august 1, 2014
Some fruits are tasty when frozen, canned or dried. Not so the perfect peach, which has a rather short season and benefits from the least invasive treatments to showcase its allure.
Best eaten out of hand, with golden juice running down your chin and the tickle of peach fuzz on your lips, peaches also shine in summer desserts like ice cream, cobbler with homemade buttery crust and as a filling for shortcakes, topped with a fluff of whipped cream.
This year there is an abundance of Thai basil on the deck, and its sweetness marries well with fruit. Local honey added to the macerated fruit may seem like gilding the lily, but desserts are sweet (at least that’s how I like them) and the resulting sauce softens the interior of the buttery brown sugar cornmeal shortcake. Summer means local peaches, and Saunders Brothers obliges, with pretty fruit sold locally at Little House Green Grocery.
Peeling the peaches with a sharp paring knife is fine, but taking the extra step of blanching in hot water will yield a lovely peach hue that mimics the unpeeled state. Having all your ingredients ready to go will make the production of this summer dessert a breeze. All components may be made ahead, but the shortcakes, which make a fine breakfast treat, taste best on the day they are made. The honey basil peach mixture may be made the day ahead, and the whipped cream will keep in the fridge for one day. The trick to keeping whipped cream shapely is to use powdered sugar instead of cane sugar, since confectioner’s sugar has a bit of cornstarch added; this extra thickening will prevent weeping. You may use any type of basil – columnar makes a particularly pretty garnish, as does the Thai basil used here, or any of the handsome purple basil varieties.
Basil Peach Cornmeal Shortcakes
makes six servings
four large ripe peaches
3 tablespoons honey, preferably local
3 tablespoons chopped basil, any variety
1 ⅓ cup white cornmeal
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, cooled
1 cup of buttermilk at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream, well chilled
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
optional garnish : basil sprigs
- Cut a one half inch X on the pointed end of the peaches while bringing a large 2 quart pot of water to boil; have a bowl of water and ice cubes nearby.
- Gently place the peaches in the boiling water with a slotted spoon; remove each after one minute and place in bowl of iced water.
- After one minute, remove peaches from ice bath and peel skin beginning at the X.
- Slice peaches and combine with honey and basil; chill for up to one day.
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Grease 6 cup large muffin tin.
- Whisk cornmeal with salt, leavening agents and brown sugar.
- In separate mixing bowl, whisk eggs with buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla.
- Add dry ingredients and stir just until combined; spoon into pan and bake about 18 minutes or until just set and cake springs back to the touch.
- Immediately remove shortcakes and allow to cool on rack.
- Whip chilled cream with powdered sugar just until firm peaks appear; may be made several hours or up to one day ahead.
- To assemble shortcakes, split muffins, spoon macerated peaches on bottom half, then add a dollop of whipped cream and top with upper half of muffin. Garnish with basil sprig. Serve immediately.