I've long been fascinated by this American dessert, which isn’t really a scone so much as a tender, buttery sponge with scone-like properties, split and crammed with strawberries. There’s so much dispute, as there always is with traditional recipes, over the right method to make them, serve them, eat them: should they be individual-sized or one huge fat disc? Should butter be spread on the tender cut sides while still warm, before the fruit and cream are dolloped on? I don’t intend to enter into the debate—don’t feel qualified to anyway—but since I’m a great fan of the methodical-to-the-point-of-obsessive American food magazine Cook’s Illustrated, I got guidance from its executive editor Pam Anderson’s book, The Perfect Recipe. I sometimes veer away from it, by using crème fraîche instead of whipped cream, or by using light cream in place of half-and-half (which we don’t anyway have here) and I do like to sprinkle a little balsamic vinegar on the crushed strawberries, but in all respects that matter, this is her recipe. This is what you want to bring out to people by the plateful on a summer’s day after lunch in the garden.
I love these American-style with passionfruit in place of the strawberries, though if you’re going along with this, don’t use crème fraîche; you need velvety-smooth, whipped heavy cream, unpasteurized if possible.
Total Timeunder 1 hour
Make Ahead RecipeYes
OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together
Dietary Considerationpeanut free, tree nut free
Taste and Texturefruity, sweet
Type of Dishdessert, fruit
- 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 5 tablespoons sugar
- ½ cup unsalted butter, frozen
- 1 large egg, beaten
- ½ cup light cream
- 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
- Approximately 11 ounces strawberries
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- Few drops balsamic vinegar (optional)
- 1 cup heavy cream, whipped, or crème fraîche
- 1 baking sheet, greased or lined with parchment or wax paper
- 2 1/2-inch round cutter
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Mix the flour, salt, baking powder, and 3 tablespoons of the sugar in a bowl. Grate the butter into these dry ingredients and use your fingertips to finish crumbling the butter into the flour. Whisk the egg into the cream, and pour into the flour mixture a little at a time, using a fork to mix. You may not need all of the eggy cream to make the dough come together, so go cautiously.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and roll gently to a thickness of about ¾ inch. Dip the cutter in flour and cut out as many rounds as you can. Work the scraps back into a dough, re-roll and finish cutting out—you should get 8 in all. Place the shortcakes about 1 inch apart on the baking sheet, brush the tops with the egg white, and sprinkle them with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. If it helps with the rest of your cooking, or life in general, you can cover and refrigerate them now for up to 2 hours.
Bake for 10–15 minutes, until golden brown, and let them cool for a short while on a wire rack. Meanwhile, crush half the strawberries with the spoonful of sugar and the few drops of balsamic vinegar if using, and halve or quarter the remaining strawberries, depending on their size. Whip the heavy cream, if you’re using.
The shortcakes should be eaten while still warm, so split each one across the middle and cover with a spoonful of the crushed strawberry mixture, a few halved or quartered strawberries, then dollop some whipped cream or crème fraîche on top, and set the top back on.
2001 Nigella Lawson