Buttermilk Shortcake with Strawberries and Mint

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Buttermilk Shortcake with Strawberries and Mint

The First Fruit of Spring

Strawberries

“There were others who prophesied, with rays shining on their foreheads, about the sometime ditches that would carry water all over the valley—who knows? maybe in our lifetime—or deep wells with steam engines to pump the water up out of the guts of the world. Can you imagine? Just think what this land would raise with plenty of water! Why, it will be a frigging garden!”

East of Eden, John Steinbeck

Inspiration

In California, spring came early. It rained like crazy in December and we were hopeful that the drought would ease. Instead we have had an early spring with so many days of sunshine I have almost forgotten about the coastal fog. I got an email notice from our local farm stand, The Farm, saying the strawberry harvest began early this year and flats of berries were available before the farm stand opens in late April. I was so excited at the thought of sweet, organic strawberries that I had to have some. Driving home, the scent of the first fruit of spring was overpowering. I easily devoured an entire basket that afternoon. The next morning we had some with our breakfast. I made these shortcakes and then as quickly as they arrived, the first fruit of spring was gone.

Strawberries and mint

A vibrancy in flavor comes from pairing mint with strawberries in this classic American dessert. Mint might be the forgotten flavor of spring. In my garden it has already emerged from winter dormancy and is begging to be clipped back. A few sprigs will bring sparkle and brightness to this dessert. I reduced the amount of sugar in the shortcakes, berries and whipped cream to make sure the naturally sweet berries would be the center of attention.

Essentials

A tender and buttery shortcake felt like spring. I took a chance and used cake flour. What a difference changing flour makes in a recipe. The dough was so tender the shortcakes grew wider rather than taller. I also used European style butter which has a higher fat content and less moisture than American style butter. The European butter gave my shortcakes rich buttery flavor and a sunny yellow color. Essentially a sweet biscuit, flaky, light shortcakes are easy to make. The critical step is how the dough is treated once the liquid is added to the dry ingredients. I don’t use a spoon to mix in the liquid, I prefer a flexible dough and bowl scraper. Using the scraper with a lifting and rolling motion to mix the liquid and dry ingredients until they are almost combined results in a biscuit with a soft and flaky texture. I scrape the dough out of the bowl and unto my floured work surface. With just a few gentle kneading motions the dough comes together in a cohesive ball. With a quick roll and cut into shapes the shortcakes are ready for the oven.

Shortcake preparation

Strawberries and Mint
2 baskets/pints strawberries
2T sugar
3 sprigs fresh mint
Buttermilk Shortcake
2C cake flour
3T sugar
1T baking powder
1t baking soda
3/4t fine grain sea salt
1/2C cold, unsalted European style butter, if available
3/4C buttermilk
Whipping Cream
1C whipping cream
1T sugar
1t vanilla extract

Shortcake preparation

  1. Clean and slice the berries into a bowl. Mince several leaves of mint and add to the bowl of strawberries. Reserve a sprig of mint to garnish the finished shortcakes. Toss the berries and mint with 2 tablespoons of sugar and let macerate while making the shortcakes.
  2. Line a sheet pan with parchment. Heat the oven to 425°.
  3. In a medium sized bowl sift or shake through a sieve the cake flour, 3 tablespoons of sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut the cold butter into cubes and add to the flour mixture. Using your fingers or a pastry cutter work the butter into the flour. Combine until the butter is coated with flour and resembles very large crumbs. Some chunks should remain larger, roughly the size of dimes or pennies.
  4. Add the buttermilk to the bowl with the flour mixture. Gently mix to combine, just until the dough comes together. Do not over mix. If the mixture remains dry in places and does not come together, add more buttermilk, a tablespoon at a time. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and gather the dough together in a ball. Give the dough a few gentle kneads to form a cohesive ball and then pat into flattened circle. With a flour dusted rolling pin or your hands gently flatten the dough into a circle that is 1” high. To make seven shortcakes use a floured 3” in diameter pastry cutter. Cut out the biscuits by pressing straight down, without twisting the cutter. Place them on the parchment covered sheet pan two inches apart. Gently reform the scraps to make more biscuits.
  5. Brush the tops of shortcakes with buttermilk and then sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the biscuits are fluffy and golden brown on the edges. Remove from the sheet pan to a cooling rack to cool completely.
  6. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whipping attachment add the cream. Begin to whip the cream on low speed, gradually increasing speed as the cream thickens. When the cream is the consistency of thick yogurt gradually add the tablespoon of sugar while the mixer is rotating. Then add the vanilla. Once the sugar and vanilla are incorporated, stop the mixer and check to see if the cream is ready. For shortcakes the cream should form soft cloud like pillows that will drape across the shortcakes and flow down the sides onto the plate. If stiffer whipped cream is desired, continue beating the cream for another minute and check it again.
  7. To serve the shortcakes cut them in half. Place the bottom half on the serving plate and place a generous scoop of whipped cream on top of the shortcake. Add a large spoonful of macerated berries with their juice. Then place the top of the shortcake on top of the berries and cream. A dollop of cream can be placed on top of the shortcake with a garnish of mint leaves. Serve with lots more berries.

Baking shortcakes

Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake

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24 Responses to Buttermilk Shortcake with Strawberries and Mint

  1. Gerlinde says:

    You captured the essence of spring with your beautiful photos. The buttermilk shortcakes look fantastic and the combination with the vanilla flavored whip cream and mint flavored strawberries makes this a very tasty treat.

  2. Ala says:

    It certainly has been another weird year in terms of California weather – but I’m so glad you had a chance to go out and grab some of these scrumptious, rich strawberries. I love the thought of being overwhelmed by that sweet strawberry scent; I can only imagine how great this shortcake must taste with all those fresh ingredients! Love this post, as always. Have a lovely week, Deb.

  3. Patty says:

    Yes to strawberry shortcake love! Spring did come early and I’m ready for strawberry season 😉 Love all for photos and tips for a wonderfully luscious strawberry shortcake, thanks for your inspiration and the cute zebras on your Instagram feed 😉

  4. What a wonderful use for the brightness of mint – I can taste your dessert just from the words and pictures. Hello summer fruit but how I fear this lack of rain. Doing a little rain dance each and every day…

  5. Carol Sacks says:

    Wonderful, Deb! Wish I had this for dessert right now!

  6. What gloriously golden shortcakes, Deb! Sweet spring strawberries are the perfect topping! 🙂

  7. Cathy says:

    Mmmm, strawberries already! Your photos just ooze springtime goodness and flavour. Can’t wait till they ripen here! I think your shortcakes look delicious – they must be what we call scones here.

    • Deb says:

      American shortcake has many versions, but this recipe could very much be a scone. Thank you for commenting Cathy!

  8. Wow… They look so pretty and springy!!! What a great dessert to eat while drinking tea and chatting.

  9. valentina says:

    This recipe looks like it would be a huge crowd pleaser. Pretty and delicious. Wish we were getting out super sweet strawberries now — luck you! 🙂

  10. Welcome to strawberry season, Deb! The shortcakes look perfect.

  11. You’re so right about mint being the forgotten spring ingredient Deb! And about the flours too. I found that for ex. brioche is much better with half bread / half cake flour. I will follow your recipe to a tee! Gorgeous post.

  12. Deb, strawberries and mint are a lovely combination of flavors and one that is often overlooked. A flaky sweet biscuit and a dollop of cream is a comforting way to showcase all the goodness they offer.

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