Is there anything quite so lovely as the blush of a summer peach?

A perfectly ripe peach, juicy, full of flavor, the essence of peachiness?

Does such a creature exist anymore?

If so — tell me where!

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I know there must be perfect peaches out there somewhere. Unfortunately, they're not an everyday reality. Unlike bananas or apples or oranges, which are reliable year-round, a good peach is hard to find.

You grow your own? Great! Live near a peach orchard? Finest kind.

But it seems the farther peaches travel, the less likely they are to be edible. That means those of us without peach trees, and far from peach-growing hotspots like California, Georgia, and South Carolina, are nearly always deprived of the quintessential peach experience: that first crisp-soft bite, the explosion of flavor, the juice running over your hand and down your arm.

Peach paradise. Joie de pêche.

So, given the perfect peach is as rare as a sunny day in June (New England, June 2009), let's go to Plan B: frozen peaches.

And what you can do with them. Which is plenty. Peach Pie. Peach Gingerbread. Peach Cobbler, Peach Scones, Peach Muffins... Peach Pizza!

Or a simple Summer Fruit Crisp, packed with peaches and berries, topped with streusel, and baked to bubbling perfection.

Granted, it's not A FRESH PEACH.

But I wouldn't turn it down. Especially when served warm and topped with vanilla ice cream.

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Trust me here. For baking, IQF (individually quick frozen) peaches are superior to rock-hard, under-ripe fresh peaches any day.

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This is one 16-ounce bag, thawed.

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The crisp needs to be thickened. So I'm mixing 2 1/2 tablespoons Instant ClearJel with 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt; mixing first prevents the ClearJel from clumping.

Easiest way to mix thoroughly? Put thickener, sugar, and salt in a container, snap on the lid, and shake. Wait a second (for the contents to settle), and open. Perfectly mixed ingredients, no extra tools required.

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Pour onto the thawed peaches.

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Stir to combine.

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You know what the really nice thing about ClearJel is? As you stir, the mixture thickens as you watch it. No need to guess if you've added the right amount of thickener: you can see where you're at before baking, and adjust the amount if necessary. It'll thicken aslight bit more as it bakes, but at least you'll know you're in the ballpark, thickening-wise.

FYI, our Pie Filling Enhancer works the same way; it's simply ClearJel pre-mixed with some sugar, allowing you to skip that step. Oh, plus a touch of ascorbic acid, which heightens fruit's flavor, and protects its color as it bakes.

You can also forgo either of the thickeners above, and use 1/3 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour instead; mix it with the sugar, then stir it into the peaches.

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Pour the peaches into a lightly greased 9” x 9” square pan, or casserole-dish equivalent. Sprinkle on raspberries; again, frozen are just fine. Since I want to start with about 6 cups of fruit, and the peaches totalled 4 cups, I've used a cup of raspberries...

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...and a cup of frozen blueberries.

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Here it is, ready for its topping.

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Now for the topping. Combine 3/4 cup brown sugar, 3/4 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, 1/2 cup rolled oats, 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg.

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Whisk to combine, then add 1/2 cup soft butter. Mix till crumbly. Better to under-mix than over-mix; go too far, and you'll end up with topping that's cohesive, not crumbly.

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Pour the topping over the fruit.

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Thud.

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Shake the pan; the topping will redistribute itself nicely.

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Place in a 350°F oven.

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Bake for 40 to 50 minutes. You'll notice the filling bubbling, and topping turning golden brown.

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Remove from the oven.

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While it's tempting to dig right in, please let the crisp rest for 20 minutes or so before serving. The filling will thicken nicely, and it'll still be pleasantly warm.

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Well, I didn't have any vanilla ice cream, but imagine it melting on top here. Or not; this is REALLY good in all its fruity simplicity.

Read, rate, and review (please!) our recipe for Summer Fruit Crisp.

Buy: Hancock Gourmet Lobster Company, Cundy's Harbor, Maine — Deep-Dish Peach Crisp (ordered online for home delivery), $1.14/ounce

The Hotel at Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama — Peach Crisp with Crème Anglaise, $5/serving

Bake at home: Summer Fruit Crisp, 18¢/ounce; $1.06/serving.

PJ Hamel
The Author

About PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

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