and make use of the fresh peaches while they’re here. Let me know any new and inventive ideas you come up with!

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