Peaches Pratt (Pesche di Pratto)
My current wife's mother (Mi Santa Madre Inmaculada she calls her) has been my best recipe book provider by far. That is great as is but the most interesting fact is that she has never ever liked to cook whatsoever. As she still claims, she HAD to cook for her family but she always thought it was kind of torture. Nevertheless she accumulated a good amount of cook books from different parts of the world.
She had (and I say "had") because she has given them to me... books in Spanish, which seems reasonable because that is the language she claims to speak. The funny thing is that she also had books in German, Italian, Chinese and Gibberish. Gibberish she kinds of uses it often, but the rest she doesn't. She comes from Italian parents (some sort of gangsters as far as I have heard...La Familia del Mattone ) but honestly my Italian is as good as hers...
In any event, between the books she has given me (I will talk about the "family recipes" another time) there is one called Dolci Per Un Anno by Massimo Alberini. In that book with few illustrations I found this recipe and, with help of my humble dictionary and Mr Google I was able to translate it and bring it back to life.
Pratto is a city and commune in Tuscany at the foot of Monte Retalia and this absolutely delicious buns are their pride and joy. The thing is that they call for Alkermes, a red liquor that can only be found -as far as I know- in the Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella. This pastry can be found in good pastry shops from Firenze to Pistoia. I obviousl lacked of this red liquor so i had to improvise. After hours of research, I understood that Alkermes is a liquor made of many spices and reminded me of Luxardo, which I have and use for my Maraschino Cherries. It is white, though...but the flavor just seemed right.
I went on and after translating, I made them. The end result is honestly glorious. The pastries are soft but with body (I dislike pastries that you bite into and you feel empty just 10 seconds after...) and a flavor out of this world. The mix of the freshly baked brioches, the soft and delicious filling and the master touch that was the syrup/coating... oh wow... they were fantastic.
So, here you have it. From Italy to my mother in law and then to me...and now to you. I really hope you like them!!!!
Peaches Pratt (Pesche di Pratto)
Cooking Time: 120 Minutes* Makes 10 servings
550 g Sifted flour
120 g Sugar
70 g Room Temperature Butter
5 Room Temperature Eggs
2 8 g Instant Yeast Packets
- Seeds of a Vanilla pod
20 g Honey (Acacia would be best!)
70 g Filtered or Spring water room temperature
1/8 Tsp Salt
180 g Room temperature milk
75 g Cream (whipping cream will do)
20 g Flour
3 Egg Yolks
1/8 Tsp Salt
Seeds of a Vanilla Pod
Lemon Rind (one lemon’s)
60 g Sugar
40 g Water
60 g Alkermes Liquor (I used Luxardo, even though is white, not red)
* plus rising time
- Let’s mix the dry ingredients first: in a medium-large bowl mix the sifted flour, the sugar and the yeast.
2. Now we add half the butter and the water to the dry mixture and knead well on a clean floured surface until you get an elastic and smooth dough. Transfer the dough to a clean (and oiled) medium bowl, cover with a damp cloth and allow it to rise for 2 hours (I put it inside my oven with the light on…it works fantastically !). It should double in size.
3. Now we’ll incorporate the eggs, the rest of the butter, the seeds of the vanilla pod, the salt and the honey. Knead well until you get again a smooth and elastic dough. If you need to add a bit more water is OK, just add it bit by bit.
4. Put back the new dough in the oiled bowl, cover it with a plastic bag and allow it to double in size for another 2 hours (again…I use my oven with the light on).
5. After the final rise, we are going to shape the dough into a long shape (like a baguette) and cut it into small 20 grams balls (like the size of a walnut). Place the balls on a prepared baking tray (parchment paper or butter)… but remember to leave room between the balls, as they still will rise. Cover them with plastic film and allow it to rest for another 30 minutes.
6. Turn on the oven and set to 425˚F
7. Once the half an hour has passed, put the baking sheets in the oven for 6 to 9 minutes (depending on your oven). They are ready when they are golden (not brown!).
8. Allow them to cool down on a cooling rack. reserve.
9. Now that our rolls are cooling down we are going to prepare the custard: on low heat mix the milk, cream, vanilla seeds and lemon rind and let it simmer for 20 minutes (very low heat!).
10. Now let’s mix the sifted flour, sugar and salt. Bring up the temperature to high and add half the mix, and add one by one the egg yolks making sure that you keep mixing all the time as it will want to thicken fast (or cook the egg yolk which is even worst). The add the second half of the dry mix and keep mixing to maintain an even consistency.
11. Once the mix is a bit thick, turn off the heat and allow it to cool down. It will thicken to the proper consistency…. if not you can always thicken it with some corn starch…
12. Now let’s do the syrup: Combine in a saucepan the water and the sugar until dissolved. Allow it to cool completely and then add the Alkermes liquor or the Luxardo (if you have Alchermes Liquor you must be very special… I can’t find it anywhere in North America!!!). Reserve.
13. Assembly. The last part!. Now we are going to carefully take a roll at the time and fill it with the custard using a piping bag with a cone tip (the cream is thick, so use a medium size one). Repeat until all the rolls are filled.
14. Carefully dip each ball into the liquor/syrup mix and then roll it on the sugar. Reserve.
15. Now the cute stage: If you have the patience and want to be mega traditionalist, then decorate each ball with a slice of candied orange and a mint leaf (I didn’t but next time I will….).