Food & Drink | August 2021

By Abby & Kevin Tankersley

Peach Festival

You can’t say that Chad Bettinger isn’t a confident man. And for someone who admittedly doesn’t use his own kitchen very much, he pulled off a particularly bold move.

Bettinger entered a cake into the food competition at the Parker County Peach Festival, held each July in Weatherford, the county seat. The thing is, he had never made the cake before and didn’t even taste it before handing it off to the judges on a Friday night.

That risky move paid off, however, as Bettinger’s Peaches and Cream Cake won first place in its category. And Bettinger pulled off the same trick at the last festival, as his peach tart took home the blue ribbon despite him never having made it before.

“We don’t use our kitchen to cook, but we cook every Sunday at our friends’ house, so we were just researching recipes,” Bettinger said about his cake. “It’s a simple sponge cake. The cake has 16 eggs, three cups of sugar and four cups of flour. And then peach jam between the [four] layers and a cream cheese icing [with] peach liqueur. It’s all about the peaches.”

Bettinger, who is from Athens, Texas, is married to Waco native Richard Bettinger, whose parents, Lynn and Betty Bettinger, still live here. Richard is a photographer and also works for the David Sutherland Showroom in Dallas. Together, Richard and Chad operate Bettinger Studio and the Newlon Collection, which features art-based wallpaper they have created.

Bettinger wasn’t the only winner on Saturday who has taken home awards multiple times. Kember Bench and her mother, Kristi Brantley, both took home ribbons again this year, and for the third time, Bench was named youth grand champion. She won first place ribbons for her Strawberry-Peach Jam and Chunky Peach Salsa. Bench, a 16-year-old junior at Victory Baptist Academy in Weatherford, has been competing at the peach festival since 2015. She took home second place for a cake that year and since then has won numerous first-place ribbons.

“I like to cook because I like to eat,” she said, “and I know where my food is coming from.”

The family garden has been so productive in the past couple of years “we make homemade salsa every day or so,” Brantley said.

Brantley has also won numerous ribbons at the peach festival over the years and took home a third-place prize for her Peachy Red Plum Jam this year.

“We do jelly at home all the time,” she said. “I had some plums and I had some peaches, so I did this.”

Brantley turned in for judging her first batch of jelly this season. “I thought it was pretty good,” she said. “I’m going to enter it in the state fair.”

And Bench is going to enter both her salsa and jam in the State Fair of Texas cooking contest as well.

While Brantley was willing to share her jam recipe and Bench offered up her salsa recipe, she couldn’t be persuaded to give up the Strawberry-Peach Jam recipe.

“She has a special ingredient that she thinks is her ace in the hole,” Brantley said.

Bench suggests serving her peach salsa with tortilla chips — and it’s pretty good that way — but we made some ginger biscuits and spooned the salsa over those. That was also a good combination.

Bettinger’s cake recipe calls for freeze dried peach powder, which can be purchased online or it’s pretty simple to make. Freeze some dehydrated or dried peaches overnight. The next day, blend the fruit until it’s a fine powder.

The Recipes

Kember’s Chunky Peach Salsa

  • 1/2 bunch cilantro
  • 1 poblano pepper
  • 1 Anaheim pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 orange bell pepper
  • 1 purple onion
  • 5 medium peaches, peeled and pitted
  • 1 jalapeno
  • Zest and juice of 3 small oranges
  • Zest and juice of 1 small lemon
  • Zest and juice of 1 small lime
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons peach juice or peach nectar
  • 2 tablespoons honey, or to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Coarsely chop the cilantro, peppers, onion, peaches and jalapeno, and toss together in a large bowl.

In a small bowl, mix together the zest and juices of the oranges, lemon and lime. Add the chili powder, peach juice, honey, and salt and pepper. Pour over the salsa and mix well. Chill for at 2 hours. Serve with tortilla chips.

Makes about eight 1/2-pint jars.

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Ginger Biscuits

  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1/3 cup stone-ground cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 1/3 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • Fleur de sel or coarse sanding sugar, optional

Lightly grease a 9 1/4-inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, cornmeal, cornstarch and salt until well blended.

Place the butter and powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add both the gingers and the vanilla, then beat on medium until blended and fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until the dough forms moist clumps.

Dump the dough into the prepared pan. Lightly flour your fingertips and press the dough into the pan to form an even layer. Make sure to press the dough into the scalloped edges to form a clean edge. Sprinkle the fleur de sel or sanding sugar, if using, evenly over the top.

Using the tip of a knife, score the dough all the way through, forming 16 wedges. With the tines of a fork, prick each wedge twice all the way through, starting at the widest part of the wedge and spacing them about 1/2 inch apart. Lightly flour the tines of the fork as necessary to prevent the dough from sticking. Place the pan in the freezer for about 10 minutes while the oven heats.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 300 F.

Bake the shortbread until the top looks dry and very pale brown, about 40 minutes. Move the pan to a wire rack. Using a small, serrated knife, immediately recut the wedges using the scored lines as a guide. Let the shortbread cool completely before removing from the pan.

Makes 16 biscuits.

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Peaches and Cream Cake

For the cake:

  • 16 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 1/4 cups flour
  • Peach preserves or peach jam

For the frosting:

  • Three 8-ounce blocks cream cheese, softened
  • 3 sticks salted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons freeze-dried peach powder
  • 2 tablespoons peach-flavored liqueur

Heat oven to 350 F.

Line the bottom of four 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper. (If you have two deep 9-inch pans, use those and cut the cakes into two layers each.)

To make the cake, add the eggs to a large bowl and beat on high for 1 minute. With the mixer still running, slowly add the sugar to the eggs and continue to beat until the mixture is thick and has about quadrupled in volume.

Sift the flour twice, and then fold into the egg mixture. Gently mix until all the flour has been incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 23 to 28 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks before turning the cakes out. Cool completely before slicing, if needed, and assembling the cake.

To make the cream cheese frosting, in the bowl of a mixer, add the cream cheese and butter. Beat until combined and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar, peach powder and peach liqueur. Blend until well-mixed and the frosting holds stiff peaks.

Place one cake layer on a plate or cake stand and spread peach preserves or jam on top, then spread on frosting. Repeat with two more layers. Top the final layer and the sides of the cake with the remaining frosting.

Makes about 16 servings.
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Peachy Red Plum Jam

  • 1 pound fresh plums
  • 1 pound fresh peaches
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 box pectin
  • 1/2 cup white corn syrup
  • 5 1/2 cups sugar

Place a large pot of water over medium heat and bring to a boil. Prepare an ice bath by adding ice cubes to a large bowl and then filling it with water.

Wash the peaches and plums and drop them into the boiling water. Leave them for about 45 seconds. Remove the fruit with a slotted spoon and submerge into the ice bath. Once the fruit is cooled, peel the peaches and plums. Then dice the peaches and mash the plums.

Place the fruit in a large stockpot. Add the lemon juice and stir. Sprinkle the pectin over the fruit and mix well. Place over medium heat and bring to a low boil. Boil for 30 minutes, stirring often.

Pour in the corn syrup and mix well. Bring to a boil, add the sugar, and bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil for 2 minutes.

Skim the foam and pour into half-pint jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Seal tightly and cook in a water bath for 10 minutes to seal. The water level should be about an inch above the filled jars.

Makes about 5 pints.
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Peach Coco Batida

  • 2 ounces rum
  • 2 ounces coconut cream
  • 2 ounces condensed milk
  • 1/2 ounce simple syrup
  • 1/2 peach, peeled and sliced
  • Shredded toasted coconut, for garnish

Place the rum, coconut cream, milk, simple syrup and peach slices in a blender. Add 1 cup of ice cubes. Blend until smooth.

Fill a highball glass with ice. Pour the drink over and garnish with toasted coconut.

Makes 1 drink.
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