Summer is pick-your-own berry time: fragrant berries still warm from the sun make a perfect dessert paired with tender, flaky shortcakes. Many of us have fond memories of childhood shortcakes eaten with hands stained red from berry-picking, while fireflies flickered on and off around us. We look forward to this seasonal treat all winter long, and make quite a celebration of it now that shortcake season is here!
This classic dessert works beautifully with strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, or blueberries. Some of us love shortcake with peaches, plums, or apricots, too! Find yourself some fresh fruit and make some wonderful summer memories for yourself and your own little berry-pickers:
6 cups fresh berries or fruit
1 or 2 tablespoons sugar, to taste (less is better)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/32 cup) butter, cut into small pieces, or 4 tablespoons butter and 4 tablespoons vegetable shortening
2/3 cup milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon sifted confectionersí sugar
1/8 teaspoon freshly-grated nutmeg
1. Slice the fruit (small berries may be left whole), and sprinkle with sugar, reserving some fruit for garnish. Toss to combine, then cover and refrigerate for several hours, stirring occasionally.
2. Preheat oven to 425F. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, granulated sugar, and salt. Using a pastry blender, food processor, or your fingertips, cut, process, or rub the butter into the flour mixture until it has the consistency of coarse crumbs. Add the milk all at once. Process or stir with a fork just until the dough comes together.
4. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead lightly 12 to 15 times, sprinkling with a little flour if the dough is too sticky. Roll out or pat the dough into a rectangle 1/2 inch thick. Cut into 6 rounds with a 3-inch biscuit cutter or use a knife to cut squares. Place the biscuits close together on the baking sheet. (The biscuits may be refrigerated for up to 2 hours before baking.)
5. Bake 15 to 18 minutes, until the biscuits are golden.
6. Cool the biscuits briefly on the baking sheet before transferring them to a wire rack until cook enough to handle.
7. Split each biscuit in half and transfer to individual serving plates.
8. To make the topping, whip the cream until stiff, gradually adding the confectionersí sugar and nutmeg as you beat.
9. To assemble the dessert, spoon some of the fruit over one biscuit half for each serving. Cover fruit with some of the whipped cream, then gently press the other biscuit half on top. Spoon remaining fruit over the top biscuit half, finish with another spoonful of whipped cream, and garnish with the reserved fruit.