Have a peachy day

It’s August, which means that National Peach Month has rolled around.

It’s August, which means that National Peach Month has rolled around!

I’m not sure how the summer has completely flown by the way it has, but I’m crazy busy with the bounty of  fresh peaches hanging on my tree. Some  branches reach out over the water and seeing peaches float by was enough to get me picking.

Peaches are in their prime right now, so it’s the perfect time to gather a bucketful and eat and bake until your tummy is content. Eat them right from the tree, or sliced with cream or ice cream, whip up muffins, cakes, crisps and cobblers, scones and pies. They make great milkshakes, ice cream, Popsicles, and even coolers. Finally, can some for the winter or make peach jam, salsas, and chutneys.

Because I had so many bruised or marked peaches I made fruit leather from them, cutting away any skin unsuitable. The second recipe today is a delicious shortcake dessert. I cut the sugar asked for sweetening the peaches, but sweeten to your taste. Enjoy.

Peach Fruit Leather

4 ripe peaches (skin on)

1 tablespoon honey

Preheat oven to 225 F degrees.*

Rinse and remove pits from peaches.  Place the peaches and honey in a blender and purée until smooth. Pour the mixture onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and spread with the back of a spoon or spatula in a large rectangle (my rectangle was 11 x 15 inches), making sure that the thickness is completely even. Bake for 3-4 hours or until dry and not sticky to the touch. Remember, cooking times will vary depending on how thick you spread your mixture and how much water (juice) is naturally in the fruit.**

Set aside and cool at room temperature; it takes several hours for the fruit to soften up. Note that when you first take the fruit leather out of the oven, the edges will be a bit dry and crispy, but if you allow it to sit out for several hours, it softens up nicely. Cut with a knife, pizza cutter or scissors into strips, keeping the paper on if desired, then roll the leather into “roll-ups.”  Serve.

*If you choose to use a dehydrator, cook the fruit leather at 135 degrees for 5 hours.

** Every oven is different, so the cooking time may be less than 2 hours if your oven tends to run hot.

Fresh Peach Shortcake

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

6 ounces butter, about 3/4 cup, softened

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans

1 large egg

3/4 cup milk

Cinnamon sugar, optional

8 to 10 medium peaches, about 2 pounds peaches*

1 to 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar to sweeten the peaches

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or about 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract

2 tsp. sugar

In a mixing bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir in brown sugar, breaking up large lumps. With a pastry blender or hands, cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Stir in chopped pecans.

In a cup or small bowl, whisk the egg with the milk. Add the milk and egg mixture to first mixture; stir with a fork until blended.

Turn two 8- or 9-inch  round cake pans upside-down and grease bottoms. Lightly dust with flour. Spread half the dough on each bottom to within about 1/2-inch of edge. Sprinkle the dough lightly with a cinnamon sugar mixture, if desired.

Bake at 425 F for about 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool.  Peel, slice and sweeten peaches with about 1-1/2 cups sugar or to taste. In a small bowl, whip cream with the vanilla or almond extract and 2 tsp. sugar until stiff.

Carefully place one shortcake on a plate, top with about half of the peaches and whipped cream. Top with second shortcake and remaining peaches and whipped cream.

*If peaches aren’t in season, use frozen sliced peaches, or omit the granulated sugar and use canned drained peaches.

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist, appearing every other Wednesday and one Sunday per month.



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