Baked peaches with polenta and almond crumble

Serve the crumble-topped baked peach halves with cream.
Serve the crumble-topped baked peach halves with cream. Photo: William Meppem
Difficulty
Easy

This is my take on the Italian classic pesche ripiene al forno: stuffed baked peaches. Traditionally filled with amaretti biscuits, I've used polenta and almonds (based on the sbrisolona tart from Lombardy, see tip below) for extra texture against the tender flesh of the cooked peach.

Ingredients

4 large, ripe peaches

50g polenta

40g plain flour

25g castor sugar

25g demerara sugar

⅛ tsp salt

⅛ tsp cinnamon

zest of 1 small orange

50g unsalted butter, in cubes, softened; plus 20g extra for the dish

50g lightly roasted almonds, skin on, roughly chopped

100ml freshly squeezed orange juice

pouring cream, to serve

Method

1. Preheat oven to 200C (180C fan-forced). Smear 20g butter on the base of an ovenproof baking dish which is just large enough to hold eight peach halves.

2. Halve the peaches along their natural crease and remove the stones, then trim a tiny bit off the rounded bottom of each half (so that they're stable) and place, cut side up, in the buttered dish. Set aside for the time being.

3. Place the polenta, flour, sugars, salt and cinnamon in a medium mixing bowl and whisk lightly to combine. Add the orange zest and butter, and rub together with your fingertips until the mix looks like a coarse crumble. Add the chopped almonds, mix through and squeeze the crumble a little to form small clumps.

4. Spoon the mix into the cavity of each peach half, piling it up in the centre as much as you can. Pour the orange juice around the peaches, and place in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, until the peaches have softened and are a bit wrinkled at the edges.

5. Remove from oven and allow to stand for about 30 minutes – this allows the nuts to cool down and restores their crunchiness – before serving with cold pouring cream.

Tip: When peach season is over, make the sbrisolona itself by doubling the quantity of the filling mix, stirring in an egg yolk, then pressing into a 23cm round cake tin. Bake at 180C (160C fan-forced) for 30-40 minutes until golden brown. You will have a deliciously crumbly and crunchy giant biscuit, very addictive with coffee.