Eighteenth century poet Robert Blake once wrote: "I ask'd a thief to steal me a peach. He turned up his eyes."
That thief had obviously never attended Wesley United Methodist Church's Peach Festival. Each year there are plenty of peach recipes to turn your head, but none at which to turn up your eyes.
This past Saturday, the grounds of the church at 8412 Richmond Ave., in Mount Vernon District, were filled with peach- and fun-lovers for the Fourth Annual Peach Festival. But the highlight of the day is always a wide array of peach desserts created by church members.
Dale Swartz, a parishioner for 35 years, contributed an assortment of peach pies plus her specialty, peach slices. "I've been doing this for years, even before we had the festival," the 81-year-old Swartz said.
Her Peach Slices recipe calls for the following: "Three cups all-purpose flour, 3/4 tablespoon of salt, 1/2 cup of shortening, 2 egg yolks, 1 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice, and 7 1/2 tablespoons of water.
"Mix flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Mix well. Add shortening and mix with fork until ingredients are crumbly. In a small bowl, beat egg, lemon juice and water. Combine the two mixtures, stirring with the fork until all ingredients are moistened. Press about three-quarters of the pastry into a jelly roll pan. Save enough for patchwork pieces on top."
Of course, the prime ingredient is the peach slices resting temptingly on top of each cube.
Other peach creations offered to festival attendees included
Peach Filling by Laurel Ichter: "Four cups of peaches, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 3/4 teaspoon of nutmeg, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 3 tablespoons of minute tapioca, and 3 tablespoons of flour. Mix and pour over pastry in a pan. Add patchwork pieces of pastry on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Drizzle with a mixture of 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar and water. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time."
From Gwen Loftus came Easy Peach Cobbler, which she claims can be ready to serve in 65 minutes allowing 15 minutes for prep time and 50 minutes for cooking. The following recipe will provide six to eight servings, according to Loftus:
"One-half cup unsalted butter, melted; 1 cup all-purpose flour; 2 cups sugar; 3 teaspoons baking powder; pinch of salt; 1 cup of milk; 4 cups peeled, pitted and thinly sliced fresh peaches (5-6 medium peaches); 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice; and several dashes of ground cinnamon or ground nutmeg (optional).
"Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pour the melted butter into a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking dish. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, one cup sugar, the baking powder and the salt and mix well. Stir in milk, mixing until just combined. Pour this batter over the butter, do not stir them together.
"In a small saucepan, combine the peaches, lemon juice, and remaining cup of sugar and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Pour the peaches over the batter, but do not stir them together. Sprinkle with cinnamon or nutmeg if desired.
"Bake in the preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until the top is golden-brown. Serve warm or cold."
Diane Tracey offered her Peach Kuchen, which, according to her recipe, serves six. "Two cups sifted flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1/4 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup butter, 12 peach halves (canned or fresh), 1 cup light brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 2 egg yolks, 1 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped cream optional.
"Preheat oven to 400 degrees; grease 9-inch-square pan; sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together into mixing bowl. With pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter to consistency of cornmeal. Sprinkle mixture over bottom and sides of prepared pan.
"Place peaches, cut side up, over dough. Combine brown sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle over peach halves. Bake for 15 minutes.
"Combine egg yolks and cream in small bowl. Pour over peaches, and bake for 30 minutes more or until browned. Cool in pan. Serve with whipped cream if desired."
These and other offerings can be found on the Wesley United Methodist Church Web site at www.gbgm-umc.org\wesley-va.