Friday, August 13, 2010

Peaches, Parts 2, 3, 4 and half of 5

So yesterday was a very peachy day. As luck would have it (well, baking luck, anyway), yesterday was a rainy, stormy, stay inside kind of day. Which lined up perfectly for the fact that we had just picked many, many pounds of peaches. So right after breakfast, we set to work turning those peaches into as many things as we could manage in a single day.

The first endeavor was preserves. I don't buy many store-bought jams or preserves anymore, as almost all of them contain high fructose corn syrup, and those that don't, don't go on sale all that often. So jam or preserves is always my first plan when we go fruit picking these days. The first step was to peel the peaches. I have tried (unsuccessfully) in the past the method of boiling the peaches for a minute, then plunging them into ice water. From all accounts, the peel should just slip right off, if this is done properly. Apparently, I'd never done it properly before... But I tried again yesterday, since I knew I would be peeling a ton of peaches anyway, and had slightly better luck. It works best with peaches that are really ripe. I still had to pull out my trusty vegetable peeler for some of the more stubborn peaches, but this helped quite a bit.

I chose to try a pectin-free preserves recipe, which had all of three ingredients - peaches, sugar and lemon juice. I used six cups of chopped peaches, three cups of sugar and the juice of one lemon. I mixed all of the ingredients together, let them sit for a little over an hour to develop a nice, natural syrup, than cooked the mixture for a very long time. I boiled the fruit for only a couple of minutes, but then simmered the whole mix (stirring frequently) for about and hour and a half.

The results were very pretty, a little thinner than traditional jams, and much sweeter than I had expected, considering I chose a recipe that called for half as much sugar as most of the other recipes out there. But I now have fresh preserves in the fridge waiting to be used for sandwiches, spreads and anything else I care to try.

As the jam was cooking, little miss and I decided to try a much more instant- gratification recipe, so we grabbed a couple of peaches, a couple of bananas and our mini blender. Yup - what could be better for a mid-morning snack than peach-banana smoothies? One peach, one banana, a scoop of yogurt and lots of ice. Little miss chose to use the ice cubes that we had made out of juice, while I chose boring old water-based ice cubes, but both smoothies came out deliciously, and made a really refreshing (not to mention healthy!) snack.

By the time we finished lunch and ducked out between the rain drops to run a quick errand, we were ready to try yet another peach recipe. I mean, the box still had plenty of peaches left in it, so why not? After a few minutes of online searching, I decided to try my hand at making peach scones. I am not sure why that recipe spoke to me so much - I have never made scones before, and haven't ever really had much love for scones, but for some reason, it just sounded perfect. So more peeling, more chopping, and this time, since there was no simmering involved, little miss was very hands on in the process. She absolutely loved incorporating the butter into the dry ingredients, diligently searching out any additional clumps in need of pinching and rubbing. See? Who needs a food processor.

The dough was actually very sticky (so little miss also had the pleasure of sprinkling both the dough and mommy's hands with hands-full of flour...), but finally came together into a nice round, which we cut into wedges and sprinkled with coarse, raw sugar.

I had actually intended to save these for breakfast for today, maybe even make a nice glaze to drizzle over them, but they looked and smelled so good that we just had to break into them for dessert from dinner last night. Let me tell you - these have converted me to a scone fan. They are definitely worth the sticky mess of making them, and I can't wait to try different flavors.


That was a lot of peaches. But I wasn't done yet. Parts 2, 3 and 4 complete, I still had one more recipe that needed to be started.

My sister had borrowed David Lebovitz's amazing book, The Perfect Scoop, for various and sundry reasons, from the bookstore where she works. As I was flipping through the pages, trying not to drool, I saw a recipe for peach ice cream. Which, I admit, was a good part of my inspiration for going peach picking in the first place. So before packing in my peeler and putting away the cutting board, I decided to prep the cream mixture for the ice cream. This lovely mixture spent all night in the refrigerator chilling out, and will shortly be popped into the freezer, to be diligently mixed every half hour for the first half of my day today. I love knowing that I can make creamy, delicious ice cream without an ice cream maker! So stay tuned to see if I was indeed able to make the perfect scoop of peach ice cream as part 5 of my peach endeavors.

Peach Scones
(from Sugar Plum)

1 large egg
1/3 cup milk
2 teaspoons honey
1/3 cup finely chopped peach (peeled)
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, cold
1 teaspoon turbinado sugar, for sprinkling on top (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a large sheet pan with cooking spray.
Whisk together egg, milk and honey in a small bowl, until well combined. Stir in peach.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt, until well combined. Add the butter in, using a pastry blender or your fingertips, until the mixture resembles pea-sized lumps. Stir in milk mixture until dough comes together, being careful not to overwork.
Place dough on a floured surface and form a ball, picking up a little bit of flour as you do it. Pat into a round, about 3/4-inch thick. Cut the round into eight equal triangles (you can use a pizza cutter), then transfer the triangles to the baking sheet and sprinkle them with turbinado sugar.
Bake for 2-25 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.


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