Friday, June 26, 2009
Cornmeal Shortcake with Peaches
The transition to summer is in full swing and peaches couldn’t be more plentiful, juicy and fragrant. They are in such great abundance at every market, so let’s make the best of the moment while we have these gorgeous gems in our sights.
Nothing says summer like shortcake! And since peaches and cornmeal are such a natural pairing, I couldn’t resist adding a bit of cornmeal to the traditional shortcake dessert. These are spectacular: light, tender, slightly sweet with just enough cornmeal to create a slight crunch and really wonderful flavor. The cream adds the requisite indulgent lusciousness and the peaches bring that fresh spark of natural seasonal beauty and color, reminding us so profoundly how very fortunate we are to be in the company of Mother Nature.
- Make sure the butter and buttermilk are cold. When blending with the flour mixture, work quickly so they don’t warm up.
- Take care not to overmix the shortcake dough to keep the final product light and delicate. Be gentle to avoid toughening, treating the dough much like you would a scone. They bake quickly, so check them at 10 minutes.
- This is the kind of dessert that is perfect for a trip to the farmer’s market to find the best peaches of the season. Give them a taste to determine how much sugar they’ll need.
- This shortcake would also be fantastic with apricots, blackberries, raspberries and cherries. It's also really delicious to use a light caramel syrup with the peaches or add a bit of mascarpone or crème fraîche to the whipped cream.
Cornmeal Shortcake with Peaches
1 1/2 C flour
1/2 C cornmeal
1 T + 1 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
3 T + 1 t sugar
2 oz (4 T) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 C cold buttermilk
zest of 1 small orange
zest of 1 lemon
5 – 6 fresh ripe peaches
splash of lemon juice
1 T sugar, to taste
1 C cold heavy cream
2 - 3 t sugar, to taste
1/2 t vanilla
Preheat the oven to 425°. Prepare a baking sheet with a silpat or parchment.
Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, sugar and citrus zest in a bowl. Add the butter and use a pastry blender or your fingers to blend until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Work quickly so the butter stays firm. Add the buttermilk all at once and stir gently with a fork just until it starts to come together. Do not overmix.
Gather the dough and place it on a clean work surface or a piece of parchment and gently pat it together with your hands. Shape it into an 8” round and either cut into 6 wedges or use a round cutter. Place the shortcakes on the baking sheet. Brush them with some cream or milk and sprinkle the tops generously with coarse sugar. Bake about 10 - 13 minutes, until the shortcakes are lightly golden.
For the peaches, gently blanch for just a few seconds in simmering water. You should see some give when you tug at the skins. Remove immediately to a bowl of cold water. Dry the peaches and peel off the skins. Slice and place in a bowl. Sprinkle with a splash of lemon juice and toss with the sugar. Let the peaches sit for about 15 minutes to bring out the juices, gently tossing once or twice.
Whip the cream, sugar and vanilla to a very soft peak.
Cut the shortcakes in half horizontally. Place the bottom halves on 6 plates. Dollop with whipped cream and layer some juicy peaches. Top with remaining shortcake half.