Peach Melba is a classic French dessert created by Escoffier at the end of the 19th Century for Dame Nellie Melba, an Australian opera singer. It combines poached peaches with raspberry sauce and vanilla ice cream. It hasn't been in vogue for a while in the United States, but it's certainly a lovely summer dessert when made with fresh peaches and raspberries. The various components can be made ahead of time, making quick work of the actual assembly.
|Peel of 1 lemon (removed in strips)|
|1||vanilla bean (split lengthwise)|
|1/2 cup||plus 2 tablespoons peach schnapps|
|4 medium||peaches (just shy of perfectly ripe)|
|1 1/2 pints||fresh raspberries|
|1 tablespoon||fresh lemon juice|
|vanilla ice cream|
|Fresh mint sprigs (as garnish)|
To poach the peaches, place the water, sugar, lemon peel, and vanilla bean in a saucepan that's just large enough to hold the peaches with the liquid barely covering them. Bring the mixture to the boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to low and add 1/2 cup of peach schnapps and the peaches. Cover the pan and cook at a very low simmer until the peaches are tender when pierced with a small knife, 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of your peaches.
Remove the peaches from the poaching liquid with a slotted spoon and place them on a plate to cool. The peaches can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Before serving, cut the fruit in half through the stem end and remove the pit. Carefully pull or peel off the skin and discard.
Remove the lemon peels and vanilla bean from the poaching liquid, discarding the peel and saving the vanilla bean for another use. Then place the pan over high heat and reduce the liquid to about 3/4 cup to concentrate the flavors. Cool to room temperature, then add the remaining 2 tablespoons of peach schnapps. Store the syrup, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
For the raspberry sauce, rinse the berries and place them in a small saucepan with the sugar. Place the pan over medium heat and cook until the berries soften and begin to break apart, about 10 minutes. Force the mixture through a fine mesh sieve, discarding the seeds. Add the lemon juice to the sauce and refrigerate, covered, up to 3 days.
To assemble the dessert, place a scoop of ice cream in a bowl or large goblet. Top with 2 poached peach halves. Spoon some of the poaching syrup over the ice cream, then drizzle raspberry sauce over the peaches. Garnish with mint sprigs, if you like. Serve immediately.