Friday, August 23, 2013

Sour Cream Shortcakes with Berries

This week marks my blogiversary!  It was 6 years ago this week that I convinced myself to try this blogging thing.  I didn’t really have a specific strategy or long-term vision for this space.  I’d left the world of professional pastry kitchens to take a great 4-year assignment as an analyst consultant in my other chosen field, higher education administration.  But I started to miss the smell of flour and butter.  I began reading lots of blogs and I wondered if I could somehow produce a blog, too.  It seemed like everyone was having fun and I knew I had to give it a try.  I love technology but I had absolutely no idea how to create and administer a blog or how to use a camera.  I made up my mind to just jump in, determined to challenge my skills.  Well, lots and lots of cakes, cookies, tarts, custards, ice cream and a whole lot of other stuff later, I’m still here, posting my pastries each week.  I saw my blog go from zero to tens of thousands of readers every month.  So yeah, WOW, I did it!  And it's been interesting and satisfying in ways I never could have predicted.

I’ve kept the blog simple: no advertising or animated pop-ups and no fancy or complicated recipes or platings.  My passion for creating fun and delicious pastries and desserts along with having such a great audience of readers are what keep me in the game.  I’ve presented the stuff I think is most likely to elicit a swoon from those gathered at your table and it’s been a supreme pleasure to learn so much about this incredible medium.

So let’s celebrate this milestone with a must-have pastry of the season: shortcake!  This is a fairly basic recipe to which I’ve added a nice portion of sour cream for extra tenderness and a very slight tangy note.   It goes perfectly well with the season’s current crop of fresh fruit: bright berries, swoon-worthy peaches, juicy nectarines, tart plums and luscious figs.  Add a dollop of sweetened whipped cream or crème fraiche and it’s a pretty iconic and irresistible plate of summer goodness.   So, as we begin our sure and steady shift into an autumn that is lurking just around the corner, I recommend this to you as a celebration of the really good summer we've had, chock full of unusually terrific fruit.

I want to send a big note of thanks to all my readers and all the bloggers who have reached out to me over the years.  You inspire me.  I really appreciate all your emails and lovely feedback on my work.  Your kindness has been one of the greatest benefits of blogging.  And I love that many of my readers are from other corners of the world.   I thank you all for your interest and support.  I hope you’re having as much fun as I am.

OH, and one more thing.  Watch this space in early September.  I have a really fun and exciting announcement coming, one I hope you’ll enjoy.  Stay tuned!

Bench notes:
- There are just a few things to remember when mixing a biscuit or scone type dough. 1) Both the liquid and the butter must be very cold.  2) Once you add the cold butter, work fast to incorporate it into the flour so that it stays cold. You can use a pastry blender or your fingers to get the butter reduced down to pea-sized pieces. 3) When you add the liquid, use a fork to stir it together. It shouldn't take more than 10 or so rounds of stirring. The dough will look lumpy. 4) Lightly dust your work surface and your hands with flour. Place the dough on the work surface and pull it together with about 3 - 4 very light kneads. You don't want to overwork the dough but you also don't want a pile of clumps. So be gentle and you'll see it come together very quickly. 5) Pat the dough to form a round that's about 1 " thick. Using a biscuit or cookie cutter, press down to form the biscuits and lift straight up when you're done. To prevent sealing the edges of the biscuit, no twisting or turning the cutter.
- I use a 2 1/2” cutter.  The baked shortcakes expand to about 3 1/4”.  It's also fun to make smaller mini shortcakes for a party tray.  Just watch the baking time closely.
- I use a serrated knife and a sawing motion to cut the shortcakes in half.
- For the cream garnish, substitute 1/2 cup fraiche for half the heavy cream for a more complex flavor.
- Add a drop of good kirsch to the fruit or the cream garnish.
- Shortcakes are best eaten the same day.


Sour Cream Shortcakes with Berries
Makes 8 servings

2 cups (10 oz) flour                                                                      
1/4 cup (1 3/4 oz) sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder                              
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt                                                  
4 oz (8 tablespoons) cold butter                        
1/2 cup (4 oz) cold sour cream
1/2 cup (4 oz) cold heavy cream         
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

melted butter, for brushing

1 cup fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 cup fresh raspberries
1 cup fresh blueberries
2 – 3 tablespoons (26 – 39 grams) sugar, to taste

1 cup (8 oz) heavy cream
1 tablespoon (13 grams) sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.

Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a bowl.  Cut the cold butter into 1/2-inch cubes and add, tossing thoroughly to coat all the pieces of butter with flour.   Using your fingers or a pastry blender, pinch and flatten the butter into small pieces until the mixture looks like coarse meal with some smaller pieces about the size of small peas.  Work quickly to keep the butter from warming up and softening.

Combine the sour cream, heavy cream, vanilla and almond extracts.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the cream mixture.  Using a fork, fluff the flour into the center.  Stir and turn the ingredients until large moist clumps form and you have a soft dough.

Dust your work surface and your hands very lightly with flour and turn out the dough. Give it a gentle kneading; about 3 - 4 turns should be enough to consolidate the dough. Pat it into a round about 1" thick.  Use a 2 1/2" cutter to form the shortcakes, pushing straight down and lifting straight up to cut rather than twisting.  Dip the cutter into some flour between each cut to prevent them from sticking.  Place the shortcakes on the prepared baking sheet. Gather the scraps and stack them. Gently press and pat them into a piece about 1" thick and cut out additional shortcakes.

Brush the tops lightly with melted butter. Bake until they are puffed and the bottoms are golden brown, about 12 - 14 minutes. Place on a wire rack to cool. 

Combine the berries with the sugar and set aside for about 15 minutes, stirring from time to time to distribute the juices.

When ready to assemble, whisk the heavy cream, sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form.  Cut the shortcakes in half and place the bottom halves on plates.  Dollop with whipped cream and strawberries.  Top with remaining biscuit halves.



Monica said...

Happy blogiversary! What a wonderful inspiring way to celebrate with these delicious shortcakes!(absolutely uneducated drooling here but tomorrow is a good way to bake them too)

The Devil's Food Advocate said...

Congratulations!! You are a constant source of inspiration. I love your pure and beautiful approach to the very best of ingredients and methods. Carry on, and I'll be watching.

pastry studio said...

Thank you both so much. I've enjoyed your company immensely!

Kate said...

Happy blogiversary!
I am so grateful to have found your kitchen abd pull up a chair to be mentored in the best pastry nook on the web.
The Devil's Food Advocate expressed my sentiments to a T.
My daughter and I recently made your Almond Dacquoise with Nectarines & Cream. She lives in Paris with her family and the dessert got a two thumbs up from her French husband who often passes on some of the best pastries in the world.
I am often surprised that there aren't more comments on your blog but then realized that I watched in the wings before it dawned on me to thank you, thank you, thank you!

pastry studio said...

Kate, see? This is what I mean about my readers! You're so generous. I'm thrilled that your daughter's French husband enjoyed the Dacquoise and Nectarines. It's a very French thing! Relatively easy but delicious, which is what I really strive for. Thank you very much for everything.

vanillasugarblog said...

another one I have to make before summer leaves us.
I love your blog, and you.
Used many of your recipes as bases for my creative outlet.
Many thanks!

pastry studio said...

vanillasugar, you've been so supportive over the years. I'm so happy to hear that you've exercised your own creative resources from here. You rock!

Mary said...

I consider this blog perfection. Your recipes are always luscious. Your bench notes spot-on--perfectly calibrated, perfectly apt. I can translate them without missing a beat into my own home kitchen. Thank you for this generous level of artistry, enthusiasm, and utility. Brava.

pastry studio said...

Wow, Mary, you're kinda choking me up here. Thank you so much. I am beyond grateful.

Victoria said...


I couldn't agree with Mary more. Your blog is perfection - the Elizabeth David of baking, simply seductive.

The berries have been perfect around here this summer - there were still raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries at the Union Square Farmers' Market yesterday, and I have all three right here. So you know what I'll be making today!

But I am also going to go check out that almond dacquoise right now for later because, for some lucky reason, the nectarines have been great too.

As always, thanks again. I am now waiting for September with bated breath. xoxo

Chef Paul at Home said...

I'm a single retired widower who has always loved being in the kitchen. My most horrid results have been in the baking department - all else pretty fantastic. No.1 - Happy blogiversary. No.2 - Thanks for helping make horrid into real treats. I've made several of your delights but this one has my head spinning - WOW. And your bench notes are as good as the food itself. Keep up the great work and a BIG THANK YOU.

Chef Paul at Home

pastry studio said...

Victoria, endless thanks and bouquets to you for your wonderful support over the years. I really value your input. You're a treasure!

Chef Paul, what a great compliment to hear that you have jumped into the joys of pastry! You've made my day. Thanks so much for this note.

Stay tuned, everyone!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your blog. It is a place of quiet, food centered goodness and joy. I am grateful for its simplicity and shouting-ad-free composition. I will follow your blog to the ends of the earth!

pastry studio said...

Enormously GRATEFUL to you, Anonymous!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your blog. I look forward to it every Friday!

pastry studio said...

Thank you! I look forward to posting every Friday, too!

Unknown said...

I have to tell you how inspiring your blog has been to me. Have made many of your recipes, beginning with the lemon-ginger semifreddo, and they worked out great. It got me deeper and deeper into baking, and two months ago I went out and got a job as the Assistant Baker for a retirement home. Now make breads and desserts (including, last week, your olive oil sponge cake) for 200 seniors, and love it. Thanks!

pastry studio said...

Jim, I'm so grateful for your perspective. I know you must be enjoying yourself tremendously. BRAVO to you for taking a big step and doing what you love! That's what it's all about.