I think it was in the 60s-70s when peach melba was the epitome of dessert elegance, along with crepes suzette. We seemed to be experiencing a mini-love affair with the French. Jacques Brel English remakes were on the radio and berets were a cool fashion statement. As Americans, we were less insular and our bodies had not yet ballooned on our diet of “Freedom fries”.
Anyway, peach melba was created in 1892 by the French chef Auguste Escoffier for the soprano Nellie Melba, showcasing summer fruits. The original recipe called for raspberry sauce, peaches and vanilla ice cream. Jade and I decided to go with peaches, cherries, strawberry sauce, vanilla ice cream and a currant garnish. The French for currants is groseilles and they are the personification of cuteness.
The desire to make this dessert was inspired by the superabundance of fresh fruit on offer in the market. Okay, sure, I used canned peaches but I couldn’t be bothered poaching the fresh; it’s Sunday after all. You can if you like. But the cherries, currants and strawberries for the sauce all came from the local market.
I, no baker, decided to make an easy, flat cake to put on the bottom of the coupe and to give Jade a thrill. I also wanted to try this dessert in two different bowls; a dessert coupe and a fruit bowl. Worried about the ice cream melting, I forgot to put the strawberry sauce on top of the peach melba in the fruit bowls before I took the photos. Annoying.
Jade ate the photo models and we hustled (88 degrees outside) two over to the Parrets for their Sunday lunch. Mme Parret was making rabbit in white wine sauce, M. Parret’s favorite. I was served a large glass of Cremant as a reward for my labors. Tangent.
Peach Melba Coupe
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of flour, sifted with a pinch of salt
Juice and grated rind of 1/2 lemon
6 peach halves poached or canned
1 cup cherries, pitted and halved
Vanilla ice cream
Make the cake with the eggs, sugar, flour and lemon. Cook for about 25 minutes in a 350 degree oven in a jelly roll pan. Cool and cut into rounds.
Place one cake round on the bottom of a dessert coupe, top with some whipped cream, then sprinkle on some cherries. Place another cake round on top of the cherries. Cut one of the peach halves in two and place on two sides of the cake rounds. Place a scoop of ice cream on top of the cake rounds. Top with strawberry sauce, more whipped cream and a whole cherry. Garnish the coupe with currants.