When fruit is as beautiful as this collection of late summer jewels, I hesitate to manipulate it in any way:
But the peaches, though pretty, weren’t very sweet, so I had no qualms about turning them into sauce.
A million years ago, when I made this for some friends, one of them took a bite and said, “F*$# yeah!” And so it became known as the F*$# Yeah Sauce.
It’s based on a recipe in Chez Panisse Desserts, a book which gave this young pastry cook a reason to live. Desserts at the restaurant where I was working then, in line with the times, were complicated, vertical affairs. I just wanted to make pie.
There are a few recipes in that book for fruit sauces sweetened with caramel: Plum, raspberry, and peach. In each case, fruit is puréed, and the purée is used to deglaze caramelized sugar, in the way that cream is often used to make a caramel sauce. I loved the idea then and I love it now.
The recipe below results in a more pronounced caramel flavor than the quantity of sugar in the book will give. I also like it with a bit of cream, though this is completely optional. A piece of vanilla scraped into the sauce is delicious, but if you don’t have one a few drops of extract will do. A teeny tiny pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon juice finish it off.
Add ice cream and/or a slice of pound cake and you’re in business.
I’m making it for a little dinner party tonight. I hope it provokes the same reaction now as it did a million years ago.
Peach Caramel Sauce
1-2 very ripe peaches, peeled and sliced
1″ piece of vanilla bean
1/2 t lemon juice
3/4 c sugar (or more — see recipe instructions)
1-2 T heavy cream or crème fraîche
minuscule pinch of salt
1. Cut the vanilla bean in half and scrape the seeds into the peaches along with the lemon juice. Puree the peaches in a blender or with a hand blender until very smooth, and then pour it into a measuring cup. If you want a very sweet sauce with lots of caramel flavor, use an equal volume of sugar. If you want the sauce to taste mostly of fruit, use half the volume.
2. Put the sugar into a heavy, perfectly clean sauce pan. Add about 1/4 c of water, just enough to moisten all of the sugar. Put the scraped vanilla bean pods in the pan, too. Cook the sugar on medium heat without stirring. When it starts to turn golden, carefully swirl the pan to encourage even caramelization. When it is evenly golden in color (don’t let it get too dark), remove the pan from the heat and carefully stir in the peach puree and the optional cream. The mixture will bubble rapidly, and it will be very, very hot. Be careful.
The sauce is best served warm.