By Cathy Erway
It was so silly I had to do it. When I read that I would be getting a pint of donut peaches in the newsletter of my fruit CSA this week, the idea took hold of me: must make “donut peach donuts.” I just saw Inception like the rest of our society has, it seems, so I know more than ever now that when an idea is planted, it can grow and grow to take over your rational thought.
I dreamed and deliberated about how to make donut peach donuts. My first idea had been simple: make a peach jelly with the fresh fruit, and squeeze it in the middle of some sort of homemade donutty thing. Yeast-risen dough or cake-like dough? Both involved tons of steps, especially the yeast, which is actually my preferred donut type. Do I coat it with powdered sugar after it’s been deep-fried and done? Yuck… I know it’s classic, but I could never stand that fine dust of super-sweet. Maybe I don’t really want to make donuts after all? I hesitated.
But I was egged on: Wen-Jay, who organizes the CSA for Red Jacket Orchards, said that she’d “dreamed about it” too. Others thought the idea was “brilliant,” like Josh. Erin thought I should make “ice cream banana ice cream” next… not sure if she got that the peach was already called “donut” here… And Jennsaid she imagined “a big battered donut peach with a dollop of cream in its indent.” Wait a minute, that sounded interesting, I thought. Why make jelly from these peaches when you can play off their already donut-looking shape?
So I bought a gallon of canola oil and went with the battered, deep-fried idea. I cored the peaches carefully using a paring knife. After eating a couple of them already, I found that their pits were fairly small, as far as peaches go, and that they were impossible to miss, since they were right in the buttoned-up center of the fruit.
“Donut peaches” are an heirloom variety that has recently picked up in popularity, due to their irresistibly cute shape. They also have white flesh, and white peaches have been well-embraced as of late, too. Their characteristics are just like that of a normal white peach — fuzzy skin, mildly sweet and not very tart taste — but instead of growing evenly around the pit, the fruit bulges from its sides like a pinched balloon, or, well, donut. This once-rare variety is purportedly easier to grow as they’re more resistant to frost, pest and disease. I really like how they’re easier to eat: not too big, and the flesh pulls away cleanly from the pit.
I went with a simple beer batter, not very different from my formula for pancakes, and it only needed a few ingredients readily on hand: egg, flour, beer, sugar and salt. As for beer, I’d say go for anything crisp and light-tasting like a pilsner or lager, something with a lot of carbonation to puff these things up. You’re not really going to taste it anyway.
If you’ve ever made onion rings, this procedure is pretty much the same. Pour enough oil to fully submerge your peaches into the bottom of a tall pot. Get the oil to an sizzling 375 degrees (you can use a thermometer for this, or just test a dollop of batter in the hot oil to see how quickly it fries). Dunk the cored peaches into the batter to coat them, and drop them into the oil. A few seconds later, you should have a golden brown deep-fried ring of peach. It tastes great — the flesh of the peach is still as fresh and juicy as it was to begin with, just lightly warmed up around the skins. The outside is blissfully crisp and savory, like a beignet. And it looks pretty much exactly like a donut. I am so happy I could jump out a window.
Now, since another name for donut peaches is “Saturn” peaches, should my next quest be to make planets out of these things?
Beer-Battered, Deep-Fried Donut Peaches
6 donut peaches, carefully pitted without cutting the rest of the fruit
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup beer
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
about 4 cups canola oil (or enough to submerge)
Bring oil to about 375 degrees. It should be slightly sizzling. Whisk together the egg, flour, beer, salt and sugar. Dunk the pitted donuts into the batter to coat completely.
Test if oil is hot enough to deep-frying by dropping a dollop of batter in first. If it sizzles up and turns golden brown within a couple seconds, it’s ready. Shake a little batter off each peach and deep-fry in batches of two or three at a time. (You’ll want to keep the oil consistently hot, and adding more peaches will lower its temperature.) Once golden brown, after approximately 5-10 seconds, transfer to paper towels to drain. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream optional.