The Vintage Peach Puzzle Is A Tricky Dessert With An Upside-Down Sauce

Who doesn't love to sample different peach recipes when the sweet stone fruit is fresh in the market? Peaches are so delicious and juicy — a real down-home treat. Peach pastry recipes are everywhere on social media, yet one particular, rather tricky, vintage peach dessert has returned to popularity: peach puzzle. It's risen quickly to the must-bake list for peach lovers. But what is it? And why is everyone raving over it?

Peach puzzle is a lot like a classic peach cobbler — except it's served upside-down. Once served, it has a biscuit base that also wraps up the sides. The trick is set when the baker begins their preparation. They place a custard cup or ramekin upside-down in the center of the pie plate and a vacuum forms inside the cup during cooking, which means that the juices are drawn inside it. These syrupy juices are only revealed after the dessert is inverted. When dessert lovers tried to figure out how the syrup wound up in the cup, the secret came to be known as a "puzzling" cooking method. The technique is so fascinating that the editors of Cook's Country, the magazine of America's Test Kitchen, selected peach puzzle as the grand prize winner of its Lost Recipe Contest.

Here's the trick for peach puzzle upside-down syrup

The original peach puzzle recipe was in "The Malone Cook Book", published in 1908 by the Woman's Aid Society of the First Congregational Church of Malone, New York. It offers a glimpse into history, featuring dishes that arrived with immigrant families and were passed on to subsequent generations.

To create your own peach puzzle, mix 2 cups of flour with 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, a dash of baking powder, and some salt. Cut in 7 tablespoons of butter. Whisk an egg with 6 ounces of milk and add to the dry ingredients. Turn onto a board and knead until soft and workable. Butter a pie plate and put a ramekin in the center, upside-down. Arrange whole, firm, peeled stoned peaches around the ramekin. Heat a sauce of brown sugar, salt, butter, water, and vanilla extract, then pour it over each peach. Roll out the dough, drape it over the peaches, and bake until the biscuit is golden brown.

Once the peach puzzle cools, cover it with a large plate and quickly invert it — without spilling the juice. Each guest should receive a peach and a nice drizzle of syrup. Tangy and succulent, the baked peaches meld with the syrup that has seeped into the buttery biscuit crust. This is old-fashioned comfort food at its finest. That, and the fact that it has a mystery in its method, must be what's fuelling a renewed interest in this peachy pud.