When it comes to strawberry shortcake, I don’t yearn for the good old days. Like my childhood version of grilled cheese (Kraft American on white bread with margarine), the “homemade” strawberry shortcake of my youth was grocery store or boxed pound cake, topped with horrid whipped stuff that was definitely not heavy cream. The cake had one saving grace – strawberries, but they were in short supply and buried under an avalanche of processed ingredients.
Luckily for me, times have changed. Now I bake from scratch and can’t remember the last time I had whipped whatever-it-is from a can.
These individual strawberry shortcake biscuits are a berry bonanza. Beginning with a biscuit and topped with real whipped cream, they have strawberries everywhere and no artificial anything.
As strawberries came into season this year, I dreamed of using them in shortcake. Placed at the front of grocery stores and farmers markets in my neighborhood, they greet me like old friends, beckoning me to buy, dream, and bake.
Coincidentally, I got a lovely offer from Driscoll’s (the leading U.S. supplier of fresh berries), inviting me to a Google hang-out with Dorie Greenspan to talk about strawberries, shortcake, and baking tips.
The hang-out was fun and Dorie had loads of tips on baking in general and specifically on how to make her Double-Strawberry and Rose Shortcakes. When I realized that the entire recipe uses less than ½ cup of sugar for 12 servings, I was sold. Although I don’t demonize sugar and I’m not going to stop making desserts or blogging about them, I have been looking for ways to cut down on my sugar intake. Her recipe seemed like a good way to enjoy strawberry shortcake without going into sugar shock. My adaptation stays true to that basic principle.
The basic recipe has more steps than most of mine do, but it doesn’t require special skill and you can freeze any biscuits you don’t use; just defrost them and pop them into the oven at 350 degrees to warm them up before serving.
The secret to these individual strawberry shortcake biscuits is the rose water in the strawberry compote, sauce and the whipping cream. (Dorie’s version called for pure rose extract, which I couldn’t find.) The brand I used is Lebanese and comes from a food store that carries Middle Eastern specialties. If you can find rose water, do use it. Trust me, in the small quantities used in this recipe, it adds a hint of flavor and an exquisite aroma without overpowering the dessert. And despite what you might think if you take a huge whiff when you open the rose water bottle, the dessert most definitely does not smell like perfume.
Individual Strawberry Shortcake Biscuits
Servings – 12-15 small shortcakes Cost – $8-9
Strawberry Compote and Sauce
- ¾ pound (12 ounces/about 3 cups) strawberries, hulled and chopped
- 1½ tablespoons granulated (white) sugar
- 1 teaspoon rosewater
- About 2½ tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 lemon (zest and ¾ tablespoon/2¼ teaspoons of juice)
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour + extra for dusting dough
- ½ cup yellow cornmeal
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt
- ¾ cup/6 ounces whole milk (or 5⅓ ounces skim mixed with ⅔ ounce of heavy cream, i.e. roughly a 90/10 ratio of skim milk to heavy cream to create whole milk.)
- 6 tablespoons (¾ of a stick) of very cold butter
- 1 cup very cold heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar sifted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon rosewater
- 1 tablespoon sour cream
- ½ – ¾ pound (2-3 cups) of strawberries, hulled and sliced. (Here’s my tip for storing strawberries to keep them fresh.)
- Cutting board
- Small pan
- 5 bowls –1 very small, 1 small, 2 medium and 1 large
- Small plate
- Measuring cups for liquid and solids
- Measuring spoons
- Small strainer
- Large fork
- 2” biscuit cutter or round cookie cutter
- 2 cookie sheets and parchment or silicone mat
- Silicone mat for counter (optional)
- Ruler (If you’re like me and don’t trust yourself to eyeball ½”.)
- Cooling racks
- Hand-held or stand mixer
- Zest the lemon. Add 1½ tablespoons of sugar and rub the zest and sugar together with your fingers in the very small bowl. Set the mixture aside for the biscuits.
- Move onto to making the strawberry compote and sauce. Put the chopped strawberries, sugar, and the teaspoon of rosewater in the small pan. Bring them to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, for about 8-15 minutes. I used a combination of fresh and fresh frozen berries defrosted at room temperature. Because frozen berries contain added moisture, my cooking time was longer than will be required if you use only fresh berries. If foam develops on top, use Cathy Barrow’s jam-making tip and add a small sliver of butter, which will dissipate the foam. Once the cooked compote cools down a bit, pour it into a strainer with a bowl below, pressing the compote lightly with a spoon. (Sorry. I forgot to take a photo of straining the sauce.) Continue to cool the compote and the sauce (in their separate containers) to room temperature. If you’re not making the shortcakes immediately, cover and refrigerate them.
- Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Add the ¾ tablespoon lemon juice (equivalent to 2¼ teaspoons) to the ¾ cup (equivalent to 6 ounces) milk or milk/heavy cream and set aside for 10 minutes at room temperature. The milk or milk/cream and lemon juice (or an equal amount of white vinegar) when combined and left undisturbed for a short period, make homemade buttermilk. A neat trick for those of us who can’t remember to buy all the ingredients or who hate to buy a large container of buttermilk when we’re only going to use a small amount.
- Whisk or mix together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and then add in the lemon zest and sugar.
- Cut the butter into small cubes (I cut each tablespoon into quarters), add it to the dry ingredient mixture and, with your fingers, rub the butter into the mixture until it is just barely incorporated. The butter flakes and pieces will be of different sizes and look nubby.
- Pour the cold homemade buttermilk into the mixture and mix with a fork, just to moisten the dry ingredients. Gently knead the dough with your hands a few times until it holds together. Then dump the dough onto a lightly floured counter or mat.
- Pat the dough into a somewhat round shape about ½” high. Using the biscuit or round cookie cutter, decisively cut into the dough as close to the edge as possible and make the first biscuit. Continue cutting around the circle. If you make each biscuit close to the one before, you will minimize the leftover dough. Although leftovers can be patted back into a ½” shape for cutting into more biscuits, Dorie warns that those biscuits won’t rise as well as the ones made from the original dough. I found it a bit difficult to pry the dough out of the biscuit cutter – do it gently to prevent stretching the biscuit as you remove it.
- Place the biscuits on the parchment or silicone mat-lined cookie sheets and sprinkle them with sugar. Bake them or 15-18 minutes until they rise and turn golden brown. Once you take them out of the oven, place the cookie sheets on cooling racks and let the biscuits cool to room temperature.
- Beat the heavy cream at low-medium speed until it holds its shape. My mom taught me to put the beaters and bowl in the freezer before using them to whip cream because the cooler they are, the easier it is to whip the cream. I forgot to do that and instead, set the bowl in a pie plate filled with ice cubes. My method worked fine. Add the confectioners’ sugar, followed by the vanilla and the rose water, while continuing to beat the cream until it holds firm peaks. Add the sour cream and stir just to combine.
- Cut the remaining whole strawberries. First, hull them – using a small knife held at a 45 degree angle to the berry, cut away away the green leafy tip in a small cone-shaped piece, so that you leave as much of the surrounding red fruit as possible. Then slice the berries any way you want. I cut them in half length-wise and then made those halves into long, thin slices by cutting them into 3 or 4 pieces, depending on the size of the berry.
- To construct the individual strawberry shortcake biscuits, cut each biscuit in half and place about a tablespoon of compote on the bottom layer. I was tempted to simply eat a strawberry compote biscuit sandwich, but I carried on for the greater good of the recipe.
- Add a dollop of cream, and pour sauce on top. Decorate the shortcake with strawberry slices and enjoy!!
Disclosure – Driscoll’s provided me with reimbursement for recipe ingredients and discount coupons for their berries. The content of this post and all opinions expressed are entirely my own.