Fill ‘er up

Cream cheese.

I’m sure this conjures up lots food related images for you.

Bagels and cream cheese, cheesecake, fruit dip, veggie dip, California Rolls, frosting, icing.

Cream Cheese reminds me of Lady Gaga.

Talented and versatile but way over-played.

Somewhere in the world, Lady Gaga has a cousin who is equally as talented but doesn’t have to hide behind dresses made of raw meat, six-foot wigs, hooker shoes, and other ridiculous costumes. She is more elegant, demure, and tasteful.

In the dairy family, cream cheese’s more tasteful cousin would be Ricotta

Ricotta is thick, creamy, and smooth and arrives gently mounded in a container, whereas cream cheese (like Gaga) gets squeezed into a too tight wrapper and molded into an un-natural rectangular blob.

And on that musical note, I would like to welcome Ricotta to the peach party.

Now that I had my cookie crust, I needed some sort of peach topping for the peach festival’s recipe contest.

In my head I envisioned some sort of “Peach Pizza” with sweet ricotta cheese, sliced peaches, and a salted caramel sauce.

About the only thing that came out as planned was the ricotta.

This one is simple and easy.

Combine 15 oz. (1 tub) of ricotta cheese with 2 tablespoons of honey.

Add 1/4 tsp. almond extract and stir to combine.

Initially, that was the extent of the ricotta layer. But then, on the Edge of Glory, I decided to add the zest of half a lemon.

Didn’t see that coming, did ya? That’s because I had on my Poker Face.

This was so good it was criminal. I wanted to spoon it into a dish and eat it for dinner but I still had peaches to attend to.

In keeping with the “pizza” theme, I wanted to arrange thinly sliced white and yellow peaches artfully atop the ricotta layer.

In my head, it was elegant.

In the pan, it was a little Gaga.

That is, it was a hot friggin’ mess.

I made too many mistakes to even list in one post, but the biggest offense was trying to heat this sucker in the oven in a last-ditch attempt to crystallize the sugary topping.

It was a bad romance.

The water from the ricotta seeped into the cookie crust essentially making mush and the peaches turned a very unappealing shade of brown. I’m not even going to tell you what a mess I made of the first batch of caramel topping.

My good friend Malia steered me in another direction.

This would be even better if it was like pie, she said.

Oh crap.


I figured I better bite the bullet and learn how to make pie filling.

I had no idea how many peaches to use so I just started chopping them up, threw them in a saucepan, and added unmeasured amounts of sugar, vanilla and cornstarch.

Just so you know, this does not make pie filling.

It makes heated peaches with a bitter, alcohol aftertaste.

I did things the right way for round two.

I boiled water in a saucepan on the stove and prepared a large bowl filled with ice and cold water.

The peaches then took a nice little dunk in the boiling water for two minutes followed by a quick dip in the ice bath.

When cool to the touch, you can remove the peaches from the ice bath and the skins will slide right off.

Then slice the peaches, remove the pit, and give them a rough choppity-chop.

Instead of using sugar to sweeten the peaches, I decided to use some locally produced peach preserves.

This is really more of an attempt to suck up to the judges than an actual stroke of culinary genius.

Just kidding, this stuff is heavenly.

After I finished chopping the peaches, I (actually measured) 1/2 c. of the preserves and heated it on low in a medium-sized saucepan.

Then I added the peaches and simmered for about 15 minutes.

I squeezed in about 2 tsp. of fresh lemon juice to finish the filling.


I thought I would hi-jack a hot food trend and top the whole thing off with a salted caramel sauce.

Rounds 1 and 2 resulted in utter failure but I thought I nailed it on round three.

I didn’t want the recipe to be too involved, so I decided to forgo making caramel from scratch.

Plus, those Kraft cubes of caramel are just so darned cute.

After spending 20 minutes unwrapping (which went something like unwrap one and eat three), I loaded what was left of them into a small saucepan to melt them over low heat.

I’m Gaga for gooey caramel.

Once it was melted, I added 1/4 c. almond milk instead of the traditional half and half to make a sauce. I had no idea if almond milk would work, or even in what amount, but I forged ahead.

After ruining the first batch with entirely too much salt, I kept the second batch to a very scant half teaspoon of  coarse sea salt.

It was time to assemble a tasting.

I used the halves of both versions cookie crusts.

Layered it with sweet ricotta.

Spooned on the peach filling.

Gave it a drizzle of salted caramel.

And hit half the pie with chopped almonds.

My co-workers were kind enough to critique the dessert while we pretended to have a clinical meeting.

They concluded that the crust with less oil was lighter and more flavorful, the nutty version added necessary crunch, no one could taste the caramel and that it’s important to get out of the way when a student tries to throw a desk at your face.

Meeting adjourned.

I’ll see you at the judges table Saturday.


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