Fruit and shortcake: The sum of two sweet parts
A Good Appetite: Peaches get cozy "with a little booze" before serving. Recipe: Brown Sugar Shortcake with Warm Bourbon Peaches
The New York Times
Hot, buttery biscuits: Melissa Clark shows the simple process of baking biscuits at home in a New York Times' video at http://video.nytimes.com/video/2012/07/20/dining/100000001672041/baking-biscuits.html?ref=style
The pairing of ripe seasonal fruit and flaky pastry can take many forms.
The one that may not immediately come to mind is shortcakes, smothered in whipped cream and plenty of colorful fruit. Shortcakes have a distinct advantage over, say, pie or cobbler, in that the fruit and pastry are prepared separately, then combined at the last minute.
The fruit, which can be raw and macerated with sugar, or very gently cooked, stays plumper and more intact. And the pastry can crisp up while baking without any running juices to hinder its golden progress. No soggy bits, no underbaked spots, no waiting for the fruit to thicken while the top over-browns; baking the pastry alone gives you a lot more control.
Most shortcake recipes call for forming individual biscuits. But for this recipe, I borrowed a technique from James Beard that results in one giant, crumbly shortcake. It's a particularly festive presentation and something a little outside of the usual shortcake box.
Beard famously kneaded hard-cooked egg yolks into his shortcake dough to add richness and color. I've made it his way, and it is good. But not, at least to me, good enough to warrant the extra steps of boiling, cooling, peeling and mashing.
Instead I substitute a raw egg, which lightens and tenderizes the crumb and is easily mixed into the flour. A little melted butter gilding the top brightens the color.
Any fruit is a worthy match for shortcake; just choose the ripest and the best you can get. Berries, of course, are classic, but peaches and nectarines are particularly luscious right now. Let them get really soft and fragrant on the counter before slicing them up. If you are anti-peach skin, just slip the peel off with your fingers as you slice. A fully ripe peach easily sheds its peel.
I like to briefly heat up the peaches with a little booze before serving (bourbon is a natural), but you don't have to. Instead, just toss the slices with a little brown sugar, and serve them with the shortcake and plenty of whipped cream. You'll have juicy fruit, crumbly pastry, and the distinct and happy taste of summer.
BROWN SUGAR SHORTCAKE WITH WARM BOURBON PEACHES
Time: 40 minutes
Yield: 6 servings
For the shortcake:
230 grams all-purpose flour (about 2 cups)
55 grams dark brown sugar (or about ¼ cup packed), more for sprinkling
15 grams cornstarch (about 2 tablespoons)
15 grams baking powder (about 1 tablespoon)
5 grams fine sea salt (about 1 teaspoon)
7 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
½ cup heavy cream
1 egg, well beaten
1 tablespoon melted butter
For the peaches:
2 tablespoons bourbon, brandy or rum
25 grams dark brown sugar (about 2 tablespoons)
1 ½ pounds peaches, sliced (about 4 cups)
1 ¼ cups heavy cream, whipped
1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a baking sheet. In a bowl, combine flour, 55 grams of sugar, cornstarch, baking powder and salt, and whisk well. Cut in cold butter with a pastry cutter, 2 knives or your fingers. When butter is in pea-size pieces, mix in cream and egg until a soft batter forms.
2. Dump batter onto a floured surface and knead until it holds together. Divide batter into 2 pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Press larger piece of dough into a ½ inch-thick round, roughly 8 inches in diameter. Place on baking sheet and brush with butter. Press remaining dough into a ½-inch-thick round and place on top of first dough round. It should be smaller in size. Brush with butter and sprinkle with more sugar. Bake until shortcake is golden brown and firm to the touch all over, 20 to 30 minutes. Let cool.
3. Meanwhile, prepare the peaches. In a medium skillet, heat bourbon and add 1 tablespoon water and 25 grams of sugar. Cook until sugar dissolves, then add peaches. Let cook until peaches are warmed through and release their juices, about 2 minutes.
4. Carefully cut smaller top round off shortcake. Place shortcake bottom on a serving plate and cover with warm peaches and their liquid (reheat fruit if necessary). Spoon whipped cream over peaches and place shortcake top over cream. Serve immediately.