It’s finally berry season and these strawberry and blackberry shortcakes went over very well at a meeting with my foodie friends at a backyard barbeque recently. Slightly sweet and very tender, these shortcakes are a cinch to make. Similar to scones and Southern biscuits, shortcakes contain a ‘healthy’ dose of shortening (or my preferred butter) which creates a “short” and delicate crumb. Filled with lightly sweetened whipped cream and a combination of fresh summer berries soaked in a little bit of orange decadence (aka Grand Marnier), this dessert prettily announces the beginning of Summer.
As wonderful as all berries are, I had a major run-in with them in Oregon during a wine-tasting trip in the Willamette Valley. It was late September and much to my delight I found the country roads surrounding our Bed and Breakfast lined with enormous wild blackberry bushes - hundreds of them – loaded with thousands upon thousands of blackberries at different stages of ripening! These impressive, sometimes 12-foot tall plants use boundary fences and posts as support for their thorny, entangled canes. They provide a wonderful feast for the birds for several months and I was astounded that so many perfectly ripe and sweet berries were left to rot. I couldn’t wait to get my mitts on them!
Fearless of the possibility of snakes which make the bushes their habitat, I dove in and moved from branch to branch and ate more than I was putting into my Ziploc. I was not intimidated! I conquered! Unable to pace myself midst such glorious fruit, I became an uncontrollable glutton. Here was my chance to load up for free on vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese, fiber, and oh yeah…I forgot…sugar!
It was a morning (and sometimes evening) ritual, with a healthy dose of wine-tasting in between (I know…more sugar). I had totally ignored the warnings of my friend Ralph, who predicted my affliction. In a couple of days my mouth was reeling from a serious overgrowth of yeast. Generously fueled by my greed and the sharp increase in sugar, I had a veritable bloom of yeast buds splurging in my mouth. It was not a pleasant feeling and nothing short of a drastic change in diet and a few pills would stop it.
But don’t let me stop you from enjoying these shortcakes with berries…in moderation of course! Our group is planning a wine-tasting trip to Washington state this fall...
Strawberry and blackberry shortcakes with Grand Marnier whipped cream
Makes about 10 – 16 shortcakes. Adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
3½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
¾ teaspoons salt
6 tablespoons sugar
1½ sticks (12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter), cut into small chunks
1½ cups cold heavy cream
Center a rack in middle of oven. Preheat oven to 425ºF. Line a large baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the chunks of butter and quickly work it in the flour with your hands or a pastry cutter until the butter is the size of small peas.
Pour the cream over the mixture and mix it gently with a fork until the dough is just combined but there is still flour on the bottom of the bowl. Use your hands to form a rough ball but don’t overwork the dough or it may become tough.
Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll it out with a rolling pin to about ¾-inch thickness. Using a 2-inch or 3-inch cookie cutter, cut circles out and place on prepared baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Collect the scraps, re-roll and cut more dough circles. Bake for 15 - 18 minutes, turning the cooking sheet around about half way through the baking time. When the shortcakes are light golden brown, remove them from the oven and transfer them to a rack to cool.
When ready to serve, slice each shortcake horizontally in half. Place the bottom half on a serving plate and top with a couple of spoonfuls of the berries and whipped cream. Top with remaining half of shortcake and dust with confectioner’s sugar.
Strawberries and blackberries in Grand Marnier
2 lbs strawberries and blackberries (the proportion is up to you)
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
Wash berries and place on clean kitchen towel to dry. Hull strawberries and then slice them into thirds. Transfer strawberries and blackberries to a bowl. Add sugar and Grand Marnier and mix gently. Set aside to macerate for about an hour.
Grand Marnier whipped cream
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon orange zest
Whip cream and sugar in a bowl until it begins to thicken. Add Grand Marnier, vanilla essence and orange zest. Whip carefully until it’s thick.