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Classic Strawberry Shortcakes

This recipe features a traditional biscuit-style shortcake. When properly mixed, shortcake dough should be rough, even shaggy. You might be tempted to mix it more, but resist, or you will not end up with a flaky biscuit. Work the dough on a lightly floured work surface, gently pressing and patting it into a thick rectangle. Incorporating too much flour will make the dough tough. Cutting the dough into squares is preferable to rounds, which leave scraps that must be patted back together to form more cakes. The result is overworked dough and a few tough shortcakes. Squares will all turn out equally tender and delicious.

Ingredients:

For the shortcakes:

  • 1 2⁄3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbs. sugar
  • 1 Tbs. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
  • 3⁄4 tsp. salt
  • 8 Tbs. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into
      small pieces
  • 3⁄4 cup buttermilk
  • 1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the strawberries:

  • 4 cups strawberries, hulled and cut into slices
      1/4 inch thick
  • 1⁄4 cup sugar

For the whipped cream:

  • 3/4 cup heavy cream, well chilled
  • 2 Tbs. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

To make the shortcakes, preheat an oven to 400°F.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, lemon zest and salt until well blended. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the pieces are no larger than peas. Add the buttermilk and vanilla and gently toss with a fork or rubber spatula until the flour is just moistened and the ingredients are blended.

Turn the shaggy dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently press the dough into a thick rectangle about 6 by 4 inches. Using a large sharp knife, trim the edges even, then cut the dough into 6 equal squares.

Place the squares on an ungreased baking sheet, spacing them well apart. Bake until they are puffed and golden, 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly or completely.

Meanwhile, prepare the strawberries: In a bowl, toss together the strawberries and sugar with a fork, lightly crushing some of the berries. Cover the berries and refrigerate until well chilled or until ready to serve.

To make the whipped cream, in a deep bowl, combine the cream, sugar and vanilla. Using an electric mixer, beat on medium-high speed until soft peaks form and the cream is billowy, about 2 minutes. Cover the bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve or for up to 2 hours.

To serve, split the warm or cooled shortcakes in half horizontally and place the bottom halves, cut side up, on serving plates. Spoon some of the strawberries, including the juices, over each half and top with a dollop of the whipped cream. Top with the remaining shortcake halves, cut side down. Serve immediately.
Serves 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Dessert, by Abigail Johnson Dodge (Simon & Schuster, 2002).