At The 9th Floor we know, for those with a sweet tooth, the perfect ending to a meal is a delicious desert. Peach Melba has stood the test of time and is a favorite on our menu. We have our own interpretation of this famous dish using fresh strawberry with a mascarpone cream trifle with peach liqueur and chocolate ice cream.
The classic recipe for Peach Melba is peaches cooked in sugar syrup with a fresh raspberry sauce and vanilla ice cream. The perfectly ripe peaches must be carefully poached and have their skin and stones removed, the raspberry sauce must be sieved to ensure no seeds and of course only the richest vanilla ice cream using vanilla pods rather than essence should be part of the dish. Many chefs add a little orange and lemon juice to brighten the flavor of the syrup to poach the peaches.
Peach Melba was invented in 1892 by the French chef Auguste Escoffier who was working at the Savoy Hotel in London. Escoffier was famous worldwide for his innovative and elaborate dishes and he took great pride in naming some of his dishes after famous people he cooked for. The dish was invented to honor the visit of the Australian soprano Nellie Melba when she was performing in Wagner’s opera Lohengrin at Covent Garden. The Duke of Orleans gave a dinner party to celebrate her singing in the opera and Escoffier created a desert of a swan shaped ice sculpture carrying peaches on a bed of ice cream with spun sugar. The desert was further refined in 1900 when to mark the opening of the Carlton Hotel the ice swan was taken away and raspberry puree was added to the peaches. Over the years chefs have swapped the peaches with pears, apricots and strawberries and instead of raspberry puree have used redcurrant jelly.
The original recipe for Peach Melba, in Escoffier’s words:
Choose 6 tender and perfectly ripe peaches. The Montreuil peach, for example, is perfect for this dessert. Blanch the peaches for 2 seconds in boiling water, remove them immediately with a slotted spoon, and place them in iced water for a few seconds. Peel them and place them on a plate, sprinkle them with a little sugar, and refrigerate them. Prepare a litre of very creamy vanilla ice cream and a purée of 250 grams of very fresh ripe raspberries crushed through a fine sieve and mixed with 150 grams of powdered sugar. Refrigerate.
To serve: Fill a silver timbale with the vanilla ice cream. Delicately place the peaches on top of the ice cream and cover with the raspberry purée. Optionally, during the almond season, one can add a few slivers of fresh almonds on top, but never use dried almonds.
Dame Nellie Melba was born Helen Nellie Porter Mitchell in 1861 and took the name “Melba” from Melbourne, her home town.
The elegant marriage of flavors and simplicity of the desert meant the desert became an established menu item. In America there is even a National Peach Melba Day on 13th January. The founder of this day remains a mystery.
Nowadays Peach Melba is seen as a retro desert, still being discovered and enjoyed by people.
Melba Toast and Peach Melba
So legend has it that when Nellie Melba was trying to lose weight in her later career Auguste Escoffier delighted her by producing a thin baked toast. This toast became known as Melba toast.