I spend the first part of my trip to the farmers market following my nose. I start at the first stand and wander from one vendor to the next. I gently pick up a sample of fruit or vegetable and smell its sweet mouth-watering aroma; feel the texture of the skin and look upon its vibrant color. I take a bite and feel the juice and flesh tickle my palate.
The other day when I was at the farmers market, I found O’Henry peaches. They are my favorite peach because when this variety is ripe, they are on the firm side. This makes for a perfect peach to bake with and macerate. Currently the peaches are called “freestones”.
Peaches are divided into 2 categories; clingstones and freestones, depending on whether the flesh sticks to the stone (pit) or not; both can have either white or yellow flesh. Peaches with white flesh typically are very sweet with little acidity, while yellow-fleshed peaches typically have an acidic tang coupled with sweetness, though this also varies greatly. Both colors often have some red on their skin.
To find the best peach, first smell it: a ripe peach should be sweetly fragrant. Next give the peach a gentle squeeze: a ripe peach won’t be too hard; it should slightly give to the squeeze. Keep in mind that the color of a peach tells more about what variety it is than its maturity or ripeness. So don’t pick your peach based on color; it could be more white or greenish white than peach colored.
When I arrived home, I had many pounds of peaches and I started to bake; peach cobbler, peach pie, peach scones. I was down to my last pound and I remember the amazing peach shortcake I had made in the past. I went to the kitchen and with a grind of this, a cup of that and few turns of the dough, I had shortcake. I then sliced up the peaches and macerate for a short time. Finish with a dollop of whip cream. I love peach season.
Makes 6 to 8 shortcake
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoon sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ sticks of unsalted, cold butter, 12 tablespoons, cut into cubes
½ cup heavy cream
Oven temp 400 degrees, preheat
Place flour, sugar and salt in food processor. Process to blend, add cubes of butter and process until the butter is the size of small peas. Lightly mix the eggs and cream together and add to the flour and butter mixture. Process until it just starts to come together. The dough will be sticky
Dump the dough out onto a flour surface. Pat the dough into a circle, about ¾ inches thick. Cut out 6 cakes with a 2 ½ inch round cutter. Place cakes on a baking sheet lined with parchment.
Brush the top of each cake with a bit of water & sprinkle with sugar. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until crisp and golden brown. Let cool on a rack.
While the cakes are baking, slice up 6 peaches. Place in a medium bowl and mix in 2 tablespoon of peach brandy and 4 tablespoons of sugar depending on sweetness of peaches. Let them macerate.
Mix together 1 cup heavy cream, 2 tablespoons sugar. Whip in electric mixer until soft peaks form, add 1 tablespoon of peach brandy and mix until peaks are stiff.
Split each cake in half crosswise and place the bottom half on a plate. Spoon on peaches and some whip cream. Place on the other half of cake and put on a dollop of whip cream.
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