Fruit of the gods

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 August, 2007, 12:00am

Fragrant, sweet and juicy, peaches have long been revered in China, where they are native. In Chinese mythology, the fruit made those who ate it immortal but the heavenly trees bore their precious fruit only once every 3,000 years. Fortunately, although the season is fleeting, we don't have to wait that long and peaches are now in their prime.

Roasted peaches with vanilla, raspberries, toasted almonds and brown sugar streusel topping (pictured)

6 firm, ripe peaches

130 grams plain flour

90 grams butter, slightly softened, plus extra for

the baking dish

80 grams brown sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

30 grams sliced almonds

100 grams fresh raspberries

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. In a bowl, mix the butter with the salt and brown sugar. Add the flour and mix with your fingertips until the mixture forms small crumbs.

Butter a baking dish. Halve the peaches and remove the pits. Place them snugly, cut side up, in the baking dish. Top each peach with a heaped tablespoonful of the streusel topping. Put the vanilla bean on top and bake until the peaches start to soften and the streusel topping turns light brown. Scatter the almonds and raspberries on top and bake until the almonds are toasted (about 15 minutes in total). Serve warm with a spoonful of chilled double cream. Store the leftover streusel in the fridge.

Peach and raspberry sorbet

The flavour of peaches and raspberries complement each other. The pink tinge of the berries also serves to mask the unsightly brown colour the peach puree turns due to oxidisation. You should work quickly, though; the sorbet syrup should be made in advance so it has time to chill.

Make this sorbet only when you have very sweet, fragrant fruit - the flat doughnut variety is recommended. Peeling the peaches is not necessary because the puree is strained.

About 350 grams peaches

100 grams fresh or frozen raspberries (thawed, if frozen)

About 45ml fresh lemon juice

30ml vodka

1 tsp fresh egg white (optional)

A pinch of fine sea salt

For the sorbet syrup:

300 grams granulated sugar

450ml water

Boil the water, add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Cool to room temperature then refrigerate.

Remove and discard the pits from the peaches and roughly chop the flesh. In a food processor, puree the peaches and raspberries together. Force the puree through a fine sieve. Weigh the puree and combine with an equal amount of syrup. Whisk in the salt and lemon juice and taste - it should be slightly tart. Add the vodka and egg white. Process the mixture in an ice-cream machine according to the manufacturer's directions. When the sorbet is churned, pack it into a container and let it harden in the freezer for several hours. Leftover syrup can be stored for months in the fridge.

Free-form peach tarts

The pate brisee dough is adapted from Bouchon by Thomas Keller.

For the dough:

360 grams plain flour

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

1 tbsp granulated sugar

240 grams unsalted butter, chilled

About 60ml iced water

For the filling:

3 large, firm, ripe peaches

About 30 grams granulated sugar

1/4 tsp fine sea salt

20ml fresh lemon juice, or to taste

About 2 tbsp cornstarch

25 grams cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 egg, for brushing

Granulated sugar, for sprinkling

Pulse the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor to combine. Cut the butter into 1cm chunks and add them to the other ingredients. Process until the butter is the size of peas. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Drizzle in some of the iced water and mix with fingertips until the ingredients form a cohesive mass that's neither sticky nor dry. Knead the dough briefly and gently flatten it into a disc, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Place the dough on a floured surface and sprinkle with more flour. Roll out so it's about 4mm thick. Use a 10cm round cutter to cut six or seven circles of dough. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and chill for at least 15 minutes while preparing the peaches.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Halve the peaches and remove the pits. Cut each half into six wedges then combine with sugar, salt and lemon juice. Taste the liquid to see if the fruit needs more sugar or lemon juice. Mix in the cornstarch - add more if there's a lot of liquid. Let the mixture stand for about five minutes then drain through a colander with a bowl underneath to catch the liquid.

Remove the dough from the fridge. Place five or six peach wedges on each circle leaving a 3cm border around the perimeter. If the peach slices are too large, cut them to fit and put the trimmings in the centre of the tart. Fold the border up and drape it over the fruit - it doesn't have to be even and it won't entirely cover the filling. If the dough is in danger of breaking, let it soften until it becomes pliable. Brush the dough covering the peaches lightly with beaten egg then sprinkle with sugar. Dot each tart with some of the cold butter then bake for five minutes. Reduce the heat to 180 degrees and continue to bake until the pastry is golden and the fruit is tender but not mushy. While the tarts are baking, simmer the reserved peach liquid until thick. When the tarts are ready, brush the peach liquid over the exposed fruit. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

styling Vivian Herijanto