My grandmother was renowned for her baking. It was she who taught me to whip cream by hand to a soft cloud and to add only a pinch of sugar, not too much.
Her shortcake was rich and crumbly, served warm from the oven, split open, lavished with those juicy, home-grown berries and crowned with a generous dollop of softly whipped cream.
I don’t know how it happened, but I never got my grandmother’s recipe before she died. She cooked by instinct and probably didn’t have one anyway. My mother made wonderful strawberry shortcake, but hers came from a Bisquick box. She doctored the recipe, though, by substituting a little cream for the milk.
In strawberry shortcake matters, I follow my mother’s lead. Except I don’t use Bisquick.
I use Lindsey Shere’s recipe from her “Chez Panisse Desserts,” which is basically a cream biscuit. One recipe makes six 4-inch shortcakes, and I count about half a basket of strawberries per person. The trick is to hand-shape the dough into rough patties about a half-inch thick. (That’s my trick: Shere rolls hers out and cuts rounds with a cookie cutter.) No rolling, which makes them very quick to make.
And I don’t reheat them. Since they take just 10 to 15 minutes to bake. I’ll have the dry ingredients already measured out. And as guests are finishing their main course, I’ll cut the butter into the dough with a pastry blender, stir in the cream, form the patties and slip them into the oven.
A chilled whisk makes quick work of whipping the cream by hand. It’s important to prepare the strawberry mixture before dinner. You want the berries juicy — and very cold, the better to contrast with the warm shortcake.
Note: Adapted from Lindsey Shere’s “Chez Panisse Desserts.”
- 3 pints strawberries
- About 3 tablespoons superfine sugar
Two to four hours before serving, wash and hull the berries. Roughly slice or quarter two-thirds of the berries into a large bowl. Sprinkle the sugar over the berries and, using a wire pastry blender, smash the berries so they begin to juice. Halve or slice the remaining berries into the bowl. Cover and refrigerate.
- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons whipping cream, divided
Heat the oven to 450 degrees.
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar. Cut in the butter until the mixture looks like cornmeal with a few larger pieces of butter in it. Use a pastry blender or two knives, if you like; I just rub the mixture quickly between my fingers. Mix in three-fourths cup of cream, just until most of the dry mixture has been moistened. Turn out on a board and knead a few times until the dough just comes together. Divide into six portions and lightly pat into flat rounds about one-half-inch thick.
Place on an unbuttered baking sheet. Brush the tops with the remaining 2 tablespoons cream, and bake until the tops are lightly browned and the dough is set, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool slightly on a rack.
- 1 cup (more if desired) heavy whipping cream
- Pinch superfine sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
While the shortcakes are cooling, whip the cream. Using a balloon whisk, whip the cream in a large bowl until it is thick, but not stiff. Whisk in the sugar and vanilla extract.
To serve, split the shortcakes in half. Ladle lots of strawberries on the bottom half, cover with the top half and spoon the whipped cream over. Servings: 6.
Each serving: 629 calories, 7 grams protein, 55 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 44 grams fat, 27 grams saturated fat, 143 milligrams cholesterol, 18 grams sugar, 471 milligrams sodium.