I’ve spent the last two weeks praying at the altar of the High Holy Church of Texas Peaches. They are everywhere I turn. First, my friend Lori who owns land on the Brazos River tracked down a bushel of peaches from a neighbor’s orchard. She put up umpteen jars of peach jam with Jan and they even brought some to me. They ate peach this and peach that for an entire weekend.
Then my tribe and I wandered up to Clay County, a place of which I am increasingly enamored. Being there puts me a stone’s throw from my hometown of Wichita Falls. So on a Saturday morning I wandered over to the Wichita Falls Farmers Market and lo and behold, they were having a peach celebration. I was proud of this little market. It boasted about four produce vendors as there is apparently a strong clutch of farmers in the Thornberry/Charlie area, and the tables were laden with fresh Texas peaches. I bought a big basket of peaches, a watermelon and various other peppers and tomatoes, and went on my way. Sadly, I had missed the produce stand which pops up in Henrietta every Friday, I’m told. I’ll find all of them soon enough.
I love going home.
A group of folks have opened up a whole block of junk and antique shops in downtown W.F. and I enjoyed a speedy look through. I have to go back without the kids. When their snow cones were gone, their interest waned. So I had exactly one snow cone worth of time to peruse and that didn’t scratch the surface. I also had to visit The Containery, a stellar gift shop, to visit a few high school chums and secure some gift wrapping help, advice on printing foam cups, and other fun things. The kids and I had to have a french fry and shake fix at Scott’s Drive In, too. The onion rings! I digress. The point is the peaches.
Back at the ranch, which is 25 miles from the grocery store, one makes do with what is in the pantry when one can. I have always had an affection for “stuff on toast” and this peach dish is in honor of that. Don’t laugh at me. But out in the country, I actually had thick bakery bread and a little pod of crème fraiche which I had toted from Dallas. So when I say I was making do with what was in the pantry, I had a little head start. Sour cream thinned with a bit of milk makes a fine substitute if you have those on hand.
But I did find a great baker at Stewart’s Sweet Shop on the square in Henrietta. She made loaves of fluffy white bread that would have been perfect for this dish, and she also makes pies to order. So, I’m going to be in there a lot.
Onward…I have not been satisfied with my cinnamon toast technique and now I think I’ve got it licked. Sometimes I just start cooking and see where I land. I had intended to make a molten sugar sauce and throw chopped peaches into it…and I hadn’t gotten further than that in my imagination when I looked at the melted butter and brown sugar in my skillet and had a eureka moment. I added a shake of cinnamon and slathered the goo on a piece of thick bread and threw it under the broiler to see what would happen. What happened is that the sugar and butter bubbled on the bread into a molten solution. When I took the bread out from the oven it cooled instantly into a crunchy cinnamon and sugar crust. It is a candy of sorts, attached to the bread. It is not a grainy affair as cinnamon toast can be. Different animal, altogether.
My peaches were so ripe that cooking them seemed abusive anyway. So I piled them up on top of the toast and looked for something to give me that final contrast thing…that one bit of bitter for the sweet, the salt for the sugar, the creamy for the crunchy. Yes, I was lacking the final thing. Crème fraiche. Done. This is one of the best things I’ve eaten lately. The simplicity is wonderful. It is just a peach stage. A sweet raft for the star. And it is easy. You can have sliced peaches and the sugar concoction sitting about and in two minutes have hot breakfast ready for any sleepyhead that wanders in.
|Peach Toast|| |
- 4 slices of thick bakery white bread
- 2 fresh local peaches, sliced
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ⅓ cup brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ cup crème fraiche
- Substitute: ¼ cup sour cream thinned with 1 tablespoon milk
- Preheat the broiler of your oven.
- In a small saucepan, melt the butter and then add the sugar and cinnamon. Stir to combine and remove from the heat. The mixture will not be smooth.
- Place a wire rack onto a cookie sheet and place the bread on the rack. Broil on the middle oven rack for one minute and then remove it from the oven being careful that the wire rack doesn’t slide off the cookie sheet.
- When the bread can be safely handled, flip each slice and spread ¼ of the sugar mixture to the uncooked side of each piece of bread. Place the bread under the broiler and cook until the edges of the bread are browned and the sugar mixture is molten and bubbly, about 2 minutes. Remove the bread from the oven and allow it to cool until it can be handled. The sugar mixture is dangerously hot at the moment it comes out of the oven.
- Top each slice of toast with peach slices and a dollop of crème fraiche. Serve immediately.
Note: you need not broil both sides of the bread, but if you don’t the underside will be slightly moist and un-toasted. I rather like that, actually. But for it to be toasted on both sides, the rack and the flip are very helpful. Once you apply the sugar, there will be no flipping or the toast will permanently fuse to the cookie sheet. And that is not cool.
I learned a lot about peaches when I visited Larken Farms near Waxahachie, to do an article for Edible Dallas & Fort Worth. Before that, I was not aware of what it takes to have peaches from Spring through Summer. Growers need to hedge against early Spring freezes that can devastate an orchard. Peach trees “break dormancy” in the spring after a certain number of “chill hours” or hours of sustained coolness. Each different variety of peach has its own required number of chill hours. Therefore, if you have only low chill hour trees, and a spring freeze comes, you can lose your production for the whole year. But if you have many different varieties, a late freeze will only get your low chill hour varieties because the high chill hour varieties are still dormant.
Peaches come in white flesh varieties and yellow flesh varieties. I’m partial to peach colored peaches…yellow. But white flesh peaches can be as sweet as candy. And they come in “cling” and “freestone” varieties. You can tell for yourself when you cut the fruit in half and try to pull them apart. The “freestone” peaches aren’t stuck to the stone (pit, seed, middle) and they fall apart easily. The “cling” variety hold on to the stone for dear life and the flesh is embedded in the stone.
There are wonderful peaches all around me and all it takes is a little driving. One can usually find good peaches at the farmers markets but your surest bet is to make an afternoon of it and visit some local farms. Our friend Bubba brought us a big box of peaches from Ham Orchard. And, of course we had the peaches from Wichita Falls. And my friend Lori got her bushel from Ann and Ray Mershawn at Majestic Farm in Whitney, Texas. There are some foods where local and fresh makes a huge difference. And if you live anywhere…in any state…where there is peach cultivation going on, you owe it to yourself to find these peaches. There is nothing like a “standing over the sink” peach. I’ve seen my son 8 times in the last week with the stains of peach juice up and down his arms. It is hard to think about a mess when your brain is so overwhelmed with the blessed sensory assault that is a fresh picked peach.
For other “on toast” recipes, consider:
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