Shortcakes, We Meet Again

After writing a cooking blog round-up featuring peach recipes a few weeks ago, I had a strong hankering for a good peach pie. However, I do not own a pie tin. What I do own is…

Scone pan

a King Arthur Flour scone pan! Perfect for making cornmeal shortcakes with peaches, mint, and soured cream from Suzanne Goin’s superb seasonal cookbook, Sunday Suppers at Lucques.

Cornmeal Shortcakes with Peaches, Mint, and Soured Cream

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup stone-ground cornmeal
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
Peaches and soured cream (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 425ºF.

Place the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and 3 heaping tablespoons of sugar in the bowl of the food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the butter, and pulse about ten times, to a coarse meal. With the machine running, quickly pour in 1 cup cream. Stop the machine immediately when the dough starts to come together. (It is important not to overwork the dough.)

Place the dough on a clean work surface and bring it together with your hands. Shape it into a circle 1 ¼ inches thick. Cut the circle in half, and then cut each half into four wedges. Place the shortcakes on a buttered baking sheet. Brush them with the remaining tablespoon of cream, and sprinkle a little sugar on top of each one.

Bake about 15 minutes, until the biscuits are set and a light golden brown.

When they have cooled, cut the shortcakes in half horizontally, and place the bottom halves on each of six plates or on a large platter. Place a spoonful of peach purée onto each biscuit. Spoon a large dollop of the soured cream over each, and ladle some of the peaches and their juices over the cream, letting some of the fruit fall onto the plates. Drizzle a little more peach purée, and place the shortcake tops back on.

(Recipe excerpted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin. Copyright 2005 by Suzanne Goin. Excerpted with permission by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced without permission in writing from the publisher.)

The seasonality of this recipe gave me a chance to visit the teeny, tiny farmer’s market near my apartment (seriously, it’s pretty much four stalls on a street corner). I purchased these peaches from Migliorelli Farms.

peaches

Now I see that I have given some free publicity to Dave Eggers’s Zeitoun. You’re welcome, McSweeney’s.

Unfortunately for me, my little sister claimed the kitchen just before I did to prepare a cookie recipe from Martha Stewart. Martha! Do you really think you are going to win this showdown against my Suzanne Goin cookbook?

showdown

In the end, Martha and my sister won, because I was relegated to the living room floor while my food processor worked the dough.

processor

Cooking lesson: as I learned from my first attempt at making shortcakes, the dough should be light and fluffy, a result of just-barely-combined dough. See the lighter dough to the right of this photo:

dough

The dough to the left is darker and denser because I took too long pouring the cream into my first batch, and my processor overworked the dough a bit. I hoped that if I combined the two batches, my mistake wouldn’t show too badly (I was right).

And this is where the scone pan came in handy—instead of baking free-form wedges, I could bake perfect triangles. The little neat freak in me rejoiced.

glazing

Here I am, brushing the shortcakes with cream.

shortcakes

They’re ready to go in the oven!

While the shortcakes baked, I worked on souring some cream. I have so much respect for Suzanne Goin for making me sour my own cream. I’m glad I did—I actually howled with happiness when I spooned some into my mouth, it was such a tasty revelation!

soured cream

Peaches and Soured Cream

½ cup granulated sugar
¾ pound mascarpone
1 tablespoon lemon juice plus more to taste
4 ripe peaches
16 small mint leaves

Note: You’ll have some leftover simple syrup. It keeps in the refrigerator for several weeks and is fun to have around, to sweeten fruit and use for cocktails.

To make the simple syrup. combine the sugar and ½ cup water in a small pot and bring to a boil. Swirl the pan until the sugar has dissolved completely. Pour the simple syrup into a small clean container, and cool in the refrigerator. (If you’re in a hurry, put it in the freezer to cool.)

Place the mascarpone in the bowl of a food processor. Add 1/3 cup of the simple syrup, and pulse to combine. Taste for sweetness, and add a little more syrup if you like. Squeeze 1 tablespoon lemon juice into the mascarpone. Pulse to combine, but don’t overwork it or it will curdle. Adjust the simple syrup and lemon to your taste. Keep cold in the refrigerator. Clean the bowl of the food processor.

Peel the peaches. Cut each in half, remove the pit, and then cut into slices. Toss the peach slices in a bowl with 3 tablespoons simple syrup. Tear the mint with your hands, add it to the peaches, and toss to combine. Taste the peaches, and add a little more syrup if you like. Let the peaches macerate in the syrup for 10 minutes.

Purée a quarter of the peaches in the food processor and set aside. See previous recipe for assembly instructions.

(Recipe excerpted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin. Copyright 2005 by Suzanne Goin. Excerpted with permission by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced without permission in writing from the publisher.)

Just in time: the shortcakes are out of the oven!

toasty

And here are the peaches, happily macerating.

peach slices

Cooking lesson: When I later made a peach tart using Julia Child’s directions, she told me to blanch the peaches in boiling water for 10 seconds before peeling, which made peeling so much easier. The peach slices also fell off the pit much more neatly. I highly recommend blanching your peaches in this shortcake recipe, too.

johnnycake

Here are the neatly triangular, perfectly toasted johnnycakes. And yes, my dining room table sports a lace runner. Though to be fair, it was left over from last year’s Halloween costume (a DIY Olive Oyl ensemble).

assembling

Assembling the dessert.

finished

The finished product!

meet yr doom

I can honestly say that these shortcakes are among the three best dishes I have ever made (another one is handmade ricotta gnocchi from the same cookbook). These shortcakes are technically known in Rhode Island as johnnycakes, or cornmeal griddle cakes. The soured cream was stupendous, and the peaches were oh-so-subtly minty. Altogether, I’d hail this recipe as the perfect summer dessert. Because there were leftovers, I also ate this for breakfast the next two mornings, justifying my decision because shortcakes are basically scones, soured cream is kinda like yogurt, and sometimes peaches are in yogurt.

empty plate

This was a sight I grew accustomed to.

As for my sister, she never did say whether or not my shortcakes were better than her cookies, but I think this picture puts that question to rest.

nom