There are still many people from my generation who don’t know what a shortcake really is. So accustomed are they to the store bought Hostess brand shortcakes, that they don’t understand that, in reality, shortcakes are much less like a Twinkie and much more like a sweet biscuit. Very similar to a plain vanilla scone, these old fashioned shortcakes are a heavenly compliment to mounds of freshly whipped, sweetened, vanilla flavored cream, and a heap of fresh macerated berries. Since I still have blackberries coming out of my ears, I decided to continue with this week of very berry madness, and whip together this easy, but incredibly comforting dessert.
I have always had great success with Ina Garten’s shortcake recipe with a few of my own modifications. I up the sugar from one tablespoon to a third of a cup, reduce the salt to one half teaspoon, use salted butter (which I always use in everything no matter what the recipe may say… I prefer Tillamook brand), add about a tablespoon of pure vanilla extract (clear, if you have it) which the recipe doesn’t call for, and I also toss in the grated zest of half a large orange into the wet ingredients for that little background note of fruitiness (though, if I don’t happen to have an orange on hand I simply omit the zest). I have also found that it is important to chill the cut dough for at least an hour, lest you risk the possibility that your shortcakes bake up in amorphous mounds (which, granted, will still be delicious). Before baking I brush the tops with a beaten egg, and then dip the egg coated top of each shortcake into a small bowl of turbinado or demerara sugar (clear white sanding sugar would also work well here) until no more will stick, which adds a nice sparkle, sweetness, and crunch. These are best served warm out of the oven, but the good news is that these shortcakes can be made, cut, wrapped, and refrigerated up to five days in advance, and you can simply bake them off right before you want to serve them, making them perfect for summertime entertaining. (Better still, if you would like to make the dough up to six weeks in advance, place the cut dough onto a baking sheet and freeze uncovered until frozen solid, then transfer to a freezer bag. Bake from frozen (do not thaw the dough), adding an additional 5 minutes or so to the baking time. Whether with strawberries, peaches, or assorted berries, these shortcakes are always a crowd pleaser. Enjoy!
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