Summer Berry Shortcake

So a couple weeks ago after dinner, I got this crazy hankering for shortcake. I really, really, REALLY wanted it.

I know that when a lot of ‘y’all think of shortcake you think of those spongy pre-made mini ‘dessert shells’ with the indent that you can find in the produce section of the grocery store near the strawberries. Y’know the dessert shells that should really just get called by their true name: sponge cake. I’ve seen some that are just straight up angel food cakes. Not that I have a problem with them per se. There’s no judgment here; depending on the company, those can actually be pretty tasty.

But that’s not what I’m talking about here.

In the first place, sponge cake isn’t shortcake. It’s light and airy and spongy. It’s…sponge cake.

All of the above adjectives contradict shortcake by it’s very definition. Shortcakes are actually very similar to an American-style biscuit, both in texture and the baking method. In a sponge cake, egg whites are beaten until they’re stiff to make the crumb as light as possible. The point of a ‘short’cake, is actually to make a ‘shorter’, denser crumb.

If you’ve tried any of my biscuit recipes on the blog already, then this ,method will look very familiar to you. The frozen butter (and we’ve already established why it’s important that it is frozen) is grated directly into the dry ingredients. I used cake flour to give it the best texture, then in addition to the sugar, flavored the dough with vanilla, ground ginger and cardamom. The spices aren’t overpowering–they’re just going to give the shortcakes a little something extra flavor-wise. You’re going to like it, promise.

The result is a shortcake that has just the right texture. It is slightly dense, but it’s also buttery and tender, with enough height to split it in two and sandwich with the good stuff. Now what that ‘good stuff’ is, I’m going to leave entirely up to you. This is summertime, which means there are plenty of delicious fruits that are in season that are perfect for shortcake; strawberries, blackberries, peaches, apricots. All are excellent choices. I went with the strawberries and blackberries, but it’s your shortcake so go with what you like best. And of course y’all know to make/use a ton of good whipped cream to cram inside and dollop on top.  It’s the summer–get downright nasty with it.

Linking this up to this week’s Fiesta Friday #230, co-hosted this week by Diann @ Of Goats and Greens.

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Summer Berry Shortcake

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour

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Ingredients

For Shortcake

  • 3 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter, frozen
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 cup buttermilk, plus more as needed

For Berries

  • 2 quarts of your choice of berries (I used a mix of strawberries & blackberries)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • Whipped cream, for serving

Directions

For Berries: combine the sugar and lemon juice together with the berries and allow to sit for one hour.

Preheat oven to 425°. Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven. In a small bowl combine the egg with the buttermilk and vanilla extract, set aside.

In a large bowl combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, ground ginger, cardamom and sugar—stir with a fork until combined. Use the large holes on a box grater to grate the butter directly into the dry ingredients. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour in the egg-buttermilk mixture and stir to combine with a fork. If it seems a little dry you may add additional buttermilk until it forms a shaggy dough.

Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board or wax paper with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface and pat a few times with your hands until it loosely holds together. (Don’t knead it too much or the warmth in your palms will melt the butter and cause the shortcakes to be tough.)

Pat and roll the dough into a rectangle. Take the two opposite ends and fold them together like a business letter into thirds. Flip it upside down and pat & roll it into another rectangle, sprinkling the surface with flour if it gets too sticky. Repeat the folding process two to three more times before patting it into one final rectangle.

Use a bench scraper or very sharp knife to trim the edges of the rectangle. Use a 2 1/2-inch round cutter to cut shortcakes, pressing scraps together to make more no more than two additional times. Discard the rest of the dough.  Place shortcakes slightly touching, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Chill 15 minutes in the freezer.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Remove them from the oven and cool for 15 minutes before serving. Just before serving, split open the shortcakes, spoon half the berries and whipped cream on the bottom half, top with remaining shortcake halves, and spoon on the remaining berries and cream.

Perfect Butter Cookies

Some of you may have noticed that there was no new post last week–or maybe you didn’t. I took a break last week from posting for no particular reason, but as I’m going to be taking a trip this coming week, I wanted to make sure I got one up today so that I didn’t let another week go by without updating the blog. I’m a stickler for consistency.

Having said that, because I am getting ready to travel, the theme of today’s post is short, simple and sweet.

Although I do like taking on hefty baking projects like layer cake, they do take a lot of time and effort. There are some times when I don’t have the time or energy to put in all of the work–but I’ll still want dessert. A good one.

So, what do I do?

I keep it simple. I keep it sweet. And I make butter cookies.

I don’t know, y’all. There’s just something so special about a butter cookie that’s executed perfectly. They have practically no embellishments at all, which means there’s no room for error and no other components to hide mistakes. Either that butter cookie is going to taste good, or it isn’t.

These do. In fact they’re more than good; as I’ve chosen to call them in the recipe, they’re perfect. You can call that choice over-confidence. I prefer honest. Tomato tomato.

You ready to find out how to make them? It couldn’t be easier.

There are several things that make these the ‘perfect’ butter cookie to me. The flavors are simple, but pronounced: vanilla with hints of a citrus of your choice (I chose orange.) The flavors are also going to improve in the next few days after the cookies are baked. They’re not overly sweet, but if you’re using a good quality butter you’re not going to need them to be.

The texture of these is also what I was going for. I do like soft, cakey cookies but when I want a perfect butter cookie I do prefer it to have a light crispiness. These have got it. If you’d prefer them not to, just take them out earlier.

Lastly, if y’all have been following this blog and seen a good number of my cookie posts before, you know that one of my baking petty peeves is when the cookies spread too much and become warped. I hate that. Because butter cookies are so simple, I like mine to look as clean and neat as possible. The cookies in this recipe hold their shape perfectly which means they’ll work for ANY cutter shape you want to use (hint, they’d make perfect Christmas cookies).

Okay. I think my work here is done. Have a good weekend y’all. Try the cookies–you’ll like ’em. Linking this post up to Fiesta Friday #228.

R.I.P to Anthony Bourdain.

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Perfect Butter Cookies

Recipe Adapted from Land O Lakes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract (preferably LorAnn’s Butter Vanilla Emulsion )
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • White sugar, for sprinkling

Directions

In a medium bowl combine the  flour with the baking powder and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment (or using a handheld one) cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the egg, orange juice and vanilla and combine until just combined. Add the flour mixture in batches, mixing until just combined.

Scrape the dough out and onto a piece of plastic wrap. Shape into a disc, wrap tightly and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 400F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Divide the dough into quarters, keeping the other 3 in the fridge while you roll out the one.

Sprinkle a clean work surface (like a pastry mat, wax paper or a cutting board) with powdered sugar or flour. Roll out the quarter of dough to your desired thickness (I wouldn’t go thinner than 1/4 inch) Cut into whatever desired shapes you like. I used a 2- to 2 ½-inch cookie cutter, cut the dough into shapes and placed them on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them 1 inch apart. I then used a ¾- to 1-inch  cookie cutter, and cut out the centers from half of the cookies. Reroll and cut the scraps as necessary. Also don’t throw away the centers, as they make delicious mini cookie bites.

Place the sheet pans in the freezer for around 10 minutes. Sprinkle the tops with the sugar, and bake for 6-10 minutes.  Let cool on pans for 3 minutes. Remove from pans, and let cool completely on wire racks.

Mile High Biscuits

So, a few days ago on social media, I saw some talk about their being a National Buttermilk Biscuit Day. I had no idea such a thing existed. I randomly Googled it and there are conflicting opinions on when exactly it is; some folks say May 14th. Others seem to think it’s May 29th. Personally, I don’t know and couldn’t care less what day it is–any day that’s set aside to celebrate the buttermilk biscuit is a-okay with me. I may be a little late to the celebration, but better late than never. The Biscuit Holiday Spirit is kept alive in my heart (and my belly) all year round, I assure you.

I don’t blow my horn about too many things, but one thing that I will not only blow, but blast from the rooftops about, are my biscuit making skills. They’re solid. I make excellent biscuits. It’s just a fact. This wasn’t always the case. I’ve mentioned many times before that my very first foray into baking, EVER, was an attempt to make angel biscuits. As I’ve also mentioned many times before, this was a tragic mistake. As I found out, making excellent biscuits isn’t an exercise for baking beginners. It just isn’t. There’s both a science and art form to it. Even after I became a decent baker, my biscuits still just ‘ok’ and not great, and I knew they were just ok and not great.  It bothered me. So, I started doing some research as to how to get the results I wanted: tender biscuits with LOTS of layers that rose high.

After nearly four years of baking, lots of practice, and even more ‘just ok but not great biscuits’, I think I can finally say that I’ve found the perfect method to making tender biscuits with lots of layers that rise high (and that last part was very important to me). I’ll go ahead and share all the tips I’ve learned to achieve them in celebration of National Buttermilk Biscuit Day. Some of them are ones I’ve mentioned before in other biscuit recipes I’ve shared on the blog–others are new. Regardless, pay attention and bookmark/save/pin this post so that you can go back to it later.

The first is an oldie but an essential goodie: freeze your butter. PLEASE. If you don’t follow any other piece of advice I give you, make sure that you follow this one. The use of frozen butter changed my biscuit making baking life. Why? Because great biscuits start with VERY cold fats–the colder the fats, the better they will be. The butter won’t melt/dissolve if it’s frozen. Now, frozen butter IS kinda difficult to cut, especially into even pieces. This brings me to the second tip: use a box grater to cut the frozen butter. Why? You want to make sure the butter is evenly distributed into the dough so that all of the biscuits have layers and are evenly buttery. The large holes on a box grater will cut the butter into the pea sized pieces you want that will evenly distribute into the flour without you having to rub them with your fingers–which may cause them to melt.

This third one I only recently started applying myself and it too was a game changer for me: use cake flour. Why? Cake flour is just flour that has a lower protein content than all purpose flour. It’s also been sifted many times, which results in a product with a much finer crumb. Cake flour will make your biscuits SO MUCH MORE tender and fluffy on the inside. I had read about using cake flour to make biscuits a long time ago, but for a while I just resisted trying it because it’s more expensive than all purpose. However, there is a DIY method to ‘making’ it yourself without having to splurge the special stuff.

Measure out 1 cup of flour. Take out 2 tablespoons of the flour. Now add in 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Sift it together through a strainer about 5-6 times.

Boom. You have now made 1 cup of DIY, work in a pinch CF. Repeat the process for however many cups of CF you need for your recipe; I’ll usually do 4 at a time.

Fourth: place a shallow pan of water in the bottom of the oven while it preheats and keep it there while the biscuits bake. Why? Water and high heat create steam when they meet. Steam makes the layers in the biscuits expand and rise. Fifth: cut the edges off of your rectangle of dough before you cut the biscuits. I’ve found that the edges of the dough tend to be tough and compressed together after being rolled out and layered several times. The biscuits’ll rise higher if you get rid of them. Sixth: Don’t twist the biscuit cutter when you cut. Why? It collapses the edges, seals off the layers and the biscuits won’t rise. Cut straight down, then quickly lift it up and keep it moving.

Seventh: place the biscuits close together on the pan. Why? The closer they are together while baking, the more steam pockets that will form between them. Remember what I just said about steam? Mmhm. This is what will make them rise upwards and form tall biscuits rather than spreading outwards and cause them to be wide and flat. Eighth: Freeze them for 10 minutes before baking. Why? This is just to ensure that the butter in the biscuits is as cold as possible before it meets the very hot, steamy oven. The ‘shock’ of that cold-meets-hot ingredients will help the biscuits to rise higher and have more layers.

Aaaaand, that’s about it. It sounds like a lot of info, but in practice it’s not complicated. Just follow the recipe and apply the tips and you’ll be fine. Have a good weekend guys.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #226, co-hosted this week by the lovely Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

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Mile High Biscuits

Recipe Adapted from CountryLiving.com

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Ingredients

  • 4 cups cake flour, spooned and level
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup frozen butter
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pepper.

Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the butter into the dry ingredients and stir a few times to combine. Make a well in the center of the bowl.

Pour the buttermilk into the well and use a large rubber spatula to stir the mixture together. If it seems a little dry you may add additional buttermilk until it forms a shaggy dough.Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board or wax paper with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface and pat a few times with your hands until it loosely holds together. (Don’t knead it too much or the warmth in your palms will melt the butter and cause the biscuits to be tough.)

Pat and roll the dough into a rectangle. Take the two opposite ends and fold them together like a business letter into thirds. Flip it upside down and pat & roll it into another rectangle, sprinkling the surface with flour if it gets too sticky. Repeat the folding process two to three more times before patting it into one final rectangle.

Use a bench scraper or very sharp knife to trim the edges of the rectangle. Use a 2 1/2-inch round cutter to cut biscuits, pressing scraps together to make more no more than two additional times. Discard the rest of the dough.  Place biscuits, slightly touching, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Chill 15 minutes in the freezer.

Bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. (You may have to cover the biscuits with foil if they begin to brown too quickly.