With peaches in season, I had a hankering for a dessert that I’ve often made — caramelized peaches or nectarines spooned over half a shortcake biscuit redolent of ginger, studded with sweet and spicy chunks of candied ginger, topped with a generous dollop of whipped cream and the top half of the biscuit perched at a jaunty angle. With a mint sprig adorning the top, this is an easy way to create a delicious dessert that looks, according to a guest at a long-ago gathering, like it was made in a restaurant.
The biscuits are great all on their own, with a tender crumb and the zing of the ginger pieces, and make an afternoon break all the more special. Served in this dessert, they are elevated from the rustic to the sublime. The sweet fruit and rich cream really make those shortcakes sing! You can make the biscuits a day or two ahead, or at least two hours before you’ll be serving them.
It only takes a few minutes to caramelize the fruit. This should be done at least 30 minutes before serving the dessert, but no more than a couple of hours ahead.
Whipped cream, of course, is a breeze to make at the last minute, although you could make it a couple of hours ahead as well, and store it tightly wrapped in the fridge.
Assembling the dessert takes only a few minutes. Simply slice the biscuits in half horizontally, top with fruit, spoon on some whipped cream and prop the other half of the biscuit at an angle. Add a mint sprig and drizzle some of the extra juice from the fruit mixture around the plate if you want to provide your guests a little extra razzle-dazzle.
The day I made this, it was extremely hot and humid. As I was taking my photos outside, both the whipped cream and the fruit sauce were melting. The perils of the outdoor photo shoot in high summer!
Ginger Shortcakes with Caramelized Peaches
Recipe adapted from Bon Appétit, June 2001. Yes, I still have the magazine!
Pre-heat oven to 400ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Serves 8.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 c cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger
Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl, then add the butter and cut with a pastry cutter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Whisk together the milk and egg, then add to mixture until just combined. Add the crystallized ginger, and just stir in. Turn the dough onto a floured work surface, and knead gently for about five turns.
Shape dough into a log, then cut crosswise into eight rounds. Pat each round to 1 inch thickness and place on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake the shortcakes about 15 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Transfer to a rack, and cool at least 15 minutes or up to two hours. If making ahead, keep in a tightly sealed container.
Caramelized Peaches or Nectarines
For 8 biscuits, you’ll need about 8 medium peaches, pitted and sliced. You can remove the peel if you like, but I prefer to leave it on. For this quantity of peaches you’ll need 2/3 cup of packed golden brown sugar and a tablespoon of lemon juice. Working in two batches, combine half the fruit with half the sugar and a half tablespoon of lemon juice in a large skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until the fruit is just tender and the juices are bubbling, stirring often. This takes about five minutes. Repeat with the second half. Let cool 30 minutes or up to two hours before assembling the dessert.
A quick note about the whipped cream … I don’t see the need for any extra sweetness in this dessert, so I don’t put any in the whipping cream. All I flavour it with is a teaspoon or two of vanilla.
It’s easy to adjust quantities if you’re making a smaller number of shortcakes. We had two of these for dessert one evening, and then we took the rest of the biscuits to work as snacks.