As the strawberry season hits us, one recipe beats all others, the shortcake. Its origins may be in 16th-century England but it came into its own in 19th-century America and is now the quintessential dessert there.
The “shortening” refers to the fat content which renders the cake soft and crumbly. Early recipes called for a multi-layered cake, filled with strawberries and icing. Much later, whipped cream replaced the icing and became the favoured topping.
For me the true shortcake is a cross between biscuit and scone, providing a perfect base to soak up strawberry juices and cream.
280g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbs sugar
1 rounded tbs baking powder
125g cold unsalted butter
About 3/4 cup crème fraîche (or sour cream)
About 250g strawberries plus extra sugar
About 250ml double cream
Makes six to eight cakes
● In a bowl or food processor put the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar. Cut the butter into pieces and rub into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Pour in enough crème fraîche to bring the dough together. Do not overwork: it should come together lightly. Chill for 1 hour.
● Pre-heat oven to 180°. Take dough out and roll on a well-floured surface until it is about 2½cm thick. Cut into 8cm or 9cm rounds and place on a lined baking tray. Brush the tops with a little double cream and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until nicely golden.
● Meanwhile, slice the strawberries and put them in a bowl. Add a little sugar (about 1 tbs or to your taste) and let marinate for a while. Whip the cream, adding a teaspoon of icing sugar, until it forms soft peaks. Keep chilled.
● When the shortcakes are cold, cut them in half horizontally, and spoon the whipped cream and most of the strawberries inside. Place the other half on top of this. Decorate with extra strawberries if you want. Enjoy this on the day it is made; it is not as wonderful the next.
Rose Carrarini is co-owner of Rose Bakery in Paris and author of ‘Breakfast, Lunch, Tea’ (Phaidon, £19.95)
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