Our Recipe of The Week: Pesche Dolci or Faux Peach Cookies
Italians have a saying, all’amico pela il fico, e al nemico la pesca, “peel a fig for a friend and a peach for an enemy.” It comes from the fact that in Italy the peel on a fig is considered unpalatable, while peach skin is regarded as a delicacy.
These adorable peach-shaped cookies are the sort of dessert Martha Stewart would have come up with if she were Italian! To make these kitschy-chic faux peaches, two rounded cookies are joined together with a creamy filling, then dipped in red-tinted liqueur and rolled in sugar. They look just like small, fuzzy peaches. The cookies absorb the filling and the liqueur, and acquire the moist, dense texture of summer-ripe fruit. There’s even a peach “pit” in the center—a whole almond—as the final touch to this culinary trompe l’oeil.
It takes at least 24 hours for the cookies to absorb the liqueur and filling to create a soft peach-like texture, so these cookies are great make-ahead treats. They taste best served at room temperature, so be sure to remove them from the refrigerator at least an hour before serving them. If you like, insert little mint leaves in some of the peaches and, for fun, arrange them on a platter with a few real peaches mixed in.
Alchermes, the wonderfully aromatic red liqueur used to make thesecookies, while common in Italy is not available in the USA. Spicy-sweet with a lovely floral aroma and distinctive bright red color, Alchermes is a key ingredient in many classic Italian desserts, like zuppa inglese. Despite that fact that alchermes is listed as an ingredient in dozens and dozens of recipes in any Italian dessert cookbook it isn’t yet available in the States. It’s simple to make, using standard pantry ingredients. One splash adds lots of flavor--- a sort of spice route spice mix. If you want a recipe for alchermes, check out this article in our archives.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
Sift the flour and sugar together onto a clean work surface. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add the eggs, butter, milk, vanilla, and baking powder to the well and slowly mix in the flour until dough forms. If the dough is too dry add a little more milk, if it is too wet add a little more flour.
Knead until well combined. Pinch off a small portion of the dough and roll it into a ball, about 1 inch in diameter. Press the ball onto the prepared baking sheet, so it is flattened to a half dome. (Be sure not to make the balls too big, as they It will puff up while baking. Each ball will become half of the peach cookie.) Continue until all the dough is used up. You should have about 80 balls.
Bake, about 25 minutes, until light golden. Remove the baking pan from the oven, and while still warm, scrape out a wide hallow in each ball from the side that was touching the pan. You can use a grapefruit or espresso spoon or tip of a knife.
(If you like, save the crumbs from the center of the cookies to use as ice cream topping or to make chocolate truffles).
To assemble: Pour the alchermes, diluted with 1/4 cup water, into a small bowl. Pour some granulated sugar into a small plate.
Divide up the hollowed-out cookies into pairs of roughly the same size. Take a pair and spread each cookie with lots of crema pasticcierra being sure to fill the center hallow generously. Put an almond into the center of one of the cookies and gently press them together. Ideally, you’ll have put enough pastry cream into the center so that there’s at least 1/2 inch of pastry cream between the two. Add a generous amount of filling! Some of the cream will ooze out. That’s normal. It’ll all absorb into the cookie and solidify by the time you are ready to serve them.
Next, along the line where the halves joined, slowly roll the peach in the liqueur. Be sure they are well moistened. Then roll them in the sugar.
Repeat until you’ve joined all the cookies.
Put the “peaches” onto a platter, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 12 hours, and up to 36, before serving.