Peach Crisp in a Mug: Many juicy returns
I'm not sure when it was that I fell in love with peaches. It may have been the first time I remember my dad coming home from a business trip to Benton Harbor, Mich. He walked in the door with a big box of fuzzy rosy-gold fresh-picked Michigan peaches.
Dad pulled the top off the box to show off his great find. The first words from my mom's mouth were, "Oh, they're beautiful. Are they freestones?" The freestone, easily separated from the center stone or pit of the fruit, was what she preferred to use when she made my dad's favorite peach dumplings. The clingstone varieties usually leave flesh attached to the pit.
Even though my dad had already eaten two or three peaches from the box on his way home, he said we'd just have to eat one to find out. I remember biting into one of those Michigan peaches, smiling at my dad as sweet juice dribbled down my chin. The whole family would be so excited to learn the peaches were indeed freestone and our next meal would be the peach dumplings that my mom learned to make from her Bohemian mother-in-law.
Fresh peaches are making their appearance in grocery stores right now. And just as the first ripe freestones hit my kitchen, a copy of Gloria Hander Lyons cookbook, "Easy Microwave Desserts in a Mug" appeared in my mailbox. A small spiral-bound book filled with more than 80 recipes for delectable desserts, breakfast treats and hot beverages - all in single-serving, easy-to-cook portions.
I must admit that I rarely do any cooking in my microwave oven. I mostly use it to warm up my coffee that's gotten cold in the mug. But then I forget it in there, only to find it the next day when I open the door to heat another cold mug of coffee.
As I paged through the book, the recipe for Peach Crisp immediately attracted my taste buds. With a few common ingredients, a couple of measuring spoons, one peach and a 12-ounce mug I had the most delicious peach crisp all to myself. I didn't stop there, though. I used the same crisp mix with raspberries and then again with blueberries. My kitchen smelled as though I had a whole pan of fruit crisp baking in the oven.
I mixed up extra batches of crisp mix, storing them in snack-size zip-top bags, ready to pull out whenever my sweet tooth starts whining. Within five minutes, I can have warm fruit crisp ready to eat. My microwave is getting a workout.
Author Lyons suggests packing a bag of the crisp mix in a 12-ounce mug along with a snack-size container of diced peaches and directions for preparing the crisp to give as a gift. The recipient only needs a tablespoon of butter and a microwave oven to turn out a warm and satisfying dessert.
I visited with Lyons by phone. I was curious about what inspired this Texan to develop recipes for single-serving desserts that are baked in a microwave oven. Her husband travels for his job, she loves desserts and you know what can happen when a whole cake is sitting on the kitchen counter, continuously calling your name. I recorded my visit with Gloria Lyons and you can listen to the interview on this newspaper's Web site.
Find a pretty-as-a-picture well-rounded peach with deep yellow skin and a rosy blush. Make a cut through the seam all the way around the peach down to the pit. Then twist each half in opposite directions. If it's a freestone, the halves will easily pull away from the pit. If it's a clingstone, just slice the fruit away from the pit. Eat half and chop up the other half to make a mug of Peach Crisp.
It's peach season. Enjoy the juicy dribbles.
Peach Crisp Mix
2 tablespoons quick-cooking oats (not instant)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar, firmly packed
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon finely chopped pecans
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Dash of salt
Blend all ingredients and place in a small zipper-type bag if using at a later date or giving as a gift.
1 (4-ounce) snack size container diced peaches or 1/2 of a fresh peach, peeled and chopped
Microwave 1 tablespoon butter in a 12-ounce mug until melted. Add crisp mix and blend well. Stir in well-drained peaches or peeled and chopped fresh peaches. Microwave 2 minutes at 60 percent power. Let stand in microwave for 2 minutes. Remove from microwave oven and let stand until cool enough to eat.
From "Microwave Desserts in a Mug." The book can be purchased online at www.bluesagepress.com.
Tips from the cook
--To peel and pit a peach: With a paring knife, score a small x at the base of each peach. Carefully lower the whole peaches into a pan of boiling water with a slotted spoon. Simmer until the skin loosens, about 30 seconds to 1 minute, depending on the ripeness of the peaches. Carefully transfer each peach from the boiling water to a bowl of ice water. Let stand about 1 minute to stop the cooking process and cool the peaches. Starting from the scored x, use a paring knife to lift the skin from the flesh and pull the skin off in strips. Place the peach on its side on a cutting board and hold with one hand. Find the natural seam that runs end-to-end and with the paring knife, cut the peach through to the pit all the way around. Hold the peach in your hands and twist until the two halves separate. Use your fingers to pull the pit away. Or, use a thin-skin peeler with serrated blades, often found in department stores or kitchen stores.
--Try using a combination of peaches and fresh blueberries or raspberries to make peach-berry crisp.
--If your microwave doesn't have a turntable, rotate the mug one quarter turn half-way through the cooking time for more even baking.