The fragrance of ripe peaches is as sensuous as Number 5. They draw you into their presence and urge you to fit just one more in the bag. Once the juicy flavor grenades are brought home, usually two fates await. They will be quickly devoured within the first few days or left to sit around with the best of intentions, ultimately lending themselves to over ripening. Here is an option for what to do with peaches that are on the verge of too ripe: bake up a rich cakey peach cornbread. The recipe uses up a lot of pantry staples keeping the need to go shopping for ingredients to a minimum. It’s slightly sweet, making it able to be served with a smear of creamy butter for breakfast or topped with whipped cream for dessert.
Norm’s Notes: The Ripe Stuff
Most baked goods loaded with fruit have a serious problem of baking inconsistently. Often gooey pockets of batter surround fruit pieces while the foundation and tops are perfectly cooked or worse, the whole thing ends up overcooked. To overcome this problem, I chose to chop the fruit to give it better distribution and help the cornbread to cook evenly. The peach pieces are also lightly coated with cornstarch to help with the gelling of the fruit juices, keeping them suspended in the batter.
Be sure to pay attention to the technique of melting the butter in the skillet over low heat while you prepare the batter. It really aids in baking the cornbread, helping to set the crust and reducing the amount of time it needs to stay in the oven. Also, the stand time is crucial to the recipe. This final rest sets the structure of the cornbread as it continues to cook off the heat, allowing you to cut a hefty wedge without it falling apart.
Makes 8 servings
2 large firm ripe peaches
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
2 tsp. cornstarch
½ tsp. lemon zest
Pinch of salt
½ cup butter
1 ½ cups yellow cornmeal
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
⅓ cup honey or packed brown sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 ½ cups half and half
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Peel and coarsely chop peaches. Toss peaches, sugar, and next 3 ingredients together in a medium bowl until coated. Let stand 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, heat butter in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over low heat until melted. Leave on low heat.
3. Stir cornmeal and next 4 ingredients together in a large bowl until blended. Whisk honey (or brown sugar) and next 2 ingredients together in a medium bowl until blended. Whisk honey mixture into cornmeal mixture until smooth. Stir in melted butter until just blended.
4. Reserve 1 ½ cups cornbread batter and pour remaining batter into skillet. Spoon peach mixture over batter evenly and top with reserved cornbread batter.
5. Bake at 375 degrees 30 to 35 minutes or until top is a golden rich brown and a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand 15 minutes before slicing.