When I served this to some friends approximately one hundred years ago, 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 once young pastry cook, working in a perfectly lovely but oh-so-90s restaurant a reason to live. Desserts at that restaurant were complicated, vertical affairs, and I just wanted to make pie.
Generally, when fruit is as beautiful as this collection of late summer jewels, I hesitate to manipulate it in any way:
But the peaches, as pretty and well textured as they were, were not very sweet, and so I had no qualms about turning them into sauce.
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. Add ice cream and/or a slice of pound cake and you are in business.
I don’t follow the recipe exactly, mainly because I like a sweeter, more pronounced caramel flavor than the quantity of sugar in the book provides. 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.
Tonight I’m serving it as part of a coupe, with vanilla ice cream, fresh figs and raspberries, and pieces of the buttery financier I got today at Blé Sucré, over near the Marché Aligre.
I hope my guest doesn’t consider that a “spoiler”.
I also hope it provokes the same reaction now as it did a hundred years ago.
(Note: If you have never made caramel before or are nervous about it, read this first.)
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 the same 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 can be served warm or cold.