I love these Strawberry Shortcakes and have been serving them in our restaurants for over 20 years. I learned to bake them from a wonderful baker and friend, the late Craig Ruttman, who was inspired by James Beard's recipe. We think of Craig whenever we make them at the bakery— his wonderful nature lives on in these exceptionally light and delicate cakes. Paired with vanilla scented strawberries and vanilla flavor, they are an easy summer dessert and great for brunch as well.
Makes 8 servings
FOR THE SHORTCAKES
1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 cup superfine sugar, divided
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh orange zest
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon softened butter
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
FOR THE STRAWBERRY FILLING
2 pints strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced
1/4 cup superfine sugar
1/2 vanilla bean or 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Whipped cream, sweetened to taste, beaten to soft peaks
Confectioners' sugar for garnish
1. FOR THE SHORTCAKES: Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a half-sheet pan with parchment paper.
2. Sift together the flour, 1/4 cup superfine sugar, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Add the orange zest. Add the chilled butter and mix quickly with your finger tips to coat the butter with the flour mixture. Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour, scraping the butter of the blender as needed, until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs with the some pea-size pieces.
3. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the cream and mix just until the dough clumps together. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Knead the dough a few times. Do not over work the dough. Using a rolling pin, gently roll out the dough into a 3/4-inch-thick round.
Using a 2 3/4-inch fluted biscuit cutter, dipping it into flour between cuts, cut out the cakes (cut straight down and do not twist the cutter) and place 1 1/2 inches apart on the prepared half sheet pan. Gather up the dough scraps, knead very lightly, and repeat to cut out more cakes.
4. Brush the tops of the cakes with the softened butter and sprinkle with the granulated sugar. Bake 18-20 minutes. Bake until lightly browned. Cool on the pan.
5. FOR THE FILLING: Mix the strawberries with the superfine sugar and the vanilla and let rest for at least 1 hour before serving. This will allow the juices to release from the berries and you will have a nice syrupy juice from the berries.
6. When ready to serving, beat the cream with sugar to taste, into soft peaks. Cut the shortcakes in half. Spoon the berries and the syrup on the bottom half, top with whipped cream and cover with the tops. Sift a light coating of confectioners' sugar on top of each serving.