I've had strawberry shortcake made with angel food cake, sponge cake and pound cake, but till now, never with biscuits. Years ago, I had a neighbor from Arkansas who insisted that the only good strawberry shortcake was made with biscuits, but she never did make it for me. Since strawberries are very much in season in Eastern North Carolina, and since I find it very hard to pass up such succulent treats at the New Bern Farmer's Market, this seemed like the right time to try my hand at Southern strawberry shortcake, made with biscuits.
After reading many recipes, I went rogue and came up with my own. I didn't want an overly sweet dessert, and I didn't want to use White Lily flour, though I admit it makes ultra-light and tender baked goods. There's just something about chlorinated flour that turns me off. Gold Medal unbleached all-purpose is about as bad as I want to get.
And now I can agree with my ex-neighbor: strawberry shortcake made with biscuits is the only way to go. I'm hard pressed to say which was better, the biscuit or the strawberries. Let's call it a draw.
You can get four biscuits out of this recipe, especially if you use a 2" cutter. I used a 2-3/4" cutter that would have yielded four biscuits if I had rerolled the scraps. Instead, I put them on the baking sheet as is, to make sweet little odd-shaped biscuits that were so delicious I could have eaten them all, just like that. The edges are seductively crispy and the insides are gloriously tender and light.
Biscuits are not difficult to make, but there are some things to remember:
- First, work quickly to keep ingredients cold. When the cold butter hits the hot, hot oven, that's what creates the tender flakiness that biscuits are known for.
- Second, handle the dough as little as possible. The more you handle the dough, the tougher your biscuits will be.
- Third, piercing the dough with a dinner fork helps steam to escape so the biscuits can rise evenly.
- Fourth, don't twist the biscuit cutter, just press straight down and lift straight up. Twisting the dough interferes with the rising process.
- Fifth, put the biscuits back into the fridge for a final chilling before baking.
Inspired by Scott Peacock, Better Homes & Gardens and Cook's Illustrated
Rating: 10 out of 10
2 Tbsp. strawberry preserves
1 Tbsp. orange liqueur, such as Triple Sec
1/4 cup chopped strawberries (4-5 medium)
4-5 large strawberries, sliced
In small bowl, whisk together preserves and liqueur. Add chopped strawberries. Crush with potato masher or fork. Slice large strawberries. (An egg slicer works perfectly.)
Add sliced strawberries to mixture in bowl.
Set aside to macerate at room temperature while you make the biscuits.
1-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, measured after sifting
1-1/8 tsp. baking powder
2 Tbsp. sugar + 1 Tbsp. sugar for tops
1/2 tsp. Morton kosher salt
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cold, chopped into 6-8 pieces
1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1-1/2 tsp. vinegar or lemon juice + enough milk to equal 1/2 cup)
2-1/4 tsp. coconut cream (or heavy cream, if preferred)
Heat oven to 500F. Set oven rack to upper third of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Sift flour, then measure 1-1/4 cups into medium bowl. Add baking powder, 2 Tbsp. sugar and salt. Whisk to combine. Add butter. Working quickly, rub between fingertips until roughly half the butter is coarsely blended and half remains in large pieces, about 3/4 inch. Make a well in center of flour mixture. Add buttermilk all at once. With a large spoon, stir mixture quickly, just until blended and a sticky dough forms. Immediately turn dough onto generously floured surface.
Using floured hands, lightly roll dough in flour and pat to 3/4" thickness. Using a dinner fork dipped in flour, pierce dough completely through at 1/2" intervals. Flour a 2-1/2" or 3" biscuit cutter. Press straight down onto the dough -- do not twist the cutter -- and transfer to baking sheet. Add excess dough, as is, onto baking sheet without rerolling. Chill the biscuits in the baking pan for 15 -30 minutes to ensure the butter is very cold before baking.
Before baking, brush each biscuit (including scraps) with coconut cream or heavy cream and sprinkle with the remaining 1 Tbsp. sugar. Bake 8-12 minutes, until crusty and golden brown. Cool.
Sweetened Whipped Cream:
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream, very cold
2 Tbsp. Grade B maple syrup
In medium bowl, whisk together cream and syrup till thick, about 3-4 minutes. (You can use an electric mixer, but it really isn't necessary, and the consistency will be perfect from hand whisking.)
Put It All Together:
Split biscuits. Spread with about 1 Tbsp. jam each.
Spoon some whipped cream over jam.
Top with strawberries, more whipped cream and biscuit top. For a garnish, I dipped a large whole strawberry in preserves, then set it on a dollop of whipped cream.