Make no mistake about it: I love boozy fruit. Some folks aspire to be fantastic jam makers or the kind of picklers who expand their range to include exotic treats like chili-vinegar fiddlehead ferns and pickled sweet potato greens. These canning dreams are all well and good, but I'm staking my claim right now on the niche market of alcohol-laden sweet produce. After all, what could make a better housewarming gift than giant chunks of pineapple soaked in rum or fresh cherries mingled with a fine bourbon? Definitely not pickles, that's for sure.
Brandied peaches are the grand dame of boozy fruit, a Victorian Christmastime favorite, and a mainstay of cookbooks from the late 1800s until the 1950s. When canning dropped off in favor of the speed and convenience of gloopy, mass produced store bought fruits in a tin, brandied peaches and their simple elegance all but faded from the culinary radar. It's high time they begin their ascent back to their former regal status.
In this Brandied Peach Almond Pie, the peaches are given a very speedy soak in brandy before baking—just enough time to give them the proper flavor, but not enough time to fully macerate. Suddenly been bitten by the boozy fruit bug? I suggest trying your hand at preserving whole brandied peaches to spoon over ice cream or as a dessert in and of themselves. This process involves several additional steps to make sure they are properly canned (let's all try and avoid botulism, please) but can be the perfect treat months later on a cold winter night. If you are a fan of brandy and would like to make your pie a bit more potent, cover the bowl while the peaches are soaking and refrigerate the mixture overnight; the longer the peaches are allowed to macerate, the stronger the brandy flavor.
The unexpected crunch of the almond-tiled pie crust against the juiciness of the fruit is a nice textural balance for a dish overflowing with major peach flavor, as the almonds are able to counterbalance their sweetness with nutty depth while also reinforcing the candied nature of the pie. If you're an almond fan, take an additional 1/3 cups of ground almonds and sprinkle generously into the crumb mixture once it is removed from the heat in order to add even more crunch to the topping.
While baking, the crumb topping may begin to brown before the pie is finished baking. If this happens, tent the pie for the last 15 minutes with aluminum foil to ensure it is cooked through and to prevent burning.
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About the author: Sarah Baird is a writer, editor, and petit four aficionado living in New Orleans, Louisiana. She likes planning elaborate dinner parties surrounded by her collection of dwarf citrus trees. You can read her latest musings and about her various misadventures on her website: hellosarahbaird.com or follow her on Twitter: @scbaird.