Why should strawberries have all the fun?
When we think shortcake, we usually picture strawberries. But shortcakes can friend any fruit. So with fresh local peaches hitting the stores now in the US, the time is right to use them in one of America’s favorite desserts.
That explains the Peachy part of the title, but what about the Cream? Well, this recipe is heavy on cream. In addition to using whipped cream as a topping (natch!), it also features cream-biscuit shortcakes. For double the flavor, you know.
But be warned: This dish is so tasty that once you serve it, all conversation at the table will probably cease — until the plates are licked clean. The next words you hear will be, “Could I have seconds, please?”
Recipe: Peachy Cream Shortcake
Shortcakes are basically American-style biscuits on a sugar high. When making this dish, some people substitute spongecake for the shortcakes. Others like to break up pieces of baked pie crust. But shortcakes really work best, IMO.
A note on terminology for those who aren’t familiar with this dish: When we use the word “shortcake” alone in this post, we mean the biscuit-like base of the dish. When we use the phrase “Peach Shortcake,” we’re referring to the assembled dish (i.e., sweetened biscuits topped with macerated peaches and whipped cream).
Mrs. Kitchen Riffs is the baker in our household, and this recipe is hers. The shortcake (biscuit) recipe is adapted from an old James Beard recipe for biscuits that uses cream but no butter or other shortening (although you do dip the biscuits in melted butter before baking). The recipe is contained in James Beard’s American Cookery. I never thought his recipe quite worked for biscuits — but it’s excellent for shortcakes!
Prep time for this recipe is about 20 minutes, plus you’ll need another 20 minutes or so for the shortcakes to bake and cool down. So figure about 40 minutes altogether.
This recipe serves 6 or 8, depending on how large you make the shortcakes.
You can prepare the components of this dish (macerated fruit, shortcakes, and whipped cream topping) a few hours ahead, or even the day before — just store the shortcakes in a sealed plastic bag and the other components in the fridge in airtight containers. Once assembled, though, the dish doesn’t keep very well. So plan on putting it all together right before you’re ready to serve.
For the peaches:
- 4 cups fresh peaches, sliced or chunked
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed (or to taste; can substitute white sugar — see Notes)
- 2 tablespoons dark rum (optional)
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger (or to taste; optional)
- 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons melted butter (for dipping shortcakes)
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons white sugar (granulated or powdered; or to taste)
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
- Wash and slice the peaches, or chunk them into bite-sized pieces. In a medium-sized bowl, toss the peaches with the brown sugar, plus the rum and ground ginger, if using. Let the peaches macerate while you make the shortcakes.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Add 1 cup of heavy cream and stir with a wooden spoon until dough begins to form (most of it will look crumbly). Turn the dough out onto a piece of parchment paper and knead it lightly, just enough to hold it together. Flatten the dough with your hands and smooth it out on the parchment paper to a thickness of about ½ inch. Cut the dough into 6 to 8 pieces, using a knife or a biscuit cutter. Dip each piece into the melted butter to coat, then place on the baking sheet. Bake the shortcakes for about 12 minutes, or until they’re starting to brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.
- While the shortcakes are cooling, whip the cream. Add 2 cups of heavy cream and three tablespoons of white sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large mixing bowl, if using a hand mixer) and begin to whip on low speed. Increase to medium as soon as you can (i.e., when the cream is becoming thick enough that droplets don’t spatter from the mixing action). Beat until the cream forms soft peaks, then taste and add more sugar if necessary. Continue beating until you reach the medium or stiff peak stage (whichever you prefer). Set the whipped cream aside (don’t worry, it won’t collapse; refrigerate if it’s going to be sitting for more than a few minutes).
- You can use the macerated peaches as they are, or purée them. To purée, just put them in the food processor and pulse briefly. (We generally stop whirring when they reach a chunky purée stage, but you may prefer something closer to peach sauce). Alternatively, you can purée half the macerated peaches, and leave the rest unprocessed. (You can also cook the peaches briefly to intensify their flavor; see Notes for instructions.)
- When ready to serve, assemble the dish on individual dessert plates. Slice each shortcake in half (as you would split a muffin) and place the two halves on a serving plate. Top the shortcake halves with macerated peaches and a generous helping of whipped cream, and serve. Alternatively, you can crumble up the shortcakes, and then build layers of shortcake, peaches, and whipped cream. We like both versions, and the pictures that accompany the post illustrate both.
- Fresh peaches are the star of this dish, so make sure to use the ripest, juiciest ones you can find.
- For macerating the peaches, you can substitute white granulated sugar for brown sugar (start with about 2 tablespoons, then adjust the sweetness to your taste). If using white sugar, you may also want to substitute Chambord or Grand Marnier for the rum (and leave out the ground ginger).
- For extra-intense flavor, you can cook the peaches for a few minutes. In a medium skillet, heat the macerated peaches with a tablespoon or two of water. Simmer for 3 minutes or so, until sweet and juicy. Remove the cooked fruit from the stove and allow it to cool for a few minutes (it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a day). When ready to serve, just assemble it with the shortcakes and whipped cream.
- You can adapt this recipe to use other fresh fruits and berries (strawberries are a great favorite, of course). Use whatever looks best in your market. Adjust sweetness and flavorings to suit your own taste.
- You can also mix a couple different kinds of fruit together for this dish. If you do this, macerate the different fruits separately.
- We sometimes garnish Peachy Cream Shortcake with blueberries or strawberries.
- Some cooks like to sweeten whipped cream with powdered sugar, which dissolves very quickly. We’ve found that granulated sugar works fine, but feel free to use powdered if you prefer. Or you could use superfine (caster) sugar — if you don’t have any on hand, you can make it easily; just place some granulated white sugar in the food processor, and grind for a minute or so.
- You might want to add a half teaspoon or so of vanilla extract to the whipped cream for flavoring. We usually prefer it without, but you may feel otherwise.
- If you assemble this dish too far in advance, the juice from the fruit can thin the whipped cream and make the shortcake soggy. So you’ll get the best results if you put everything together shortly before serving.
- This dish is best when made with homemade whipped cream. But if you’re short on time, you can use the canned variety.
Please, May I Have Some More?
“I think peaches work even better than strawberries in shortcake,” I sighed, pausing halfway through my dessert.
“Agreed,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “Strawberries and cream are a classic combo. But peaches and cream are even more so.”
“And these biscuits — sorry, shortcakes — are perfect!” I added. “I never liked their texture for serving as bread — for that, I’ll take our Baking Powder Biscuits any day of the week.”
“Yeah,” noted Mrs K R. “Even the drop biscuits we make for Easy Peach Cobbler work pretty well at the table — when made without the added sugar, at least.”
“True,” I agreed. “But for shortcake, you can’t beat these, well, shortcakes!” I polished off my helping, deciding to forgo the plate licking. “Um, do we have . . . ?”
“More?” said Mrs K R, finishing my sentence. “Well, you know me — and I know you! So of course I made extra.”
Too bad Oliver Twist never met Mrs K R.
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Easy Peach Cobbler
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