Shortcake is not shortbread, the crisp buttery squares that go so well with tea. I described shortbread as a kind of scone, served as scones are, in Cornwall, with clotted cream and jam. I preached the virtues of unbleached flour, sweet butter, and an added egg yolk, and haven’t changed my mind. The one variation I make on the traditional American dessert is that I do not add sugar and vanilla to the whipped cream, after becoming addicted to the thick plain cream served in England. In Great Barrington I can buy fresh, heavy local cream and it’s delicious on its own, but if your only option is ultrapasteurized whipping cream from the supermarket I urge you to add a little sugar, or stevia, and vanilla extract (known, delightfully, as vanilla essence in the UK).
- 2 cups unbleached white flour (this is a US measure, and 2 cups of flour is approximately 8 oz.)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder (or substitute mixture of cream of tartar and baking/bicarbonate of soda, 2 parts to 1 part)
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- ½ stick butter (2 oz.)
- 1-2 egg yolks, depending on size (1 large or 2 small)
- Between ½ and ¾ cup milk
- Combine dry ingredients with butter – I use a food processor for this. In a bowl, beat egg yolks with part of the milk. Add to the dry ingredients with enough milk to bind. Mix as little as you possibly can, turn onto a floured board or cloth (I love pastry cloths!), press together into a smooth ball and roll out about 3/4” thick. Cut with a round cutter or glass dipped in flour. Bake at 400” until golden.
- Allow to cool, then split horizontally. Butter each piece on the inside if you are truly unconcerned about calories and cholesterol. Place the bottom half on a plate or in a shallow bowl (not Styrofoam though), pile high with strawberries that have been cleaned, sliced, and mixed with sugar. These preparation can be made ahead of time, with assembly right before serving. Add a blob of whipped cream, and put the top of the shortcake on top. Add more cream and then a final spoonful of strawberries and their syrup.