This recipe is from “A Grandfather’s Lessons: In the Kitchen With Shorey” by Jacques Pépin.
Shorey adores berries, and I wanted to show her how to make a shortcake dough that would go with any berries or with other fruit in season. It is important not to overwork the dough, or it will toughen. I make it by hand here, but it can also be done in a food processor, with only a few pulses required.
The strawberries are sliced and marinated in lemon juice and sugar. I also showed Shorey how to slice the berries with an egg cutter. It is an easy technique that she instantly mastered. The green hull (calyx) of the berry can be used as a decoration—or use fresh mint instead.
For the Shortcakes:
- 1 cup (about 5 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 1/3 cup milk
- About 1 pound ripe strawberries (or substitute other berries)
- Juice of 1 large lemon (about 1/4 cup)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 6 fresh mint leaves
- 1/2 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
- Strawberry stems or additional mint leaves, for decoration
For the Shortcakes
Heat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Add the soft butter and mix gently with your fingers, crushing the butter into the flour mixture to incorporate it. Add the milk and mix briefly with a wooden spatula to combine. Transfer to a cookie sheet lined with nonstick aluminum foil. Using a piece of plastic wrap to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands, press the dough to form it into a rough 6-inch square, about 1/2 inch thick. Press your knife into the dough to divide it into 4 small squares; the squares should not be separated yet, just marked with the knife to make it easy to separate them after baking. Bake for about 15 minutes, until nicely browned.
Meanwhile, hull the strawberries, reserving 4 nice stems for decoration if you have them. Using an egg slicer or a knife, slice the berries. (You should have about 4 cups.) Combine the berries with the lemon juice and sugar in a bowl. Stack the mint leaves together, roll into a tight scroll, and cut into thin strips (this is called chiffonade). Add to the berries and set aside until serving time.
When ready to serve, separate the shortcake into the 4 premarked squares and split the squares in half horizontally. Place the bottom halves on individual plates and divide the berries and juice among them. Cover with the shortcake top halves and top with the crème fraîche or sour cream, spooning a large dollop onto the center of each cake. Decorate each dessert with a berry stem or mint leaf and serve.
Reprinted from “A Grandfather’s Lessons: In the Kitchen With Shorey” by Jacques Pépin. Published by Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.