Peach Almond Bars (gluten-free and vegan options)

August heralds the arrival of sweet, tree-ripened, farmer direct peaches from the Okanagan Tree Fruit Cooperative at the Co-op, and they are delicious once again this year.  These are the best peaches money can buy because not only are they organic, but they are picked and delivered by the farmer’s co-op directly to our co-ops, so at no time are they sitting in some warehouse waiting to be delivered to the consumer.  I knew I wanted to feature them this week, and I found the perfect recipe in America’s Test Kitchen’s Best Summer Desserts edition.

Every recipe I have ever made from Cook’s Illustrated or America’s Test Kitchen (one of the best shows on PBS, it you ask me!) has turned out fantastic, and they don’t disappoint with their recipe for Peach Bars.  I’ll note that both of their websites have limited free content, but I gladly pay the subscription fee because they don’t allow advertising in their magazines or their websites. Their Peach Bar recipe was easily adapted to being gluten-free (it should turn out pretty identical whether you make it with all-purpose flour or a gluten-free flour blend), and if you replace the butter with margarine or coconut oil you can make a vegan version as well.

This was a simple recipe because the bulk of the work is done by the food processor – you don’t even have to carefully cut the peaches.  I used a couple large and juicy white peaches and one yellow peach, as well as Nature’s Hollow Peach Preserves for a little extra peachy kick.  These bars aren’t overly sweet, and I really wish I could have taken photos of people trying them to illustrate how yummy they are – they don’t look very exciting on the plate, but the look of surprise on people’s faces once they tasted them was priceless!  I highly recommend whipping up a batch – they taste like the best part of summer and you will be exceptionally popular with those you choose to share them with!

Peach Almond Bars © Sassy Sampler 2012

Peach Almond Bars

makes 24 bars

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 3/4 c sliced almonds (6.5 oz)
  • 1 1/2 c flour—can use either all-purpose or gluten-free blend
  • 1/3 c granulated sugar
  • 1/3 c packed brown sugar, plus 1 T
  • Sea salt
  • 12 T unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2” pieces (you can substitute margarine for a vegan version of the recipe)
  • 1 1/2 # peaches (about 3 large), peeled, halved and pitted, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 c peach preserves
  • 1/2 t grated lemon zest, plus 1t lemon juice

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375°F.
  2. Make a foil sling for a 13×9 baking dish—fold 2 long sheets of foil; first sheet should be about 13” and the second should be about 9”.  Lay sheets of foil over pan perpendicular to each other, with extra foil hanging over edges.  Smooth foil flush against the pan.  Spray with veggie oil spray.
  3. Process 1 1/4 c almonds, flour, sugar, 1/3 c brown sugar, and 1/2 t sea salt in a food processor until combined, about 5 seconds.
  4. Add butter and pulse mixture until it resembles coarse meal (some pea-sized pieces of butter will remain), about 20 pulses.
  5. Transfer 1/2 c of the mixture to a bowl and set aside.  Press remaining mixture into the prepared pan and bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes.  Mix 1T of brown sugar into reserved mixture and put it in the fridge (if your kitchen is warm).
  6. While crust is baking, remove blade from processor and wipe out your work bowl.  Pulse peaches and preserves in the processor until mixture is in 1/4” chunks, about 5 pulses.   Cook peaches in a large non-stick skillet over high heat until thickened and jam-like, about 10 minutes.
  7. Take peaches off the heat, and add a pinch of salt and the lemon zest and juice.  Stir to combine.
  8. Pour peach mixture over hot crust.
  9. Using your fingers, pinch reserved flour mixture to create dime-sized clumps and sprinkle them over the peaches.  Sprinkle remaining 1/2 c almonds over the top.
  10. Bake until almonds are golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Let cool to room temperature, at least two hours.
  11. Using foil overhang, lift from pan and cut into 24 squares.  Enjoy!

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days.

Peach Almond Bars PDF

Blueberry Peach Sorbet

Okanogan peaches (and WA cantaloupe too!)

August is always exciting at the Co-op because that means that we start getting farmer direct peaches from the Okanogan Farmer’s Co-op.  Last week I used their donut (or Saturn) peaches in the Agua Fresca recipe, and this week I wanted to make a healthy treat with the more recognizable peaches that they supply us with.

It is the tail end of blueberry season at the Co-op, but you can probably still find them at the Farmer’s Market and at farm stands in the county for a bit longer.  We got what we think might be one of the last deliveries of organic blueberries from Hopewell Farm in Everson this weekend.  They have been so delicious this year and the sun was shining brightly, so another batch of sorbet was in order since the strawberry version was so popular!

Sorbet is ridiculously easy to make.  I couldn’t find a recipe that I liked, however, so I decided to just wing it.  I started by cooking the blueberries on the stove with a little water to soften them so they would be easy to juice in a strainer.  While those bubbled away, I prepared my peaches (3 really ripe ones and 2 firm ones) by peeling them and chopping them up haphazardly (the ripe ones were so juicy I could barely hold on to them!).  When the blueberries were soft, I strained them through a fine mesh strainer into a (stain-proof) bowl.  I mixed in a couple of tablespoons of organic agave syrup and popped the bowl in the freezer to cool while I puréed the peaches in the food processor.  You could also use a blender for this – just make sure it has a sharp blade.

Once the blueberries had cooled enough, I started by adding half of the sauce to the peaches.  After tasting it I added another 1/4 of the sauce and was very happy with the results – you tasted blueberry when it hit your tongue and then the peach flavor took over.  It was a good balance of sweet and tart, so into the freezer it went.  I had the benefit of using our -10° freezer here at the store so it only took a couple of hours (stirring every so often) to harden to a sorbet consistency – in your home freezer it will probably take more like 3-4 hours.

Stay cool!

Blueberry Peach Sorbet

makes about 4 cups

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pint blueberries
  • 1/2 c water
  • 2-4T agave syrup
  • 5 large peaches (can do a mix of ripe and firm)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Rinse blueberries.  Add them to a saucepan with the water.  Cook over medium heat until blueberries are soft, about 7 minutes.  Remove from heat.
  2. While blueberries are cooking, prepare your peaches by peeling and cutting them into chunks into a medium bowl.
  3. Once blueberries have cooled slightly, strain through a fine mesh strainer into a stain-proof bowl, pushing down on blueberries with the back of a large spoon to get all the juice out.
  4. Taste the purée/sauce to see how sweet it is.  Add agave syrup 1 T at a time until it reaches the sweetness you desire.  Put your bowl of blueberry purée into the freezer.
  5. In a blender or food processor, purée peaches until they are smooth.
  6. Once your blueberry purée has cooled off, remove it from the freezer and pour half of it in with the peach purée and process until combined.  Taste the purée and add more until it reaches a good balance of peach to blueberry flavor (I used about 2/3 of the blueberry purée).  Reserve leftover blueberry purée for topping sorbet or to use as an ice cream topping.
  7. Spread purée evenly in a 9×13 glass baking dish.  Place in the freezer until frozen, stirring every half hour or so (it will take about 3-4 hours to freeze).  Be sure to scrape the sides well.  Stirring it will actually help it freeze faster, but you can also leave it overnight and then stir it well in the morning if that is your preference.
  8. Top with remaining blueberry sauce (if you have some left over) and serve!

You can also pour the mixture into popsicle molds.

For an adult treat, top with a shot of fruit flavored liqueur or tequila.

You can use an alternate sweetener, like honey or granulated sugar—add it in the same fashion as the agave—1 T at a time until it is as sweet as you would like it.

Blueberry Peach Sorbet PDF

Easy Peaches and Cream Cake

Donut Peaches Photo © 2010 Sassy Sampler

Mmmmm….local peaches.  Need I say more?   It is always exciting to see the first boxes arrive direct from the Okanogan Producers Marketing Association (a co-op of six small central WA farms), and they keep getting tastier until that day in September that they are no more, which always comes too soon.

Local organic peaches Photo © 2010 Sassy Sampler

We still have an abundance of peaches at the Co-op, and even have a couple of varieties of white and yellow ones from Brownfield Farm in Chelan.  If you haven’t come in and gotten any – you are really missing out!

As you might have surmised, my inspiration for this weeks recipe… PEACHES!

I rarely do anything with peaches besides slice them up and eat them, so I wanted to step outside my “comfort zone” for this week’s recipe.  I started by peeling about 8 or 9 donut peaches and then cut them into 1/2″ chunks.  I threw them in a skillet over medium-high heat with melted butter, a little bit of sugar and a dash of vanilla.  Over the next few minutes I had a divine smelling peach saute, and it tasted like creamy heaven.  So what to do with the concoction?  Though there were a myriad of possibilities, I thought a peaches and cream cake would be an easy winner.

I prepared a package of the Swan Bakery’s gluten-free pound cake mix – I cooked it in a 9×13 cake pan, and let it cool for about 15 minutes after taking it out of the oven.  I poked a bunch of holes in it with a toothpick, and poured my peach mixture over the whole cake.  I let it sit for about another 15 minutes, and cut out a slice as a “tester”.  YUM!  The sauce from the peaches had soaked into the cake just enough to give it peachy flavor without making it goopy.  I added a dollop of whipped cream (with vanilla) to the top, and thus created my first peaches and cream cake!

Peaches and Cream Cake Photo © 2010 Sassy Sampler

Easy Peaches and Cream Cake

INGREDIENTS

8—10 donut peaches OR 4 –5 large peaches

Pound cake mix (and ingredients needed to prepare cake—most likely eggs, milk and butter)

~ 1/4 sugar or other sweetener

3 T butter

1/2 t + 1 t vanilla

Pint of whipping cream

Instructions

1. Prepare pound cake in 9 x 13 pan according to directions on the package.

2. While cake is baking, halve and peel peaches.  Cut into slices or 1/2” chunks.

3. Melt 3 T butter in skillet over medium heat.  Taste your peaches for sweetness.  Turn heat down to medium-low and add up to 1/4 c sugar.  Cook until dissolved, about one minute.

4. Add peaches to butter/sugar.  Increase heat to medium high and  cook peaches until they are soft and have reduced down slightly into a sauce (about 3-5 minutes).  Remove from heat.

5. Let cake cool for about 20 minutes.

6. Poke a bunch of holes in the top of the cake with a toothpick.  Spread peach mixture over cake.

7. Prepare whipped cream, and for the most tasty results, serve immediately!

To make whipped cream:

1. Put bowl and whisk in refrigerator to cool (you get better whipped cream this way).

2. Take bowl/whisk out of the fridge, and add the pint of heavy whipping cream, along with 1 t of vanilla.

3. Beat until soft peaks form.

4. Spread over cake in desired fashion – You can frost the cake and refrigerate it, or serve each slice with a dollop of cream on top.

Peaches and Cream Cake PDF