Sure, you can eat shortcake any time of year, but most people think about it in the summer. Strawberry, of course, but peaches, apricots, plums, all kinds of berries – just about any soft fruit makes a great shortcake. Add some whipped cream, sour cream and brown sugar, creme fraiche, or ice cream, and you have a simple, pretty dessert that most people love.
The shortcake itself is problematic. When I was a kid, we bought those little round cakes that came in a package of four, always next to the strawberries in the produce section. I guess they were supposed to be angel food cakes. We liked them back then, but I tasted one a few years ago, and OMG it was disgusting. Gummy, too-sweet, and artificially flavored – is this what you want your kids to have summer memories of? If so, you’re a bad, bad parent.
There are a lot of shortcake recipes on the internet and in cookbooks. Some lean more in the cake direction, which is fine; I sometimes make Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Buttermilk Country Cake from her magnum opus, The Cake Bible (which you should have if you like to bake cakes) and serve it with peaches and sour cream.
For those who like their shortcake on the biscuit-y side, I offer this recipe. It is from Lindsey Shere’s Chez Panisse Desserts (which you should have if you like to make desserts). I very slightly adapted it; instead of rolling out the dough as the original recipe directs, I just patted out little cakes by hand. (It’s six zillion degrees today and my kitchen counter was cluttered with potato salad ingredients and I could not be buggered to clear a space to roll out dough.) And I used canned evaporated milk in place of heavy cream. If you have heavy cream on hand, that would be superb.
I baked these on an insulated cookie sheet and it worked very well, but an ordinary cookie sheet would be fine too. This makes about 10 to 12 biscuit-sized shortcakes. Figure two or three for a serving.
- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter from the refrigerator
- 3/4 cup canned evaporated milk or heavy cream
Preheat oven to 450.
Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces and add them to the bowl.
With your hands, quickly mash the bits of butter into the flour.
You will see that the flour turns to a cornmeal-like consistency.
Slowly pour in evaporated milk or cream. You may not need all of it. Mix it in with a fork until most of the dry ingredients are moistened.
Knead the dough in the bowl until all dry ingredients are incorporated and the dough comes together.
At this point, you can either roll the dough out on a board and cut out circles or squares, or you can use your hands and tear off pieces about the size of a golf ball, and pat them into little biscuits.
If you want, you can lightly brush the tops with cream or evaporated milk.
Bake at 450 for 10-15 minutes, until the tops are lightly browned.
Cool on a rack.