WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE about strawberry shortcake? It’s a nostalgic crowd-pleaser, from the hot, flaky biscuit to the clouds of cold whipped cream and the ruby strawberries that tumble off and onto the plate, ready to be scooped back into the mix.
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It’s an easy and quick dessert to make, too, except for one step: the rolling and cutting of the biscuit dough, which inevitably leads to sticky, floury hands and a countertop to match. And so I set about eliminating that step without forgoing a tender biscuit worthy of its over-the-top toppings. This recipe produces a single 8-by-8-inch biscuit layer baked in a square baking dish. You can transfer it to a cutting board and cut it in 6 squares, or you can slice it in half horizontally and make a big shortcake sandwich with a filling of whipped cream and strawberries. An individual biscuit square can also be placed at an angle over each serving, with all the panache of a tilted beret.
It’s hard to argue with the purity of the biscuit-cream-berry trio, and I am loath to mess with the first strawberry shortcake of the season, but after a few weeks I tend to start riffing. Sometimes I add a pinch of cardamom and a spoonful or two of rose water to the cream, or I might toss the berries in some of that rose water or a little limoncello, Kirsch or crème de cassis. Maybe I’ll toss in the zest of a lemon or a few mint leaves, sliced in fine slivers. Or perhaps I’ll infuse the cream with lemon verbena leaves before I whip it. Nothing radical—it’s really just about adding subtle layers of flavor. And then, suddenly, I’ll realize that the summer days are growing shorter and even the northern strawberries have peaked. To celebrate the last strawberries of the season, I return to the simple pleasure of biscuit, cream and berry.
You can always swap in other fruits. Raspberries, blueberries and blackberries have their merits, served individually or mixed up in a colorful jumble. And peeled slices of peach and nectarine make a late-summer beauty of a shortcake. For a tropical version, stir a little white rum and lime zest into a mixture of half coconut cream and half heavy cream, then whip to soft peaks. Layer with kiwi, mango, coconut and pineapple. If your fruit isn’t quite as fragrant as you’d like, roast it in a hot oven for 10 minutes to concentrate its flavor, then let it come to room temperature. Whatever you do, don’t let summer pass without making at least one classic strawberry shortcake. With a recipe this easy, there’s really no reason not to.
Strawberry shortcake is an easy and quick dessert to make—except for the rolling and cutting of the individual biscuits, which inevitably leads to sticky, floury hands and a countertop to match. This streamlined recipe eliminates that step with a single biscuit layer, baked in a square baking pan and just as tender and flaky as a shortcake should be.
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 ½ cups whole buttermilk
- 1 pint heavy cream, divided
- 1 tablespoon raw sugar
- 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
- 5 cups strawberries, trimmed and cut in half
- A few fresh mint leaves, optional
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees. While oven heats, place butter in an 8-inch square baking pan and place pan in oven. Once butter has melted, remove pan, tilt to cover sides with butter, and set aside.
- Whisk together dry ingredients in a mixing bowl until well combined. Add buttermilk and 5 tablespoons heavy cream. With a rubber spatula, gently stir until no streaks of flour remain. Transfer batter directly onto butter in prepared pan and use the spatula to lightly nudge it toward the corners. (Any butter you see will absorb in baking, and the biscuit will level out to an even thickness.) Sprinkle top with raw sugar.
- Bake biscuit layer until surface is golden, about 20 minutes. Set pan on a cooling rack for 15 minutes.
- Just before serving, whip remaining cream and confectioners’ sugar to soft but structured peaks. Invert biscuit onto a cutting board. Slice in half horizontally. Place bottom half back in pan. Top with mounds of whipped cream, then strawberries, and garnish with mint, if using. You can either top this with the top half of the biscuit or cut the top half in 6 and use to top each plated serving with a rectangle of shortcake. Serve immediately.
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