peach puzzle for the Peaches and puzzles in your life ::::

Peach’s tantrums, they are frequent. They happen at all times. Sometimes they happen for three hours in the middle of the night. We’ve watched day break. The night clouds melt away. The sun peeps through. All in the midst of YELLING. SCREAMING. SHRILL SCREECHING. The beauty of a 3-and-a-half-year-old who often is stubborn, even in the wee hours of the morning. We have it.

Why? I don’t know.

She, our dear Peach, is a puzzle.

What better to celebrate our dear Peach and her idiosyncrasies than with the Peach Puzzle. The name of this summery dessert refers to the “puzzling” way in which the peaches, crust, and brown sugar sauce are baked. How does the crust end up on the bottom, flaky and browned? How do the peaches bake to tender perfection? How does the sugary sauce end up in the bowl during baking?

The beauty of this recipe too, is that it is quiet.  Shhhhhhhh. No noisy food processor needed (you can, but mixing by hand is easy) and no screeching. No electric mixer. Not even some music to cook by like Julie Loyd or The Weepies needed. It comes together easily. Quickly. Simply. A couple of questions came up though: hot or cold peeling of the peach skin? Why no spices? First question: I didn’t know if peeling my peaches the “hot” way (blanching then whisking the skin off in one swipe) or the “cold” way (using a peeler) was what the recipe intended, so I saved the heat and burned some human energy by hand-peeling them with a potato peeler. Second question: no cinnamon? Nutmeg? Ginger?? I don’t know why this is a spice-absent recipe. Peaches and spices seem like they’d be old friends by now. Another part of the puzzle.

The result? Dreamy. I thought the dough would be kind of boring, but it really made the dessert shine. The tang and juiciness of the baked peaches with the sweet brown sugary sauce soaking into the buttery, biscuity crust — comfort food. Despite my concerns, I even resisted adding cinnamon to the recipe, wondering how on earth can one bake peaches without cinnamon. But its absence is also part of the mystery here, I assume, and it works. And perhaps just a minimalist approach in the original recipe.

Children are never minimalistic: they are mysteries, little puzzles, and little packages of joy tucked into the crevices of noise and fiery independence, even at three in the morning. Peach and I are more alike than I realize sometimes.



peach puzzle
Recipe type: dessert
  • Peaches and Syrup
  • 7 medium peaches, peeled*
  • ¾ cup packed brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • Dough
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ¼-inch pieces and chilled
  • 6 tablespoons milk
  1. For the peaches and syrup: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place a 6-ounce custard cup or ramekin upside down in the center of a 9-inch pie plate and arrange the peeled peaches (stem side up) around the custard cup. Combine the brown sugar, water, butter, vanilla, and salt in a medium saucepan and stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolve and the butter melts, about 5 minutes. Pour the syrup over the peaches.
  2. For the dough: Pulse the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor until blended. Add the butter and pulse until the flour mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse cornmeal. Turn the mixture into a medium bowl. [To make the dough by hand (it's quiet, unless you grate your knuckles accidentally. Yeowch!): The original recipe recommends grating uncubed frozen butter on a box grater with the flour mixture, then rubbing flour-coated pieces between your fingers until the flour mixture turns pale yellow and coarse. I cubed my butter into very small cubes, then rubbed it with my fingers. A pastry blender works too.]
  3. Fold the milk into the flour mixture, pressing the mixture against the sides of the bowl to form the dough. Squeeze dough together and flatten into a disk. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 9-inch circle (I actually went 10-inches since my peaches were large.) Lay the dough directly over the peaches and press and fit the dough so that it fits snugly around the peaches. The dough will stretch as you fit it around the peaches, but do not attach the dough to the pie plate. Bake until the top is golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. (If your peaches are on the larger side like mine, bake 30 minutes to ensure peaches are baked through.) Transfer the pie plate to a rack and let cool for 30 minutes.
  4. This is the fun part (and a little tricky): Place a large rimmed serving plate over the top of the pie plate and quickly invert (don't lose the syrup!) the puzzle into the plate. Cut into wedges around each peach and serve, pouring syrup over each portion. Serve with vanilla ice cream or sweetened whipped cream.**
  5. Serves 7. These wedges are also wonderful the morning after, warmed in the microwave, with cream or without, for a cozy breakfast.
I recommend firm, ripe Freestone peaches (or nectarines) for this recipe versus the Clingstone. Freestone peaches are exactly what the word describes: peaches that will release their grip from the pit cuddled inside. Since the pits remain in the peaches as they bake, your guests will have to remove the pits themselves. Better to have relaxed peaches than ones your guests fight with to release the peach flesh. * Eyeballing my peaches at the market, I thought they were "medium" sized. Apparently in California, our medium peaches are actually monster-sized peaches. Because of the snug fit into the 9-inch pie plate, I trimmed my peaches slightly so they'd fit. If your peaches are large, the crust will still blanket them nicely. Try to have a little space between each peach in the dish, so you can sling the crust in between the peach cleavage a bit, to form the boobs, I mean, bowls around the peaches. ** If you prepare this well before dessert-time and peaches have cooled considerably, there will be some peach shrinkage away from the biscuit.



  • Rebecca August 1, 2013 Reply

    I love this dessert. I was actually working as an Assistant Test Cook for America’s Test Kitchen when this book was developed and worked on this project. From the second we made this recipe, we knew it was something special. I’m including a link to your post in a post I’m working on. Thanks for sharing it!

    • story August 1, 2013 Reply

      Thank you! It’s unique and fun to prepare for guests.

  • […] Puzzle: A syrup is poured over whole fruit arranged around an upside down ramekin in a pie plate. The fruit and ramekin are covered with pastry and cooked. The fruit cooks in the syrup, but suction created during the cooking process sucks the syrup up into the ramekin. After cooking the pie is inverted so that the crust is on the bottom, the fruit on top and the ramekin is full of the syrup. Recipe: Peach Puzzle from Story of a Kitchen […]

  • […] high with peaches and plums. Every year, I swear that I’m going to make this crisp or this puzzle, and every year I buy a little more fruit than the year before to help ensure that it will happen, […]

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