Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake
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strawberry shortcake
After this photo, we added more whipped cream!

Spring means that strawberries are appearing in the store. Now, we know, and you know, that these strawberries are a pale imitation of those freshly picked from a local field, but they’re still tasty. So, we buy them, even though we know (or think we know) how destructive conventional strawberry growing is to the soil. Sometimes our scruples just go out the window, which might just leave us with a tiny bit of bad karma.

So, we thought that we’d make up a small batch of strawberry shortcake with a huge — we mean HUGE — amount of whipped cream topping. We happened to have about a cup of heavy cream, so we whipped away with no regrets. But, rather than talk about whipped cream, let’s scratch out some strawberry shortcakes.

We made up the recipe for the strawberry sauce, just using the idea of macerating sliced strawberries to bring out the juices, but, for the shortcake recipe, we thought we’d see if there was a recipe from Thomas Keller available on the Internet. While it seemed to be a good idea, it turns out that just about anyone can post a recipe, and we found two competing versions. We selected one, and … well, you’ll see, but we will say that we’re posting what we think is the correct version. And, this is just for the shortcake; we didn’t include the strawberry sorbet, even though we’re seriously considering making that next.

Strawberry Shortcake

Yield: 4 servings

Strawberry Shortcake


    For the strawberries
  • 1 pound ripe strawberries, hulled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 Tbs honey
  • 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • For the shortcake
  • 3/4 cup (100 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 Tbs milk
  • For assembly
  • Whipped cream

Abbreviated Instructions

For the strawberries

Place strawberries in a medium bowl. Drizzle with honey and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt. Let macerate several hours, stirring occasionally, to release the juices.

For the shortcakes

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sugar. Add salt and whisk to combine.

Preheat oven to 500°F. Stack two baking sheets and place a piece of parchment on the top one.

Using your fingers, quickly rub in butter until the flour mixture resembles a coarse meal. Make a well in the center and add buttermilk and milk. Using a bowl scraper, mix in flour by drawing it from the edge of the bowl into the liquid. Once mixed, let stand for 15 minutes.

Turn out dough and flatten to 3/4-inch thick. Dip a 2-inch biscuit cutter in flour and cut out four biscuits, placing them on the prepared baking sheet. Place leftover dough bits on baking sheet and bake as a chef's snack.

Bake 9 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on a rack.

To assemble

Split biscuit in half and place the bottom on a plate. Top with strawberries and the top half of the biscuit. Add freshly whipped cream.

Ingredient discussion:

Obviously, this is all about strawberries. If they’re good, you’re all set. If not, expect to be disappointed. For honey, buy it from a local beekeeper if you can. It’s better. For the buttermilk, we always use home-scratched, as it’s so easy.

As an aside, please note that we think we used an incorrectly- transcribed recipe for the shortcakes (or sweet biscuits, really)– ours did not rise enough, due to a reduced amount of leavening — we think the correct amounts are given above.

Procedure in detail:

drizzling strawberries with honey
Any type of sugar will draw out the juices from the fruit, so use something with flavor, like honey.

Macerate strawberries. A long word for steeping the strawberries in sugar to release juices, right? Well, in a medium bowl, combine the strawberries, honey, balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of salt. Let stand for several hours, stirring about every half hour, until the strawberries are nice and juicy.

sifting flour
Weighing ingredients makes sifting a breeze. No need to sift then measure, just measure right into the sifter.

Sift dry ingredients. We find that the easiest way to deal with sifting is to place the sifter in a bowl, place the bowl on a scale, tare it (set  it to zero), then weigh out the flour. Add the sugar, baking powder, and baking soda, and sift away. Once sifted, add the kosher salt and whisk in. Kosher salt has granules are too big to sift in easily, so we add them after sifting.

baking pans
To insulate the bottom of the biscuits, double up the baking pans.

Preheat oven to 500°F. Place one baking sheet on top of another and line the top sheet with parchment. Why? This will help insulate the bottom of the biscuits, which means that they’re less likely to burn. The exact timing of preheating the oven will vary depending on your oven. If it heats fast, you can do it later; if it’s slow, you might want to start before sifting the dry ingredients.

adding butter
Don’t give the butter a chance to melt; work quickly so it stays cold.

Rub in butter. Add the butter to the flour mixture, and, using your fingertips, rub it in until the flour mixture resembles a coarse meal. It should take no more than about 30 seconds to get it incorporated; longer than that and you risk melting the butter, meaning you’ll have tough biscuits (shortcakes).

adding milk and buttermilk
Pour the liquids into the center and quickly work into a shaggy dough.

Add liquid. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the buttermilk and milk. Now, using a flexible dough scraper, work the flour mixture into the liquid by drawing it from the edges into the buttermilk. In no time at all, you’ll have a rough and shaggy dough.

dough resting
This is an interesting step, allowing the dough to rest 15 minutes. We never do that with ordinary biscuits.

Rest. Let the dough rest for 15 minutes, giving more time for the oven to preheat.

biscuits ready for baking
You’ll have no problem getting four biscuits and a lot of scraps.

Roll and cut. Turn the dough onto a lightly- floured work surface, and press out to 3/4-inch thick. Using a 2-inch biscuit cutter dipped in flour, cut out four biscuits and place them on the prepared baking sheet, leaving about an inch of space between them. The scraps can be baked as chef’s snacks, or as additional biscuit pieces for your shortcake.

Bake. Slide into the oven and bake until golden brown, about 9 minutes.

Cool. Let the biscuits cool on a rack until just warm.

Assemble. Tear a biscuit in two so you have a top half and a bottom half. Place the bottom half on a plate and scoop strawberries on top, followed by the top half of the biscuit and whipped cream.

We were disappointed by the shortcakes (or biscuits). They just stayed flat and didn’t rise very much at all, which we attributed to the small amount of baking powder and baking soda we’d used — we think we used the incorrect recipe, remember — possibly because of a bad transcription. We’ll double-check the next time we look in a copy of The French Laundry Cookbook, and, if we remember, we’ll make sure to update the recipe (and try it again, because this was so unlike all other Thomas Keller recipes that we’ve tried). For our — incorrect — version, we have to give only three stars.

Worth the trouble?

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