This Sunday is the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year and we can’t think of anything more celebratory of the first day of summer than strawberry shortcake. So here’s our improvisation on a traditional shortcake recipe, made with a sublime, foolproof cream biscuits.
Our friend Sarah brought them by one day after the classic butter-based biscuits she’d tried to make failed. “I just couldn’t make that butter thing happen right to achieve the proper texture.” she said. And they’re impossible to make in the summer if you don’t have air conditioning, because you can’t keep the butter cold.”
Searching for other options, she tried the Cream Biscuit recipe Smitten Kitchen had adapted from the great James Beard. They were almost ethereal with the richness and flavor only butter and cream can give, and a slight crunch outside. And easy-peasy FOOLPROOF. Rather than cutting-in butter, you just stir heavy cream into sifted flour spiked with a little baking powder and salt. Once you’ve cut the dough into rounds, brush them with melted butter, then bake ’em: 3 minutes to assemble, 12 minutes to bake.
We’ve been making Sarah’s biscuits ever since and find them perfect for shortcake, split and filled with sugared berries and whipped cream.
They are also a heavenly for breakfast with butter and jam, sandwiched with a fried egg, or as a quick bread for a Southern meal.
Recipe: Strawberry Shortcake
Of course, you can always use other summer berries, or a combination of berries, sugared like the strawberries below. Rhubarb stew (with or without strawberries) would be swell between the biscuits with whipped cream).
Serves about 6
Cream Biscuits/Shortcakes, recipe below (you’ll have biscuits leftover that you can eat or freeze)
3 pints fresh strawberries, washed, hulled, and halved or quartered, depending on size
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup heavy cream or 1/2 heavy cream and 1/2 creme fraiche
1 tablespoon sugar (optional) or a pinch of salt to taste
Make the Cream Biscuits/Shortcakes below.
A few minutes before serving, place the strawberries in a glass bowl and toss with the sugar.
Add the cream to a chilled bowl; if you like your whipped cream sweetened, add the sugar, or for an unexpected twist, add a pinch of salt. Using a whisk or an electric mixer, whip the cream until the cream just begins to thicken.
Using a serrated knife, cut the biscuits in half horizontally. Place the bottom halves on 6 plates and generously spoon the strawberries over them. Top with a heaping dollop of whipped cream. Replace the top halves of the shortcakes.
Recipe: Cream Biscuits/Shortcakes
Adapted from James Beard’s American Cookery via Smitten Kitchen via Sarah M.
Made about 10 to 12 biscuits
3 tablespoons melted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the surface
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Melt butter in a small pot or microwave dish, and set aside.
Sift two cups flour, the baking powder, salt and (if using) sugar into a large bowl.
Fold in 1 1/4 cups cream. If the dough is not soft or easily handled, fold in the remaining 1/4 cup cream, a tablespoon at a time.
Turn dough onto a floured surface, mound it into a ball and, using floured hands, press it to a thickness of about 3/4 inch. Cut into rounds, 2 1/2 inches-in-diameter. Gather dough scraps together and repeat. Arrange on the baking sheet and brush the tops with melted butter.
Bake the biscuits until golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately, or, when cool, wrap and freeze for future use (unwrap and allow to come to room temperature; if necessary warm in a 425′ oven for a few minutes)
The unbaked biscuits can be placed on a baking sheet and frozen, then stored in a plastic bag. To bake, arrange on a baking sheet, and bake as directed, adding 3 to 5 minutes baking time.
HAPPY SUMMER SOLSTICE!!
Top photo via Food 52; second image via A Cup of Jo; solstice image via Earth Observatory