- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus more as needed
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest (from half a lemon)
- 1 pound fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced to ⅛-inch thick
- 1½ teaspoons lemon juice (from half a lemon), plus more as needed
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1¼ teaspoons kosher salt
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cubed into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 cup plus 1 teaspoon cold heavy cream, divided
- 1¾ cups cold heavy cream
- 1/3 cup confectioners' sugar, plus more as needed
- 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
Having grown up in the Garden State surrounded by lots of local farms, I’ve always felt that the seasons were marked by what was in season at the farm stands or what you could go out and pick yourself. Pick-your-own strawberry season was always memorable as a kid, as we’d take a few visits to the farm down the road to pick heaps of bright red, juicy, sun-ripened strawberries. Being able to taste berries that sweet and fresh taught me how to appreciate them in their natural glory and, more importantly, how to showcase them in desserts.
Enter these strawberry shortcakes. The star of a strawberry shortcake should be ripe, juicy berries. These have just enough sugar to enhance strawberry’s natural flavor and juices, while a bit of lemon (zest and juice!) and vanilla round out their flavor. The shortcake is a vehicle for the berries, but holds its own. In my version of this classic dessert, the shortcake is a biscuit that combines elements and techniques from layered buttermilk biscuits with cream biscuits. The result is a delicate, buttery biscuit that can hold up to the juicy berries and cream, yet is super tender and easily broken through with a spoon or fork. Finally, lightly sweetened whipped cream brings the shortcake all together with a cloud-like consistency that catches the berries and their sweet juices.
The key to making a shortcake the best it can be is to use simple techniques and methods that elevate each element. This is especially important for these shortcake biscuits. In order to get a pillowy and tender texture, I combine a handful of techniques. Like a buttermilk biscuit, cold, cubed butter is cut into the dry ingredients and the dough is folded a few times. The cold butter creates pockets of steam in the oven that push the layers of dough up to create lofty, light biscuits. Rather than buttermilk, the biscuits rely on heavy cream as its liquid, just like a cream biscuit. This ingredient is what makes the biscuits so perfectly tender and delicate.
The fat in the cream coats the flour which limits the amount of gluten that can be developed. This means the biscuits can handle a bit more kneading and the , result is a super tender biscuit. Chilling the dough before baking helps the butter to re-solidify, leading to the aforementioned steam pockets that make the biscuit light and also ensures that the biscuits properly rise.
Technique Tip: Avoid using strawberries that look underripe and dry. Well-ripened, vibrant red strawberries are typically juicier, meaning they yield way more syrupy liquid when macerated. This is especially important because you want the berries to be saucy when spooned over the shortcake and whipped cream. If you find your strawberries didn’t release a ton of liquid, mash or food process 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the macerated berries until they break down and become liquidy, add it back to the sliced strawberries and toss to coat.
You can prepare the biscuits the day before you plan on serving. Either bake the biscuits ahead of time and then reheat until warm in a 375 F oven for about 5 minutes or make, cut and chill the biscuits in the refrigerator overnight, then bake the next day. If making the biscuits ahead of time, do not macerate the berries until the day of serving.
Be sure to keep the butter and heavy cream super cold!
Swap Option: You can swap the homemade whipped cream for a store bought option, such as Cool Whip. However, avoid using canned whipped cream such as Reddi-wip as it doesn’t have the same cloud-like consistency that a shortcake needs.
Macerate the strawberries1.
In a medium bowl, add the granulated sugar and lemon zest. Use your fingers to rub the lemon zest into the sugar until well combined and fragrant.2.
Add the sliced strawberries, lemon juice, vanilla extract and salt and toss with a spoon or rubber spatula until the sugar has dissolved and the strawberries start to look glossy. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let macerate in the refrigerator while you make the shortcake biscuits.3.
Before assembling, taste the strawberries. Add additional sugar if too tart and more lemon juice if too sweet.
Make the shortcake biscuits1.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.2.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt to combine.3.
Working quickly so the butter doesn’t get soft, add the cubed butter to the flour mixture and toss to coat. Using the back of a fork or a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture is coarse and the butter is broken down into small, pebbly pieces.4.
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add 1 cup cold heavy cream. Using a fork, stir to form a shaggy dough. Use your hands to lightly bring the dough together as much as possible in the bowl, then turn the dough out onto a clean work surface.5.
Pat and press the dough, incorporating any remaining dry bits, into an 8-by-5-inch rectangle with the long edge facing you. Fold the dough over onto itself (like a book) and rotate the dough so the folded edge is at the top. Using a rolling pin (or alternatively patting with your hands if you don’t have a rolling pin) and lightly flouring (only if needed), press the folded dough down together and roll back out to an 8-by-5-inch rectangle. Fold the dough in half once more (the dough should be uniform with no more dry bits) and roll out to 1 1/4-inch thick.6.
Use a floured 2 1/2-inch round cutter to cut about 4 rounds from the dough and transfer to the parchment-lined baking sheet. Combine the scraps up to 2 more times to cut 2 more biscuits. Any other scraps can be baked alongside the biscuits as a snack. Alternatively, if you do not have a round cutter, you can use a sharp knife to cut the dough into 6 biscuits.7.
Transfer the biscuit cutouts to the freezer until well chilled and pretty firm to the touch, about 20 minutes (or alternatively up to overnight covered in plastic wrap in the refrigerator).8.
When ready to bake, position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 F.9.
In a small bowl, stir together the remaining teaspoon of heavy cream with 1/4 teaspoon water.10.
Arrange the biscuits 2 to 2 1/2-inches apart (baking close together encourages the biscuits to rise up versus out) on the lined baking sheet and brush a thin layer of the heavy cream mixture over the top of each.11.
Bake the biscuits until risen and golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Allow the biscuits to cool slightly on the baking sheet before assembling.
Make the whipped cream and assemble1.
While the biscuits are baking, make the whipped cream. In a large bowl with an electric hand mixer (or in a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment), add the cold heavy cream, confectioners’ sugar, pure vanilla extract and salt and whip on medium speed until it just reaches stiff peaks, about 3 minutes. Adjust to taste with more confectioners’ sugar if desired. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to use.2.
To assemble, split one of the shortcake biscuits in half crosswise. Spoon a generous heap of whipped cream onto the bottom half of the biscuit followed by some of the macerated berries and its liquid. Top with the other half of the biscuit and dollop more whipped cream and berries as desired. Serve immediately after assembling.
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