Peaches PanufnikI took Andrzej at his word and used the broiler, but next time, I'll use the blowtorch—faster, more even, and far more dangerous/fun. The editors of the cookbook reassure the timid that, in spite of his adamant insistence on fresh peaches, canned peaches will do in a pinch. But with all those summer peaches just lying around, you'd be a fool to break out the can opener; just dunk them in boiling water for thirty seconds, then into a bowl of ice water, and the skins slip right off. While you're at it, you can take a listen to Panufnik's Piano Trio played by its namesake.
6 large, perfectly ripe peaches ("must be fresh"), peeled
1½ cups heavy cream or crème fraîche (or a combination)
½ to ¾ cup soft brown sugar
Slice the peaches into a buttered shallow 10-inch pie plate or baking dish, leaving ½ inch room at the top; the peaches should lie as flat as possible.
Whip the cream until very thick, and smooth it over the peaches.
Place in the freezer for 2 to 3 hours, until the cream is very firm but the peaches are not frozen solid.
Preheat the broiler (or a salamander) about 15 minutes before serving. Let your guests wait—they will be rewarded. Just before serving, sift some of the brown sugar over the semifrozen cream in a layer no more than 1⁄8 inch thick, covering the cream completely. Broil quickly until the sugar caramelizes. Add another layer and repeat the process, but work fast. Allow a few moments for the melted sugar to harden, and test the topping with taps of a tablespoon. When the properly percussive sound is achieved, rush it to the table, and serve immediately.
For a true Panufnik experience, stay up all night eating the peaches and drinking cup after cup of strong black coffee while listening to ancient Polish chant, then, in your heart-racing caffienated state, fail your army physical the next morning. (Yes, that is how Andrzej avoided military service.) One of the better desserts I've come across in a while. Even critic-at-large Moe was sitting without being told in anticipation of more bits of crunchy topping.