July 6, 2012

Shortcakes with Berries and Whipped Cream

When I was growing up, the 4th of July meant driving to the fairgrounds with my parents and sister. We'd join everyone else in town, patiently waiting as the car slowly snaked up Cranbury Road, to turn into the fields that were normally covered with kids in soccer jerseys and shin guards. We'd park in orderly rows, then lie down on the hoods of our cars, waiting for the sky to darken and the fireworks to begin.

These days my Independence Days are a little different. My son can't stand the loud sound of the fireworks. So instead of putting down a picnic blanket for the local show, we settle down to watch the fireworks on TV.

Last night we sat down with these berry shortcakes. Moist, crumbly shortcakes, juicy berries and lightly sweetened whipped cream. Red, white and blue. 

I really encourage you to try making the shortcakes from scratch. You can buy ready made at the grocery store, and they'll be fine. But I promise you'll be rewarded for the extra time and effort.

You can make the recipe in stages, like I did. Whip the cream and store it in the fridge for several hours. Make the shortcake dough and refrigerate until you're ready to bake it. Just don't combine the berries and sugar too early or you'll end up with mushy berries.

To make the whipped cream, combine cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl.

Whip together until the cream forms firm peaks. Put in the fridge for a up to several hours, until you're ready to use it.

For the shortcakes, cut butter into small pieces, then put it back in the fridge to keep it cold.

In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Whisk until well combined.

Add the butter pieces and toss to coat with flour.

With your fingers or a pastry cutter (I used a pastry cutter), cut and mix the butter into the dry ingredients. You'll have butter pieces that range from the size, bigger and smaller than the size of a pea. This is good.

Add cream to the bowl and combine with a fork until everything is moist and you've got a soft dough.

Now gently knead the dough with your hand, but don't handle it more than you need to. The dough should be soft and sticky. Mine wasn't, so I added an extra splash of heavy cream. If you're not going to bake the shortcakes right away, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge.

30 minutes before you want to eat, put your berries in a bowl and sprinkle with sugar. Use more or less depending on how sweet your berries are.

In half and hour you'll have a bowl of sweet, juicy berries.

When you're ready to bake the shortcakes, measure 1/3 cup scoops of dough and put them on a sheetpan covered with a piece of parchment paper. Pat them down to about and inch tall, but again, don't work them too much.

Bake until the shortcakes are lightly golden on top and give slightly when you touch them. Cool slightly on a cooling rack.

To assemble, gently cut the shortcake in half horizontally using a serrated knife. Place berries on the bottom layer, with some of their juice. Top with a mound of whipped cream. Then partially cover with the top of the shortcake. Enjoy!

Shortcakes with Berries and Whipped Cream

Recipe by Dorie Greenspan from Baking: From My Home to Yours

4 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
6 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 sticks (12 Tbsp) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream

1.    Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. 

2.    Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar together in a large bowl.

3.    Drop in the butter and, using your fingers, toss to coat the pieces of butter with flour. Quickly, working with your fingertips or a pastry blender (that's what I used), cut and rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is pebbly. You’ll have pea-size pieces, pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and pieces in between – and that’s just right.

4.    Pour the cream over the dry ingredients and toss and gently turn the ingredients with a fork until you’ve got a very soft dough. When the dough comes together, you’ll probably still have dry ingredients at the bottom of the bowl – just use a spatula or your hands to mix and knead the dough until it’s evenly blended. Don’t overdo it; it’s better to have a few dry spots than an overworked dough. Even with all the flour mixed in, the dough will be soft and sticky. (Mine wasn't, so I added an extra splash of heavy cream.)

5.    Spoon out about 1/3 cup of dough for each shortcake onto the baking sheet, leaving about 3 inches of space between the mounds of dough. Pat each mound down until is between 3/4 and 1 inch high. (The shortcakes can be made to this point and frozen on the baking sheet, then wrapped airtight and kept in the freezer for up to 2 months. Bake with out defrosting – just add at least 5 more minutes to the oven time.)

6.    Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the sheet from front to back at the midway point, until the shortcakes are puffed and give just a bit when prodded. Pull the sheet from the oven and transfer the shortcakes to a cooling rack.

Makes 10 shortcakes

Whipped Cream

2 cups heavy cream
4 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

1.    Combine ingredients in a mixing bowl.

2.    Whisk until cream forms soft peaks.

3.    Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Macerated Berries

1 pint strawberry, washed, dried and sliced or cut in quarters
1 pint blueberries, rinsed, dried and picked over
2-4 Tbsp sugar, depending on how sweet your berries are

1.    Place berries in a bowl and sprinkle sugar over. Toss to combine.

2.    Allow berries to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

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