The classic dish Peach Melba was created by legendary French chef Auguste Escoffier in 1892 or 1893 at the Savoy Hotel, London, to honor his acquaintance, Australian soprano Nellie Melba. Prince Philippe, the Duke of Orléans, gave a dinner party to celebrate Melba’s performance in Wagner’s opera Lohengrin at the Royal Opera House. For the occasion, Escoffier created the new dessert and displayed it in an ice sculpture of a swan, which is featured in the opera. The swan carried peaches which rested on a bed of vanilla ice cream, topped with spun sugar.
Classical Peach Melba
Jessica Jones (left), Maya Rodriquez (second from right), and Amanda Stabile (right), all baking and pastry students at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, assisted their professor Jaime Schick, CEPC (second from left), in creating Escoffier’s classic dessert — though they (understandably) skipped the swan sculpture for the slightly less theatrical wine glass.
- pastry brush
- red wine glass
- paring knife
- quenelle spoon or ice cream scoop
- wooden dowel for sugar
- sauté pan
- rubber spatula
- ice bath for anglaise to cool
They also topped the simple dessert with a nest of pulled sugar for a wow factor — a detail that looks modern but is true to the history of the dish.
“A wine glass was used in the plating so that we could really show off the components and colors of the dish. We wanted to come up with a way to feature everything,” Stabile says. “You want the stars of the dish to be the peaches, raspberries, and vanilla ice cream. The sugar work on top is bougie but worth it visually.”
If the sugar nest looks like a lot of work, don’t worry! Here’s a video that will help: (featuring a French chef working in London — so apropos!)
Helpful Hints: Classical Peach Melba
Don’t let your peaches poach too long — unless you want mush on your plate.
Pre-quenelle or pre-scoop the ice cream and be mindful of the portion size.
Make sure your ice cream is frozen well before you serve it. Otherwise, you might lose that beautiful quenelle you worked so hard on!
“This dish was creamy, soft, smooth, and tender with a slight crunch. The creaminess from the ice cream along with the raspberry sauce created a smooth texture,” says Rodriquez. “The peaches are tender with a slight bite. The sugar created a slight crunch to the dish, bringing it all together.”
Modern Peach Melba
For the modern version of the dessert, Schick really wanted to highlight the fruit flavors. “The peach and raspberry pairing is quintessential to peach melba,” she says.
“This dish, though plated in a modern style, uses basic techniques such as pulling sugar, roasting, whipping and folding. It’s all about how the components are plated and assembled to create visual appeal,” Schick continues. “[The modern version is] texture rich. Creamy vanilla mousse contrasts a fresh and tart sorbet, while the soft olive oil cake provides a textural difference from the candied almonds, almond soil and pulled sugar.”
- Stand mixer
- whip attachment
- piping bags
- sheet pans
- ice cream machine
“[I love h]ow the overall flavors came together and created a balanced dish, flavor wise, texturally, as well as visually. I also really love the nod to the classic with the pulled sugar pieces,” Schick says.
Helpful Hints: Modern Peach Melba
Don’t be intimidated by the final presentation. Make each component one at a time.
“A multitude of things can go wrong with the ice cream — I say this because they’ve all happened to me. Take your time with it,” Stabile says. “That being said, almost anything can be fixed with a little creativity.”
Mise en place is everything! You want to all the components made before and ready to go before plating.