Peach and Caramel Corn Crisp
September 3, 2020
We’ve been eating a lot of corn around here lately. Even though we overheard a woman at the farm stand claim “it has no nutritional value,” it’s still a favorite late summer treat in this house. I decided to combine fresh, local sweet corn with another perfectly in-season selection and some decadence to make this fresh peach crisp with corn and caramel.
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This was a new flavor combination for me. I was once told that “what grows together, goes together,” when it comes to produce. Corn and peaches are in season at the same time in Upstate New York, so I figured it was worth a try! It ended up working so well. The juicy, sweet, and tart peaches pair so nicely with the buttery corn. And the thick, rich caramel really helps to tie it all together.
What You Need to Get Started
- Fridge: Unsalted butter, Heavy cream
- Pantry: Granulated sugar, All-purpose flour, Cornmeal, Quick oats, Brown sugar
- Spice Cabinet: Salt
- Produce: Peaches, Corn
- Equipment: 8×8 Baking dish, Parchment paper, Mixing bowls, Saucepan, Thermometer, Whisk
- Optional Equipment: Stand mixer or hand mixer
Let’s Make a Peach & Corn Crisp
Unlike your standard crisp, which has the fruit on the bottom, and a crispy streusel topping, this version includes a bottom crust. The shortbread has a light, buttery flavor that complements the corn. But more importantly, it serves as a base for the caramel sauce, and helps the structure of the whole thing.
Luckily shortbread is super easy to make, so this extra step will hardly cost you much time. Before you get started, preheat the oven to 350F, and prepare an 8×8 baking dish by lining it with parchment paper.
Then, in a medium mixing bowl, cream together softened butter and sugar. If your butter is soft enough, you can do this with a fork. However, you might find it easier to use either a stand or hand mixer. Once it’s combined, add in the flour and salt, and then mix with a fork or spoon until it forms a dough, which you’ll press into the prepared baking dish.
Bake the crust on its own, for 20-25 minutes. When it’s done, it should be dry and golden in color. The edges may be a bit more crisp and browned. Set it aside to cool and firm up, for about ten minutes.
Meanwhile, you can make the caramel sauce while the shortbread is cooling. Caramel making is simple, but requires a little bit of attention. Make sure you have your butter and cream ready before getting started. And have your instant-read thermometer on hand.
In a small saucepan, combine sugar with water, and begin to dissolve it over medium heat. You can stir it gently just until it no longer feels gritty, but once the liquid starts to bubble and boil, stop stirring it. At that point, start checking the temperature regularly.
When it reaches 325F, immediately lower the heat and add in the butter. It won’t look like caramel yet, more of a light gold, so be sure to keep an eye on the temperature. When you add the butter, it might splatter, so be careful. Stir it in until the butter melts.
Then add in the heavy cream, and stir that in as well. Be extra careful here too. Adding the cold cream will cause the caramel to seize up and splatter. This is totally fine, but hot caramel can be dangerous! If you get any caramel on your hands, don’t put them in your mouth. Stir until it’s smooth, and then turn off the heat and transfer to a glass bowl or jar.
By now, the shortbread crust should be fairly cool, and you can start prepping your peaches and corn. If you’d like, you can peel the peaches by blanching them in boiling water for 30 seconds, and then placing them into ice water. However, I have found that if you give them a good scrub, the skins aren’t a problem.
Slice the peaches to be about 1/8 of an inch thick, and set aside. For the corn, shuck it completely, removing all the silks. Then use a large knife to cut off the kernels. This can be a little tricky if you’ve never done it, so work slowly, adjusting against resistance from the cob.
Spread about 1/3 of the caramel sauce on top of the cooled shortbread, and give yourself a nice even layer to start building up the rest of the crisp. First, lay down about 1/2 of the peach slices, overlapping them slightly to cover any holes. But don’t worry about how they look at all. They’ll get covered!
When the pan is full of peaches, add another layer of caramel, using another 1/3 (about half of what you have left, or even a little more if you’d like). It will be difficult to spread on top of the peaches, so try to drizzle it evenly. Then top with the rest of the peaches.
If there are not enough slices to cover the whole pan, just spread them out. Then add the corn kernels on tops. You can use these to fill in any gaps between the peaches, but also sprinkled on top.
After the corn is added, set the pan aside while you prepare the crisp, streusel topping. This includes oats, which makes it a true crisp (a crumble is has a streusel topping without oats), but also cornmeal, to help accentuate that corn flavor.
Combine the dry ingredients together in a bowl, and whisk until they are thoroughly mixed together. Then pour the melted butter into that mixture. Now, the best way to mix up a streusel is with your hands. So be sure the melted butter has cooled slightly.
Get all up in there and use your fingertips to work the butter into the flour mixture. Be sure you are not leaving any dry spots, and break up any large brown sugar chunks. When it’s ready, the streusel will have the texture of wet, clumpy sand. If you pinch a piece, it should stay together.
Scatter the crisp topping onto the corn layer in your baking pan. Use your fingers to break up any large pieces, so it has some air in it. You can aim to fill any gaps, but don’t press down much, or it will mix in with the corn. Of course, it’s fine if a few kernels peek through.
Bake the crisp for about 40-45 minutes. When it’s done, it should be bubbling throughout. However, depending on how well you distributed the crisp topping, it might be difficult to tell if the middle is bubbling.
One trick to tell if it’s done is to check the internal temperature. Grab your thermometer from making caramel earlier, and check the middle of the crisp. It should be at least 195F. If it’s still cool and the top is browning too much, cover the pan loosely with foil. When it’s done, remove the crisp from the oven, and let it cool in the pan.
Celebrate the best of late summer produce with this unique and decadent peach and caramel corn crisp!
How to Serve Fresh Peach Crisp
Letting the crisp cool slightly will help the caramel to firm up a bit. Then you can scoop out portions to serve. If you prefer, you can chill the entire crisp overnight, and then slice it like I did. However, I suggest eating it warm or at least room temperature, drizzled with the extra caramel sauce.
You can eat this for a decadent breakfast or as a dessert. Or both. I’m certainly not stopping you. It doesn’t need anything additional, but you can always add a dollop of freshly whipped cream, or a scoop of vanilla ice cream to any kind of fruit bake.
If you’re serving it with brunch, try pairing it with a bourbon cocktail. Peach and whiskey is always a fun combination. An amaretto old fashioned is a fun twist on a classic. Or for the full caramel experience try a chocolate turtle martini.
Use Up Leftover Ingredients
- Peaches are the star of late summer, and you can enjoy them in plenty of dishes, like a peach oatmeal bake or peach cobbler biscuit sticky buns.
- Corn and cornmeal both can be used in a fun state-fair throwback with sweet corn fritters served with a bourbon-maple syrup.
- Heavy cream makes a great whipped cream topping, or you can use it to make a no-bake cheesecake, like this caramel apple version.
Peach and Caramel Corn Crisp
- ½ Cup Unsalted Butter
- ¼ Cup Sugar
- 1 Cup Flour
- ¼ tsp Salt
- ¾ Cup Sugar
- ¼ Cup Water
- ¼ Cup Unsalted Butter split into 4 pieces
- ⅓ Cup Heavy Cream
- 3 Large Peaches cut into 1/8-1/4-inch slices
- 2 Ears Corn husk removed and kernels cut off the cob
- ¼ Cup Flour
- ¼ Cup Cornmeal
- ¼ Cup Quick Oats
- ¼ Cup Brown Sugar packed
- 2 Tbsp Unsalted Butter melted and cooled slightly
- Make the Shortbread Base: - Preheat the oven to 350°F, and line an 8x8 baking dish with parchment paper. - In a medium mixing bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment) cream together the butter and sugar. Then, mix in the flour and salt until combined, and it holds itself together. - Dump the dough into the prepared baking dish, and press into the bottom, evenly. - Bake for 20-25 minutes until the top is golden and dry, and it's browned at the edges. Set aside to cool for at least 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, Prepare the Caramel Sauce: In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Dissolve the sugar over medium heat, stirring until it no longer feels gritty. Once it starts bubbling, stop stirring, and begin checking the temperature. As soon as it hits 325°F reduce the heat to low and add the butter pieces carefully, as it may splatter, and stir until melted.Then add in the cream carefully, as the caramel may seize. Stir until the mixture is smooth and a dark amber color, and then turn off the heat. Transfer immediately to a heat-proof bowl or jar, and let cool slightly, uncovered.
Build the Crisp
- Once the shortbread has cooled, so it is firm, spread about ⅓ of the caramel evenly on top. Then arrange half the peaches on top. Drizzle with another ⅓ of the caramel, and place the rest of the peaches and corn on top.
- To mix the streusel, in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, cornmeal, and brown sugar until combined. Add in the melted butter and mix with your hands thoroughly, until it has the texture of wet sand.
- Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the top of the peaches and corn, pressing it into gaps. Bake for 40-45 min until bubbling throughout, and the internal temperature is at least 195°F. Let cool, and serve warm or room temperature, drizzled with the remaining caramel sauce.
- Make ahead tip: You can prepare the entire crisp and bake it, and then store in the fridge overnight before serving. Reheat individual portions, and drizzle them with warmed caramel. Store extra caramel in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
- This recipe works best with fresh peaches and fresh corn. If you used frozen, thaw completely, and if using frozen or canned, dry thoroughly.
- You can eat this chilled for firmer caramel, but I didn't enjoy the taste of cold corn. I suggest it warmed up to at least room temperature.
- Although this has a shortbread base, it's a little too messy to serve as bars. It's easier to serve portions in small dishes and eat with a fork.