So far the best recipe book I have been given is The Smitten Kitchen. I opened it Christmas morning and by Christmas dinner over half the recipes were marked with post-its. I made the peach dumplings because I can’t make it through a summer without throwing some brown sugar on a peach and sticking it in an oven or on a grill. These were unbelievably good! I mean they are peaches (sunshine that grows on trees), brown sugar mixed with cinnamon spice and everything nice, butter (I mean where can you go wrong with butter!), inside pastry dough (to hold in all the happiness), and then topped with a Bourbon sauce! (Hard alcohol! I love it!!!!) You fill the peaches with sugar and spice and everything nice, and then bake them till they turn a beautiful golden brown, then, the best part, you cut into them and the rose gold juices from the peach run out flooding your plate with liquid sunshine.
The hardest part about making these is the pastry dough. I have a personal vendetta against pastry dough based on past bad experiences but I took this opportunity to show pastry dough I mean business. This time it turned out great! Well, good enough to cut into squares and fold over the peaches. The dough wasn’t stretchy enough to stick perfectly together on the top so there were some gaps over the peach. Someone else might have better luck than me, but honestly it didn’t make that big a difference.
Everyone who had one of these love Love LOEVED them! Even my best friend whose one true love is chocolate thought they were divine. I would even make a batch for breakfast some time!
For the pie crust: (Smitten Kitchen’s “All-Butter, Really Flaky Pie Dough“)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, very cold
1/2 cup ice-cold water
For the filling:
3 large peaches
1/2 cup brown sugar (light or dark brown)
Pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Few fresh gratings of nutmeg, or a pinch of ground
1 tablespoon butter, cut into 6 pieces, kept cold
1 large egg, for glaze
For the hard sauce:
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon bourbon
A few dashes vanilla, optional
Make Crust: Instructions here. Deb will explain why she thinks mixing your crust by hand results in the flakiest crust, but I’m lazy and did mine in a food processor, and it turned out just fine. If you don’t have a food processor, however, a pastry cutter will work – and your crust will probably be flakier than mine. Roll your dough out to a 12-by-18-inch rectangle (this is pretty tricky, mine did not look as good as Deb’s looked in her pictures), and divide into six 6-inch squares. If dough gets too soft or warm while you’re rolling it (mine did), continue to the square stage, but then transfer the squares to a parchment-lined baking sheet and chill them in the freezer for a couple minutes, until they firm up again.
Make Filling: Halve peaches and remove pits. Deb recommends scooping out a little extra flesh from the pit indentation with a melon baller, so that there is more room in the “belly button” of the peach to pack the filling.
Assemble Dumplings: Mix brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a little dish. Spoon one lightly packed tablespoon on top of each peach half, smooshing as much of the sugar mixture as you can into the center. Dot the top of each with a piece of the cold butter. Center a peach half, cut side up, in your first pastry square. Bring corners up to meet each other over the center – if it feels tight, or as if you’re short of dough, make sure that the dough underneath is flush with the peach curve; it tends to get slack – and seal the seams together, pinching with your fingertips.
Bake Dumplings: Arrange dumplings in a buttered 9-by-13-inch baking dish, and chill for 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Whisk egg together with one teaspoon water to form a glaze. Brush glaze over the tops and exposed sides of dumplings (I then sprinkled with demerara sugar). Bake for 30-40 minutes (mine took 45), until pastries are puffed and bronzed on top.
To Finish: While baking, make the hard sauce. Beat softened butter, confectioners’ sugar, and bourbon until smooth (I added a few drops of vanilla here as well). Scrape into a serving dish. When pastries come out of the oven, dollop each (or at least the ones that will not be served to children) with a heaping spoonful of the hard sauce, and serve pastries with the sauce melting over the sides. Ice cream optional, but delicious.