Peaches and other produce are available year round at many of our grocery stores. Sure, they may be in season in other parts of the world and shipped here so we can have asparagus even in the dead of winter, but as much as possible, we should buy produce that’s ripe and ready to eat in our own latitude and longitude. Better yet, if you can skip the impersonal chill of the supermarket and opt for a leisurely stroll through a local fruit farm, do it and take in the colors and smells of summer produce. The peaches featured here are from Wickham’s Fruit Farm in Cutchogue, one of Tara’s frequent pit stops in the North Fork of Long Island.
Fresh fruit is one of our favorite ingredients to start summer desserts because it requires very little preparation and needs only minimal coaxing to release its juices. For these peach shortcakes, slices of ripe yellow peaches are sprinkled with coarse sugar and lemon juice. This combination macerates the fruit, creating a light, natural syrup with a balancing tartness.
You can pile the peaches onto shortcakes and slather them with vanilla-flavored whipped cream or add a generous spoonful of homemade bourbon and ginger peach jam. The recipe for the jam follows—one of Tara’s go to-s every summer when farmer’s market and fruit stand purchases are delicious freshly picked and promise to be just as good months down the road.
About the shortcakes: I’m obsessed with biscuits and scones and have been baking them since I was little. I have my preferences for how to fold in butter and how to arrange them on the baking sheet, and by now I think they’re easy to make. But, I know that even these quick breads can be daunting for non-bakers, and also, that they can be made even quicker! This recipe cheats with self-raising flour and instead of carefully cut up chilled butter, whipped cream. Sugar and (optional) orange zest are also in the mix, and just like that, dessert is ready.
EASIER THAN EVER BISCUITS
*If you don’t have self-raising flour, substitute it with 2 cups all-purpose flour + 1 tablespoon baking powder + 1 teaspoon salt
2 cups self-raising flour*, plus additional for work surface
2 tablespoons coarse granulated sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
– Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
– In a medium mixing bowl combine the flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, and orange zest. In a second bowl (chilled if possible), whisk the cream until it holds soft peaks. With a rubber spatula, stir the cream into the flour mixture.
– Lightly dust a clean and dry work surface with flour and turn the dough out. Gather the dough together and knead it just until it comes together, 3 to 5 times. Press the dough into a ¾-inch thick disk and punch out the biscuits with a 2.4-inch cutter (you can use a glass of similar size). You may have to shape the last biscuit from the leftover scraps of dough.
– Arrange the biscuits on the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with additional sugar. Bake until golden brown on top, about 15 minutes. Transfer tray to a cooling rack and cool to room temperature.
FOR THE WHIPPED CREAM
Makes about 2 cups
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
– Whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl (chilled if possible – it helps in holding the peaks) until soft peaks form. Refrigerate until needed, up to 6 hours. If it wilts a bit, re-whisk before serving.
FOR THE PEACHES
6 to 8 ripe peaches, sliced
Coarse granulated sugar to taste
– Toss the peach slices with 2 teaspoons sugar and 2 teaspoons lemon juice in a medium bowl. Taste and add more sugar and lemon juice until you like it.
FOR THE BOURBON AND GINGER PEACH JAM
Recipe adapted from The Hands-On Home by Erica Strauss
Makes about 4 half pint jars
3 pounds peeled and cored peaches
2 – 3 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼-½ teaspoon dry ginger
1-2 tablespoons Bourbon
– Toss the fruit and 2 cups of sugar in a large bowl. Cover and let sit overnight in the refrigerator.
– Add the fruit and all of the juices to a large nonreactive pan. Bring the jam to simmer over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. When the fruit has softened, add the lemon juice and ginger.
– You can break the fruit down more at this point with a potato masher if you prefer a smoother texture for your jam. This is also a great time to taste the jam. You can add more sugar if you feel it’s needed, up to 1 cup.
– Continue cooking, stirring frequently until the jam is glossy, a bit darker, and thickened. When it reaches 220°F (at sea level) it’s done. It should sheet off the spoon.
– Reduce the heat to low and add 1 tablespoon of bourbon. Stir well and taste. Add additional bourbon if desired.
– Ladle the jam into sterilized hot jars leaving ¼ headspace. Remove any air bubbles and wipe the jar rims down. You can use a chopstick to help remove the bubbles by running it along the inside of the jar. Place the lids on the jars according to the manufacturer’s directions.
– Process the jam in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. (Use the water bath canning method, processing for 10 minutes. This is a great resource http://www.nwedible.com)
– Once the jars have cooled fully, check to make sure they have sealed. If any have not sealed, put them in the refrigerator and use within a month.
– Sealed jars should be labeled and stored in a cool dark place. They’ll be good for about a year.
*A great link for a complete how to on hot water bath canning: http://foodinjars.com/2013/07/new-to-canning-start-here-boiling-water-bath-canning/