Finding Your Love Language in Shortcake

ames Beard’s mothers’ shortbread paired with the season's ripest berries and wherever your creative spirit can take you with the whipped cream. I opted for a brown sugar and vanilla whip here. (Cecilia Phillips / KQED)

Well before the shelter-in-place guidelines dictated everything in our day-to-day lives, my roommate and I barely knew each other when we moved in together. As restaurant industry vets, we would spend our free time jet-setting to former co-workers new places of employment to explore the hottest, trendiest, most exclusive restaurant in the Bay, Area hoping for a slightly heavier-than-normal pour of Fernet Branca to finish off the experience while casually bonding over dessert and pretending like we were close.

Fast forward three months into S.I.P., we know each other a lot better now. A lot. Without restaurant outings to distract us, and paired with a limited budget, we have been cooking at home and discovering each other through food. I found out that my greatest love language is feeding people who I want to get to know better. I found that my roommate will inevitably never, ever be in the mood for what I want to cook. That's what got me into preparing James Beard’s mothers’ strawberry shortbread recipe. It's not a dish I would have made myself, (since it lacks all the most important ingredients I feel a good dessert should contain, namely chocolate) but my roommate was thrilled to learn that the recipe had never been published in any of the James Beard cookbooks and thus in part due to the exclusivity that we’ve been missing in going out, insisted I prepare it for him.

This dish checked a few boxes: a recipe from a prominent chef, California summer-ripe berries and a surprise ingredient of cooked egg yolks, the inclusion of which definitely caught me off guard. So I get to cook, he gets to eat. Win-win.

Through this new fractured space-time continuum we are in, the Fourth of July seemingly feels as though it is simultaneously eons and seconds away. On top of the movement for racial justice in our nation, it is very difficult to know how to celebrate this Independence Day or anything really. As we trek on though, I relish in the simplicity of connecting to others and celebrating through recipes like this.

Shortcakes:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for rolling
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled
  • 2 hard-boiled egg yolks, pushed through a small mesh sieve
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream, chilled
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Fruit Filling:

  • 3 pints fresh strawberries, washed, hulled, and halved or quartered, depending on size
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Whipped Cream:

  • 1 cup heavy cream, chilled
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Method

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In a large bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Mix in 1/4 cup of the sugar and salt. Add the chilled butter cubes and using your fingertips, work the butter into the flour mixture until it has the consistency of coarse crumbs. Add the sieved hard-boiled egg yolks. Slowly add the cream in small increments, blending into the mixture until absorbed before adding more; gently mix until the dough just comes together.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured board and gently knead into a smooth ball (about two or three turns). Gently pat down the dough to make a flat 1-inch-thick slab. Using a lightly floured 2 1/2-inch-round biscuit cutter, cut straight down to create 6 shortcakes. Place the shortcakes on a plate lined with waxed paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Just before baking brush the tops of each shortcake with melted butter and sprinkle with the remaining sugar. Transfer the chilled shortcakes to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake on the center rack of the oven until golden and firm to the touch, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.

While the shortcakes cool, prepare the fruit filling and whipped cream. Place the strawberries in a large bowl. Gently fold in the sugar and let sit until macerated.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the chilled heavy cream on low and gradually increase speed until it begins to thicken. Reduce speed, add sugar, and begin to slowly increase the speed until the whipped cream is thickened, about 4 minutes total.

Using a fork or serrated knife, cut the shortcakes in half. Place the bottom halves on plates and generously spoon the macerated strawberries and juices over them. Top with a heaping dollop of whipped cream. Top with the other half of each shortcake. Serve immediately.