Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Peach Surprise with Grandma Vein

“What’s the surprise?” asked my husband when I told him about my plans to make “Peach Surprise” with my Grandma Vein while we were back in North Dakota.  “I really don’t know.” I told him. And that’s the truth! I just know “peach surprise” is one of my absolute favorite summer-time desserts. 

After very suddenly losing my other grandma last year and since my sisters and I all live in different parts of the US, my motivation during trips back to North Dakota changed.  My number one focus has become spending as much time with family as possible. Grandparents are not alive forever. (really none of us are.) And we never know which visit will be our last.

Last month, we took a trip back to North Dakota/Minnesota to visit my family. We were fortunate to spend a few days in my hometown, followed by a few days at my family’s lake cabin in Minnesota.

My husband had to go back to work in Texas, but I stayed longer to spend some additional time in my hometown & to help my youngest sister move to Chicago.

One of the things I most wanted to do while in ND was to make something with my Grandma Vein. She’s a fabulous baker and cook! Last summer, we made a peach pie together, but this summer, I knew we needed to make “peach surprise.”

The recipe for “peach surprise” is straight out of an old lutheran church cookbook.  The pages where the good recipes are located are stained from years of use. Grandma has written her own notes & variations throughout the cookbook too.

Grandma’s favorite peaches are the elberta variety.  Every year, she patiently waits for them & buys them in mass quantities.  Grandma told me this year that she even called the store to reserve a whole lug of them (i.e. a little less than a bushel), fearing the store may run out before she could get any.

All those peaches get turned into delicious peach desserts, or sliced & eaten on their own with perhaps a splash of heavy cream.  Grandma also gives many of the peaches away to her sons so that their families may enjoy eating them.

One of the great things about “peach surprise” is that it is a no-bake dessert--just a graham cracker crust with peaches & a marshmallow/whipped cream filling.  But, since I can’t eat regular store bought graham crackers, we did have to turn on the oven to bake a batch of gluten free graham crackers first.

Grandma had suggested maybe we should make a gluten free cereal-based crust, using something like rice krispies, but I convinced her that gluten free graham crackers are rather fast and easy to make yourself. Honestly, I also just could not bear to change a classic too much!

While the gluten free graham crackers baked and later while the dessert was chilling in the refrigerator, Grandma and I had some good visiting time. She showed me all her latest photo albums & told me all the family news I’ve been missing. She has a hard time hearing voices over the phone, so our phone chats have been a bit difficult lately.  It was lovely to actually talk in person.

Though peach surprise is an easy dessert to make, I feel so fortunate and blessed to actually make it with Grandma. There are so many things she makes that my whole family loves to eat, but most of us don’t have those precious “memory food” recipes.

Even with my culinary school education, I treasure the times Grandma and I spend in the kitchen where she teaches me her tricks & techniques for making things.  I am actively trying to make sure that I document as many of her recipes, including the methods she uses that aren’t written in the recipes.

When I returned to Texas and told my husband and friends about my experiences making “peach surprise” with Grandma, they requested to try the dessert for themselves.  So for our Labor Day cookout yesterday, I made a pan of "peach surprise". It was the perfect way to celebrate the end of summer and a sweet finale to the evening.

Peach Surprise
yields approximately 12 servings

6 oz / 170 g / 4 cups Mini Marshmallows
4.95 oz / 139 g / 1/2 c Orange Juice

10 oz / 280 g /2 c Graham Cracker Crumbs {I used Gluten Free
2.45 oz / 69 g / 1/3 c Confectioner’s Sugar
4 oz / 112 g / 1 stick Unsalted Butter, melted

5 large ripe peaches {Grandma would suggest Elberta peaches}
16 oz / 448 g / 1 pint heavy cream

  1.  In a double boiler, melt the marshmallows with the orange juice. Stir often. Remove from the heat to cool while the crust is made. 
  2. To make the crust: crush the graham crackers (if they aren’t crushed already) using either a food processor or a ziptop bag with a rolling pin.  In a medium sized bowl, combine the crumbs with the confectioners sugar.  Add the melted butter and mix until all the crumbs are moistened by the butter. Press the mixture into the bottom of a 9x13” pan. Chill in the refrigerator while the filling is made.  
  3. To make the filling: Peel, and slice (and chop, if you like) 5 large peaches. Whip the cream to medium stiff peaks either by hand, or on high speed with a hand mixer, or on high speed in a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment. Once the cream is whipped, fold it together with the previously made & slightly cooled marshmallow/orange juice mixture. Fold in the peaches.  
  4. To assemble: Spoon dollops of the filling over the prepared crust.  Smooth out the top surface of the filling. Cover the pan & refrigerate for 4 hours. 
  5. When ready to serve, cut the dessert into 12 pieces.  The dessert will keep for several days well covered in the refrigerator (if it isn’t entirely eaten immediately). 


  1. Awesome dessert! Thank you for sharing!

  2. Very very nice! I love sweet surprises like that. Thank you for sharing your recipe. Have a sweet day ahead.

  3. This sounds lovely. And I can imagine this tastes great with a lot of fruits. Right now I a picturing it with strawberries and rhubarb. I just have to wait until next spring ...

  4. I just made this tonight with tinned peaches (because it's not stone fruit season here yet) and GF gingernut biscuits for the base (I have coeliac disease). It is super delicious! Thanks to you and your grandmother for a great recipe. I was just googling 'peach surprise', because one of my daughter's favourite books (The Lighthouse Keeper's Lunch) has it in it and I was wondering if it was a thing. It doesn't seem to be, but I am happy I found this!