New-Fashioned Strawberry Shortcakes

Sunday June 21, 2015

doesn't this photo make you want to jump right into the plate?

Genuine fruit shortcakes are an American summer passion.  It is the harmonious balance of sweet, juicy fruit in season, fluffy whipped cream, and crumby, rich biscuits that make them irresistible. No matter how many fancy desserts I make or taste, no matter how many different fruits I showcase in a shortcake, strawberry shortcake is still supreme. It will never go out of style. It is a dessert that is new fashioned as it is old fashioned.

shape of drop biscuits

When I was baking at the Fetzer Winery opening in their gazebo out in the organic garden, our group lunch under the grapevine-covered lattice had strawberry shortcake sliders…bite sized. They were traditional and totally fresh. Our eyes lit up as we crushed the first bite, a whole little shortcake, in our mouths. MORE! I of course headed over to the kitchen and asked the chef for the recipe and it ended up one he got right out of Gourmet magazine. Nothin’ fancy. Didn’t need it. The flavors of each element was superb and I remembered why it is one of those iconic American desserts.

This version serves them up with Grand Marnier Strawberries and Crème Chantilly, the brainchild of my baker-friend, Janet Gentes, who was working at the time at our local bistro Country Gourmet. Showing up every spring, I got very addicted to the fabulous biscuits, which have been served at the restaurant for years with dinner and soups (just eliminate the sugar). She made the biscuits nice and big. You could share a shortcake for how decadently oversized it was. Just that one more bite…

Start with slightly mushed up ripe berries, then whip the cream with just a dash of sugar and a splash of the

shape of rolled biscuit

liqueur for a hint of flavoring. If you would like a shortcake without liqueur, substitute 2 to 3 teaspoons of good imported balsamic vinegar to taste on the berries (it is a remarkable combination that accents the sweetness) or orange juice, and use a teaspoon of vanilla extract to flavor the whipped cream. If whipped cream is not part of your diet, substitute crème fraîche, plain yogurt, a frozen non-dairy topping, vanilla goat milk ice cream, or in-the-can whipped soy topping.

The biscuit must be impeccably fresh though, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, so bake it on the day you plan to serve it. I have included a gluten-free drop biscuit as well as a traditional sweet shortcake biscuit.

Yield:  8 shortcakes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour or white whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 large egg
  • 2/3 cup cold milk, soy milk, cultured buttermilk, or heavy cream

Grand Marnier Strawberries and Crème Chantilly

  • 3 to 4 pint baskets of ripe strawberries, washed, dried, and hulled
  • 3 tablespoons orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier
  • 5 tablespoons superfine sugar or agave nectar, or to taste
  • 2 cups cold heavy cream

Instructions

1.            Preheat the oven to 400º.  In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Cut the butter pieces into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or 2 knives until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal laced with small chunks of butter.  Combine the egg and milk, buttermilk, or cream in a measuring cup.  Add to the dry ingredients and stir just until moistened, adding additional milk, buttermilk, or cream 1 tablespoon at a time if the mixture seems too dry.

2.            Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and gently knead a few times just until the dough just comes together.  The dough will not be totally smooth.  Roll out to a thickness of 1 inch and cut into 4-inch circles, squares, or hearts.  Individual shortcakes can be made as small as 1 1/2 inches (the dough can also be formed into 1 large biscuit that can be filled and cut into wedges to serve).  Place the individual shortcakes about 1 inch apart on an ungreased or parchment-lined baking sheet.

3.            Bake in the center of the preheated oven until the tops are brown and firm to the touch, about 15 to 18 minutes.  Cool on racks.

4.            Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, crush 1 pint of the strawberries.  Mix in a tablespoon of the orange liqueur and 3 tablespoons of sugar.  Slice or halve the remaining berries and add to the crushed berries.  Set aside.

To make the Crème Chantilly:  In a chilled bowl with an electric mixer, whip the heavy cream with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and 2 tablespoons of the orange liqueur until soft peaks form.  Cover and chill until serving.

5.            To serve, cut the warm or room temperature biscuits in half horizontally with a serrated knife.  Place the lower portion of each biscuit on an individual serving plate and top with the prepared Grand Marnier Strawberries and chilled Crème Chantilly.  Cover with the biscuit tops.  Serve immediately.

Classic Gluten-Free Strawberry Shortcakes

Yield:  8 shortcakes

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup white rice flour
  • 1/2 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/2 cup potato starch (not potato flour)
  • 1/3 cup tapioca starch
  • 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces or shortening (Spectrum Organic All Vegetable)
  • 3/4 cup cold half and half
  • 1 large egg, beaten

Instructions

1.            Preheat the oven to 400º.  In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flours, starches, xanthan gum, sugar, baking powder, and salt with a few pulses.  Cut the butter pieces into the dry ingredients by pulsing the food processor a few times until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal laced with small chunks of butter.  Add the half and half and egg to the dry ingredients and pulse just until moistened into a sticky dough ball. Do not overmix.

2.             Drop the dough in clumps using a 1/4 cup measure or oversized spoon and place the individual shortcakes about 1 inch apart on an ungreased or parchment-lined baking sheet.

3.            Bake in the center of the preheated oven until the tops are golden brown and firm to the touch, about 20 minutes.  Cool on racks. Prepare the Grand Marnier Strawberries and Crème Chantilly. Split and fill the biscuits as directed and serve immediately.

Excerpted from The Best Quick Breads, by Beth Hensperger. (c) 2000, used by permission from the Harvard Common Press.

Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2015

Please enjoy the recipes and make them your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.


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