You have to eat this. No, really. This might be the best dessert I’ve had all summer, and, as you may have noticed, I tend to eat a lot of desserts.
I can’t really say what the secret to this dessert is, because it seems to me that this shortcake’s power lies in the collective virtue of several influences. The brown sugar in the shortcake plays wonderfully off of the unexpected notes of the ginger in each bite. The crisp edges of each shortcake, with their buttery flavor and texture, are made more notable by the exquisitely ripe peaches, all of which are touched with just a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream. Because the only thing that gets sweetened in this dessert is the shortcake pastry itself, the sweet ripeness of the peaches, along with the smooth mellowness of the cream, are really allowed to stand out. It’s ginger and brown sugar. It’s peaches and cream. It’s just so good.
It’s like a symphony, really. A decadent, summery symphony that beckons you to come closer, have a taste, then another taste…and then, perhaps, maybe, a few more tastes. So many that you just might, along with some assistance from an eager, peach-loving child, end up tasting an entire shortcake before dinner, which then means that, after dinner, when everyone else is having a bit of shortcake, you might be lucky enough to encounter even more shortcake. Not that anyone has to know about the first one. If you promise not to tell, I promise to give you some shortcake.
Last Year: Sour Cherry Pie
Peach and Ginger Brown Sugar Shortcakes Recipe
I was curious to see if peeled peaches would fare better in this dessert over peaches that still had their skins, so I peeled half of the peaches (which, if your peaches are extremely ripe, as they should be, will be a very simple and painless task—the skins should effectively just slip right off once the peaches are sliced) and left the rest of the peaches with their skins. The result? Both the peeled and non-peeled peaches tasted great, and I actually liked the look of a combination of the two. That said, if you don’t want to peel your peaches, you certainly don’t have to. The dessert will still taste wonderful.
2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon sea salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small squares
2/3 cup cold buttermilk
¼ cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
6 or 7 very large, extremely ripe peaches
1 cup whipping cream
1 or 2 drops pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt, then whisk together. Add the butter and, using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the end result resembles coarse crumbs with a few pea-sized chunks of butter here and there. Stir in the buttermilk, then the ginger, and incorporate everything as much as possible.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter. Gently knead the dough a couple of times to bring together any stray shaggy bits or dry patches, then pat the dough into a 9-inch by 6-inch rectangle. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 8 squares. Place each square on the prepared baking sheet, gently rounding the corners of each shortcake as you space them apart.
Bake the shortcakes in the center of the oven for 12-14 minutes, until the bottoms are well browned and the edges of each shortcake have turned a dark golden brown. Remove shortcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.
While the shortcakes are baking, pit the peaches and slice them into medium-thin slices. Toss all of the peach slices together in a bowl, then refrigerate until you are ready to assemble your shortcakes. Right before you want to serve your shortcakes, whip the cream with the drops of vanilla.
To assemble the shortcakes, slice the top 1/3 off of a shortcake. Layer a large amount of peach slices over the bottom 2/3 of the shortcake. Top the peaches with a dollop of whipped cream, then gently place the top 1/3 of the shortcake over the cream.
Makes 8 peach shortcakes.