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Recipes

№ 91 - Peach Granita, Maple Cream, Roasted Pecans, Champagne

If ice cream had a rich, naughty aunt, this would be it

Peach ice elegantly layered in a glass with maple-sweetened cream and a few toasted pecans. What could possibly improve this delightful dessert and send it over the edge into sinful, glamorous decadence? Why yes, bring on the booze and pour a shot of champagne over the whole thing. It's irresistable - to hell with restraint.

Pastry chef Larissa Raphael at Michelin-starred Telepan in NYC served similar desserts for a number of years and that's where I stole the idea. Hers alternated seasonally between strawberry, quince and blood orange granita and variously flavored creams. They were my favorite desserts in the city until the restaurant closed.

In case you're wondering, making granita is simple. It's basically frozen fruit juice, easily scraped into fluffy crystals with a fork - no ice cream making equipment required.

I use yellow peaches or yellow nectarines for this recipe because they have better acidity, but you could use white peaches or nectarines too and add a little more lemon juice to compensate.

Serves 6

4 ripe peaches or nectarines, approx. 1½ lbs. Yellow peaches or yellow nectarines are ideal, but white peaches or nectarines work too.

1 cup heavy cream

3 Tbsp maple syrup

½ cup pecans

6 Tbsp granulated sugar, more to taste

1 Tbsp lemon juice, more to taste (you'll need less than ½ a lemon)

¾ cup champagne, or other reasonably dry sparkling wine such as prosecco or cava

Small pinch of salt

Equipment: Blender or food processor

 

Halve the peaches or nectarines and remove the stones. Cut into 1-inch chunks and heat in a covered saucepan with 1 Tbsp of lemon juice, 6 Tbsp of sugar and a small pinch of salt over low to medium-low heat. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally and taking care not to brown any of the fruit, especially in the beginning before it releases moisture. Remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, heat the cream in a small uncovered saucepan over medium-low heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the liquid thickens noticeably and is reduced to about ¾ cup. Pour in a small bowl, stir in the maple syrup, cover and refrigerate. 

Place the cooked peaches and their cooking liquid into a blender or food processor and purée until very smooth. Taste and blend in more sugar or lemon juice as needed. The amounts will vary quite a bit, depending on the sweetness and acidity of the fruit. Note that cold temperatures mute sweetness and you'll want to make the mixture a bit "too sweet" when still warm. If in doubt, freeze a tsp of the mixture and taste before stirring in any more sugar. If you're still unsure, freeze and taste another spoon.

Pour into 1 or 2 freezable and sealable containers, each no more than half full. Place in freezer and wait for the mixture to harden around the edges before stiring the solid bits into the center with a fork. Repeat once the edges are refrozen and again, until the mixture is completely frozen. The time required varies with the size, thickness and material of your container(s). (Don't sweat it if the occasional stirring doesn't fit into your schedule - you can make it up by scraping the ice a little harder later before serving, though then you'll want to assemble and serve the glasses one by one to prevent the granita from melting while you scrape away.)

Heat the oven to 375F and roast pecans for 6 minutes. Chop very coarsely.

To serve, take 6 drinking glasses and, if you like, place them in individual bowls of crushed ice for dramatic effect. Using a fork, give the ice a fresh scrape and place half in the glasses, taking care not to smear the sides of the glasses. Spoon over half the cream and sprinkle half the pecans before repeating the steps with the remaining granita, cream and pecans. Serve immediately, with chilled champagne in shot glasses (about 2 Tbsp each) to pour over.

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