My fourth year of college, I lived five hundred feet from a most excellent produce store run by a bunch of U of C alums. It was a small store that stocked a great deal of fruit, and in the summer the smell of peaches was overwhelming. It was not uncommon to see me lurking in the back of the store with my face in the peach bin, inhaling deeply.
At this point you may be wondering why I was clandestinely sniffing fruit rather than eating it. The answer is that I cannot. I’m allergic to raw peaches, plums, nectarines, apples, pears, Asian pears, cherries, blackberries, and strawberries, as well as a variety of raw vegetables – or, as one friend describes it, “everything delicious in the world.” (For the record, the internet tells me this is oral allergy syndrome, which is basically a pollen allergy writ large.) None of these allergic reactions are life-threatening, and many of them are sporadic, but most of them are annoying enough that I’d rather just eat something else. However, the allergy disappears when the offending fruits and veggies are cooked, which allows me to make a wide variety of delicious fruity treats and enjoy them with impunity.
Far and away, the fruit I miss most is peaches. Anything else I’ll eat here and there but peaches, plums and nectarines cause by far the most severe reaction – I’ve actually broken out from nectarines – and it’s just 100% not worth it. But as you can tell from my peach bin visits in college, I miss peaches something fierce. So when my parents bought some peaches recently, I decided it was time to reacquaint myself with peaches via baking. I went with these smitten kitchen peach bars based almost totally on how pretty they are.
We also had some strawberries laying around that I kept promising to do something with. I wanted to do something more interesting than my usual strawberry cake, and today I finally found the spirit to make Deb’s latest concoction, strawberry-and-cream biscuits. I continue to be annoyed by baking tasks that require me to flour multiple surfaces – and seriously, if anyone has any tips for successfully flouring a rolling pin I am all ears – and I continue to not love cutting butter into flour, but these are small prices to pay for the high level of deliciousness to be found in these biscuits.
Notes & Verdicts
peach shortbread by smitten kitchen
Notes: Nothing particularly noteworthy here, except that peaches are hard as fuck to pit and if you have a good tip for doing so, I’d love to hear it. (The avocado trick of cutting down to the pit and expecting the fruit to just fall off on both sides doesn’t work on non-avocados! Who knew? Not me!) I will note that if you brown the butter and want it to be fully solid before you cut it into the batter, you will need to freeze it for considerably longer than half an hour. I think I left mine for 40 minutes, and although the top was fine, the inside was all gooey still. At which point I said “fuck it” and used it anyway.
Verdict: This is … fine, I guess? I mean, it’s a perfectly nice shortbread. Probably even slightly above average in that department, since the batter is nicely spiced. But I wanted something really peachy (for reasons that I think should be obvious after the fucking soliloquoy I wrote you at the beginning of this post) and these just didn’t fit the bill at all. The peach flavor is very secondary to the spiced shortbread base and streusel-style topping. So while there’s nothing wrong with these, they didn’t deliver what I wanted, and for what they are, they’re not worth the effort. C
strawberries and cream biscuits by smitten kitchen
Notes: I used probably double the amount of strawberries Deb suggests, and my biscuits weren’t as strawberry-y as hers look. (Yes, I used grocery-store strawberries instead of the recommended farmers’ market ones. But they were organic!!) Without explaining why, I will urge you to mix well with your little rubber spatula after you add the cream; get all the batter on the bottom of the bowl. I would also encourage you to do a simple egg wash or brush the tops of the biscuits with cream before baking so you get that shiny golden-brown look. I never remember to do this and always wish I had.
Verdict: Good lord in heaven these are good. Like Molly Wizenberg’s cream biscuits, they have an incredibly tender crumb which is just lovely. The strawberries are a little bit melty, as Deb says they should be – it would probably be even better if you had really nice, overripe berries – and the overall effect is comforting and delicious. Make these and rejoice. A