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Peach Crisp with Cinnamon-Graham Streusel

Fresh, ripe peaches baked under a sweet, snappy topping—like midsummer gold.
difficulty:
yield:

6 servings

time:

About 40 minutes to prep, plus 40 minutes to bake the topping and 20 minutes to bake the peaches

introduction

From Blenheim apricots to Italian plums, summer brings a gorgeous procession of stone fruits. Yet none matches the wicked juiciness, intense perfume, and high singing notes of peaches. Peaches live to be tucked under a crust and baked, and the fastest way to get them to bed is with a crisp crumb topping. To take our topping to its crispest possible conclusion we used Anson Mills Antebellum Style Rustic Coarse Graham Wheat Flour. This flour, which produces a superbly crystalline finish in biscuits, is made from Red May graham, a custom-blended flour in which the bran particles of the grain remain large enough to produce dramatic flavor and texture. The final streusel, perfected after a series of tests, takes, and bakes, is crisp, buttery, sweet, and russet-hued—in flavor, it’s halfway between graham cracker and molasses cookie. And the peaches are mad about the arrangement.

Baking Notes

Peaches are in season from mid-June to mid-July in the South and from late July through August in the Northeast. By nature a soft, easily bruised fruit—with less inclination toward postharvest ripening that one might imagine—peaches should be selected when they are distinctly fragrant and, at the very least, trending toward softness. (Blush on a peach’s skin is not a leading indicator of its ripeness—different varieties of peaches have skins and flesh of different hues.) A perfect peach is fragile and messy to eat. If you buy rock-hard peaches, you’ll bake with hard peaches.

When it comes to the pits, peaches come freestone or cling, the former having a stone that is easily separated from the flesh, while the latter requires a bit of sawing to remove the fruit. Most peaches on the market today are freestone, though the locals we encountered in South Carolina were all clingy—messy, but irresistible.

Peaches do need to be peeled before baking. If you have one of the new types of peelers with a serrated blade, by all means use it. If not, blanching will loosen the skin nicely, making it easy to remove with a paring knife. Many recipes recommend scoring a tiny X on the bottom of the peach before blanching to facilitate peeling, but we think that’s a waste of time.

The clean-tasting properties of Anson Mills Carolina Gold Rice Flour also make their way into this recipe—peaches are juicy, and that juice must be managed into an appealingly thickened sauce. Finely granular when it is raw, rice flour becomes velvety smooth when touched by heat and liquid.

“Crisp” denotes a certain texture, yes? A more accurate for many fruit crisps might be “fruit soggies.” We gave a lot of thought to how best to treat both fruit and crumbs in this recipe to keep the crisp crisp, and we determined that the two are best brought together at the last minute—not a moment sooner. The crumb topping bakes on its own while the peaches are prepared; the peaches bake alone, joined by the crumbs during the last five minutes for a match made in heaven.

equipment mise en place

For this recipe, you will need a rimmed baking sheet; parchment paper; a small saucepan; a medium bowl; a metal spatula; a serrated peeler or, if you don’t have one, you will need a large, wide pot, a large bowl filled with iced water, and a second baking sheet or tray; a slotted spoon or a skimmer; a large mixing bowl; a sharp paring knife; a rubber spatula; a whisk; and a 3-quart gratin or baking dish.

  1.  

    Make the streusel: Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 275 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. While the butter is melting, combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a medium mixing bowl and mix well using your fingers. When the butter has melted, remove the pan from the heat, tilt the pan, and skim off the surface foam with a spoon and discard. Spoon the clear yellow butterfat into the dry ingredients, leaving the watery milk solids in the pan. (Dispose of the milk solids and set the pan aside.) Mix the butter into the dry ingredients, using your fingers to rub it into the flour mixture thoroughly. Turn the streusel onto the prepared baking sheet, distribute it into an even layer, and bake until dry, toasty, and fragrant, 40 to 45 minutes, gently turning the mixture three times with a metal spatula. Large crunchy pieces are desirable, so don’t break up the streusel. Let cool on the baking sheet; the streusel will become crisp as it cools. Increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees.

  2.  

    Make the filling: If you have a serrated peeler, carefully peel the peaches. If you don’t have a serrated peeler, to peel the peaches, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large, wide pot and place a large bowl filled with iced water near the stove. Line a second baking sheet or a tray with several layers of paper towels. When the water boils, lower half of the peaches into the pot with a slotted spoon or skimmer and blanch until their skins begin to loosen, 45 seconds to 1 minute. Lift a peach out of the water; if the skin is loose when you rub your fingers across it, the peaches are ready. Transfer the peaches to the iced-water bath and let cool for about 30 seconds. Set the peaches on the paper towels to drain. Blanch, shock, and drain the remaining peaches. Using a paring knife, peel away the skins.

  3.  

    Add the lemon juice to a large mixing bowl. Cut each peeled peach in half longitudinally around the pit and twist the halves. If the peaches are freestone, the flesh is easily freed from the pit. Cut each half into 4 to 6 wedges—depending on how large the peaches are—and drop the pieces into the bowl with the lemon juice. If you have cling peaches, nothing will happen when you twist the peach halves. Instead, carve the peach into 8 to 12 sections—depending on its size—and use the paring knife to gently pry the pieces off the pit. As you work, occasionally toss the peach slices in the bowl with a rubber spatula to coat them with lemon juice and prevent them from turning brown.

  4.  

    When all the peaches are prepped, add the granulated sugar and salt to the bowl and toss gently with the rubber spatula. Allow the peaches to macerate for 5 minutes.

  5.  

    Using the slotted spoon or skimmer, transfer the peach slices to the baking dish, leaving the juice in the bowl. There should be about 1¾ cups of juice. Whisk the rice flour into the juice until completely incorporated. Turn the juice into the reserved saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, whisking frequently. Simmer 10 seconds, then pour the thickened juice over the peaches, stirring gently with the spatula to incorporate.

  6.  

    Bake the peaches until bubbling and the sauce around them is has reduced and thickened, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle the streusel over the fruit and bake 5 minutes more. Remove from the oven and let the crisp cool for 15 minutes. Serve warm with cold milk or vanilla ice cream.