Shortcut to greatness: Fruit and this recipe for delectable creation
“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.”
— William Shakespeare, writing about shortcake
Skeptical? Do you doubt that Shakespeare would have expended his considerable talents writing about something as ordinary as shortcake?
You may be right.
But he should have, given how his words sum up this summery dessert. After all, an unadorned shortcake right out of the oven is good — very good — but not “great.” With the right recipe and a light touch, a shortcake can achieve greatness.
But it's when you ladle on juicy, slightly sugared strawberries and add a cloud of freshly whipped cream that shortcake is thrust into iconic status among desserts.
By all accounts, it's an American concoction. Biscuits of European descent commingled with Uncle Sam's strawberries sometime in the 1840s. Over the next decade, people held actual strawberry shortcake parties as a celebration of summer's arrival, according to Evan Jones in “American Food: The Gastronomic Story.”
Today's shortcake recipes have changed little: basically, a baking powder biscuit dough enriched with an egg and a little sugar. The buttermilk gets nudged aside as well, often replaced by whole milk, half-and-half or even heavy cream, which threatens to take it out of shortcake territory and into the scone zone.
Needless to say, those little spongey-cakey cups have no standing here.
Our shortcake recipe uses half-and-half and swaps in brown sugar for half of the white sugar, which gives the shortcake a slightly caramel note. After that, we stay out of greatness' way, taking care only to work the combined dry and wet ingredients as quickly and delicately as possible, kneading the dough for no more than 30 seconds.
Gently pat the dough to a rectangle about 1⁄2-inch thick, then cut rounds with a biscuit cutter, pressing straight down — twisting can seal the layers, leading to a dense shortcake — then place it upside-down on a baking sheet (again, to help ensure the highest rise).
OK, we do embellish greatness a bit, topping each cake with a gloss of half-and-half and a sprinkling of sparkling sugar.
Shakespeare might have counseled against painting the lily, calling it “ridiculous excess.”
When it comes to strawberry shortcake, though, that sounds just right.
Kim Ode is a staff writer for Star Tribune (Minneapolis).
This recipe is adapted slightly from “The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book.” Extra shortcakes may be frozen; to use, place frozen on a baking sheet in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes.
For the berries:
8 cups strawberries, hulled
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
For the shortcakes:
2 cups flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons tightly packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoon unsalted cold butter, cut in 1⁄2-inch pieces
2⁄3 cup half-and-half, plus extra for brushing
For the topping:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 to 3 tablespoons powdered sugar, to taste
To prepare the berries: Slice the berries and sprinkle with 6 tablespoons granulated sugar. Let berries sit at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved and berries are juicy, about 30 minutes.
To make shortcake: Preheat oven to 425 degrees and place rack in middle position. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking powder and salt.
Add cold butter pieces, working them into the flour with a pastry cutter, or your fingers, until the mixture resembles cornmeal and no large lumps of butter remain.
In a small bowl, whisk together half-and-half and egg. Stir into flour mixture until dough comes together in a sticky mass.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead lightly until it comes together, about 30 seconds. Dust the counter with a bit more flour, then pat dough into a rectangle about 1⁄2-inch thick. Cut 6 rounds with a floured 3-inch biscuit cutter, pressing straight down — twisting can seal the layers, leading to a dense shortcake — then place them upside-down on a baking sheet (helps ensure the highest rise).
No biscuit cutter? You also can cut squares with a knife.
Gather the scraps, knead briefly, and cut out 2 more shortcakes.
Brush each round with some half-and-half, then sprinkle with sparkling sugar.
Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until just golden. Let cool on wire rack.
To assemble: Combine cream with powdered sugar and whip until stiff. With a serrated knife, slice each shortcake in half and lay the bottom on individual serving plates. Spoon a portion of fruit over each bottom, top with a dollop of whipped cream, then cap with the shortcake tops. Serve immediately.
Makes 8 servings.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Love locks tokens fall prey to renovations on Pittsburgh bridges
- Nearing 25 years together, WPXI anchors Johnson, Finnegan defy TV’s odds
- Steelers notebook: Polamalu made 1st-time captain; Roethlisberger named for offense
- Bike lane work to affect Penn Avenue in Pittsburgh
- MLB notebook: Astros fire manager amid dismal season
- Districts aim to win back students from cyber charters
- NFL notebook: Rams leave Sam off practice squad
- Trac Fabrication all-terrain wheelchairs open world for disabled
- Unlike years past, strength of 2014 Steelers could be offense
- Surveillance video in Wal-Mart police killing sought
- East Allegheny teachers set to strike on Tuesday