How to trun underripe fruit into a perfect dessert

This dessert of baked nectarines with amaretti biscuit crumble can be made all year round

Baked nectarines filled with blackberries, then topped with an amaretti and hazelnut crumble

Baked nectarines filled with blackberries, then topped with an amaretti and hazelnut crumble

 

When the weather is hot, I look forward to the pleasure of a succulent nectarine when I can find them. Nothing is quite so refreshing in the sunshine. Buying stone fruit is an investment in the future. You have to have faith that the fruit you have just bought will ripen, even though it currently has all the softness of a billiard ball. Maybe it won’t ripen tomorrow or the next day, but eventually, you hope.

Perfectly ripe stone fruits of any kind are wondrous things, if you can find them.The remaining fruits that stubbornly refuse to ripen can be rescued to great effect by roasting them in the oven and creating this quick dessert which is so easy and delicious.

The baked nectarines have their cavities filled with blackberries and then the fruit is topped with an amaretti and hazelnut crumble. It is a great summer pudding under any circumstances, but it is an especially good way to use up underripe fruit.

It is amazing how few baked-fruit recipes become mainstream desserts. Once you try a few recipes, you realise how the natural sugars in the fruit add a fragrant sweetness.

Preparing freestone nectarines is quick and neat. You can cut the fruit in half and pull the stone out easily. If you find you have clingstone nectarines, removing the stone will be messier. You may end up with the fruit cut into quarters or chunky slices, but it can be roasted in the same way.

The amaretti biscuits in the crumble usually contain amaretto, a bitter almond-flavoured liqueur. The flavour of the liqueur often comes from peach or apricot kernels, so the biscuits have a natural affinity with summer stone fruits. The amaretti crisp up beautifully in the oven and lift the baked nectarines to full pudding status. A scoop of vanilla ice-cream slowly melting into the warm fruit juices is almost obligatory here.

Variation:

Substitute ginger nut biscuits instead of amaretti biscuits. Or use digestive biscuits with a pinch of cinnamon.

BAKED NECTARINES WITH AMARETTI BISCUIT CRUMBLE

Serves four

Ingredients
4 ripe nectarines
15g butter, melted
15g sugar
½ a lemon
12-16 blackberries (or other berries)

For the amaretti nut crumble:
100g amaretti biscuits
40g hazelnuts (with or without skin)
50g melted butter
1 tbsp caster sugar

To serve:
2-3 tbsp water (or amaretto liqueur)
Ice-cream, or whipped cream  

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

2. Slice around each nectarine from top to bottom with a sharp knife, separating two halves with a quick twist. Use a teaspoon to scoop out the stone. Arrange the halved nectarines, cut side facing up, in a tight-fitting ovenproof dish or baking tray. Add the melted butter to the 15g caster sugar and spread it over the cut flesh and cavity of each nectarine. Add a squeeze of lemon juice.

3. First start to soften the nectarines in the preheated oven for 10 minutes (15 minutes for slightly underripe fruit).

4. To remove skin from hazelnuts, toast them in the preheated oven for 15 minutes until the skins darken in colour, then rub them together in a clean cloth, to release them from the skins.

5. Meanwhile, use a food processor to blitz the hazelnuts, then blitz the amaretti biscuits to a breadcrumb consistency (or if you don’t have a food processor, roughly chop the nuts with a sharp knife and bash the biscuits in a plastic bag using a rolling pin). Place the crumble mixture in a bowl. Melt together the butter and sugar and once fully combined, stir them through the crumble.

6. Remove the par-baked nectarines from the oven and place one or two blackberries in each cavity. Spoon a tablespoon of crumble topping over each nectarine.

7. Bake uncovered in the preheated oven for an additional 10 minutes, or until the flesh of the nectarine is softened, looks more juicy, and the crumble is golden in colour (the length of time required depends on how ripe the fruit is, but the best time to remove them from the oven is before the skin wrinkles and the flesh collapses).

8. Once baked, add two to four tablespoons of water (or a dash of liqueur) to the base of the dish to loosen any caramelised juices and then pour any juice over the baked nectarines. Serve with vanilla ice-cream, mascarpone or softly-whipped cream.

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