Recipe by Lois Schlademan
This recipe (which won the grand prize in the Cook's Country lost recipe contest) has all the abracadabra of a magic trick as well as beautiful presentation and great taste. Lois says the name refers to the "puzzling" cooking method. Her recipe begins by placing a custard cup upside down in the center of a pie plate. Seven peaches (peeled but still whole) are arranged around the cup and then drizzled with a mixture of brown sugar, butter, and vanilla. A buttery biscuit dough is then domed over the peaches and the custard cup. As the peaches bake under the crust, a vacuum forms inside the custard cup and the juices in the pie plate are pulled up inside the cup. Once cooled, the pie plate is flipped over to reveal the peaches nestled into the flaky biscuit. So where's the butterscotch-like syrup? It's all in the cup!
As you might imagine, Lois's recipe is unique—in our research, we failed to come across a single recipe like it. Lois says that her mother made peach puzzle back in the 1940s or 1950s and that it has been a family favorite ever since.
How good does this recipe taste? Lois' description answers that question better than we could: "When you pour a spoonful of syrup over the warm peach and it soaks into the biscuit crust, you will think you've died and gone to heaven—where, when meeting my mom, she would be pleased that it was her recipe that made you come visit!"
Peaches and Syrup
7 medium peaches, peeled (see note)
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
6 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces and chilled
6 tablespoons milk
1. For the peaches and syrup: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Place a 6-ounce custard cup or ramekin upside down in the center of a 9-inch pie plate and arrange the peaches around the custard cup. Combine the brown sugar, water, butter, vanilla, and salt in a medium saucepan and stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the butter melts, about 5 minutes. Pour the syrup over the peaches.
2. For the dough: Pulse the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor until blended. Add the butter and pulse until the flour mixture is pale yellow and resembles course cornmeal. Put the mixture into a medium bowl. (To make the dough by hand: Use the large holes on a box grater to grate frozen butter into the bowl with the flour mixture, then rub flour-coated pieces between your fingers until the flour mixture turns pale yellow and coarse.)
3. Using a rubber spatula, fold the milk into the flour mixture, pressing the mixture against the sides of the bowl to form the dough. Squeeze the dough together and flatten into a disk. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough into a 9-inch circle. Lay the dough directly over the peaches and press and fit the dough so that it fits snuggly around peaches. (The dough will stretch as you fit it around the peaches, but do not attach the dough to the pie plate.) Bake until the top is golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the pan to a rack and let cool for 30 minutes.
4. Place a large rimmed serving plate over the top of the pie plate and quickly invert the puzzle onto a plate. Cut into wedges around each peach and serve, pouring syrup over each portion.
Notes from the Test Kitchen
Since this dish is all about the peaches, save it for when fresh local peaches are in season. And it is important to choose peaches that are neither very ripe nor rock-hard — they should give a little when squeezed. Be sure to invert the pie plate quickly to avoid losing any of the syrup. Serve with vanilla ice cream or sweetened whipped cream.
Assembling Peach Puzzle
1. Place a custard cup or ramekin upside down in the center of a 9-inch pie plate. Arrange the peeled peaches around the cup.
2. Fit the dough snugly around the peaches without attaching the dough to the pie plate. Bake as directed. Once cooled, quickly invert the puzzle onto a rimmed serving plate.
Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.