A cloak of whipped cream, flavored gently with vanilla extract and lightly sweetened, is a fine foil to the inviting combination of juicy fruit and crusty biscuit.
*Notes: Superfine sugar, sold in one-pound boxes, helps create tender-textured batters and doughs and is ideal to use in fruit compotes and sauces for its quick-dissolving quality. It is available at some Giant supermarkets.
Sparkling and sanding sugar, whose granules glisten when sprinkled on baked goods, are available at La Cuisine, Little Bitts Shop and Fran's Cake and Candy Supplies and at Dean & DeLuca, Magruder's, Sur La Table, Williams-Sonoma and some Food Lion stores. T
- For the biscuits
- 2 1/8 cups unsifted flour
- 2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/3 cup superfine sugar
- 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 1/2 cup cold heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 4 teaspoons sparkling or sanding sugar (may substitute granulated sugar)
- For the peaches
- 5 peaches, peeled, halved, pitted and thickly sliced
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons superfine sugar (or more to taste)
- For the sweetened cream
- 1 cup cold heavy cream
- 5 teaspoons superfine sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the biscuits: In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and superfine sugar and mix well. Scatter the cubes of butter over the top and, using a pastry blender or two round-bladed knives, cut the fat into the flour until reduced to smaller, irregular pearl-size bits. With your fingertips, lightly crumble the fat into the flour further for 45 seconds (or reduce further into smaller flakes of varying sizes). Set aside.
In a small bowl, mix the heavy cream and vanilla extract. Add the eggs and whisk until thoroughly combined. Add the egg and cream mixture to the butter and flour mixture and stir to form a dough. Give the dough 6 light kneading turns in the bowl. Form and pat the dough into a 5- to 6-inch round on a sheet of waxed paper (or food-safe cooking parchment paper), wrap to enclose, and refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Have ready a heavy cookie sheet or a rimmed baking sheet.
Cut the disk of dough into 6 wedges. Sprinkle the tops with the sparkling or sanding sugar. Arrange the biscuits 3 inches apart on the baking sheet. Bake for 17 to 18 minutes, or until golden and baked through. With a wide metal spatula, transfer the biscuits to a wire rack to cool.
For the peaches: Meanwhile, in a medium nonreactive bowl, add the peaches, lemon juice and 2 tablespoons superfine sugar and toss to coat. Set aside for 20 minutes or up to 30 minutes for the peaches to be sweetened and juices to well up.
For the sweetened cream: Chill the mixing bowl and beaters. With a hand-held mixer, whip the cream until it just begins to swell. Sprinkle over the superfine sugar and the vanilla extract and continue to whip until moderately firm peaks form, about 1 minute. Refrigerate the whipped cream while you are assembling the shortcakes (or up to 30 minutes before serving).
To assemble the shortcake: With a serrated knife, split the warm biscuits in half horizontally and set the bottom half of each on a dessert plate. Spoon over the sweetened peaches, along with the accumulating juices, then cover each with a biscuit top. Place a dollop of whipped cream over each shortcake or off to the side. Serve immediately.
Variation: For warm buttered peaches, omit the lemon juice. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, add the peach slices and let them warm through for 1 to 2 minutes or until just glistening. Off the heat, sprinkle over the sugar, stir gently to disperse the sugar as it melts, and spoon the peach mixture into a heatproof bowl. Use the peach compote warm (not hot).
Adapted from cookbook author Lisa Yockelson.
Tested by Leigh Lambert.
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