Shortcakes, scones, biscuits—they all come from the same heritage. When I was a young cook baking these shortcakes, people would refer to them as scones, and I’d get furious. But now I just think: Delicious is delicious! These shortcakes are a real delight. I use crème fraîche instead of heavy cream or milk, which creates moist yet crumbly and delicate shortcakes with an enjoyable tang. The trick here is to not overmix. I encourage you to mix the dough by hand with a wooden spoon and bowl. If you love your mixer and want to use it anyway, stop after you’ve added all the ingredients and the dough is 75 percent combined, then pour it onto your table and shape the shortcakes by hand. Trust me; the love you put into them will come through in the end.
These babies literally break apart and crumble, and they are perfect for dipping or smothering in summer fruit sauces. I like to use them in my strawberry shortcake, to soak up the delicious strawberry–pinot noir sauce, or you can serve them immediately with farm butter and homemade preserves.
- Yield: 12 Shortcakes
- 95 g (½ cup) cold unsalted butter
- 405 g (2¾ cups) plus 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 100 g (½ cup) granulated sugar, plus 50 g (¼ cup)
- 25 g (1¾ tbsp) baking powder
- 2 g heaping (¼ tsp) kosher salt
- 6 g (1½ tsp) ground green cardamom
- 370 g (1½ cups) crème fraîche
- 2 g (½ tsp) vanilla bean paste
- 1 orange Grated zest
- 120 g (½ cup) heavy cream
- Cut the butter into 1/2-in (12-mm) cubes; reserve in the refrigerator. Sift the flour, the 100 g/1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, and cardamom together over a piece of parchment paper. In a medium bowl, combine the crème fraîche, vanilla bean paste, and orange zest; reserve in the refrigerator.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the sifted dry ingredients and cold, cubed butter. Use your fingertips to gently coat the butter with flour. Use a wooden spoon to mix until it looks like Parmesan cheese.
- Add the reserved crème fraîche mixture. Continue to stir until the batter is 75 percent combined. Some dry flour and butter will line the outside of the bowl. Lightly flour a flat, clean workspace and pour the contents of the bowl onto the floured workspace. Knead gently with the heel of your hand to combine the ingredients. When the dough begins to form, becomes more silky, and holds itself together, cut the dough ball in half with a bench scraper or large knife, and then gently sprinkle any stray dry ingredients on top of one half of the dough. Place the second half of the dough on top of the first half to incorporate the dry ingredients, and push down. Layering the dough ball in this way keeps the layers flaky; do this two to three times. Shortcakes are best when they’re flaky and buttery. The secret is to not overwork the dough—be willing to walk away. When all the dry ingredients are incorporated, stop layering. Press the dough into a 2-in- (5-cm-) thick block, wrap it with plastic wrap, and chill it in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 325°F (165°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Pull the dough from the refrigerator and unwrap it onto a lightly floured work surface; lightly flour the top of the dough. Shape the dough into a rectangle and use a rolling pin to beat the dough several times, making indents along the top. This will begin to soften the dough without overworking it. Sandwich the rectangle of dough between two pieces of parchment paper to make the process of rolling out easier. Roll the dough from the center out into a 1/2-in- (12-mm-) thick rectangle. As much as possible, work from the center out in one direction with your rolling pin; shortcakes stay flakier the less you work the dough. To make sure that the dough is rolled out evenly, run clean hands under the dough and feel for thick spots. It is likely that the center will be the thickest; if so, take one swipe of the rolling pin across the center. Use a bench scraper or cookie cutter to cut the dough into equilateral triangles or shapes of your choice. Once they are cut, the shortcakes are ready to be baked. (They can also be put into an airtight container or wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and stored in the freezer for up to 2 weeks—it is always nice to have something in your freezer to bake when a spontaneous gathering happens or you’re invited to dinner at a friend’s house.)
- Lay the shortcake triangles onto the prepared baking sheet, lightly brush the tops with heavy cream, then generously sprinkle the remaining 50 g ¼ cup granulated sugar onto the top in a mound so that they will have a wonderful sweet and crunchy crust. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, turn the baking sheet 180 degrees, and bake for another 8 to 10 minutes, until golden brown on both top and bottom. They should lift easily off the parchment paper. If the oven you are working with is aggressive, place the baking sheet onto a second baking sheet to prevent the bottoms from burning.
- The shortcakes are ready to be served immediately. Alternatively, you can store them in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 3 days. If you store them, I recommend refreshing them in a 325°F (165°C) oven for 5 minutes to recrisp them before serving.