Saturday, 11 June 2011

Adventures in Baking: Peach & Strawberry Shortcakes

For Mother's Day I asked for a subscription to a couple magazines.  DH is Australian and is kind of a 'go big or go home' kind of guy and he ended up getting me four, one of which is Fine Cooking.   It's an incredible magazine and I've been really impressed because it's very accessible (for non-cooking people like myself) but still focuses on more 'refined' recipes with fresh seasonal ingredients.

In this month's issue I found a recipe for Strawberry Shortcakes.  I don't know if I've actually ever had one before but it sounds so lovely and summery (and we have a family dinner tonight to which I'm bringing desert) so I thought I'd give it a try!
In addition to the strawberries I thought it would be nice to have another fruit, so I made a peach compote to serve as well.

Some notes based on my experience: My 2 1/2" cookie cutter made much smaller biscuits so there were more than the 6 portions the original recipe said it would make.  I also made some of the biscuits from dough that was rolled 1/2" thick rather than 3/4".  It made a big difference in the height of the biscuits after they were finished baking - the ones shown in these pictures are the thinner ones.

Below is the original recipe from Fine Cooking and  I've included my recipe for the peach compote at the very end. 

Strawberry Shortcakes

For the strawberries
1 lb. ripe strawberries, hulled (about 4 cups)
2 Tbs. granulated sugar; more to taste
For the biscuits
9 oz. (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for rolling
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbs. granulated sugar
2-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
4 oz. (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large egg
1/4 cup heavy cream; more for brushing
1/4 cup buttermilk
For the whipped cream
1-1/2 cups heavy cream 
2 Tbs. granulated sugar

Prepare the strawberries Put one-third of the berries in a medium bowl and, using a potato masher, crush them into a chunky purée. Slice the remaining berries 1/4 inch thick and stir them into the mashed berries along with the sugar. Taste the berries, adding more sugar if necessary. Let the berries sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
Make the biscuits Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 425°F. Line a large heavy-duty baking sheet with parchment.

Sift the flour, 1/3 cup of the sugar, the baking powder, and baking soda into a large bowl. Stir in the salt. Using a pastry blender, a fork, or your fingertips, work the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.

In a small bowl, beat the egg and heavy cream with a fork. Mix in the buttermilk. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the cream mixture. Mix with the fork until the dough is evenly moistened and just comes together; it will still look a little shaggy. Gather the dough and gently knead it three or four times. If the dough seems dry and doesn’t form a cohesive mass, work in more cream, 1 tsp. at a time.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and roll it into a 3/4 -inch-thick disk. With a sharp 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter, press straight down to cut the dough into rounds and lift straight up to remove (don’t twist the cutter or it will seal the sides of the biscuits and interfere with rising). Transfer the rounds to the prepared baking sheet. Gather the dough scraps, gently knead them together, re-roll, and cut out more biscuits until you have a total of 6.

Lightly brush the biscuit tops with cream (about 1 Tbs.) and sprinkle with the remaining 1 Tbs. sugar. Bake, rotating the baking sheet once, until the biscuit tops are lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Let the biscuits cool slightly while you whip the cream.
Whip the cream In a large, chilled metal bowl, whip the heavy cream and sugar to soft peaks with an electric hand mixer. (Use immediately or refrigerate, covered until ready to serve).
Assemble the shortcakes
Using a serrated knife, split the warm biscuits in half horizontally and transfer the bottoms to 6 dessert plates. Spoon about three-quarters of the macerated berries and their juice evenly over the biscuit bottoms. It’s OK if some of the berries spill out onto the plate. Top with a generous dollop of whipped cream and cover each with a biscuit top. Spoon more berries and cream over each shortcake and serve immediately.

Peach Compote
4 Peaches
1/4 C water
2 tsp white sugar - you may need more depending on how ripe (sweet) your peaches are
11/2 tsp brown sugar
1/8 tsp cinnamon
(I also added 2 tbsp butterscotch schnapps, but I don't know if it really made a difference to the taste)

Slice peaches into quarters and remove pits.  Place peaches, water and sugars into a pot and bring to a boil and immediately reduce heat to a simmer stirring occasionally.  Let simmer for approximately 15 minutes or until the liquid halves.   If your peaches weren't ripe, check them before you take them off the stove to make sure they pierce easily with a fork.  Add the cinnamon and stir.  Check for sweetness (in both the fruit & the liquid), if needed add sugar 1 tsp at a time to taste. 

Pour the fruit into a medium sized bowl and remove any skins that come off easily.  Allow to cool slightly and then slice the peaches thinly.  Allow to cool fully before serving.  The liquid will thicken as it cools.


- Jacs

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