Summer, to me, is all about sand between my toes, dining outdoors, ocean swims, G & Ts (always with a splash of sangiovese verjuice) and, of course, juicy, sweet, aromatic stone fruit.
I love that peaches, plums, nectarines and apricots are only available during summer and early autumn. Like all seasonal fruit, it makes them seem more valuable and somehow more desirable – and more enjoyable when you do get to eat them.
Australia grows approximately 100,000 tonnes of summer stone fruit each year, with the Renmark, Swan Hill and Goulburn Valley areas contributing more than 50 per cent of the total. I would eat them just for their flavour but, as a wonderful bonus, they are also rich in vitamins A, C and E, and a great source of dietary fibre and potassium.
When buying them, look for fruit that is smooth, unblemished and slightly firm. Handle them with care, as they bruise easily, especially when ripe. Once you’re home, keep the fruit at room temperature out of direct sunlight until they soften. A really good indication of ripeness is their appearance and aroma – their skin takes on a dull tone, and a deep perfume will develop (not so much for plums, however). Also, they will yield to gentle pressure at the stem end.
Once ripe, pop them into a plastic bag and store in the crisper section of the fridge, but use them within a couple of days.
And when it comes to baking with stone fruit, the options are inspiring. I love the season’s pastry-encased pies and tarts, such as this bold and beautiful free-form summer fruit tart, nectarine and frangipane tart, and peach pie. There are also the creamy custard-based desserts such as apricot clafoutis, crème brûlée with a surprise peach bottom, and delicate mille feuille layered with white nectarines, made aromatic with basil and spiced with pepper. Cakes, cupcakes and muffins are also the go, with plum friands, peach and almond cake, and these peach and macadamia muffins with lemon glaze all tasty possibilities. And crisps and crumbles with wonderful combinations of apricot and almond, plum and blackberry, and nectarine, berry and rosewater will star whenever baked. Oh, and peaches stuffed with amaretti, then baked to the point of rupture, or flavoursome baked, spiced red-wine plums. OMG, heavenly!
So although you might not automatically think of baking as a summertime pursuit, when the stone fruit lands, turn on your oven and make the most of the versatile and downright delicious bounty. The truth is, peaches, nectarines, plums and apricots were utterly made for baking!
Stone fruit recipes
Anneka's mission is to connect home cooks with the magic of baking, and through this, with those they love. Read our interview with her or for hands-on baking classes and baking tips, visit her at BakeClub. Don't miss what's coming out of her oven via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
Photography by Alan Benson. Styling by Sarah O’Brien. Food preparation by Tina McLeish. Creative concept by Lou Fay.
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