These are AMAZINGLY good!
The biscuits are delicious for breakfast too!
I felt like baking something yummy…
Last day of Memorial Day weekend, and no more juice to play outside with my overzealous three-year-old!
The 7-page-spread on Strawberry Shortcake in Food Network Magazine—7 of the 10 pages I actually managed to read; between fetching snacks, getting paints, and averting mini-disasters in our back yard—had me scrambling to find the episode of The Best Thing I Ever Made, where Iron Chef and Chopped Judge, Alex Guarnaschelli, impressed me with her updated Strawberry Shortcakes, with some interesting ingredients.
Biscuit or Scone?
They reminded me of the gorgeous scones that my step-mother, Pam, would whip up for “tea” on a Sunday afternoon for company; with strawberry jam and dollops of whipped cream. Yumm.
Coming from South Africa—where a biscuit is a cookie, and a cookie is a cupcake (I know, very confusing)—I set out to figure out the difference between a biscuit and a scone. According to Rose Levy Beranbaum, my baking idol, the only difference is the shape; biscuits are round and scones triangular.
Alex’s Special Twists
I love the hint of cinnamon and lemon zest, and the vanilla—all of which intensify the flavor, and color, of James Beard’s Strawberry Shortcake, on which her recipe is based.
The luscious, velvety dough is created by a secret ingredient—hard-cooked egg yolks.
James Beard, “The Father of American Cooking,” learned this trick from his mother. He shared it with Larry Forgione, “The Godfather of American Cooking,” and owner of the famed New York City restaurant, An American Place, where this casual but delectable, quintessentially American dessert was featured—during which time Alex spent one-and-a-half years, at the start of her career.
Since I’m not usually a sorbet fan, this other Alex-surprise-twist was unexpectedly one of my favorite parts of the whole ensemble!
You can find Sharon’s Gourmet Sorbet at Gelsons Market
Trader Joe’s also carries a delicious Raspberry Sorbet
The cool, slightly tart sorbet makes the strawberries pop, and balances the richness of the smooth cream and the warm biscuit.
Another deviation from the many recipes out there, is her addition of orange liqueur to the strawberries.
I decided not to spend the $12 on Grand Marnier, and didn’t miss it a bit. But if you have some at home, or you’re a fan of those flavors, go for it!
For me, shortcakes are the perfect combination of the rich, flakiness of pie dough and the sweet, tenderness of cake.
And they’re sooo easy to make! If I can do it so can you.
I’ve added extra details, and make-ahead instructions, for the newbie bakers—to take out the guess-work and make them a slam-dunk.
Store biscuits in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days, or freeze for up to 3 months (unsliced). To reheat frozen biscuits, sprinkle with water and bake in a preheated 300 degree F oven for 15 minutes. (This will give them a crisp top and softer inside.) Slice after reheating.
Strawberries can be refrigerated for up to 6 hours.
Whipped cream can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for a few hours.
My biscuits were a little larger than the 2-inch squares recommended by Alex (I only read that part after!)—I cut the rectangle of dough into 9 rugged pieces. I think the 2-inch ones might be a little too small for my liking. Plus, I prefer not having to deal with re-rolling the scraps, so just cut the original piece up as equally as I could.
Mine took about 20 – 25 minutes to cook through. If they’re not cooked through and the tops are getting too brown, cover loosely with a piece of foil.
Alex uses “Lightly Salted Butter”—but after searching and stressing about it for The Yellow Cake Fiasco, I decided to just go with good, old-fashioned Land ‘O Lakes Butter Unsalted Butter, and it was perfect. Plus, my awesome baking consultant, Daniel—owner of the Bakery at Gelsons in Calabasas, convinced me that it would be fine.
Cut it in quarters, length-wise and then into about 1/2-inch cubes.
How do you do it: fingers, fork, or pastry blender?
I did find it a little tricky with my fingers, like Alex does it—the pieces were getting squished into flat pieces of butter, instead of crumbles.
I found the pastry blender much easier, so I recommend investing in one.
I cheated with the egg yolks!
Egg-land’s Best Hard-Cooked Peeled Eggs (medium size)
How to Hard-Cook Eggs
From Rose Levy Beranbaum
In a small nonreactive saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, place the eggs and add enough cold water to cover them. Bring the water to a boil, cover tightly, and remove the pan from the heat. Allow it to sit for 20 minutes. Drain the eggs and run under cold water. Allow them to cool completely before peeling.
How to Pick Good Strawberries
From The Joy of Baking
Look for ones that are bright red, plump, and firm, with no white or green “shoulders” at the stem end. The green leaf-like cap or hull should still be attached and it should not be brown or wilted. There should be no soft spots, bruising or mildew. Always check the underside of the container to make sure there are no squashed berries or juice (sign of overripe berries).
How to Store Strawberries
If not using immediately store in a single layer on a paper towel-lined tray in the refrigerator for a couple of days. About an hour before assembling the shortcakes, remove the stems from the berries and lightly wash them (do not soak).
- The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum >>
- The Joy of Baking: Strawberry Shortcake >>
- Martha Stewart: How to Macerate Strawberries >>
Photo by Sam Purkin
Open-Faced Shortcakes on Fourth of July, 2013
- 2 pints (4 cups) strawberries
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (regular sugar)
- 1 tablespoon orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier (I left this out—see notes)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out the dough
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar (regular sugar), plus more for the whipped cream
- 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- zest from 1/2 lemon (I used a medium lemon)
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes (about 1/2-inch) and put back in the fridge (or freezer for a few minutes)
- 2 large hard-boiled egg yolks (secret ingredient—see notes)
- 1 cup heavy cream (measure out, cover with plastic wrap and keep in fridge till ready to use)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 pint raspberry sorbet
- 1 - 2 cups heavy cream (or heavy whipping cream)
- 1 - 2 tablespoons sugar
- Prepare the strawberries: Hull the strawberries, rinse, pat dry, and cut them in quarters or smaller if large. (I prefer smaller, bite-size pieces.) In a medium bowl, stir together strawberries, sugar and orange liqueur (if using); let stand at room temperature 30 - 60 minutes, or up to 6 hours refrigerated.
- Place 1 - 2 cups heavy cream in a medium-size metal or glass bowl (depending on how much whipped cream your family likes!) and place in refrigerator (covered with plastic wrap) until ready to whip, at least 15 minutes. Refrigerate the whisk beater alongside the bowl.
- Set the oven rack to the middle and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F; line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Make the shortcake: In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and lemon zest until well combined.
- Add the butter cubes and use a pastry cutter (or two forks), to cut the butter into the flour, pressing and twisting until the butter is in pea-sized bits. The mixture is ready when all the butter has been broken down into flour-coated bits and the mixture is crumbly—resembling coarse meal. Don't over mix—you don't want the butter to melt or the pastry won't be flaky.
- Using a spoon, press the egg yolks through a mesh sieve into the flour mixture; make sure to scrape the bits off the bottom of the sieve. Whisk to distribute evenly.
- Pour in the cream and vanilla and mix with a wooden spoon—just until the flour is moistened and it forms a dough, and you can form it into a ball.
- Finish and bake the biscuits: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, and gently knead until the dough develops a little elasticity and feels smooth (about 2 - 3 turns). Dust the dough lightly with flour if it is sticky; pat and shape it into a square, about 1 - 1 1/2-inches thick (no thicker than 1 1/2-inches). The less you work the dough, the more tender your biscuits will be. Use a bench scraper or knife to cut the dough into about 9 equal pieces. Brush off any excess flour from the biscuits.
- Place them on prepared baking sheet and bake until light golden brown and firm to the touch, 12 - 25 minutes, depending on how big/thick they are. (Cover loosely with foil if getting too brown) Put the baking sheet on a wire rack to cool for about 15 minutes.
- While the biscuits cool, make the whipped cream: Remove chilled cream, bowl and beaters from refrigerator; add 1 tablespoon of sugar per 1 cup of cream; beat on high speed with your hand mixer (or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment) until the cream thickens and you see soft peaks form when you lift the beaters. Do not over-beat.
- To serve: Slice in half gently while still warm, with a serrated bread knife. Spoon the strawberries and their juices over the bottom half of each shortcake bottom. Place a scoop of raspberry sorbet on top of the strawberries and cover it with whipped cream. Top with the biscuit top. Serve immediately.