Sometimes the simplest dishes are the best. Take peaches and cream, for instance. When a peach is ripe and in season, it doesn’t need much to taste good, though a dollop of fluffy, chilled cream brightened with a hint of lime and ginger certainly doesn’t hurt.
Now, Texans love peaches and rightfully so, as Texas peaches are indeed the best. This isn’t a brag, just a statement of fact. Trust me—I’ve eaten peaches from all over and Texas peaches are indeed the juiciest and sweetest peaches of all.
If you’re not in Texas in the summertime, then peaches just may well be the thing you miss the most. Texas farmers don’t ship their peaches out of state, as they’re a fragile fruit that don’t travel very well. So if I do find myself home in the summer, I stop at almost every truck or stand by the side of the road and grab a few to eat as I make my way.
This time last year I was in Texas and was driving from Houston to visit my grandma at her farm. Along the way I stopped in Fairfield to pick up a basket of peaches to take to her, as her tree hadn’t produced ripe fruit just yet.
While Hill Country peaches may be the most famous Texas peaches, I believe that Fairfield peaches are mighty fine peaches, too. It’s not for nothing that Fairfield is in Freestone County, a designation that guarantees your peach-eating experience will be a joyful one.
That said, in my recollection most peaches in Texas are freestone, a term that means that the pit doesn’t stick to the fruit; the opposite of freestone is clingstone or cling peaches, as my grandma calls them, where the pit sticks to the fruit. Like myself, she’s not much of a fan.
“Cling peaches are best for pickling,” she told me. “Though if you ask me, that’s a waste of a good peach,” she said. (My first book has a recipe for pickled peaches, if you’re interested.) This sentiment from her, however, wasn’t surprising. While my grandma is famous for her peach pies and peach cobblers, her take on peaches and cream may be her best peach dessert of all.
On that visit last year, after a simple light supper she took a couple of the peaches I had brought, sliced them, placed them into bowls, and then grabbed some frozen dollops of whipped cream from the freezer. She topped the sliced peaches with the frozen whipped cream and we then tucked into the bowls of peaches and cream. It was heavenly.
The peaches were ripe, juicy, and still warm from the sun. The frozen dollops of whipped cream—a preparation she did to preserve some whipped cream she had leftover from another occasion—was a refreshing topping as the cream was firm and cold yet not heavy as ice cream can be.
While we could have easily served the peaches with freshly whipped cream, the extra-cold cream was welcome on a hot day. While plain whipped cream is very good, the addition of fresh lime zest and ginger livened up the cream without overpowering the delicate peaches. Likewise, when peaches are in season they don’t need much coaxing to taste good, but if the peaches hadn’t been as juicy or sweet as we like them, gently cooking the slices in a little butter and brown sugar would have been enough to make them shine.
We were silent as we ate our fresh peaches and cream, just enjoying the perfect slices of summertime fruit. When I finished my bowl, I asked her for another. She agreed that another bowl would be good and so we went back into the kitchen, sliced more peaches, and placed them into our bowls with the frozen whipped cream.
While it didn’t take much effort, these bowls of peaches and cream were the perfect end to a summer day. And we both agreed, that sometimes the simplest dishes are indeed the best.
Peaches and ginger-lime whipped cream
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
8 large ripe peaches, preferably freestone
1 tablespoons unsalted butter (optional)
2 tablespoons brown sugar (optional)
To make the whipped cream, first place the mixing bowl and the beater in the freezer for at least 20 minutes so they can chill.
To whip the cream, place in the chilled mixing bowl the cream, sugar, lime zest, vanilla extract, and ginger and then whip with the chilled beater until soft peaks form. Be careful not to over whip the cream. If you’re going to serve the cream with the peaches immediately, skip the next step.
If you’re going to freeze individual dollops of whipped cream so you can serve the cream later, line a sheet pan that will fit in your freezer with parchment paper. Scoop 8 even-sized scoops onto the sheet, place the sheet uncovered in the freezer, and let the cream sit until chilled and hard, about 2 hours. To store the dollops, remove the sheet from the freezer, and then gently place the frozen dollops into a storage container next to each other, placing parchment paper between each layer if you need to stack the frozen dollops.
It’s up to you if you want to serve your peaches peeled or not. I’m fine with them unpeeled but you may prefer them peeled and that’s cool, too. If you want to peel them, bring a medium pot of water to a boil and make an X incision on each axis of each peach. Place the peaches in the boiling water and let them boil for 30 seconds. With a slotted spoon or tongs, remove the peaches and then run them under cold water, gently peeling off the skins. Repeat until all the peaches are peeled.
Slice the peaches, peeled or unpeeled, in half, remove the pits, and then slice each half into 4 slices. Taste the peaches. If they’re sweet and soft enough for your taste, go ahead and place them into bowls and then top each bowl of sliced peaches with a dollop or two of the whipped cream, either fresh or frozen, and then serve.
If the peaches are too tart and hard, you can cook them for a few minutes to make them more sweet and soft. To do this, heat the butter in a large, deep skillet on low heat and stir in the brown sugar. When both the butter and the brown sugar have melted, after about a minute or so, add the peach slices to the skillet. Gently stir the slices until they’re lightly coated in the sugary butter, and then cook for a couple of minutes until the peaches are fragrant, juicy, and soft. Spoon the peaches along with the melted butter and juices into bowls then top with the whipped cream.
Yield: 4-8 servings
Note: This dessert is meant to showcase ripe, in-season peaches. To tell if they’re ripe, they should be soft (don’t squeeze them, though, as they’ll easily bruise) and smell fragrant. If your peaches are firm, let them sit out on the counter overnight and they should be ripe by the next day. You also want your peaches to be preferably freestone, as this guarantees the fruit won’t stick to the pit.
While you can certainly serve the peaches with freshly whipped cream, I’d never seen whipped cream frozen into individual dollops and thought it was a terrific idea, as it makes this a great do-ahead dessert. Matter of fact, if you find that you like having frozen whipped cream on hand, you can easily double the recipe, too.