One can toil for hours on more elaborate desserts without coming close to achieving the simple gratification of this almost effortless summer indulgence. Using cream instead of butter in the shortcake not only makes for lighter, more tender pastry, it also eliminates the step of cutting the butter into the flour. Consider doubling the shortcake recipe – these are great to have with morning coffee.
Makes 8 servings
3 pints (6 cups) ripest, sweetest strawberries you can find, hulled, and halved if small or quartered if large
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tbsp maple syrup, agave syrup or granulated sugar, plus more if needed, optional
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, optional
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/4 cups heavy (35%) cream
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 cups heavy (35%) cream
1 tbsp pure maple syrup or icing sugar, or 1/2 tablespoon agave syrup, or to taste
1/4 cup thinly sliced crystallized ginger, optional
Macerate the strawberries: In a large shallow-rimmed dish, mash about one-quarter of the strawberries with a fork. In a large bowl, toss together the mashed strawberries, unmashed berries, lemon juice and maple syrup (if using). Taste and adjust sweetness as needed; set aside, stirring occasionally.
Prepare the shortcake: Preheat the oven to 425º F. Line a 9- by 13-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon (if using) and salt. Using a wooden spoon or stiff spatula, stir in the cream. Mix until the mixture comes together in a sticky, crumbly mass. Transfer the mixture onto a lightly floured work surface. Using floured hands, knead the dough only a few times until the mixture forms a soft dough. (For the lightest shortcake, do not overknead.)
Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a 5-inch round. Cut each round into quarters. Place each quarter onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving a few inches between. Brush each quarter with melted butter. Bake until the tops of the shortcakes are golden, 12 to 16 minutes. Remove the shortcakes to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Make the whipped cream: In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl using an electric hand mixer or by hand using a stiff whisk), combine the cream and maple syrup. Beat at medium-high speed until soft peaks form.
To assemble the strawberry shortcakes: Split each shortcake in half crosswise. Place the bottom half of a shortcake on a plate. Spoon some of the macerated berries and a large dollop of whipped cream on top. Place the top half of the shortcake on top, and add more berries and their juices and whipped cream. Repeat with the remaining shortcakes. Garnish with the crystallized ginger (if using) and serve immediately.
From Edible: A Celebration of Local Foods, edited by Tracey Ryder and Carole Topalian. John Wiley & Sons, 2010.