Baked Peaches

During the years that we had the guest house in Italy, I tried to come up with breakfast ideas that were seasonally oriented, and took into account peoples sensitivities toward food.  When July would hit with all of its warm and sunny splendor, our neighbors would bring over peaches by the case for me to make jam, pies and a myriad of other specialities.  One of these was baked peaches, which were best when I used fruit that was absolutely ripe and veined with red sweetness.  This recipe is simple, gluten-free, and will be sure to please.  But it's not just for breakfast.  By adding a splash of Amaretto or Cointreau, it becomes the perfect desert.  A few fresh raspberries turns it into an amazingly rich peach melba, ready to serve with vanilla gelato. 

Baked Peaches

Oven:  180° C or 360° F preheated

3 ripe peaches, yellow or white.  You determine ripeness by cutting the peach around the pit and then twisting the two halves in opposite directions.  If the  two halves pull away from each other easily, and the pit is left whole, the peach is ripe.  If not, don't bother making this dish.  Wait instead for perfect peaches.

1/2 cup of chopped hazelnuts

6 teaspoons butter

6 teaspoons honey (acacia or orange blossom work well)

Lavender flowers (optional)

Place peach halves in a baking dish or pan. I like using a copper pan that's lined with stainless steel, but a baking dish is also fine.  Place a pat of butter in the indentation of each half, and a spoon full of honey on each pat of butter.  Sprinkle each half generously with ground hazelnuts.  If you wish, add fresh lavender flowers, just two or three per half.  

Bake in a preheated oven for approximately 20-25 minutes until the peaches are soft and sumptuous, and the butter/honey/nut mixture has caramelized nicely.

Variation:  at the end of peach season, the peperoncini are starting to come in - a very loved variation of this recipe was to replace the lavender flowers with fresh tiny slivers of peperoncino or chile.  The result was a peppery sweet richness which I often served with fresh goat cheese, slightly melting from the warmth of the honey and butter.  

I hope you enjoy!  Buon Appetito!