Easy Weeknight Dessert: Any-Fruit Shortcake

After dinner one night, I had a hankering for a dessert but knew that we had none.  It was my own fault.  Note to self: This is what happens when you decide to limit your baking fiend of a husband to one butter-and-sugar laden product per week. 

Then I remembered that I had a flash of brilliance some few weeks previously.  When Will asked what I wanted for a “simple dessert,” I had requested shortcake.  My reasoning was that they freeze nicely and can go with nearly any fruit we have around at any given time.  Anxiously I approached the freezer.  Did we have any frozen shortcakes still left over?  Of course, we did!

We get our shortcake recipe from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking.  You can use another recipe that you particularly enjoy, or you can click here for an "easy" online version of the Williams-Sonoma recipe.  Note though that the online recipe cuts in half almost all the ingredients and makes just 4 shortcake rounds, while the recipe from the cookbook makes 8. 

The major difference is that the cookbook recipe used 1 large egg—not easily halved for a recipe for 4—and did not halve the amount of cream used, so that cookbook recipe will have the addition of a little extra cake-like texture from the egg versus the more scone-like texture of the online version.  We like both versions, but since we like to make 8 and freeze the rest for convenient defrosting, we tend to go with the cookbook recipe (page 92):

1.     Preheat oven to 425 degrees, and line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.

2.     Combine 1¾ cup all-purpose flour, ¼ cup sugar, 1 T baking powder and ½ t salt in a food processor and pulse a few times to mix.  Add ½ cup (1 stick) butter cut into small pieces, and pulse again.

3.     Blend together 1 egg and 1/3 cup cream (plus 1-2 T of extra cream, to taste and to the texture you prefer), and then pour the mixture into the food processor bowl and pulse again to moisten.

4.     (If you prefer, you can decide to use just 1/3 cup cream and then roll out the dough and cut with a biscuit cutter, but we actually like the rustic simplicity of free-formed dropped shortcakes.  Ok, and we’re lazy.) 

5.     Using a large spoon, drop moist spoonfuls of dough onto the parchment paper about 1 inch apart to make 8 cakes, and then bake for 12-15 minutes until golden.

Once the cakes have cooled, place in ziploc bags ones you will not eat that day.  The high butter content ensures that you will have moist (and crumbly) shortcakes another day.   Once you are ready for more, simply remove a few from the freezer and preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  By the time the oven is ready, the shortcakes should have defrosted a bit.  Pop them in the oven for about 5-10 minutes—depending on how frozen they are still—and enjoy with the fruit topping.

For the fruit topping:

Wash the fruit of your choice.  Strawberries are a perennial favorite, but we also had raspberries (pictured at the top of post) one day and peaches (below) on another occasion.  If you are using peaches, peel and slice into wedges.  Sprinkle a little lemon juice and a teaspoon of fine sugar over your peaches or your berries, and lightly mix so as not to crush the delicate fruit.

The recipe has you split the baked shortcake to fill, but we find the drop-biscuit shortcakes a bit thin around the edges (something we like because they lend a certain crispy edge to contrast with the moist center), and we prefer to pile the fruit on the side of the shortcake.

This is one dessert where I don’t think whipped cream is “optional.”  Sure, you can use sweetened crème fraiche or mascarpone, but really the sweetened whipped cream is the best for these any-fruit shortcakes!


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