My favorite way to use up mediocre fruit is to roast them to death in the oven. What desirable qualities they lack in a raw state–sweetness, a pleasing texture, and plenty of flavor–they exhibit deliciously once roasted. Fortunately, this trick works for many different kinds of fruit: apples, pears, raspberries, strawberries, and stone fruit like nectarines, apricots, plums, and peaches. Desserts like these are so simple and effortless, yet feel elegant.
I used peaches that never ripened fully, instead remaining stubbornly firm and not sweet, and I was pleased with their oven transformation into edibility. So if you actually use peaches that are tasty when unbaked, I can only imagine how much better this will be. I’m just usually not willing to part with perfect peaches, especially when they will soon be gone.
I crunched together two recipes for roasted peaches: Giada de Laurentiis’s version has amaretti-stuffed peaches, and Martha’s version has a caramely vanilla sauce. Wanting both, I combined them and came up with this. The peaches became soft and sweet (but not exceedingly so) and paired perfectly with the cold whipped cream (or ice cream, if you want), and the sauce ties it all together. Other stone fruit like nectarines or apricots would also be good here.
1/3 cup cold whipping cream or a pint of vanilla ice cream
1 1/2 ounces amaretti cookies
2 tablespoons plus 4 teaspoons unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise and seeds scraped, or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5 firm, ripe peaches, halved and pitted
If you’re using whipped cream instead of ice cream, in a small bowl using a hand mixer, whip the cream until it holds soft peaks. Chill, covered, until ready to use. (The whipped cream can be prepared up to 4 hours ahead.)
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse amaretti cookies until crumbled into small pieces. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 375° F. Put 2 tablespoons of butter in a 9-inch square baking dish and place in the oven (which should be preheating) until melted. Remove from the oven, and add lemon juice and sugar. Stir together to combine, then add vanilla bean (scraped seeds and pod) or vanilla extract. Add the peaches, and turn to coat in the butter mixture. Arrange the peaches cut side up. Fill the center of each peach with amaretti crumbs. (If the hollow of the peach is too small, you can scoop out some of the red center flesh with a melon baller.) Dot each peach with a cube of butter. (You can prepare the peaches up to 4 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
Roast the peaches until they are tender, the topping is crisp, and the sauce is syrupy, about 20 to 30 minutes. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.