Served over vanilla ice cream and topped with sweet raspberry sauce, these Poached Peaches Melba are a delicately-balanced combination of fruity and creamy flavours.
Even though I love ice-cream, I must say it wouldn’t be my ultimate dessert of choice. Most of the time, I would reach for a nice slab of cake over ice-cream (and any cake, by any means). Even during a hot summer’s day. But then again, these poached Peaches Melba might just be the exception to the rule.
This Classic French dessert was invented in 1892 in London by renowned French Chef Auguste Escoffier. He created this dessert for a dinner in honour of Australian soprano Nellie Melba, who was in town to sing Wagner’s opera Lohengrin at Covent Garden. He used an ice sculpture of a swan (which is featured in the Lohengrin opera). The swan carried peaches which rested on a bed of vanilla ice cream, topped with spun sugar.
Later, in 1900, for the opening of the Carlton Hotel in London where he was head chef, Escoffier added a simplified version of Peaches Melba on his menu. He skipped the ice swan and simply topped the peaches with raspberry purée.
If you would like to learn more about the story behind these poached Peaches Melba, I invite you to read Tori Avey’s post “Opera, Escoffier & Peaches”, where she gives a detailed look back at the stories and peoples behind this beloved dish.
The combination of tender and ripe peaches, sweet raspberry puree and vanilla ice cream is on-point. Simple, but so effective. In France, these delightful poached Peaches Melba can be found on most bistro and restaurants menus, especially during the summer season. Mainstream restaurants will add whipped cream and slivered almonds on top – probably to make the dessert more extravagant looking – though the original recipe doesn’t call for it.
Choose your peaches firm-ripe. You can use either fresh or frozen raspberries; if you do use frozen raspberries, make sure you thaw and drain them well before hand.
Once you master this recipe of Poached Peaches Melba, you might be tempted to switch the fruits and play with flavor variations (pear and chocolate, apple and caramel, strawberry and rhubarb…). Although, you should know that Chef Escoffier himself was once quoted as saying, “Any variation on this recipe ruins the delicate balance of its taste.”
Poached Peaches Melba with Raspberry SaucePrint This
3 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 vanilla pod, split lengthwise
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 ripe peaches
1 cup raspberries (fresh or frozen, well drained)
1/8 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 large tub vanilla ice-cream
For the poached peaches:
Cut a small X at the bottom of each peach with a sharp knife and immerse fruit in a 4-quart heavy pot (preferably wide) of boiling water for 30 seconds. Immediately, transfer the peaches with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice cold water to stop cooking process.
Transfer peaches to a cutting board and peel them gently (starting by pulling the skin off from the cut end). Once peeled, cut the peaches in quarters, discarding pits.
Combine the sugar and water in a shallow frying pan (or large sauce pan). Halve the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape seeds into the pan, than add the pod and bring mixture to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved.
Add the peaches, then reduce heat and let sit covered at a slight simmer for 5-6 minutes. Turn peaches over and continue to poach until peaches become very tender, for 5 to 6 minutes more.
Once done poaching, cool the peaches in their liquid, in the pan, uncovered, for 1 to 2 hours.
For the raspberry puree:
In the meantime, blend the raspberries in a food blender.
In a small sauce pan, combine sugar and water. Cover the pan and bring to a boil. Do not stir, remove the lid and boil for 2 minutes.
Immediately stir sugar syrup into raspberry purée and cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. Then, stir in the lemon juice and whisk to make sure no lumps were formed.
Dress the desserts right before serving. Place peaches over scoops of vanilla ice cream and drizzle the raspberry sauce on top.