Sugar Free Peach Shortcake
Well – sugar free, gluten free (assuming you use a gluten free biscuit,) and delicious peach shortcake.
You may have wondered, last Spring, why on earth I felt the need to make biscuits, since, Northerner that I am, I rarely eat them. This is the reason…
I was long an adult before I ever heard of sausage gravy. I know in theory that there are people who eat biscuits with chicken, and I’m sure that’s very nice indeed… I do like them with butter for breakfast. But they’re not a big deal, for me.
Shortcake, though? A shortcake is a biscuit! None of that sponge cake nonsense that bakeries try to palm off on you (because they can make that ahead of time and it keeps – real shortcake must be assembled immediately before eating, or it goes soggy.) You take a biscuit – hot out of the oven is best, or you can split and toast it, or even eat it cold… pile it with fresh, juicy fruit, and slather it with whipped cream. Simple, pure, phenomenal. (You can even make it easier and use what my grandmother called “pour cream” – just pour heavy cream over it without bothering to whip it. That’s good, too.)
And it is a great sugar free dessert. Ripe fresh fruit doesn’t need any more sweetener. I eat, and enjoy, strawberry shortcake, when the berries first come in – but I feast on peach shortcake all summer. We get amazing local peaches around here, tree ripened (which makes a serious difference in quality,) juicy, filling the air with fragrance. They’re wonderful to eat out of hand (juice dripping down your chin,) we enjoy them in cereal in the morning, you really can’t go wrong with them – but peach shortcake is luxury. (And there is no reason not to use other berries or stone fruit – nectarines are lovely – but in my mind, you use ripe, juicy peaches for shortcake.)
So – first you take the biscuits. You can certainly use whatever biscuit recipe you like. I, obviously, use the gluten free biscuit recipe I developed. I do have one note – I have a vague notion that, in the past, I would sometimes use a little cream instead of some of the milk or buttermilk to make shortcakes… One of the differences I’ve found in gluten free baking is that the flours do not absorb fat as well as wheat does – when I tried that they came out leaden. Stick to the recipe as written.
Then, the fruit. Now, I do have one note about the use of sugar – and a suggestion that may sound odd, but which I find works. In a traditional shortcake recipe, you cut the fruit, then mix it with just a little sugar, and let it rest at least half an hour. This is not, in fact, to sweeten the fruit – though it does so (and can make it annoyingly sweet if much is used.) Sugar – like salt – causes a chemical reaction in food – it pulls moisture out of the cells. People have long used salt (and now, sometimes, sugar) to draw water out of meat and fish to cure it and make it keep better – country cured ham, gravlax… When you mix fresh fruit with a little sugar and let it rest a while, the result is to draw out the juice, and essentially make its own sauce. If you just cut fruit and put it right on the biscuit, it is still good, but… something is missing… you don’t have the juiciness. (Honey and maple syrup do not have the same reaction. They will eventually draw out moisture, and replace it with their own, but a teaspoon of honey does not give you a bowl of juicy fruit.)
I realized that salt does, in fact, have the same chemical reaction. But we don’t salt fruit – do we? Well… there is salt in the biscuit… You do add salt to sweet recipes – even cakes. A sprinkle of salt will bring out the flavor of the fruit, but should not taste salty… I tried it, and it worked well. I used just the lightest sprinkle, out of a salt shaker – much less than the classic Pinch (which is defined as 1/8 teaspoon…) and let it sit about 15 minutes, here, and the fruit was visibly juicier, with no “salty” taste. (Half an hour – or more – works even better.) You can skip that step – and you can use a sprinkle of sugar, if it is not an issue for you (it is, for me) but really – try the salt.
Then I whipped the cream. And, running out of hands, did not get a decent picture of the process… I use an old fashioned egg beater, which I find the easiest for small amounts. I don’t like to use an electric mixer for just 2 servings, as it is too easy to overbeat it and go down that road to butter… A balloon whisk also works well, though you need a large bowl. I add a splash of vanilla before whipping – this time I used half a teaspoon of vanilla to half a cup of heavy cream, which gave us plenty of whipped cream for two, and some left over…
So, now, assemble. In each bowl, a biscuit, layered with fruit, and slathered with cream. Heaven.
All the elements can be prepared in advance, and assembled at the last minute, which makes it a good dessert at a dinner party, or a holiday meal (strawberry shortcake is an Easter classic in my family.) It’s delicious and luxurious enough for a fancy meal – and easy and inexpensive enough for a hot August weeknight. It’s easy to make one, or a dozen. We all need a few desserts like that.
Sugar Free Peach Shortcake
- Per Person - all amounts approximate to taste
- 1 biscuit - I use Whole Grain Gluten Free Biscuits
- 1 peach
- sprinkle salt
- 1/4 c heavy cream
- 1/4 t vanilla
- Bake biscuits, or, if you wish to use already baked, toast if desired.
- Slice peaches. Sprinkle very lightly with salt, and mix well, to spread the small amount of salt all over the fruit. Let rest half an hour, tossing occasionally. They will become juicier.
- Add vanilla to cream, and whip.
- Assemble - place biscuit in bowl, cover with peaches (spooning any extra juice over.) Dollop whipped cream on top.
- Serve at once.