fresh strawberry shortcakes with creme fraiche
After a winter where even citrus has fallen away, and all that is left is never ending, not very fresh apples (where do they come from? why do they never leave?), the arrival of strawberries is always a delight. If you're lucky, you'll spot the green ones and can quickly pickle them, adding acidity and bite to salads and cheese plates, and then the teeny tiny sugary ones that remind you that fruit does truly grow out of the ground.
And then come the bigger ones that really taste of summer. This year, I am determined to not only eat as many cartons as possible, but to also bake them in every way and shape. The combination of tartness, flowery perfume, and summer juice is beautiful in spongey cakes and in pastry and on ice cream and in crumbles, and well, we're not done yet.
This is round two, and while round one (Sweet's strawberry cake) was delicious, this one is the one I'll be breaking out again and again. Pairing the slightly salty, crumbly delight of a shortcake with fresh strawberries and a tangy cream, it's the easiest way to taste like summer.
The recipe below is adapted from Root to Leaf's recipe for Whiskeyed Peaches and Shortcakes.
I'm always a bit intimidated by any true pastry recipe (I see "cubed butter" and flinch), but this one could not be easier, and is apparently quite forgiving as we did it a bit haphazardly. Perhaps more excitingly: it takes zero fridge time and only ten minutes to bake, which means you can be eating shortcakes in fifteen minutes flat, which is one of those things I wish I didn't know, but now can never go back (typed through a mouthful of cake).
From Root to Leaf, exactly -
- 2.5 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tbs baking powder
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 3/4 cup half-and-half, possibly a little more
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 whole egg + 1 tbs butter, whisked together to make egg wash
- 1/4 cup turbinado sugar
- Heat oven to 475.
- Mix flour, baking powder, salt, and granulated sugar together.
- Add butter to the dry incredients and work mixture together to flatten out butter. It's okay to leave some chunks a bit larger. Add egg yolks. NOTE: the book apparently has a bit of a typo and doesn't tell you when to add the egg yolks. Every time I've done this, I've randomly guessed, adding them either before, during, or after the butter. If you're a pastry nerd, I'm sure one of these is right (right?), and two are very wrong... but if you're not, I think it's always been okay?
- Add the 3/4 cup of half-and-half and gently mix together with a spoon. If it doesn't seem to be coming together as a dough, add a little more. (I found 3/4 cup to be plenty - it was fairly sticky.)
- Turn dough out on lightly floured surface, knead just a few times, then form into a ball.
- Roll out to be 1-inch thick.
- Use a fork to dot the entire dough, then brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
- The recipe says to use a biscuit cutter to cut out your cakes... I used a water glass. Whatever you've got. I also once did this as one enormous, lumpy cake, and while a little cake-ier in the middle, it was just fine.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay out the cakes.
- Place the scraps between the shortcakes - this apparently helps them keep their shape, which weirdly worked.
- Bake 10 - 12 minutes until golden brown and spring back when you touch them. Cool on pan for 5 minutes, then on a wire rack.
Diverging from the original recipe here -- I wanted to keep the strawberries as bright and fresh as possible, but given that mine were fairly early season and not quite bursting with juice, I macerated them for about 45 minutes. If you'd like to do so: core and slice strawberries, sprinkle with sugar and lemon juice, and let sit. Otherwise, just chop em up and you're ready to go.
You have some choices here: whipped cream with a hint of vanilla would be lovely. Classic vanilla ice cream would make this extremely summery (and easy), or you can go as Steven Satterfield does and pair creme fraiche with heavy cream and sugar and whip it all up together. Now to be clear, he advocates for making your own creme fraiche, but the charm of this is that it's a 20-minute dessert, not a two-day dessert, so that seemed a bit ambitious. Store bought it most definitely was.
The official recipe calls for 1/4 cup heavy cream, 3 tablespoons sugar, 1 cup creme fraiche. I mostly eyeballed and somehow ended up with a cream that was way too sweet. Keep adjusting and find what you like -- you want it to be roughly whipped cream consistency, but still fairly soft and loose.
Bring it all together
Slice a shortcake in half, pile with strawberries, top with cream or ice cream, and place top hat back on. Eat, then eat another.