While living in Rhode Island and working at Al Forno restaurant in Providence, Suzanne Goin was fascinated by the celebrations that revolved around food (especially in the Italian and Portuguese neighborhoods) and the connection Rhode Islanders felt to certain local produce, like their native tomatoes and homegrown corn.
The most prized dish in tiny Rhode Island is the johnnycake. Originally called journey cakes, these cornmeal griddle cakes, made with locally milled native corn, have been the pride and joy of Rhode Island since the seventeenth century. County competitions are held annually, and there's even a group called the Society for the Propagation of Johnny Cakes that sees to it that their corn-pancake tradition stays alive and well.
So it seemed natural at Al Forno to add that famous stone-ground corn to their shortcake biscuit. Here Goin has borrowed Al Forno's foolproof recipe and added peaches and her own "soured cream." To get the peaches nice and saucy, she marinates them in simple syrup with mint and then purees a portion of the fruit to spoon over the biscuit. Feel free to make this shortcake with whatever juicy fruit you like, such as nectarines or berries.
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1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup stone-ground cornmeal
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
Preheat the oven to 425°. Place the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and 3 heaping tablespoons of sugar in a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse 10 times, to a coarse meal. With the machine on, quickly pour in 1 cup of the cream. Stop the machine immediately when the dough starts to come together. (It is important not to overwork the dough.)
Place the dough on a clean work surface and bring it together with your hands. Shape it into an even 8-inch round. Cut the round in half, then cut each half into 3 wedges. Place the shortcakes on a buttered baking sheet. Brush them with the remaining tablespoon of cream and sprinkle a little sugar on top of each one. Bake about 15 minutes, until the shortcakes are set and lightly golden.
Cut the shortcakes in half horizontally. Place the bottom halves on each of 6 plates or on a large platter. Spoon some of the peach puree onto the shortcakes and top with a large dollop of the soured cream. Ladle the peaches and their juices over the cream, letting some of the fruit fall onto the plates. Drizzle on a little more peach puree, set the shortcake tops in place and serve.
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