Enjoy this delicious variation of an Italian classic salad for dessert. Peach panzanella uses a mint simple syrup as the “dressing,” sweet cornmeal biscuits for the “bread,” mixed stone fruit in place of tomatoes, and some whipped cream or ice cream in place of mozzarella.

You may also enjoy my savory summer Panzanella featuring tomatoes, peaches, and corn.

For a more traditional peach dessert, you may like my peaches and cream cobbler as well.

For ease of browsing, find all my cobbler, crisps and more here.

Sliced stone fruit and biscuits in a white bowl.

My First Original Dessert

This dessert was the first that I created myself when I was promoted to pastry chef at Luma on Park (now closed after almost 20 years. Alas.)

I had had input on recipes before, and I had created what the chef or pastry chef had suggested, but this baby is all mine.

And now it’s yours, too!

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Dessert Peach Panzanella is obviously a play on the wonderful Italian salad, Panzanella which features torn bread, juicy tomatoes and sometimes other vegetables, a flavorful dressing, and fresh mozzarella cheese.

My original dessert version featured cubed lemon poppy seed pound cake playing the part of the bread.

In this version, I slightly modified the recipe for cornmeal biscuits from Jackie Garvin’s wonderful cookbook, Biscuits: Sweet and Savory Southern Recipes for the All-American Kitchen.

She suggests you serve the original version with a hearty stew, and I concur.

All I had to do to make them dessert-ready was to add a touch of sugar, a sprinkle of nutmeg and a dusting of coarse sugar after I brushed them with buttermilk.

I have to say I like this version of my dessert better than the original.

The sweetness of the cornmeal really plays nicely with the juicy stone fruit.

Variations

I used a mixture of white peaches, red and black plums and pluots, but you can use whatever looks great at your market.

Some suggestions:

  • Apricots
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Cherries (pitted, please!)
  • Mangoes

Another option is to change up the spicing in the biscuits.

I used nutmeg, but some ginger would be a welcome addition and would also complement the peaches nicely.

You can also take the concept and adapt it to any fruit in any season.

For example, switch up the mint for warmer spices and use lightly sauteed apples and sliced pears in place of the peaches, and you have a dessert panzanella perfect for cooler nights and shorter days.

How to Make the Biscuits

Peaches, plums, and cornmeal biscuits on a cooling rack.

The slightly sweet, nutmeg-scented cornmeal biscuits complement the peaches (and other stone fruit) beautifully.

Here’s what you’ll need to make them.

Collage of ingredients for making sweet cornmeal biscuits.
  • all-purpose flour: provides the bulk and crumb structure for the biscuits, plus enough gluten so they hold together
  • fine cornmeal: adds bulk and texture as well as color without adding extra gluten. Cornmeal biscuits will be more tender than all wheat flour biscuits
  • raw sugar: you may use granulated sugar or even brown sugar here. I like the large crystals of Sugar in the Raw because I like a bit of crunch every once in awhile
  • baking powder: provides leavening
  • salt: brings out all the flavors. NOTE: You can substitute self-rising flour for the all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • nutmeg: Adds a warm flavor note that goes nicely with the peaches. You could also use ginger if you’d rather. If you’re feeling fancy, add some minced crystalized ginger as well for little chewy pops of gingery goodness baked right into the biscuits
  • butter: provides fat to tenderize and carry flavor. Also helps provide leavening in the form of steam when the butter melts and the water boils out
  • buttermilk: adds a nice tang to the biscuits as well as tenderizing the crumb thanks to its acidic nature

These biscuits, as with most American-style biscuits, are made using The Biscuit Method.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Whisk together the all-purpose flour, cornmeal, sugar, leavening, salt, and nutmeg.
  2. Cut the cold butter in pieces and toss together with the dry ingredients.
  3. Rub some of the butter into the flour mixture with your fingers, leaving some pieces about the size of a pea. The rest of the mixture should get somewhat mealy.
  4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the buttermilk.
  5. Mix until barely combined and you have a shaggy dough.
  6. Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and press it together into a rectangle.
  7. Roll the dough out until it’s about 1/4″ thick.
  8. Now, fold it in thirds like a letter. You may need to use your bench knife to help.
  9. Then, fold it in thirds again the other way, so you have a thick little square packet.
  10. Roll out this packet until it’s about 1/2″ thick.
  11. Cut out rounds with a biscuit cutter, or use your bench knife to cut the biscuits into squares.
  12. Place them in a large cast iron pan or on a parchment-lined sheet tray.
  13. Brush the tops with buttermilk and then sprinkle on a little bit more raw sugar.
  14. Bake at high temperature (450F) for 15-17 minutes.

PRO TIP: The biscuits will soak up more mint dressing when they’re still warm.

How to Make the Dressing

A bottle of sour mix with mint in it.

The entire “salad” is dressed with a minted simple syrup. Here’s to make it.

  • Dilute homemade sour mix with a bit more plain simple syrup
  • Infuse it with fresh mint from the garden.

Finish the salad with chiffonade mint (or basil even) and a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

A white bowl with peaches, plums, and torn cornmeal biscuits.

Dessert panzanella is a light and fresh way to end a summertime meal.

More Recipes Featuring Stone Fruits

Savory

Sweet

A bowl of peach panzanella with a spoon.
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07/19/2024 12:57 am GMT
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bowl of peach panzanella

Peach Panzanella

Jennifer Field
This light, fresh dessert "salad" makes the most of late summer stone fruit. With lightly sweetened cornmeal biscuits in place of the traditional torn bread and plums and peaches in place of tomatoes, this peach panzanella is truly a New Southern dessert.
5 from 1 vote
Tried this recipe?Please give it a star rating!
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Course Cobblers, Crisps and More
Cuisine American/Italian
Servings 8 servings
Calories 438 kcal

Ingredients

For the Biscuits

  • 1 ½ cups 6.5 oz all purpose flour
  • ½ cup 3.5 oz cornmeal
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar in the raw plus more for sprinkling
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ + 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • several gratings fresh nutmeg
  • 1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
  • 1 cup buttermilk plus more for brushing

For the Dressing

  • ½ cup sour mix
  • 2 oz granulated sugar
  • 2 oz water
  • small pinch of salt
  • 10 mint leaves bruised

For the Fruit

  • 12 peaches plums, apricots, pluots, or nectarines, or a mixture

To Serve (per diner)

  • 1 torn and toasted cornmeal biscuit
  • 2-3 mint leaves chiffonade (cut into thin strips)
  • about 1 cup sliced fruit
  • 2-3 Tablespoons dressing
  • 1 dollop of whipped cream or scoop vanilla ice cream

Instructions
 

For the Biscuits

  • Preheat oven to 450F.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt and nutmeg.
  • Rub in the butter with your fingertips until no pieces of butter are larger than peas and the flour mixture looks mealy.
  • Make a well in the center of the flour/butter mixture and pour in the buttermilk.
  • Mix gently (I just use a knife) until all the flour is moistened.
  • Turn out onto a well-floured surface, sprinkle some more flour on top, and knead gently a couple of times until the dough holds its shape and isn’t too sticky.
  • Roll out the dough into a rough rectangle about 1/4" thick.
  • Starting with the sides of the dough and using a bench knife to help you, fold 1/3 of the dough over on top of itself and fold the other side over that so it is folded like a letter.
  • Now fold the top third of the dough down onto itself and fold the bottom third up over that so now it’s folded like a letter in either direction.
  • Gently roll out the folded dough until it is about 1/2" thick.
  • Cut rounds (or squares) with a floured cutter, pressing straight down to the counter before twisting.
  • Gather the scraps and pile them on top of each other. Pat them down until they’re about 1/2" tall. Cut as many extra biscuits as you can. I was able to cut a total of 10 biscuits.
  • Place in a large cast iron skillet or onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  • Brush the tops with buttermilk and liberally sprinkle coarse sugar on top.
  • Bake for 15-17 minutes or until the tops are lightly golden brown.

For the Dressing

  • Put the sour mix into a container.
  • Bring the sugar, water and salt to a boil. Boil for 15 seconds.
  • Cool the simple syrup and add it to the sour mix in the container.
  • Add the bruised mint leaves (just crush them in your hands) and stir well.
  • Let the dressing infuse in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Taste. If you want it to taste mintier, let it infuse an additional 30-45 minutes.
  • When the dressing is as minty as you want, strain out the mint. Refrigerate the dressing until ready to use.

For the Fruit

  • Peel the fruit (or not–your choice. I peeled the peach but not the plums or pluots). Slice them into 1/4" to 1/3" slices.
  • Place the fruit in a large bowl.

To Serve

  • Place the torn biscuits (they can still be warm) into a large bowl followed by the mint and/or basil and the fruit.
  • Drizzle on some of the dressing and toss the "salad" with clean hands or with salad tongs. The biscuits should not be soggy, but you do want to make sure you’re using enough dressing to moisten them and to bring a minty element to the fruit.
  • Add a bit more dressing if necessary and toss again.
  • Allow about 1 1/2 cups of panzanella per diner.
  • Top with whipped cream or ice cream and an additional sprinkle of chiffonade mint or basil (optional).
  • Serve immediately and enjoy.

Did You Make Any Changes?

Notes

Prep time does not include waiting for the dressing to chill.
You can make the biscuits and dressing the day before.
Don’t slice the fruit until right at serving time as the fruit can tend to go brown.
If you must cut up the fruit earlier, sprinkle it with Fruit Fresh or some water with lemon or lime juice in it.

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 438kcalCarbohydrates: 87gProtein: 9gFat: 8gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 11mgSodium: 385mgFiber: 8gSugar: 47g
Keyword dessert panzanella, Italian desserts, peach panzanella
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Thank you so much for taking the time to read today.

Take care, enjoy the peach panzanella dessert recipe, and have a lovely day.

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17 Comments

  1. I’d be tempted to skip dinner and just make a meal out of this beautiful dessert salad! I love the flavors (and ingenious way to use sour mix). I want to try both versions – the biscuits and the lemon poppyseed pound cake – yummmmmm!

  2. I have find out a way to at least meet you once and eat all the gorgeous food you make! Agreed we can’t be neighbors, it won;t be good for our waistline :)) but you are making me crave things like a dessert panzanella!

    1. You aren’t kidding that it could be dangerous for us to be neighbors, Ansh! You know that Indian food is my weakness, and that lamb/plum tagine was perfection! And I would gladly swap you for some dessert panzanella fixin’s! =)

    1. Yes, I guess calling it “deconstructed shortcake” is just as true as calling it a dessert panzanella! And the mint really does lift everything up. Ours is still hanging on, but it probably won’t be around much longer. Sigh.

  3. 5 stars
    O.M.G. Jenni … you always blow me away. Your recipes are spectacular, photos sublime, and when it comes to creative blending of flavors – you reign supreme! I bow to your skills and am already face down in a bowl of this incredible panzanella. Pull me out if I don’t come up for air soon, LOL! 🙂

    1. You are too, too kind Jane! But I will happily join you in a bowl of this “salad!” It really is so light and wonderful, and there are so many ways to switch it up depending on what fruit/biscuits/cake you have lying around!

5 from 1 vote

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