Pesche con Crema: Custard Filled Italian Peach Cookies

Sometimes, getting old sucks.

Like, when you wake up, get out of bed and parts of your body “creak”.  And, your arm is asleep because it was under your pillow all night, distorted and now it’s tingling and you can’t feel your fingers.  And the bottom of your feet hurt like someone was in a punching match with them all night.  Your skin is extra dry, your eyes are puffy, your back is stiff.

Like, really?  This is just wrong…in so many ways.

And I’m only 51.  Imagine when I turn 60, 70 or 80?!?!?!

But what comes with age, and all the creaks, is wisdom – the wisdom that we’ve hopefully gained while on our journey, along with that little piece of fat under your arm that flutters in the wind when you wave hello.  Am I right?  Wisdom and arm jiggle both come with age.  The arm jiggle might not be so nice, but the wisdom that comes from living life, learning from our mistakes and growing a thicker skin because of it (except for the one under your arm…that one just gets floppy) is pretty awesome.

The other thing we become is “seasoned” at what we’ve done throughout our lives.  Think of the 1960’s housewife that made shortbread cookies a few times a week – every week – for her kids to have as an after school snack. The 10,000 hour rule says that once you’ve done something for 10,000 hours, you become a master of that thing.  So, these women became master shortbread bakers…or whatever else was a constant in their baking repertoire.

My aunt, along with many other women of that generation, were master bakers who gained so much knowledge just from baking over and over and over again.  Last year, I posted a Bocconotti recipe that my cousins and I learned how to make in her kitchen.  This came after her husband of almost 60 years, passed away and she realized that her life was going to look very different now.  She seemed a bit lost, so we decided to help her find her way by getting back into the kitchen and baking with us.  When we got there, she had a pretty scarf tied around her neck, she was dressed in a nice outfit, and she was ready to cook.  It wasas  if we had given her reason to be happy again.  When we were finished our baking day and were getting ready to leave, she pulled me aside and said, “you’ll come back again, won’t you? We’ll make something else…whatever you girls want to learn”.

So, back we came and made these traditional “pesches”…peach shaped cookies that are filled with yumminess and often served at baptisms or communions.   She told us she had made these so many times.  These were her notes:

pesche (peach cookies)

But, she even changed what was written on the notes as we started baking.  “I know it says that, but I know it’s wrong”, she said.  Then she added,  “yes, it says that, but I always change it to this”.

Her cookies, though, seemed rather large in comparison to the peach cookies you find in bakeries.  When I re-made them, they were smaller (but hers were fluffier!!).

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They almost looked like giant whoopee pies!!

pesche (peach cookies)

She went on to scoop out the insides…

pesche (peach cookies)

…dip them in coloured liquor and sprinkle them with sugar.

pesche (peach cookies)

She couldn’t remember the colouring step, so we used a red liquor and a yellow liquor (Strega) but I’m pretty sure we coloured them wrong (the research I did showed a more uniform colour).

After we had our baking day with her, I had every intention of posting them but, life got in the way and I put it on the back burner.

Fast forward a year.  In November, I met the cutest girl at an event in Vaughan.  I found out last week that she makes killer “pesches” so we did what anybody would do after just meeting someone…we planned a baking day to make these authentic treats together!

IMG_3592pesche (peach cookies)

We compared recipes and hers is a bit different, but not dramatically (you can check Jenny’s blog, Fables and Focaccia, where she will hopefully post hers soon).

Jenny is so sweet and we chatted and laughed as we baked, scooped, dipped and sprinkled all afternoon.
pesche (peach cookies)

 

pesche (peach cookies)

pesche (peach cookies) and pastry cream

This is the custard, cooled and ready to be used as filling.  In some recipes, you fill the cookies with jam while in others, you fill them with a sweetened ricotta filling (similar to what goes into Sicilian cannoli).  Jenny said she has seen people mix some of the crumbs with the custard before using it as a filling (I’m thinking that a custard that is more “loose” may be thickened by adding some of the crumbs)

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Now that’s a mouthful of a cookie!!

pesche (peach cookies)

Now, bathed in a coating of white sugar…

pesche (peach cookies)

What?  You expected me not to take a bite??

pesche (peach cookies)

With a cup of piping hot espresso, these little morsels are a luxurious snack that will tie you over to dinner for sure!!

Pesches: Custard Filled Italian Peach Cookies
Author: 
Recipe type: dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2 dozen
 
If you pop into any baptism or communion lunch, you will find these traditional italian cookies on most dessert tables! Trust me!!
Ingredients
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ c oil
  • ½ c milk
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder (traditionalists can use 1 package Lievito Bertolini found in Italian grocers)
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp marsala (optional)
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 tsp sugar
  • 4 tsp flour
  • 2 c milk
  • ¼ c white vermouth (or white rum)
  • 2 drops red food colouring (it's should be orangish)
  • ½ c granulated sugar
  • small leaves (make sure they are edible) or use paper leaves you can get at bakery supply store
Instructions
  1. To make the cakes, preheat an oven to 350° and line a few baking sheets with parchment.
  2. In a mixing bowl, beat 1 cup sugar and eggs until light; add in the oil and milk and mix again.
  3. Meanwhile, in another bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt; add slowly to the egg mixture and mix again.
  4. Using a small spoon or a cookie scoop, scoop small balls of the dough onto a cookie sheet and with wet hands, roll into uniform balls (the dough will be sticky); press down slightly.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes or until the bottoms are slightly golden (if you don't have a convection oven, rotate your trays half-way through the cooking time.
  6. Cool slightly while you make the custard.
  7. In a small pot on the stove, heat milk over medium heat.
  8. In a small dish, beat egg yolks and sugar until combined
  9. Slowly add, while stirring, about 2 tbsp of warm (not hot) milk and stir again; add flour and stir again.
  10. Add about 2 more tbsp of warm milk and flour and mix vigorously; add mixture into milk and cook while stirring.
  11. Keep stirring until mixture thickens; remove from heat
  12. Strain into a dish through a sieve (this is optional, but if you're new to custard making, this will keep all lips out of your mix); top with a piece of waxed paper to prevent a skin from forming.
  13. Now, using a melon baller or small spoon, scoop out the insides of the cookies (see picture above) and set aside the cookie crumbs; place hollowed out cookies on a tray.
  14. If you're using the marsala (it will make your cookies a bit more tender), moisten the insides with a bit of marsala.
  15. In a shallow dish, mix the vermouth with the food colouring until it turns an orangish colour; put granulated sugar in another bowl.
  16. Spoon about a tsp full of custard into each half and then sandwich 2 halves together.
  17. Dip into the coloured liquor to coat all sides and roll in the granulated sugar; place on a tray.
  18. If you wrap the cookies with plastic wrap and wait a day, the cookies will get more tender.
  19. Add leaves if you are using them, just before you are ready to serve them.

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