Sunday 13 April 2008

baked stuffed peaches

This is the last installment from my five course Italian feast!

Peaches were my mother’s favourite fruit, but she had an intense aversion to their fuzz. If she touched it, she would dry wretch. I am serious!

Since we lived in an area packed with stone fruit orchards, she used to make me peel so many of them. It was one of the few things I could do for her when I was a kid and I think I liked the fact that she needed me in order to enjoy her favourite fruit.

But that didn’t stop me from sneaking up on her and rubbing the peach against her bare arm, just to see her wretch! Kids eh? Gotta love ‘em.

I never understood why she didn’t just eat nectarines instead (they’re the same thing without the fuzz) but I think she thought they were different.

All that peeling and the connotations of peach fuzz producing such repulsion had an effect on me and I have to admit I’d developed my own fuzz aversion by my late teens. But if they’re baked, they don’t seem too bad though.

This dish is simply peaches stuffed with amaretti biscuits and doused in a little alcohol before being baked.

There are two types of amaretti biscuits: Sassellon from Liguria which are soft and moist and Saronno from Sicily which are very light and crispy. The most common amaretti are Amaretti di Saronno, which you need in this recipe to add crunch.

For the alcohol I used Amaretto instead of the Marsala, but it’s really up to your own tastes. Amaretto is a liqueur made of bitter-almonds. It’s sweet with a slight bitter edge and is very fragrant. Marsala is a Sicilian fortified wine made from white grapes but finishing with a deep amber colour.

Pesche Ripiene (Baked Peaches Stuffed w Amaretti)
Recipe from World Vegetarian Cookbook by Sarah Brown. Serves 4.

4 ripe peaches
100g amaretti, coarsely crumbled
7 tablespoons Amaretto or Marsala
7 tablespoons sweet red wine
2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Butter, for greasing
1. Preheat oven to 180’C. Butter an ovenproof dish.
2. Wash and halve peaches then remove the stones without damaging the peaches’ shape.
3. In a bowl mix amaretti with Amaretto/ Marsala. Leave the amaretti fairly coarse to give the dish a crunchy finish.
4. Place the peaches into the ovenproof dish, then stuff each hollow generously with the amaretti mixture.
5. Drizzle with red wine, allowing some to spill into the oven dish.
6. Divide the butter between the peach halves, dotting the peach flesh rather than the crumb mixture. This ensures the crumbs don’t absorb the butter so you get more sauce.
7. Bake for 20 minutes, basting one or twice.

The peach (Prunus persica) is from the genus Prunus, belonging to the subfamily Prunoideae and family Rosaceae.

Peaches have the same subgenus (Amygdalus) as almonds which helps to explain why the soft, white kernel inside the hard stone tastes so much like an almond. In fact it is the kernels of apricots (subgenus Prunus) which produce the Italian Amaretto liqueur.

The word "peach" and it’s mulitple European language variations comes from the belief that they originated in Persia (Iran). It seems that peaches came to Europe from Persia, but that they had travelled to Persia from their native China via the Silk Road.

In China, peaches were the food of the immortals and would indulge in Pantao Hui or "The Feast of Peaches". One of Japan’s semi-historical heroes, Momotaro, was said to be born from a giant peach and his name literally means “Peach Boy”.

Due to the softness and sweetness, peaches are used in many culutrs to describe women, such as the ancient Chinese who used it as slang for a young bride.

White peaches are prized by the Asian palate for their low acidity, but Europeans and Americans preferred the yellow peaches instead, although this may be changing. I like the yellow ones best, which makes purchasing easier on the wallet.

Traditional peach producing nations are China, Iran, France, Italy, Spain, Greece and recently the US, Canada and Australia. Peach trees are the second most commonly cultivated fruit trees in the world after apple trees.

The fuzz on the peaches help protect them from bruising. Nectarines are peaches without the fuzz and can grow accidentally due to a recessive gene. It is common for regular peach trees to occasionally fruit a few nectarines.

This is my contribution to Weekend Herb Blogging, this week hosted by Jai & Bee from Jugalbandi, a stylish blog with great recipes that are usually very healthy.

And don’t forget tomorrow is my turn to host Mixology Monday’s fruit liqueurs theme tomorrow. If you want to contribute your own MxMo fruit liqueur cocktail, check out the instructions. I’ll be posting the round-up on Tuesday or Wednesday so you’ve still got time.




  1. I like the Ligurian ones as they are similar to the Greek Amygdalota cookies (same thing).

    The Amaretti send the baked peaches over the top...just 1 scoop of vanilla ice cream please.

  2. Your peaches look just fantastic. I think this was my mom's favorite fruit too.

  3. i think nectarines are a bit more tart and less complex than peaches. thank you, dear anna, for a great entry.

  4. at a glance i thought the topping's ground beef...tat'd be a great idea too!

    this recipe sounds yummy...and doable enough for me :)


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