Short is a term used in baking to describe a non-yeast pastry or cookie dough with
a high proportion of fat to flour. The baked items from short doughs, the cookies, pie crusts and biscuits are tender, rich, crumbly and crisp.
The classic American Shortcake began as a large sweet biscuit. It was split in half, then filled and topped with sliced or diced fruit, typically strawberries, and poured cream.
Modern strawberry shortcake consists of a biscuit style cake, macerated fruit (sugar added) and a sweetened whipped heavy cream. In 1910 French chefs changed the poured cream to Chantilly cream; a heavy cream sweetened and whipped to stiff peaks. It is a major component of strawberry shortcake today.
Though strawberry is the most widely known shortcake dessert, peach shortcake, blueberry shortcake and other variations are prepared along similar lines. It is also common to see recipes where the shortcake itself is flavored. Adding diced fruit to the dough, cocoa powder or grated chocolate, flaked coconut, sliced or chopped almonds, even cornmeal are possibilities.
Shortcake is most often thought of as a dessert, but savory versions are prepared by filling and topping the biscuit with creamed vegetables, ham or chicken.
The earliest known reference to shortcake is an English recipe from 1588. The desert
was a favorite of the Elizabethan court. Shakespeare used it as a character name in The Merry Wives of Windsor, Alice Shortcake.
Sweet Biscuit Shortcakes
7 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon cake flour*
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 cup buttermilk.
Additional buttermilk and sugar to brush shortcake tops before baking.
You may fold in 1/2 to 3/4 cup finely diced fruit into the biscuit dough. Best flavor if recipe is made with buttermilk. You may substitute half and half. Do not use yogurt or sour cream or sour milk substitutions for buttermilk. Use a sharp cutter; a glass or dull cutter will drag the sides and cause the shortcake to fail to rise. If you do not have a sharp cutter, use a sharp knife and cut the shortcake into squares or triangles. *Cake flour is important to the recipe. Using all-purpose flour only will result in a very heavy dough.
A few things you may try:
For Strawberry Shortcake, add 2 teaspoons cinnamon to dough. Dust tops with cinnamon sugar when removed from the oven. Or add 1/4 cup finely ground nuts. Or 1 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice powder to dough. You may also add 1/2 cup finely diced fruit to dough.
For Blueberry Shortcake, add grated peel of 1 lemon to the dough. Sprinkle with sugar. Or add 1/2 cup blueberries.
For Raspberry or Blackberry Shortcake, add 1/2 cup chopped berries to dough.
For Peach Shortcake, add 1 teaspoon ground ginger and/or 1 tablespoon very finely chopped candied ginger to the dough. Sprinkle tops with sugar.
Strawberry: 3 cups berries, washed, hulled, sliced; 3 tablespoons powdered sugar; 1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon or Chinese Five Spice powder if desired.
Blueberry: 3 cups fruit, picked over, washed and mashed; 6 tablespoons powdered sugar; 1 teaspoon lemon juice.
Mixed Berry: 3 cups mixed berries; 3 tablespoons powdered sugar.
Peach: 2-3 large peaches, peeled, pitted, sliced thinly; 3 tablespoons powdered sugar mixed well with 1/4 teaspoon ginger. (When Tony’s Peaches arrive at the Triangle Grocery in late July or August, try the peach shortcake. Eliminate the ginger in the dough if you prefer a more traditional peach shortcake.)
Strawberry Cornbread Shortcake
3/4 cup almond flour*
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal (yellow will give the cake a golden color)
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons softened butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for the top before baking
1 large egg
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large container strawberries (or blueberries), rinsed, hulled and halved
Whipped cream or Mascarpone cheese for topping, optional
*If you do not have almond flour, substitute an equal amount all-purpose flour for almond flour. The shortcake will not be gluten-free. Everything else remains the same.
7 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, diced
3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon cake flour
1-1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 cup buttermilk, plus enough to make a soft dough
Additional buttermilk to brush shortcake tops
For a New Mexico flavor twist: Mix 1-2 teaspoons Chimayo red chile or Ancho chile powder with recipe dry ingredients. Add chile powder to the fruit filling. Chile and raspberry is a great combination.
Ganache: 1/2 cup heavy cream and 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips. Bring heavy cream to a full boil, remove from heat, add chocolate chips. Allow to sit for five minutes. Then stir until completely smooth.