It’s fun to mix up a classic a little, and incorporate an unexpected flavor. Summer weekend nights beg for traditional chilled desserts like strawberry shortcake, and they’re an easy dessert to whip together. Traditional shortcakes are meant to have a tender crumb, and using the “biscuit” method of preparation, (as in the recipe below), ensures that the dough won’t become over-mixed and develop a lot of gluten. (Gluten development leads to a tougher end-product, as is typically desired in bread– hence all the kneading.) The butter, (butter/shortening = “short” cake, say the etymology scholars), helps to coat the protein molecules in the flour, and this serves to thwart gluten development. (Plus cake flour has less protein than AP flour, so that too helps to retain a tender crumb.) I incorporated a good deal of toasted coconut into the dough to give the shortcakes a new flavor profile and surprise texture. If I’d really been thinking ahead, I would have come up with an ice-cold cocktail– something with rum in it, I think– to extend the tropical metaphor a bit further.
Yield: Serves 9
- 2 cups cake flour
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut, lightly toasted
- 1/3 cup butter, chilled and diced into small pieces
- 3/4 cup buttermilk, chilled
- 4 baskets strawberries
- a few spoonfuls sugar, to taste
- 2 cups heavy cream, whipped and sweetened to taste
- Wash and slice strawberries a few hours prior. Toss in bowl with a few spoonfuls of sugar, and set aside to rest.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Sift together flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder.
- Cut in the butter until each piece is a little smaller than pea-size.
- Mix in your toasted coconut (note: if you've just toasted it, make sure it's cooled before you toss it into the dough.)
- Pour in buttermilk a little at a time and toss dough with your hands until it comes together. Do not overmix.
- Gently pat doung into 2 1/2" by 2 1/2" disks, about 1" high, and space slightly apart on a parchment-lined heavy gauge baking sheet.
- Bake for about 16 minutes, or until golden.
- Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
- Whip heavy cream with a bit of sugar, to a light sweetness.
- To serve, top each shortcake with the strawberries that were tossed with sugar a few hours prior, (they should now have produced some lovely, sweet juices), and a generous dollop of whipped cream.