When strawberries are in season, this is my family's favorite dessert. Here are a few suggestions for tender shortcakes. First, make sure your butter is cold (after I've cubed the butter, I like to stick it in the freezer for five minutes). Second, don't overwork the butter into the dry ingredients. Third, after adding the wet ingredients into the dry, mix just until the dough has come together (you will have a tough cake if you handle the dough too much). Finally, when you use the cookie cutter, do not twist it into the dough (twisting seals the edges, and the cake will have trouble rising; you want your shortcakes to be high, fluffy and flaky).
Serves 4 to 6
For the strawberry coulis and whipped cream:
- 2 quarts fresh strawberries, hulled, washed, and sliced
- 1 cup fresh orange juice
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream, whipped
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
For the shortcake:
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 Tbsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 3 Tbsp. sugar
- 1/2 stick (4 Tbsp.) cold unsalted butter, cubed (keep in the refrigerator until ready to use)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1⁄3 cup plain yogurt
- 2 quarts fresh strawberries, hulled, washed and sliced
- 1 Tbsp. lemon or orange zest
- 10 to 12 fresh mint leaves
The coulis can be made 3 days ahead. To make the coulis, in a saucepan combine the sliced strawberries, orange juice and sugar. Bring to a boil, and continue to cook until the sugar has melted, about 5 minutes. Strain through a wire mesh into a saucepan. Mix the cornstarch and water together until smooth. Heat the strained strawberries over medium heat. Add the cornstarch mixture and stir until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Pour into an airtight container and place in the refrigerator to chill (the coulis should be served cold).
To make the whipped cream, combine the whipping cream and vanilla in mixing bowl of a mixer fitted with a wire whisk. Whip until stiff peaks form. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
To make the shortcakes, have all of the ingredients ready. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Cut the butter into the flour mixture using a pastry blender, and keep cutting until the butter is the size of small peas.
Whisk the cream and yogurt together. Add it to the flour mixture and blend with a fork until the dough comes together. Do not overmix or the dough will be tough. Pat the dough out on a lightly floured surface into a 1-inch-thick rectangle. Using a 2 1/2- or 3-inch round cookie cutter, cut (do not twist) as many shortcakes as you can from the rectangle. Place the shortcakes on the baking sheet. Gently press the scraps together and cut out more shortcakes. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes.
When ready to serve, slice the shortcakes in half horizontally. On the bottom half, pile on as many fresh sliced strawberries as you like. Pour 4 to 5 tablespoons of strawberry coulis over the top of the strawberries, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon lemon or orange zest, add a dollop of whip cream, and some fresh mint, and top with the other half of the shortcake.
COOK'S NOTE: You can use these shortcakes with blueberries, raspberries, and fresh summer peaches too.