Shortcakes are similar to scones in ingredients, method of preparation, and texture. The meaning of the name “shortcake” comes from the method of mixing the fat into the flour. In shortcakes, the fat (butter, lard, or shortening) is cut into the flour, which shortens the strands of gluten. This makes the resulting cakes crumbly and flaky instead of being homogenous cakes that hold together well.
This recipe is from The Best Recipe, by America’s Test Kitchen. It makes a fantastic base for strawberry shortcake.
What you need:
- 2 c. flour, plus more for dusting work surface
- 1 T. baking powder (store-bought or homemade)
- 1/2 t. salt
- 3 T. sugar
- 8 T. cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1/2 c. + 1 T. half-and-half or milk
- 1 t. grated lemon zest (optional)
- 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
- 2 T. sanding (coarse) sugar
- food processor with metal blade
- large bowl and spatula
- small bowl and whisk
- 3″ round cookie cutter
- baking sheet and parchment
- small bowl and pastry brush
Time: Twenty minutes prep time; twenty minutes chilling time; 15 minutes baking time.
Serves: Makes 6-12 biscuits.
Multiplying the recipe: The biscuit recipe is easily doubled.
Preheat the oven to 425F. In a food processor bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and 3 T. sugar.
Toss the butter cubes with the dry ingredients to coat. Pulse the food processor 5-10 times. When the butter cubes are reduced to the size of peas, dump the mixture into a large bowl.
Mix the whole, beaten egg, the half-and-half, and the lemon zest, if using, in a measuring cup. Pour into the large bowl containing the flour mixture. With a rubber spatula, fold together until liquid is absorbed and larger clumps form. Dump the bowl out onto a floured surface and knead until the dough is homogenous.
Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pat or roll the dough into a 1″ high rectangle, about 7″x8″. Flour a round 3″ cookie cutter and cut out rounds from the dough. Place the rounds 1″ apart on the baking sheet.
Brush the rounds with the beaten egg white and sprinkle with the 2 T. sanding sugar. Chill the rounds, covered, for 30-120 minutes before baking.
Bake the biscuits 12-16 minutes, until golden brown. Set the baking sheets on top of a wire rack until the biscuits are slightly warm, 10-20 minutes.
To serve, slice the biscuits in half horizontally. Place the bottom on a plate and top with prepared strawberries and whipped cream. Place the top on the whipped cream. Eat with a fork.