A Real Peach...

Recently, I mentioned that I don't particularly like fruit. I realize that this makes me a sort of social pariah, especially in the post-Omnivore's Dilemma world in which we've all been instructed to, "Eat food, mostly plants." I've gotten better about it in recent years, and I now eat a wider range of fruits than I did before, but I still have trouble eating them raw and by themselves. Although it greatly diminishes their nutritional value, I've found that I have to turn most of my fruits into some sort of dessert in order to trick myself into eating them. For example, the peach ice pops that have become my favorite freezer mainstay during the summer months were my gateway into the world of eating stone fruits. Now, two years later, I can even persuade myself to eat them plain, and I eagerly await the arrival of peach season all year long.

Since the beginning of June, I've been stalking the produce department of my grocery store, waiting to find peaches that were both reasonably-priced and reasonably ripe (unlike the early season peaches that are as hard as the pits contained within.) Finally, this week I found nectarines on sale for 99 cents per pound, and they actually smelled like peaches, indicating that they might be flavorful once they eventually softened on my kitchen counter. I shoveled them into my grocery cart like the crazy ladies on Extreme Couponing who buy a hundred bottles of mustard because they're essentially free with their coupons. Maybe I need to stop watching that show so much...

Anyhow, I already had plans for this batch of fruit; plans that had long been percolating in my feverish cooking brain, and just waiting for the appropriate produce to come to fruition. The first of these was a batch of fresh peach cookies from Martha Stewart (shocker, I know, but I promise this will be the last of my experiments from Cookies: The Very Best Treats to Bake and Share for a while; it's time to show my other cookbooks some love now), and the other you'll just have to wait to find out about.

Martha's book is divided into chapters by texture, and these cookies came from the "Soft & Tender" category. I think that was a bit of an understatement in this case, as these "cookies" were really more like free-form peach cakes. They tasted good; Dad, who was over when I baked them, described them as "a peach-flavored snickerdoodle." The peach flavor was much more intense than I had anticipated, probably due to the presence of the peach jam on top of the chopped fruit, and it was beautifully accented by a hint of cinnamon sprinkled on top, not unlike a good peach pie. However, the cookies were really soft and floppy, and after a night in the cookie jar, they were already getting soggy by morning. Martha says in the book that the cookies are best the day they're made, and she's not kidding folks. Still, I think these cookies could make a nice addition to a summertime backyard barbeque, or a picnic, as long as they were baked the day of...

Fresh Peach Drop Cookies
adapted from Martha Stewart

2 c. plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 c. sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 lb. peaches or nectarines, peeled, pitted, and chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
1/3 c. peach jam
2 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375.
1. Whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda.
2. Put butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Add egg and vanilla; mix until well-blended, about 1 minute. Add flour mixture and mix until combined. Add diced peaches and peach jam; mix until just combined.
3. Using a 1 1/2-inch cookie scoop, or a tablespoon, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing 2 inches apart. (Chill remaining dough between batches.)
4. Combine remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Sprinkle each cookie with 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake cookies until golden brown and just set, 11-13 minutes. Let cool on sheets five minutes, then transfer to wire racks and allow to cool completely. Cookies are best the day they are made.

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