Want to taste summer? Bite into a fresh Carolina peach. Velvety, golden, juicy, and sweet.
Cheesy much? Maybe, but it’s true.
The one fruit that just isn’t the same, or even close to the same, the rest of the year in all of its frozen or canned incarnations is the peach. The texture, the smell, the taste, the sweet, syrupy nectar that drips down your chin– it’s only possible to experience these things for a month and a half every year when you can get them fresh.
If you’ve never had a golden peach, the freestone kind, that literally melts in your mouth, get thee to a roadside farm stand as soon as you possibly can. The grocery store bins are filled with unscented rocks masquerading as peaches that never quite measure up. Peaches should be golden, somewhat soft (not mushy, but yielding to slight pressure), and they should have a sweet, honeyed scent. If you walk past that bin of peaches at the supermarket and don’t smell them before you see them, don’t bother.
Obviously, I have a thing for peaches. In fact, I have so much of a thing that I’ve bought somewhere north of twenty pounds of peaches this season alone. Most of them have been eaten out of hand with all of the intentions of actually baking with them. I have restrained myself enough, though, to make a few peach recipes– the kind that require fresh peaches and say to your tastebuds, “We are summer.”
I first saw these Peach Crumb Bars on Annie’s Eats, and like all things that wander through my kitchen, I couldn’t leave well enough alone. Her recipe, originally sourced from kitchen queen Smitten Kitchen, while utterly delicious in its simplicity, needed something more to make me happy. I traded some of the white granulated sugar for brown sugar, added ginger and cinnamon to the crust and peaches, and added chopped pecans to the crumb topping. I suppose I could call them Ginger-Peach Pecan Crumb Bars, but that’s too much of a mouthful. And, really, who wants a mouth full of words when you can have a mouth full of these bar cookies?
Peach Crumb Bars
5 large peaches
3 tsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Shortbread Crust & Topping–
2 cups AP flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup cold butter (1 stick), cut into 1 inch pieces
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Prepare the peach filling:
Peel, pit, and slice peaches. In a large bowl, combine the sliced peaches with cornstarch, ginger, and cinnamon. Set the filling aside.
Prepare the shortbread dough:
In a large bowl combine the flour, sugars, baking powder, salt, ginger, and cinnamon. DON’T add the pecans yet. Work the butter and egg into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles small peas.
Too lazy to pull out the my pastry blender, I used my stand mixer for this step. I simply moved the dry ingredients into my mixing bowl, set the speed to its lowest setting, and dropped the butter in one piece at a time. When the butter was mostly incorporated, I added the egg. Is this the right way to do it? Don’t know, but it worked well enough for me.
The process photos are a bit blurry, and somewhat lacking. I hadn’t decided if I really wanted to write about these bars, so I was using the point-and-shoot without the aid of my glasses. My apologies.
Assemble and bake the bars:
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Line a large baking sheet– I used a 12-1/2 x 17-1/2 inch jelly roll pan– with parchment paper.
Press 1/2 of the shortbread dough onto the parchment. The dough was a bit sticky and difficult for me to work with, so I placed a sheet of waxed paper over the top and used a rolling-pin to evenly distribute the dough. Then I removed the waxed paper. This, I believe, is a pretty crucial step. I doubt waxed paper would add much to the final bar cookie.
Using a slotted spoon, ladle the peach filling over the layer of shortbread. My peaches weren’t super juicy, but if yours are, I’d suggest leaving the juice in the bowl. If there’s a lot, you can always boil it in a small saucepan in order to make peach syrup. I wouldn’t drink it, though. Raw cornstarch isn’t very tasty.
Now you can add those pecans to the remaining half of the shortbread dough. Drop them in the bowl, give it all a good stir,
and then use you fingers to drop clumps of the dough evenly over the peach filling. Don’t worry, it doesn’t look pretty, but it’ll taste delicious.
Bake the bars for approximately 40 minutes or so. The crust is a bit blonde, so it’ll never really brown a lot, but it should get some color.
Remove the bars from the oven. Test a piece of the crust that no one will ever notice is missing. If it tastes like a crumbly shortbread cookie or a Pecan Sandie, then you’ve done your job. You can let them cool in the pan, but I slid mine, parchment and all onto the counter so that they would cool faster.
Cut into bars (I used a pizza wheel to cut mine) and serve.
We ate some yesterday afternoon warm straight from the oven, some for dessert at room temperature, and then I had one this morning ice-cold from the refrigerator. Of the three, I liked them best cold.
The bar kept its texture, though I think I might par-bake the bottom crust next time, and the filling was more like a peach jam cold than like peach pie hot.
Yield: Well, I guess that depends on how you cut them. I’d suggest cutting them in 2 x 3 inch bars, and you can do the math. As for us, we ate them too quickly to count. Oh, and I think my bars were cut 2 x 2 because we kept nibbling off of the edges.