The pleasure others receive from my homemade desserts makes it all worthwhile. I love making people happy through flour, sugar, butter and eggs. Compliments do not inflate my ego, rather, they boost the level of joy I experience when baking for family and friends. A special request is the most flattering of all compliments. It says – I trust you to replicate a sweet memory or to satisfy a childhood craving. Special requests often lead to recipes that become favorites of my own. Such is the case with two recipes from Tom Douglas’ Seattle Kitchen cookbook. Many years ago, my in-laws returned from a trip to Seattle with a gift for me. How thoughtful of them, if not perhaps…well, let’s just say there may have been a slight ulterior motive behind this particular gift. They presented me a copy of Douglas’ book amid elaborate descriptions of the “ most delicious coconut cream pie” they had eaten at Dahlia Lounge, one of his Seattle restaurants.. As I perused the pages of the lovely book they had gifted me, surprise – a bookmark led me directly to a recipe for Triple Coconut Cream Pie. Hum, just a coincidence? ;) I lovingly made the pie for them – and let me just say, all their raving was justified.
Along the way I have come to make another noteworthy dessert from Seattle Kitchen. With a twist here and a spin there, Douglas re-invented a traditional summer dessert in his Peach Cornmeal Shortcakes with Candied Pecans. How summery and Southern can you get. Peaches, Corn, Pecans. When peaches are in season and the evenings run warm, it is a satisfying dessert all around. I make it at least once a summer, usually in August when peaches are at their peak.
Realizing I was one day from leaving on a trip to New York – the abundance of nectarines and blueberries I had on hand needed to be put to good use. I very much dislike wasting fruit – especially fresh from the farmer’s market stone fruits and berries. Remembering the Peach Shortcake recipe from Tom Douglas’s book, I gave it a few tweaks of muy own and came up with the recipe I’ve shared with you here. I lightened the shortcake, subbed in nectaries and blueberries for the peaches, and greatly simplified the process for the candied pecans. All three components can be made ahead of time. Assemble the shortcakes right before serving for a fresh and light summer dessert.
Don’t just stop with the nectarines and blueberries suggested here. Try any combination of stone fruit and summer berries in this fresh, fruity, and oh so satisfying summer dessert.
Nectarine Blueberry Cornmeal Shortcakes
For the Candied Pecans
1/2 cup pecan halves
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon Fleur de Sel or Kosher salt
For the Cornmeal Shortcakes
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold butter, cubed into 1/2 sized pieces
1 cup heavy cream + 2 tablespoon of heavy cream for brushing the tops of the shortcakes
Turbinado, Demerara, or any sprinkling sugar
To Finish the Shortcakes
4 nectarines, sliced
1 cup blueberries
1 tablespoon sugar
Sweetened Whipped Cream
For the Pecans: Have ready a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil. Heat a medium non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until quite hot. (The skillet is hot enough when a light sprinkling of water flicked into the pan sizzles and dances across its surface.) Add the pecans to the pan and toast them until fragrant and just beginning to brown. Stir the pecans frequently to prevent them from burning. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the sugar overtop of the pecans and continue to toss and stir them until the sugar begins to melt and turn a golden brown. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar and stir until almost melted with some of the sugar still white and coating the pecans. (Watch carefully as the sugar can go from golden to burned in seconds.) Remove the skillet from the heat and quickly spread the pecans on the prepared sheet. Immediately sprinkle the salt overtop the pecans and let cool completely. Can be made a day ahead and stored in a sealed container at room temperature.
For the Shortcakes: Preheat the oven to 425˚. Have ready a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Pulse a few times to blend the dry ingredients. Add the cubed butter and pulse until the the mixture appears crumbly and some pieces of butter are still visible. With the processor running, quickly add the 1 cup of cream and process until the mixture just begins to come together. If the mixture is too dry, add a tablespoon at a time of additional cream, pulsing in between each addition. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll to a 3/4 inch thickness. Cut out shortcakes using a 3-inch round cookie or biscuit cutter. (The scrapes can be re-rolled but they will not result in a shortcake as well risen as the first cutting.) Place the shortcakes on the prepared baking sheet. If not using an insulated sheet, double stack two baking sheets to prevent the shortcakes from getting too brown on the bottom. Using the 2 remaining tablespoons of cream, brush the tops of the shortcakes and sprinkle with sugar. Bake until golden, 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before removing to a rack to cool completely. The shortcakes can be made earlier in the day and stored covered at room temperature.
Assemble the Shortcakes: Toss the nectarine slices and blueberries in a medium bowl to combine. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar and toss to coat the fruit. Set aside while preparing the whipped cream. Cut each shortcake in half and place on a dessert plate. Fill each with the sweetened fruit, then the whipped cream. Replace the top of the shortcake and garnish with the candied pecans. Serve immediately.
Yield: 6-8 servings
Source: Inspired by Tom Douglas’ Seattle Kitchen