Cool off with homemade ice cream that captures the essence of summer fruit
Just as summer's days begin to feel the hottest, we can enjoy peaches at their best: sweet, incredibly juicy and unbelievably refreshing. They've been around, of course, all season. But the late-summer harvest, ripened under the warm sun, always provides the best specimens of all: more intense, even a bit spicy-sweet, and so plump that when you eat one whole you can't keep its juices from dripping down your chin.
Even better, peaches seem especially abundant right now. But what can you do with them all besides just eating them by hand?
My team of chefs and I like to add peaches to fruit salads, of course. We chop them up with a little sweet onion, hot fresh chili peppers and cilantro for a fresh salsa or chutney to complement grilled poultry, seafood or meat. We'll can jars of peach jam, preserving the fruit to enjoy for months to come. Also on the menu: peach shortcake, pies and tarts. It's possible we'll even halve, pit and dry peaches to store for use chopped up in granola mixtures baked into holiday fruitcakes.
When you get down to the basics, however, for those late-summer days when the heat and humidity are at the most oppressive, there is one peach recipe that seems ideal: ice cream. Of course, it makes perfect sense to combine an iconic fruit of the season with its most iconic dessert. That's why I'm happy to share one of my favorite versions of such a recipe, dating back to Spago restaurant's early days, for peach compote ice cream.
This recipe offers a textbook lesson in how to distill the very essence of peaches and then infuse it into a frozen dessert. It begins by making a compote of fresh peaches, subtly seasoned with cinnamon and a little lemon juice to heighten its flavor and then enhanced with sugar to help the fruit's natural sweetness shine through at freezer temperatures.
The compote is then combined with a classic ice cream base made with milk, cream, egg yolks, sugar and vanilla bean. Finally, the mixture is sieved to extract every last drop of peach flavor while ensuring that you don't wind up with hard chunks of frozen fruit.
The result is an ice cream that seems to capture the very essence of late summer. Fresh fruit, especially raspberries and sliced fresh peaches, make a perfect complement to each serving; unless, of course, you can't resist scooping the ice cream into cones!
PEACH COMPOTE ICE CREAM
Makes about 2 quarts (2 L)