For the current selection of Cook the Books, we were invited to read Maeve Binchy’s “Scarlet Feather”, a novel about novice caterers set in Ireland. Since I am not too keen on long novels, I did not read this book but since Maeve’s work focuses on Ireland, I decided instead to explore Irish cooking as my contribution to the group’s current discussion.
In my research I found many intriguing Irish foods, most of which summon to mind hearty dishes best served in colder months. Since we are in the middle of a heat wave here in Delaware, I took it as a mid-summer challenge to create a dish that is true to Irish tradition but that complements the hot weather. The outcome? Scones, a resolutely Irish pastry, but with a Delawarean summer twist.
Having never made scones, I was concerned to get the shape right. Thankfully, while the Irish people agree that scones are best served warm from the oven, with butter and whipped cream on the side, no one seems particularly concerned about the shape. So free-form scones would be ok. That was the first step. Now here’s the summer twist – filling them with sliced Delaware peaches and serving them with a side of grilled peaches made even more tasty by adding a touch of ginger and coating them with brown sugar.
At one time, Delaware was among the nation’s peach capitals, but a blight in the early 20th century wiped out most of our orchards. We still love peaches though. They are summer’s greatest fruit - soft and warm yet almost impossibly sweet in their fuzzy golden glory. Bite into a perfect peach on a hot, sunny day, and you’ll experience the bliss of the fruit at its juicy, dripping best. Personally I believe that no melon can compete, nor raspberry, blueberry or blackberry.
Fresh peaches are so visually appealing that they are irresistible presented in pies or tarts but imagine a fluffy, tender buttermilk dough enveloping sliced peaches that are sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar. In other words, think of a peach cobbler that you can justify eating for breakfast because it’s a scone. True enough, because a scone is in reality a biscuit with a little sugar added.
Enjoy this Irish yet summery pastry.
3 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. salt
1½ sticks (12 tbsp.) unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
1 large egg, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¾ cup buttermilk, plus more for brushing
2 ripe peaches, peeled and sliced
2 tbsp. sugar
¾ tsp. ground cinnamon
For the grilled peaches: 2 ripe peaches peeled and sliced, ¼ cup brown sugar, 1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger, 2 tbs softened butter
To make the dough, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter pieces and pulse until the mixture resembles small peas. Add the egg, vanilla, and buttermilk and pulse until it clumps. Turn out onto a floured surface and fold a few times until the dough has come together. Be careful to avoid over-handling the dough, as it can result in tough, dense scones. Flatten the dough into 2 disks, wrap in wax paper and refrigerate for up to 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400˚ F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Turn each disk out onto a well-floured work surface. Roll into 8 x 12-inch rectangles. Brush half of the dough lightly with buttermilk. Lay the peach slices in a single layer over the buttermilk side of the dough. Sprinkle evenly with about half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Fold the dough over itself and press down gently. Slice into 8-10 pieces. Transfer slices to the prepared baking sheets. Brush the top of each scone with buttermilk and sprinkle with additional cinnamon-sugar. Bake until the tops are golden brown and the scones are baked through, about 15-18 minutes. Let cool briefly on the baking sheet, then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool further and cut.
For the grilled peaches, take sliced peaches, dip in melted butter and coat with the brown sugar & ginger mixture. Place in a hot skillet or on the grill with additional melted butter. Let grill marks form on each side. Remove from heat and arrange with scones on a plate with a dollop of whipped cream, mascarpone or Redi-whip.
This is my contribution to the current selection for Cook the Books, where we prepare a dish inspired by this round’s book. This time we are hosted by Hawaiian-Island dweller, Claudia of Honey from Rock