I’m ready for fall—there, I said it. Summer has been wonderful this year, especially for the fact that we have enjoyed the company of friends more this year than in the previous two summers. It’s good to be (mostly) back to normal. But my confession is true; I have found myself longing for the goodness that autumn brings—you know, cooler evening breezes, crisp morning air, comfy sweaters and (of course) the food. Soon enough, I suppose.
As we wind our way through these waning days of summer, I am delighted with the freshness we have enjoyed from our own garden and the various other local sources that have supplied our meals.
We are clinging to the end of fresh peach season here in the South, and I have two delicious desserts to share with you. It is unusual for me to share two recipes at once but, given the short time left for enjoying fresh, in-season peaches, I thought it made sense to present these at the same time. Both are prepared in a skillet, and both include fresh peaches, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end. One is super simple to make and serve straight from the skillet; the other is a bit more involved, though not difficult, and serves up with a more elegant flair. Either is delicious, and if you only have enough time (or peaches) to make one of them, you can hardly choose wrong.
The first of these yummy desserts was made “on location,” just about a month ago, during a visit with friends outside Raleigh, N.C. When we arranged our day trip to visit Bob and Peg, I told them I’d love to make a dessert using the fresh peaches off their backyard tree. If you have the time to invest in a few extra steps, this is the dessert I recommend. For me, the trickiest part is inverting the thing while the heavy cast iron skillet is still warm. If you’re comfortable doing so, this cake is well worth the effort, and it’s one that I have made several times over the years. I turned it into a bit of an adventure this time by packing up all the pre-measured ingredients and then assembling and baking it at Bob and Peg’s. This was easier than it might sound, and it went like this:
As with any upside-down cake, this dessert was built backward, beginning with the sticky-sweet, sugary base in the skillet and finishing with the batter that gets poured right on top—which, of course, becomes the bottom after the cake is baked and inverted.
I like a combination of white and brown sugars for the base because the white sugar puts a bit of crunch in the caramel and the brown sugar provides more depth of flavor. Add both to the butter as it melts over a stovetop burner and let it mingle into syrupy lusciousness. If the butter gets a little browned in the process of melting it down, so much the better, and you must know me well enough to know that I had to pour in a shot of bourbon once the sugar mixture was bubbly. Bob was pouring bourbon anyway, and peaches and bourbon is a match made in summer heaven, as far as I’m concerned. Next, arrange sliced peaches all the way around over the butter-sugar base.
The batter for this cake is pleasantly dense, with cornmeal adding whole grain goodness and texture, and buttermilk providing a necessary acidic boost to the baking powder and soda. Begin by beating softened butter and sugar together, then adding eggs and vanilla, and finally blending in the flour and buttermilk ingredients.
Pour the batter over the peaches in the hot skillet and transfer it directly to a preheated oven until the edges have pulled away from the skillet and the center resembles cornbread. After a brief rest, run a knife around the edge to loosen the cake and carefully invert it onto a serving plate. If any of the “upside-down” sticks, replace it on the cake and smooth it while it is still warm. Delicious!
At the end of this post, I will include easy, click-to-print recipe cards for both of these peachy skillet recipes. But first, I must show you what our pal, Bob, was doing to break my baking concentration with his magical cocktail-making abilities. My husband and I always have a wonderful time hanging out with Bob and Peg, and as we waited for the peach bourbon upside-down cake to finish baking, we witnessed a master class in—get this—smoking cocktails. Yes.
Now, the cocktail itself could not have been simpler. No measuring required, even—it was straight up bourbon over a big-ass ice cube. But that smoke infusion contraption took a nice bourbon into a whole new territory, and you can bet I’ll be getting one of those before I present this year’s signature Halloween cocktail. More to come. 😉
Ready to talk about this other delicious, peachy keen skillet dessert? It’s a cobbler!
For now, let’s shift gears back to the cast-iron skillet and talk about this ridiculously easy cobbler, which I whipped up in no more than 15 minutes, plus baking. The only time-consuming thing here was peeling and cutting up the peaches, which was hardly a burden, given that I thoroughly enjoyed licking the juices off my fingers when I finished. These particular peaches were gifted to us by our neighbor, Pam, following a day trip she had made to the North Carolina mountains. Pam has followed my adventures on Comfort du Jour from the beginning, and she said upon delivering these perfectly ripe peaches, “I can’t wait to see what you create with these!” Well, here it is—a skillet cobbler!
I only used three of the peaches here (they were huge), and that measured about 2 cups, once they were peeled, pitted and cut into bits. In a pinch, I’m sure you could use thawed frozen peaches as well, which means this dessert doesn’t have to be limited to summertime enjoyment.
There are several varieties of cobbler out there, and because we roll pretty casual in the South, I skipped over the options that required making biscuits or pastry dough and steered directly to the “batter” option. This is a dessert that seems incorrect, because the batter is quite runny, and it’s hard to visualize how it will come together in the oven (but it does). The batter is made with self-rising flour, sugar, cinnamon and milk—that’s it. Me being me, though, I had to incorporate some amount of whole grain into it, so for this batch, I also stirred in 1/3 cup of quick-cooking oats and that turned out to be a great decision. Unlike a typical cobbler with juicy, almost soupy consistency, this one held together more like a custard because the oats plumped up inside the cobbler. I would not recommend increasing the oats because it might turn out gummy, and I am sure that quick oats is the way to go. Old fashioned, rolled oats may not cook through as tender, or they may absorb too much of the liquid in the batter.
While I measured and mixed those ingredients, I pre-heated the oven with a half stick of butter in it, and then swirled the browned butter around to fully coat the pan once the oven was hot. The batter is slowly poured into the hot buttered skillet, and then the peaches are arranged (if you want to call it that) all over the top. Typically, a cobbler is sprinkled lightly with sugar before it’s baked, but I can’t stick with typical, so I chopped up some pecan pralines (from Trader Joe’s, but anything similar will work) and scattered those on top instead.
As I said, you can’t go wrong with either of these peachy keen skillet desserts, so grab your cast iron and peel those peaches and enjoy what’s left of summer.
Peach Bourbon Upside-down Skillet Cake
- 1/2 stick salted butter (for the upside-down)
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup cane sugar
- 1 shot bourbon (optional, but heck yes)
- 4 medium fresh peaches, sliced with peel
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup medium grind cornmeal
- 1/4 cup toasted pecan pieces (optional)
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 stick unsalted butter, softened (for batter)
- 3/4 cup cane sugar (for batter)
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 cup buttermilk, shaken well
- Whipped cream for serving
- Preheat the oven to 375° F, with oven rack in the center position.
- Place a 10″ cast iron skillet over medium heat. Heat first amount of butter until melted. Add brown and cane sugars and stir to combine. Let them mingle over the heat until the mixture looks dissolved and begins to bubble. Add the bourbon (if using) and stir to blend. Reduce heat to low and arrange peach slices in a round pattern over the syrupy bourbon mixture. Set aside while you prepare the batter.
- Combine flour and cornmeal in a medium bowl. Add pecans, baking powder, soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside for later addition to the batter.
- Using a handheld mixer, cream together the remaining sugar with the stick of unsalted butter. Beat this mixture until it’s lighter and fluffier in texture. Add eggs, one at a time, beating completely to blend. Beat in vanilla.
- Use a rubber spatula to fold about half of the flour mixture into the batter, blending until all dry ingredients are incorporated. Gently mix the buttermilk into the batter, and then fold the remaining flour mixture, again blending until no dry spots of flour are visible.
- Pour the batter over the peaches in the skillet, taking care not to disturb the arrangement. Gently smooth the batter, and slide the skillet into the oven.
- Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, until baked batter has pulled away from the edges of the skillet and the cake portion tests clean when a toothpick is inserted into the center.
- Cool 15 minutes before loosening the cake around the edges. Carefully invert the cake onto a large platter. If any bits of peach get stuck to the skillet, place them back into place and smooth the upside-down caramel coating while it’s still warm.
Peach Praline Skillet Cobbler
- 1/2 stick unsalted butter (4 Tbsp.)
- 3/4 cup cane sugar
- 1 cup self-rising flour (see ingredient note below)
- 1/3 cup quick-cooking oats
- 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 cup whole milk
- About 3 large peaches, or enough to measure 2 heaping cups (peel and chop)
- 1/2 cup candied pecans, roughly chopped (I used Trader Joe’s pecan pralines)
- Preheat oven to 400° F, with oven rack in center position. Place cold butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet and put it in the oven during preheating. Keep an eye on it so that the butter does not burn.
- Whisk together the self-rising flour, sugar, oats and cinnamon. Add the milk to the dry ingredients and whisk until combined, and no pockets of unincorporated dry ingredients remain. The batter will be quite runny.
- Remove hot skillet from the oven and swirl the pan to evenly coat with the melted butter. Slowly pour the batter right into the center of the pan. The butter will naturally scoot out to the edges of the pan, and that’s OK. It may also seem to foam a bit at the edges, which is normal.
- Top the batter filling evenly with the peach chunks. Scatter the chopped candied pecans over the top. Bake 40 to 45 minutes, until the cobbler is golden brown and bubbly in spots. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.