A couple weeks ago, and because I admittedly ask my husband to pick up strawberries on his way home far more often than I have an exact “agenda” for them besides, you know, breakfast, lunch, and dinner — I made the strawberry shortcake recipe in the archives. These famed shortcakes — my version is adapted from Claudia Fleming and Russ Parsons, but this same approach was favorite by James Beard and more, I suspect they all hung out together — are unique in that instead of using eggs or just egg yolks, they use the yolks of two hard-boiled eggs. This allows the yolks to do their wonders (golden color, velvety texture) without ostensibly toughening the dough. It’s all very sound. It tastes very good. And it is the reason that I make shortcakes approximately once every four years.
Shortcakes, in the biscuit/scone category of “bakes” (so help me, I’ve fallen into a GBBO rabbit hole and I never want to leave), are quick things, or they should be. They should take 5 minutes to assemble, 15 minutes to bake, and once they’re cool, they should be split and immediately heaped with macerated fresh berries and an unholy amount of whipped cream. This recipe in the archives — requiring that you’ve already made, cooled, and stashed away hard-boiled eggs — begs to differ. Still, a little extra work isn’t always a deal-breaker if the results are otherworldly, but this time, everything bothered me: the taste of baking powder, which isn’t usually an issue, was overwhelming. The cakes weren’t very tall, but quite crumbly. They didn’t have much of an edge or color to them at all, and to top it all off, I’m sorry to any person I’ve left wanting in the past, but half a pound of strawberries is woefully insufficient for kinds of shortcakes I like to eat and share. I like ones that spill, that cannot and will not be limited to the confines of a biscuit half.
I went back to the kitchen and tried again. A few rounds later, I have found the shortcake I want us to take into the next generation, but especially this weekend: a tall, craggy, crunchy-edged shortcake that’s a cinch to make, requiring no rolling pins, round cutters, unusual ingredients, or more pressingly, advanced planning to put together and manages to be both soft and moist inside but sturdy enough to not dissolve into soggy nothingness under berry juices. Or at least not before you can eat them.
Easy Drop Berry Scones
Note: The photos above show a half-recipe.
- 2 1/4 cups (295 grams) all-purpose flour
- 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 3 tablespoons (40 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
- 6 tablespoons (85 grams or 3 ounces) unsalted butter, cold, cut into chunks
- 2 large egg yolks
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (205 ml) heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons (35 grams) raw or turbinado sugar
- 1 pound (455 grams) strawberries or mixed berries, hulled and halved if large
- 2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar, or more to taste
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) fresh lemon juice (optional)
- 1 cup (235 ml) heavy or whipping cream
Divide dough into 6 (for large, 3 1/2 to 3 3/4-inch wide and up to 2-inch tall) shortcakes or 8 smaller ones. I do this by pressing the dough somewhat flat into the bottom of the bowl (to form a circle) and using a knife to divide it into pie-like wedges. Place raw or turbinado sugar in a small bowl. Roll each wedge of shortcake into a ball in your hands and roll it through the raw/turbinado sugar, coating it in all but a small area that you should leave bare. (I found that the sugar underneath the shortcakes would burn, so better to leave it off.)
Place it, bare spot down, on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining wedges of dough. Bake for 15 minutes, until lightly golden all over. Let cool completely on tray or on a cooling rack.
While cooling, prepare fruit and cream: Mix berries, 2 tablespoons sugar (more or less to taste), and lemon juice, if desired, in a bowl and let macerate so that the juices run out.
In a larger bowl, beat cream until soft peaks form. Add sugar to taste, or leave unsweetened, if that’s your preference.
To serve: Carefully split each cooled shortcake with a serrated knife. Spoon berries and their juices over bottom half. Heap generously with whipped cream. Place shortcake “lid” on top. Eat immediately and don’t forget to share.
Do ahead: Shortcakes keep well for a day at room temperature. I prefer to keep them uncovered. I found on the second day, they were a little more firm but not half-bad, but they’re definitely “best” on day one.