Peach Melba is a classic dessert, invented in 1892 or 1893 by the French chef Auguste Escoffier at the Savoy Hotel, London to honour the Australian soprano, Dame Nellie Melba. It is simply a poached peach served with raspberry sauce (here’s a sample recipe). If Peach Melba was a person, she’d be your Great Aunt Edna. You know the one. Sensible, not too flashy (but a string of pearls holding on her bifocals!), doesn’t like a fuss.
Frankly, Dame Nellie Melba is a more interesting to me than Peach Melba. The Gaurdian UK as named Dame Nellie as one of their “Famous Foodies” [how do I get on this list?!]:
Dame Nellie Melba is probably remembered as much for the food she inspired as her extraordinary vocal range. Born into a musical family in Victoria, Australia in 1861, the young Helen Porter Mitchell became the most famous diva of her time, reigning over the Covent Garden opera scene for 37 years. She adopted her stage name, Nellie Melba, as a tribute to Melbourne, Australia and was made a Dame in 1918. This Rubenesque singer’s love of food and her continual struggle to lose weight eventually led to the creation of Melba toast. Auguste Escoffier, the legendary cook at the Savoy Hotel in London, originally concocted this light snack of crisp, dried bread to feed the singer when she was ill in 1897. He also created Melba sauce for her (a sweet purée of raspberries and redcurrant), as well as Peach Melba and Melba Garniture (chicken, truffles and mushrooms stuffed into tomatoes with velouté). She died in 1931 at the age of 69.
Ok- back to today’s food! I have to say, this is one of those strange off-season items on our national food day list. In the dead of winter in canada, there are no fresh peaches to be found–even if I was willing to buy Argentinean, or from New Zealand, or otherwise make the carbon footprint of this desert HUGE…and I’m not. Thus, I went looking for a little tasty treat which would echo the flavors of Peach Melba, but didn’t necessitate a peach fresh from the tree. What I found was a buckle – like a coffee cake – in which you bake into the batter a layer of peaches and raspberries. I served this with whipping cream (care of B’s hard work with my sub-standard whisks!) at a potluck this weekend (where I also made my first ham–blog coming soon on that, no doubt!). The beauty of this recipe is that it would work with whatever seasonal fruit is handy – strawberries, blueberries, nectarines, etc.
Peach Melba Buckle
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups peeled and chopped peaches (about 1-3/4 pounds) OR 2 cans sliced peaches packed in water, drained and chopped 1-1/2 cups raspberries (frozen or fresh)
1/4 cup raspberry jam
1. Heat oven to 350 degree F. Coat a 8-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, whisk flour, granulated sugar and salt. Cut in butter until mixture becomes crumbly. Remove 3/4 cup of the mixture to a small bowl and stir in the almonds and light-brown sugar; reserve for topping.
3. Stir baking powder into the remaining flour mixture. In a small bowl, whisk milk, egg and vanilla. Stir into the flour mixture until batter forms.
4. Spoon half the batter into the prepared pan. Scatter the peaches and raspberries over the batter. Drop the remaining batter in tablespoons over the fruit and sprinkle with the reserved topping.
5. Bake at 350 degree F for 1 hour, until golden- brown and toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 6. Cool slightly on wire rack. Run knife around edge and remove side of pan.
7. Gently heat preserves until just liquid enough to drizzle over buckle. Serve warm or at room temperature.