Summer’s end is bittersweet. The plethora of fruits and veggies filling the farmer’s markets and produce shelves seems to make up for the shorter days and cooler nights that lead into fall. The changing leaves help too.
I live just on the edge of town where in just a few short miles I leave suburbia for rural streets lined with orchards and fields. The branches are heavy with apples, pears, and stone fruits. The corn stalks go from green to dry. The watermelon patches become empty and the pumpkin patches seemingly transform from rows of all-green leafy vines to ripening bright orange globes peaking out from under the greenery. I love this time of year! I feel more in the mood to bake pies and things like these Peach Shortcakes for Two.
Now the “dessert for two” part is easy to remedy if you’re looking for a delicious recipe for more than two. But it’s also just right for when you feel like baking up something special. Sometimes I think making less of something makes you appreciate and enjoy it more.
The other day I made the drive out to a local farm to pick up a box of their delicious peaches. These are not just any peaches. They are probably the best peaches I’ve ever eaten in my life. I don’t say that lightly. I’m somewhat of a peach connoisseur. When I found out that I could go directly to the farm, I made plans to go the very next morning. And I was not disappointed!
Over in the corner at the farm store was a box filled with bags of white peaches the size of softballs. Being the peach lover that I am, I could not pass them up. I snagged two bags to go along with the giant box I was already buying. Those peaches were peeled, pitted, and sliced up to use in smoothies all winter long. But the white peaches? Those were for eating fresh.
If only peach season wasn’t so fleeting. Sigh.
These peach shortcakes are really more like sweet biscuits, which I suppose shortcakes are like anyway. Ha! But I’m not a fan of the spongy little cakes. I like flaky, buttery, toasty on top and soft in the middle shortcakes that practically melt in your mouth with each bite.
The peaches, if you’re using the sweetest, juiciest ones you can find, make all the difference here. It’s worth waiting until they ripen, is what I’m getting at. This is not the dessert to use up sub-par peaches that are tinged with green and rock hard. ;)
I find making biscuits, shortcakes, and pie crust a little therapeutic. Making things with your hands will do that. But it’s also about the love that goes into it, as cheesy or trite as that sounds. Every bite is worth the little bit of effort, though they don’t require much work at all and come together very quickly.
They conjure up images and feelings of sitting in your grandma’s kitchen on a Sunday afternoon, or stopping by a dusty roadside cafe for a sandwich and their famous peach pie (or shortcakes). I think that’s what dessert is all about — sitting, savoring, and remembering the sweet little things about life. We need more of that.
Peach Shortcakes for Two
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, chilled and cut into 4 pieces
3-4 tablespoons buttermilk, chilled
1 large ripe peach, peeled, cored and cut into thin wedges
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Pinch ground cinnamon
2-4 tablespoons whipped cream, lightly sweetened
1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
2. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Add the cold butter. Using a fork or your hands, work the butter into the dry ingredients until crumbly. Leave a few larger pieces of butter, if possible. This adds to the flakiness of the shortcakes.
3. Add 3 tablespoons of cold buttermilk to the bowl and quickly stir together with a fork. If the mixture is too dry, add a little bit more buttermilk. The dough should just come together and be a little sticky with some drier areas.
4. Turn the dough out onto a clean, lightly floured surface and press the dough together. Knead 1-2 times. Gently divide the dough in half and form two shortcakes that are roughly 1″ tall and about 3.5″ across.
5. Transfer the biscuits to a baking pan. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until golden. Remove from pan and let cool slightly before serving, or serve at room temperature.
6. While shortcakes are baking, prepare the peaches. Place the peach slices in a bowl with the other ingredients. Stir to combine and let stand until ready to serve.
7. To serve, split shortcakes through the middle. Top with half of the peaches and a dollop of whipped cream. Place shortcake tops on top. Serve warm or at room temperature.
The Dessert for Two series was created with the idea that a small, thoughtful treat is a great excuse for late night talks with your partner or your teenager or your best friend — an ideal way to reconnect. You can find all the Dessert for Two recipes here.
Have you been able to find good peaches this year? Do you have a favorite variety? Any tricks for getting peaches to ripen quickly?