Peach Shortcake with Crème Fraîche

2 very ripe peaches, skins removed, pitted and thinly sliced
6 tablespoons sugar
 cup heavy cream
About 2 cups crème fraîche *
2 cups flour
  teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
½  cup very cold butter, cut into small cubes.

  1. Place peaches in a medium bowl, sprinkle with 3 tablespoons of sugar and stir gently. Set aside at room temperature. Using a mixer or whisk, beat heavy cream until slightly thickened. Add  ¼ cup crème fraîche and continue to beat mixture until it will hold a soft peak. Cover and refrigerate.
  2. Preheat oven to 375° F.  In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and remaining 3 tablespoons sugar. Using a pastry blender or two knives held scissors-fashion, cut in butter until mixture resembles lumpy cornmeal. Add 1 ½  cups crème fraîche. Using a wooden spoon, or by hand, fold and press mixture together until a moist dough forms. Do not overwork dough or shortcakes will be heavy.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, pat or roll dough into a rectangle (about 12 inches by 5 inches) about  ½ -inch thick. Using a knife dipped in flour, cut rectangle lengthwise in half, then each half crosswise into 5 pieces. You should have 10 squares. Place on a baking sheet and spread a thin layer of crème fraîche on top of each shortcake. Bake until risen and golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool. (Shortcakes are best served warm and can be reheated in a low oven for a few minutes.)
  4. To serve, split four warm shortcakes in half as you would a hamburger bun. Place bottoms on serving plates. Drop 2 heaping tablespoons of reserved crème fraîche mixture onto each cake, allowing some to drip over side. Spoon over some of the peaches with their juices. Place tops of cakes on peaches and spoon on more peaches and juice. Serve. (Remaining cakes may be stored in an airtight container for 2 to 3 days or frozen until ready to use.)

Yield: 4 servings.

Time:  50 minutes

* If crème fraîche is hard to find in stores,  you can easily make your own.
Let it stand overnight for a more tangy flavor.

1 cup heavy whipping cream (not ultra pasteurized)
1 cup dairy sour cream


In a large bowl stir together whipping cream and sour cream; mix thoroughly. Serve immediately.

For a slightly thicker crème, let crème fraîche stand, covered, at room temperature for 2 to 4 hours or chill overnight till thickened. If thickening at room temperature, chill before serving. Store, covered, in refrigerator up to 1 week.

Yield:   2 cups.

Generally, crème fraîche can be used on fruits or desserts, or in cooking.

Two years ago, at the Kort Restaurant in Amsterdam,  I enjoyed a main course in which a creative chef dressed up a layered, vegetarian tart by combining crème fraîche with a hint of wasabi then dribbled the cream sauce over the tart.
Mark, a chef at the Kort Restaurant, where that dish is served, recommended to me:

combining 500 ml whipping cream with 1 tablespoon buttermilk, then heat until 25° C. to 29° C. Cover and leave at room temperature for 8 to 24 hours, the longer the better! Crème fraîche stays good in the fridge covered for 7 to 20 days.

After our April '99 visit with Anson in Seattle I bought a little regional cookbook by Sarah Eppenbach, Baked Alaska, which included a note about crème fraîche, recommending the following approach:

To make crème fraîche heat to lukewarm 1 cup heavy cream mixed with 1 teaspoon commercial buttermilk.  Transfer the mixture to a glass jar and leave at room temperature until thickened, usually 1 to 2 days.  Use plain or whipped, with or without sweetening.   Once cultured, crème fraîche keeps in the refrigerator for a week or more.  

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