Earlier today, my sister was exhorting my mom and I to remember a dessert. "Peaches! In a custard. Don't you remember?" she kept asking. "It was bruleed on top, so you had to crack it. The peaches- or sometimes pears, you would set them in the custard. It had vanilla bean flecks in it. It was my favorite!" she kept explaining.
Despite her lucid recollection, neither mom nor I could remember anything about it- not eating it, or making it. Jessica was 100% sure that it existed. "Unless it was a dream...." she finally suggested.
I had already planned to make this pie today, a recipe I collected at the restaurant from a catering client. It was her grandmother's peach pie recipe, and once she had me make four for a large dinner party. The recipe was a bit odd, but it looked delicious. "I could make this peach custard pie- it sounds very similar to what you remember," I told Jessica. With great reluctance, she accepted that I wasn't going to make her imaginary dessert. I promised to do so another time- probably in the next few days as we still have a dozen peaches.
We had my dad's mother over for dinner this evening. Rack of lamb, fresh corn, a great fresh salad...it was a fabulous meal. The instant we met my grandmother in the lobby of her building, my sister demanded, "Grandma, did you ever make a dessert with custard and peaches?"
"Why yes", she replied. "I would cut the peaches in half, lay them in the bottom of a casserole dish, and then make custard and pour it over the top. Then I'd top it with brown sugar and put it under the broiler."
To say that Jessica was thrilled is quite an understatement. "Do you have the recipe?!" she asked. "Do you remember how to make it?!" Grandma assured us that she does, indeed, still have the recipe, and she'd be more than happy to share it with us. As soon as she does, I promise I'll share it here. Until then, this pie is absolutely spectacular- and a great use for this years excellent peaches.
It couldn't be easier to make, and it's a showstopper. Fresh, ripe peaches are the key- everything else is just a foil for the fruit. I'd recommend making it early in the day, so the custard has enough time to set up. It would work great with other stone fruit too; pears, plums, even apricots.
Here's how it's done:
Make your pie crust, and have it chilling in the fridge. Or use store bought. I won't tell.
Buy some luscious fresh peaches.
Peel and gently halve the peaches- the halves should split easily from the pit.
Combine the sugar, flour, cream, salt and vanilla in a small bowl. Or measuring cup. Small lumps of flour are normal. I just whisked mine up with a fork.
Except the center peach, place all the peach halves split-side up in your unbaked pie shell. Carefully pour the filling mixture into the center.
Gently set the center peach into the mixture, and then dot each peach with a hearty dollop of salted butter. Sprinkle the whole pie with the remaining sugar, and put that gorgeous thing in the oven.
Bake for at least 60 minutes, or until the whole pie is lightly golden brown and set (no jiggles when you shake it). Cool completely before cutting or the custard will run. Bestow upon lucky onlookers.