Berry Season

I took this photograph a little while ago and meant to post the recipe right away, but then I got busy with catering events. It’s still possible to find some fresh local strawberries, however, or you can always substitute fresh peaches, blackberries, blueberries or raspberries. Or use California strawberries if you prefer.

Here’s my favorite recipe for shortcake:

Strawberry Shortcake
Serves 6
8 cups (about 2.5 lbs.) strawberries, hulled
6 tablespoons sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting the work surface and biscuit cutter)
5 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoon half-and-half (or whole milk)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
2 cups whipped cream

Place 3 cups of the hulled strawberries in a large bowl and crush with a potato masher. Slice the remaining 5 cups berries and stir into the crushed berries along with the sugar. Set the fruit aside to macerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees. In a food processor, pulse the flour, orange zest, 3 tablespoons of the sugar, baking powder, and salt to combine. Scatter butter pieces over and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 15 1-second pulses. Transfer to a medium bowl.

Mix the beaten egg with the half-and-half (or whole milk) and vanilla extract in a measuring cup. Pour the egg mixture into the bowl with the flour mixture. Combine with a rubber spatula until large clumps form. Turn the mixture onto a floured work surface and lightly knead until it comes together.

Use your fingertips to pat the dough into a 9 x 6-inch rectangle about ¾-inch thick, being careful not to overwork the dough. Flour a 2 ¾-inch biscuit cutter and cut out 6 dough rounds. Place the rounds 1 inch apart on a small baking sheet, brush the tops with the beaten egg white, and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. (Dough rounds can be covered and refrigerated for up to 2 hours before baking.)

Bake until the shortcakes are golden brown, 12-14 minutes. Place the baking sheet on a wire rack and cool the cakes until warm, about 10 minutes.

When the shortcakes have cooled slightly, split them in half. Then place each cake bottom on an individual serving plate, and spoon a portion of the fruit and then a dollop of whipped cream over each cake bottom. Cap with the cake top and serve immediately.

Shortcake recipe adapted from Baking Illustrated (America’s Test Kitchen, Brookline, MA; 2004).

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