By Alison Steele
Returning to our mountain garden after two months away is quite magical. Pumpkins hang from the vine, towering sunflowers guard entranceways, ripe tomatoes and peppers peek out from under the weeds. There are, however, always a few casualties. Our peach tree had split straight down the middle despite my efforts to twist off what seemed like a million almond-sized fruits in the spring. It was now laden with fuzzy yellow and pink orbs of sun and water and end-of-summer magic. This tree, not much taller than I, will provide cakes, pies, tarts, and maybe even a special jar to pull out over the winter when the promise of the sun’s return is dim.
Thinking of our trip and all the gardeners, farmers, and friends along the way, I fashioned this recipe, an ode to the upsidedown cake we enjoyed as kids. When traveling, I can’t help buying regional cookbooks and local ingredients I can pack and bring back to play with throughout the fall and winter. This time, I found some freshly ground cornmeal from Harry Hornbeck’s farm in West Virginia, locally grown wheat from Wade’s Mill, Virginia’s oldest operating gristmill, and a small-batch Bourbon gifted to us by our friends on the Missouri/Kentucky line. These ingredients together with our Rio Oso Gem peaches make this not just an indulgence, but a blissful trip down memory lane!
Peach & Blackberry Bourbon Corn Cake
½ cup brown sugar
3 T plus ¼ cup butter, room temperature
2 T good Bourbon (optional but excellent)
5 firm freestone peaches
9 plump blackberries
1 c finely ground cornmeal
1c unbleached all purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ c lightly colored cane sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon bourbon vanilla extract
¾ cup milk (cow, nut, or rice)
Whipped cream (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Pour brown sugar in the bottom of a well-greased 9x9x2 square pan. Shake to spread evenly. Dot with three tablespoons of butter over the whole square. Sprinkle bourbon over the butter and brown sugar. Slice your peaches in two and pop out the stones, replacing them with a plump blackberry. Line the peach halves blackberry side down in a three by three pattern.
Sift flours, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Cream ¼ cup of butter, adding in the cane sugar a little at a time. Add the egg, then vanilla and beat until fluffy. Mix the flour a third at a time into the butter mixture alternately with the milk until you have a fluffy golden batter. Spread over the peaches all the way to the edges. Bake for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Turn out onto a flat serving plate just as soon as it comes out of the oven. Serve warm with a dollop of freshly whipped cream. Enjoy!
For Bourbon recommendations visit bourbonblog.com.
A native of Virginia, Alison Steele lives with her husband, two children, and cat in Boulder Creek where she raises quail, chickens, fruit trees, vegetables, and herbs. Alison plays banjo and sings in Sugar by the Pound
Featured photo: Alison’s Peach & Blackberry Bourbon Corn Cake
Photo by Alison Steele