Fruity Dessert Ideas Can Add a Sparkling Finish to Your Holiday Feast : The Many Varieties of Peaches Provide a Host of Possibilities

Desserts made with fresh peaches are a perfect way to culminate a Fourth of July feast out of doors. And with the selection available now, entertainers can offer a wide variety of fresh peach desserts on their buffets, at a reasonable price.

Although peaches have been appearing in markets since May, as the season gets into full swing the fruit will increase in size and varieties will change from semi-freestone to freestone.

Of the more than 125 varieties of peaches now being produced, the skin color may range from creamy to yellow, pale to high-colored crimson. The flesh, too, may be white, yellow or streaked with red.

When selecting peaches, it's important to recognize that a bright, rosy blush on the skin is not a sign of ripeness. Since the blushes differ from one variety to the next, you should instead look for a fresh creamy or golden undercolor.

No Wrinkles

Avoid peaches with wrinkles, brownish spots or traces of green on their skin. The fruit is ready to eat when it gives to gentle palm pressure (squeezing, however, will result in bruises).

Ripe peaches will stay fresh for several days when stored in the refrigerator. If the fruit has not fully ripened, keep at room temperature a day or two in a loosely closed bag or ripening bowl.

Most of today's fresh peaches are defuzzed before being sent to market and may be enjoyed skin and all. However, if a recipe calls for peeled peaches, place the fruit in boiling water for about 30 seconds, then transfer immediately to cold water. The skins will slip right off.

To keep sliced peaches bright and fresh looking longer, dip in ascorbic acid mixture or lemon juice. Should the fruit accidentally become over-ripe, it may still be entirely suitable for jams, jellies and blender drinks.

Good Vitamin Source

A medium-size (2 1/2- to 2 3/4-inch diameter) unpeeled fresh peach contains about 50 calories. It's a good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C and fiber and provides significant amounts of minerals.

Peaches are low in sodium, cholesterol and fat. Because of these attributes they are a recommended choice in salt-restricted, heart and weight-reduction diets.

This versatile fruit adapts well to a variety of recipes. The following equivalents may be of assistance when calculating the amount to purchase.

One pound fresh peaches equals:

--2 large or 3 medium-size peaches

--2 cups peeled and sliced

--1 2/3 cups peeled and diced

--1 1/2 cups peeled and pureed

Peach Trifle Souffle is a real "show stopper." It's actually a combination of two desserts because a souffle is baked atop the trifle. As with any hot souffle, it must be served immediately, so plan to put it into the oven as you sit down for dinner.

By preparing a chilled main dish salad earlier in the day, you'll have time for the last-minute souffle preparation. The Custard Sauce can also be prepared ahead so it will be ready at serving time.

Fresh Peach Muffins, warm from the oven, are another delicious use for the fresh fruit and a great way to start the day. They also make an interesting accompaniment to summer salads.

Sliced peaches are certainly delicious served "as is." But adding a dollop of Romanoff Sauce gives them a touch of elegance.

Creamy Peaches make an appealing accompaniment to breakfast pancakes, luncheon salads or dinner meats. The fruit halves are filled with a mixture of cream cheese, currant jelly and almonds, then slightly broiled.

On warm summer afternoons, Peach-Honey Shake or low-calorie Liquid Gold makes a refreshing snack. They could also be served at breakfast.

PEACH TRIFLE SOUFFLE

2 large peaches

5 tablespoons sugar

4 ladyfingers, split

3 tablespoons currant jelly or raspberry jam

1 tablespoon butter or margarine

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1/8 teaspoon ground mace

2 egg yolks

3 large egg whites

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/8 teaspoon salt

Custard Sauce

Halve and peel peaches, removing pits. Slice 1 peach into thick slices and arrange in bottom of 5 1/2-cup souffle dish. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar and cover with split ladyfingers, cutting some diagonally to fit closely together.

Stir jelly until smooth and spoon over ladyfingers. Set souffle dish with foil collar in 9-inch square baking pan, adding boiling water to pan to depth of 1-inch and place in 350-degree oven while preparing souffle.

Dice remaining peach in food processor or blender and puree to measure 2/3 cup. Melt butter in small saucepan and stir in cornstarch. Blend in pureed peach and cook, stirring constantly, over moderate heat until mixture boils.

Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice, almond extract and mace. Beat egg yolks lightly. Stir some of hot mixture into egg yolks, then return egg yolk mixture to hot peach mixture. Set aside.

Beat egg whites with cream of tartar and salt to soft peaks. Beat in remaining 4 tablespoons sugar, 1 at a time, beating to stiff meringue.

Fold about 1/4 of meringue into peach mixture thoroughly, then add remaining meringue and fold together gently. Remove souffle dish from oven and fold in peach mixture.

Sprinkle top lightly with additional sugar, if desired. Return to low rack of oven and continue baking 55 to 60 minutes until nicely puffed and lightly browned on top.

Meanwhile, prepare and cool Custard Sauce. Serve souffle at once with Custard Sauce. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Custard Sauce

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 1/4 cups half and half

3 egg yolks

2 tablespoons sugar

Dash salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine cornstarch and half and half in small saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat. Beat egg yolks with sugar and salt. Stir small amount hot mixture into yolks. Return egg mixture to saucepan and cook over very low heat 2 to 3 minutes longer, stirring constantly. Do not boil.

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Cool. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

FRESH PEACH MUFFINS

Butter or margarine

Sugar

1 egg

1 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup chopped peaches

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Cream 1/3 cup butter and 1/2 cup sugar together. Beat in egg. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg and add to egg mixture alternately with milk. Stir in peaches.

Fill greased muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees 20 to 25 minutes.

Combine cinnamon and 1/2 cup sugar in small bowl and set aside. Melt 1/2 cup butter. Remove muffins from oven and immediately dip tops in melted butter and cinnamon-sugar mixture. Serve hot. Makes 12 muffins.

ROMANOFF SAUCE

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1 egg yolk

Grated peel of 1 lemon

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon butter or margarine

1/4 cup rum, optional

1 cup whipped cream

Sliced peaches

Place corn syrup in heavy saucepan. Blend egg yolk, lemon peel and juice and sugar and add to corn syrup. Bring to boil, stirring constantly. Boil 2 minutes.

Stir in butter and rum. Chill until thick, about 2 hours. Fold in whipped cream just before serving. Serve with sliced peaches. Makes about 2 cups.

CREAMY PEACHES

1/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons lemon juice

6 peaches

1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons currant jelly

1/4 cup slivered almonds

Mix sugar and 1 teaspoon lemon juice in medium bowl. Peel peaches, cut in halves and remove pits. Add peaches to bowl and toss gently to coat with sugar mixture.

Beat cream cheese until smooth. Beat in jelly and remaining 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Stir in almonds.

Spoon mixture into center of peach halves. Place on broiler pan and broil 2 inches from heat 1 1/2 minutes or until filling is lightly browned. Serve warm or chilled. Makes 12 peach halves.

PEACH-HONEY SHAKE

1 cup crushed peaches

1/4 cup honey

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups milk

1 pint peach or vanilla ice cream

Combine peaches, honey, vanilla, milk and ice cream in blender. Blend until smooth. Makes 4 servings.

LIQUID GOLD

1 large peach, pitted

1/4 cup orange juice

Cut peach into large pieces. Place peach and orange juice in blender. Blend. Makes 1 cup.

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