Roasted Peaches with Amaretti Crumble

Okay, this is the last peach post of the year as the fall is quickly descending upon us, one crisp leaf at a time! Is is a farewell kiss to the warmth of summer with its fruity flavors and fun in the sun. A special thanks to August for your beautiful bounty of in-season peaches that my mother picked at Hollin's farm in Delaplane, VA.

Fresh picked peaches are dreamy because they are incredibly juicy and have a very supple texture. They are one of those ingredients that will make or break your recipe. Since these peaches came from the farm, I needed a recipe that would not cover up their naturally awesome flavor. Sit back, relax, and let the fruit do the work!

It brought to mind a dessert from childhood that was simple and elegant: roasted pears. Could the same be done with peaches?

Heck to the yah!

For those who are not familiar with with Amaretti cookies, they are an Italian almond cookie that is crispy and aromatic. Every time I see them, I think of my Italian girlfriend, Michelle P., and her Christmas stash in the office. They can be difficult to find- it's hit or miss. While I have not seen them at a common grocery store, I have found them in baking stores, World Market, and at my favorite coffee shop. If you cannot find them, as I initially feared, you can substitute with crispy almond biscottis.

The only addition that I made to this recipe was a simple glaze on the side to bring out that wonderful almond flavor. It's a basic mixture of confections sugar with water/milk a splash of amaretto liqueur. Amaretto is an almond-flavored liqueur that tastes amazing in desserts and coffee. It's not strong enough to make an impact on anything but your taste buds. 

If you don't want to use any alcohol, substitute with 1/8 teaspoon almond extract.

The only feedback I recieved from some picky palettes was that they would have enjoy it better without the skin on the peach. My defense to this is the skin holds in the moisture while baking in the oven. It did not bother me one bit. If you find that sort of thing bothersome to eat around, you could try scalding the peach and peeling off the skin (see below for directions).

These Roasted Peaches are show stoppers. They take all of five minutes to prepare. Simply slice the peaches in half and place in a pan; create an almond cookie crumble in a blender/food processor; add a spoonful to the center of the peach and bake for a few minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or straight up.

Voila! You have created one classy dessert.

Roasted Peaches with Amaretti Crumble
from Bon Appetite Magazine; glazed added

*Note: If you want to peel the skin from the peach before baking, do not halve the peaches

5 amaretti cookies (about 3/4 ounce total)
3 tablespoons whole natural almonds
2 tablespoons unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
*3 firm but ripe large peaches, rinsed, wiped clean of fuzz, halved, pitted
Vanilla ice cream

1/2 cup confections sugar
1/2 teaspoon- 1 teaspoon amaretto or 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1-2 teaspoons milk/water

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 11x7x2-inch glass baking dish. Combine cookies, almonds, flour, and sugar in processor. Using on/off turns, process until cookies and almonds are coarsely chopped. Add 3 tablespoons chilled butter to processor. Using on/off turns, process topping mixture until moist clumps form.

*Option: to remove peel bring a medium saucepan of water to a rolling boil. Add whole, ripe (but not too ripe) peaches to the boiling water and allow to boil for 30 seconds. Remove from the water after 30 seconds and place in a bowl filled with cold water and iced cubes. Peaches should peel easy once they’re cool. Peel and slice.

Place peach halves, cut side up, in prepared dish. Spread topping over surface of each peach half (about 1 generous tablespoon for each), pressing lightly to adhere and leaving 1/4-inch plain border.

Bake peaches until tender when pierced with knife and topping is golden brown, about 35 minutes. Cool slightly. 

Mix confectioner's sugar, amaretto, and milk adjusting for your preferred consistency.

Serve with scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of the amaretto glaze.

Peach Cobbler Cinnamon Buns

Alas, the peach season is coming to a close in Northern Virginia. I did my best to capitalize on these naturally sweet and juicy flavors bombs while they were at their peak but never found the time to go fruit picking. Fortunately, I was able to swipe a few at the local farmer's market. There were a handful of recipes floating in my head and at the top of the list was Peach Cobbler Cinnamon Buns

Never would have I thought to add peaches to cinnamon buns; this yet again illustrates why cinnamon buns are so freaking awesome. Their versatility will never cease to amaze me nor will the creative cooks that share their innovative recipes. These buns are brought to you by the ever charming, Joy the Baker

In terms of flavor, these cinnamon rolls will make you swoon. I was actually giddy on the first bite because I had no expectations. These are good. Like... really really good. The hubby says that they live up to their name but I would disagree. When I think of a cobbler, there's an element of texture that cannot be replicated in a yeast-based dough. In my opinion, these were more closely related to a danish because the bread is beautifully soft. There is a crumble inside but its loses some of its consistency when baking. Butter tends to do that when exposed to heat. 

Two fair warnings:

First, the rolling of the dough into that trademark cinnamon roll log. If I were a weaker person, I would have walked away. It was a freaking gooey mess that oozed and dripped all over the counter. Steel your nerves and get through it with a sturdy, serrated knife (wow that sounds kinda bad). As I placed the rolls into the pan, I feared that they would unravel but the pressure of the other surrounding buns help keep it all together. It doesn't really matter how they look- just get 'em in the pan and the flavor will be there!

Second, it goes without saying, be super careful not to burn the yeast. The ingredients are mixed in a large sauce pan (or dutch-oven) over a medium heat until they're gently warmed and left to cool to 105 degrees F. The flour is added directly to the sauce pan and left to rise in a warm place for 1 hour. No need to mix with a dough hook for 8 minutes- walk away. As many time as I have made cinnamon buns, the first batch did not rise and I was bummed. That's four cups of flour that I'm not getting back! I knew the culprit had to be the milk and was diligent the second round. If you don't have a thermometer, I cannot emphasize what a life saver it is in the kitchen. 

Peaches. Almonds. Oats. Brown sugar. You can't lose! We really enjoyed these rolls and I would recommend them to any peach lover! 
For the recipe, check out the Peach Cobbler Cinnamon Rolls post on Joy the Baker!

The Fried Chicken Battle of 2014: Momofuku vs. Bon Appétit

Last year, the husbun and I started compiling a list of restaurants that served the best fried chicken in the DMV. Bonus points were given if it was served with a waffle. It is a culinary weakness of his that needs to be satiated from time to time. In the number one slot stood "Eat Bar," an American gastropub located in Arlington, VA. He was so impressed with their rendition that he ordered it twice in one sitting. 

Then one day, much to his horror, they stopped serving fried chicken and waffles. The waitress said it had to do with the waffle iron. I could hear the depressing movie music playing in Mike's head as he stared blankly at the menu, the wind stolen from his fried-chicken-eating sails. 

This would not do. This would not do at all.

We took matters into our own hands and started looking over recipes. For years, I have had my eye on Momofuku's version. It was like no other fried chicken that I had ever read! For starters, there's no breading on the bird- does that even count as fried chicken? It is steamed first, then fried, and served with a side of vinaigrette. I kept pushing away the idea because we don't own a frier. This was the ammunition that I needed to suck it up and fry up some bird!

Just as I was about to put the grocery list together, a new Bon Appétit magazine came in the mail and lo, what was on the front cover? A tantalizing picture of fried chicken covered in spices and red with desire. Well, that's the hot sauce slathered on top but we'll get to that later.

It appeared that we were at a cross road: fancy fried chicken from Momofuku or traditional American from Bon Appétit? We decided that we'd push the burden onto our friends. It was time for a Fried Chicken Battle to see "whose cuisine reigns supreme." 

Making two different kinds of fried chicken for one sitting turned out to be not as traumatic as we anticipated. Mike and I thoroughly read the recipes over and it was clear that the key to success was timing.

Momofuku's chicken needs to brine for 1 to no more than 6 hours. It is then steamed for 40 minutes and needs to cool down completely, preferably over night.  Plus, before you can fry, the chicken needs to rest outside of the fridge for another 30 minutes to get back to room temperature. By doing the brine and steaming the day before, you will save yourself a significant chunk of time on game day. I also highly recommend making the Octo Vinagrette the day before because chopping the garlic and ginger can be time consuming.

While all that noise was going on, we found that Bon Appétit's "Nashville-Style Hot Chicken" is more straightforward. This chicken needs rest in salt and pepper for at least 3 hours before being fried. So, while the Momofuku chicken cooled over night in the fridge, we let the Nashville bird marinate alongside it. We prepped the flour and dipping batter so it would be ready to go at a moment's notice.

With the foundation laid the night before, all we had to do was heat the oil and dip. For a clean taste, we used grapeseed and peanut oil. I couldn't tell the difference between these two in terms of their effect on the bird. My brother generously loaned us his fryer to ensure there was no cross contamination in flavor; the other was cooked in a good ol' fashioned pot and thermometer.

The end results were both outstanding. These recipes couldn't be more different in terms of texture and flavor. Momfuku's vinaigrette made my taste buds rejoice while the hot crispy crust of Bon Appétit's made angels sing.

We put it to the vote and the winner was.... (insert drum roll)

Bon Appétit's Nashville-Style Hot Chicken

This is a crowd of fire eaters; everybody at the table loves spicy food and the Nashville-Style had the right amount of heat to be flavorful but not overpowering.  Serve with pickles and toasted white bread for an American classic. Personally, however, I voted for Momofuku because man oh man, that vinaigrette!

So grab some friends, an old fold out table, a cheap table cloth, and put these recipes to the test. They're easy to make and completely worth the time and effort.

Special thanks to my all-star sous-chef and husbun for holding it down as always. There was a moment where I got crazy eyes but he kept things in perspective.  

Momofuku's Fried Chicken recipe can be found in their self-titled cook book, Momofuku, as well as online. Bon Appétit's Nashville-Style Hot Chicken can be found in their June 2014 edition as well as on their site.