Among my most vivid childhood memories from growing up in southern Alabama are the start of each summer vacation. Before we set off for our annual pilgrimage to the Gulf of Mexico, we’d stop at my grandfather’s farm to pick fresh summer fruits straight from the vine. When it comes to fruit, I don’t discriminate. But it’s safe to say my favorites are the ones that ripen during the warmest months of the year.
After claiming a recycled milk jug, my brother and I would race to pile as many blueberries and strawberries as we could squeeze into our makeshift cartons. Our treasures were carefully held in the safety of our laps until our mom’s minivan was finally parked at our destination. At those white sand beaches, they were then transformed into the very best summer treat: cobbler.
August is the best month for cobbler, because that’s when our Chilton County peaches — heroes of summer in their own right — are juiciest. A hot serving of cobbler may sound intense for the dog days of summer, but it’s only complete once an ice cold scoop of vanilla ice cream is dropped weightlessly on top. The simple pleasure of plain vanilla ice cream is unrivaled, especially watching it slowly melt as you stir it into the pastry you're about to eat.
Last year, celebrated pastry chef Meghan McGarry introduced to me a new favorite way to sweeten up my favorite stone fruit: her peachy bourbon crumb cake. You heard me right: I said bourbon.
Like many of McGarry's pastries, a hint of booze is added to elevate the flavor palette. In this crumble, a kick of bourbon perfectly cuts the sweet flavor of ripe summer peaches and adds an elegant finish, too. Best of all, it takes just five minutes to complete.
Truth be told, a crumb cake is perfect for summer, because it is one of the most accessible desserts you can bake. It's far less fancy than a layer cake — and it can be served at distinct occasions. You can enjoy a slice with a cup of freshly-brewed coffee for breakfast or as a treat with afternoon tea; or you can spoon out vanilla ice cream at a picnic lunch in the park — or at dinner after a long day at the beach.
“You can add your favorite seasonal ingredient. You bake everything in one pan,” McGarry told Salon last year of her winning recipe. “And, just like that, you're done.”
In other words, if peaches aren't your thing, sub them out for another fresh summer stone fruit like plumbs or sweet cherries. You can't go wrong with blueberries, either.
Recipe: Peachy Bourbon Crumb Cake
- 1 cup of all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup of sugar
- 1/3 cup of dark brown sugar
- 1 and 1/4 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoons of salt
- 3.5 ounces (or 7 tablespoons) of unsalted butter, meltedPeach Cake
- 5 ounces unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup of sugar
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste
- 1 and 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour (reserve 1 tablespoon to toss with peaches)
- 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- 1 and 1/4 teaspoons of baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 8 ounces of sour cream
- 1 and 1/2 cups cubed peaches (about 2 peaches)
Vanilla Bean Bourbon Glaze
- 1 cup of powdered sugar
- 3 tablespoons of bourbon
- 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste
- Mix all dry ingredients together in bowl.
- Pour in melted butter and mix together with a fork, making sure everyone gets coated. You will have some larger clumps and lots of little crumbs. Set aside.Click here to follow the complete recipe on McGarry's website.