Strawberry shortcake has many incarnations. Everything from biscuits to spongecake to poundcake. Unlike TTkp's version, which is a true cake, my favorite is a quick version that relates more to the biscuity ''short'' than the soft ''cake.'' It lends itself to fast preparation, so fast you can bake it during dinner and serve it still warm from the oven. Conveniently, the elements can also be made several hours in advance and, if need be, transported to an offsite picnic or a barbecue. Either way, it's easy and delicious, and I just love how it looks on a plate.
I use a slightly modified scone recipe, much like achan's cream scone recipe, but replacing the cream with milk. With all the whipped cream in the dessert, you won't miss the cream in the scones at all. The recipe can also be used instead of biscuits for fantastic cobbler. For great scones, use heavy cream instead of milk and add half a cup of currants or berries.
Note, this recipe is generously scaled for company, but is also easily halved. If you're not confident halving the scone recipe, leave the extra scones for a great breakfast or snack, and just cut down on the more perishable whipped cream and strawberries. The scones are excellent for several days, especially lightly toasted, and can also be frozen (toast them before eating, if you freeze them). But trust me, you won't need an excuse to eat the scones, they are delicious plain even without using cream in the recipe.
Prepare the strawberries before making the scones if you plan on serving this as soon as possible. Otherwise, make the scones first.
- 2 c. flour (sifted, or partially sifted, see the notes at the end of the recipe!)
1/4 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
1/3 c. unsalted butter, chilled
1/2 c. milk
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
Pre-heat oven to 425°F.
In a large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. Cut in the chilled butter until the butter is well blended. Some larger lentil-sized bits can remain, but mostly it should be thoroughly mixed in as if one were making pie crust.
In a small bowl, beat the egg and stir in the rest of the liquid ingredients. Add this to the flour mixture and stir until it comes together in a sticky ball. With floured hands, pat the dough into a rectangle about 3/4-1 inch thick on a floured surface. Cut into 6-10 triangles or squares. (6 for a generous dessert, 10 for something more fitting after a large and prolonged meal)
Place about 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake until golden brown, anywhere from 10-25 minutes depending upon their size and your oven.
Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.
Cut the scones in half horizontally with a sharp serrated knife. If you are serving immediately, this can be done when the scones are still a little warm. If you are planning to take these somewhere, let them cool completely first. These are best left at room temperature, uncovered, and served the same day, or they will lose their crisp crust. Transport in a basket or a brown paper bag; something that breathes. If you are concerned with breakage in transport, wrap each cut scone with a paper towel or napkin beforehand.
2 quarts fresh strawberries
2-4 tbsp. sugar
zest from half a lemon
2 tbsp. brandy or Grand Marnier (if desired)
About an hour before serving (up to 6 hours, if the strawberries can be kept well chilled), cut the strawberries up into bite sized pieces in a large bowl. I prefer quartering or cutting them into chunky sixths rather than slicing as the pieces don't tend to stick together as much this way. Also, they don't get as soft as quickly. Small berries can be halved.
Grate the zest directly onto the strawberries, sprinkle on the sugar (to taste) and any liqueur, and toss gently to mix. Cover and refrigerate. If you are transporting this to another locale, you can do this directly in a large plastic container. Stir the strawberries again prior to assembling (or shake the container).
Note that strawberries are classic, but this is also good with mixed berries, especially blueberries. Mmm, or try plump, ripe cherries, pitted and cut in half....
1 pint (2 cups) heavy whipping cream
1-2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla (optional)
This is best done right before serving. Mix everything together in a large glass bowl and beat with a whisk or a mixer until it is thick and starting to hold its shape. Slightly underwhipped is better, I find, than overwhipped. I like it to slide and plop a bit when spooned over the strawberries.
Making whipped cream in a jar: If you are transporting this to a location without a bowl and a whisk, place everything in a quart jar with a tight fitting lid, and keep it well chilled. Just prior to serving, shake the jar briskly for several minutes until you can feel the cream thickening up. Don't over do it, or it will be too thick. You should be able to feel when the cream starts clinging to the sides instead of dashing around in the jar. Check it with a spoon when it starts to do so, lest you over do it.
To assemble, place the bottom half of a scone on an individual plate. Top with a generous portion of strawberries so that strawberries spill over. There should be about twice the number of strawberries than will fit on the scone. Drizzle the scone with some of the juices from the strawberries. Top the strawberries with whipped cream, and then place the top half of the scone jauntily on top of the whipped cream, slightly askew. It should be gloriously messy. Serve immediately.
Oh the berries of summer!
exceptinsects says re Strawberry shortcake: Hey, so I made this, and it was awesome, but there didn't seem to be enough liquid in the recipe so I used 2 eggs and 3/4c milk/cream. And then I got all excited about making scones, so I made some more, this time with dried apricots, and didn't realize til later that I forgot to put the butter in! But they were still really good, so if you ever want to make a lighter version, give it a try. It still had a nice texture--I used half milk and half cream.
Although I use jumbo eggs, the recipe shouldn't need what would be about half a cup of additional liquid. Turns out exceptinsects and I measure flour differently enough for the dough to be drastically different. For this recipe, I don't weigh the flour, but I try to avoid packing it into the cup. When I'm not feeling lazy, I go so far as to sift it. Usually, however, I just spoon it lightly into the measuring cup, letting it sprinkle into the cup and loosen up. This is the difference at the root of the problem. Just scooping the flour into a measuring cup will lead to a lot more flour being used. Even if your flour says it's pre-sifted, you will still need to loosen it up to measure it properly. See sift for more information.
Ouroboros says re: strawberry shortcake: And creme fraiche is much much better than whipped cream.
I enjoy crème fraîche, and nearly put in a suggestion for lightly sweetened sour cream with a bit of lemon zest as a good alternative to whipped cream for an all blueberry version. However, one of the things I like about this dessert is the light texture. The light scone, the firm, fresh berries, and the lightly whipped cream. It would be lovely with crème fraîche; just not ''strawberry shortcake'' anymore.
Also, to clarify about biscuits and scones. They are indeed, as Ouroboros drew to my attention, extremely similar things for the American baker. The biscuit/cookie divide is well known. The biscuit=scone similarity, less so. The biscuit so well loved in Southern American cooking is a chemically leavened bread (with baking powder, or baking powder and soda), much like a scone. However, unlike a scone, it is almost always plain or savory and is a meal staple. Also, biscuits are often made with fats other than butter, such as lard or vegetable shortening, and usually do not contain egg. Also, an acidic liquid such as buttermilk is often used in biscuits, not only for the flavor, but because the acidity makes the biscuits even lighter as it reacts with the baking powder. The resulting little round bread is generally pale, almost white, in color except for the browned top which is almost perfectly level. It is tender, and because of the lack of sugar, the crust does not remain crisp. See JediBix783's biscuit recipe for a classic version. Lometa has a lovely recipe for the ever delicious buttermilk variety.
The similarity with the scone comes through in the making, rather than in the eating. The fat being cut into the dry ingredients, then the addition of a thick liquid, flattening out on a floured board and then being cut into rounds and baked in a hot oven for a short amount of time. Perhaps earlier incarnations of the scone and the biscuit were closer. However, with the rise of the cream scone as invariably a tea cake in the US, the difference has become very wide indeed.