It’s amazing what wedding planning and a graphic design night class do to one’s blog-posting schedule. Not like I had a schedule in the first place. But I’ve baked quite a bit since May, and just haven’t had the time to even think about blogs. Instead, I’ve spent my free time downloading fonts and x-acto-knifing foam boards (this is for the class, not the wedding). And wedding planning has been great so far, just busy, with a dress to buy (and fit into, eek!), flowers to pick out, programs to design, and cake flavors to decide on (alternating layers of chocolate cake with vanilla mousse, and vanilla cake with chocolate mousse, with ridiculously rich vanilla buttercream icing).
So. After a two-month break, I’m back with mixed berry buttermilk shortcakes. Summer is a great time for berry desserts. The ingredients are fresh, and the clean taste of fruit makes the dessert seem lighter and more appropriate for bathing suit weather. I can also imagine this shortcake with peaches and plums. You can’t go wrong with shortcake.
For the innards, any mixture of fruit will do. I used strawberries, cherries, raspberries and blackberries, and my mom’s “recipe” for strawberry pie filling, which is just fruit, sugar and water, left to sit in the fridge for a few hours.
For the outtards (is that a word? it should be), I adapted Bon Appétit’s recipe for blueberry shortcakes with lemon and thyme biscuits. The Martha Stewart shortcake recipe I normally use is a good one, but the combination of buttermilk and lemon zest really make this one a winner. I’m not a fan of thyme, so I left it out. Check out the link above if you want to include it.
The shortcakes themselves are best served fresh out of the oven, so if you want to make them ahead of time, just take two minutes off the baking time, and take them out almost-done and, when cool, store them in a well-sealed container. Then, when it’s time to serve, bake them for about five minutes at the same temperature. For the filling, you can make that up to three days ahead of time, as long as you don’t mind a softer fruit texture. If you’re weird about textures, like me, and you like naturally firm things to stay firm, make the filling a few hours ahead of time.
My favorite part about this recipe is actually the leftover shortcakes. If there are any (I usually hide one), I like split the shortcake in half, toast it, and spread a bit of butter on the two halves for an evening snack. Yum.
Mixed Berry Buttermilk Shortcakes
Recipe adapted from Bon Appétit
4 cups fresh berries (cherries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, or any other berries that I don’t know about), rinsed, drained well, cut into bite-size pieces
3/4 cup chilled buttermilk
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/3-inch cubes
1 tablespoon raw sugar (also called turbinado or demerara sugar; available at most supermarkets and at natural foods stores)
Lightly sweetened whipped cream (homemade, if possible)
The amount of sugar you use depends on the natural sweetness of the berries. If they’re very sweet, just use 1-2 tablespoons of sugar. If they’re tart, try ¼ cup. Combine sugar and berries in a glass bowl, and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon water. Stir to combine. If you like a lot of “sauce” with your berries, add another tablespoon of water, but just realize that if you’re using more water than sugar, your sauce won’t be that thick, so make sure that you always use more sugar than water. Can be made 3 days ahead of time. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 425°F. Line large rimmed baking sheet with silicone baking mat, smooth side up, or parchment paper. Mix buttermilk and lemon peel in small bowl. Whisk next 5 ingredients in large bowl to blend, breaking up any large clumps of brown sugar with fingertips. Add butter and rub in with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk mixture and stir with fork just until blended (dough will be sticky). Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface. Knead gently just until dough comes together, 4 to 5 turns (do not overwork dough or shortcakes will be tough). Pat dough out to 3/4-inch-thick rounded rectangle. Cut in half lengthwise, leaving two long rectangles, and then cut each of those into thirds, so you’ll have six total. Transfer dough rectangles to prepared baking sheet, spacing apart. Sprinkle with raw sugar.
Bake biscuits until golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool slightly.
Using serrated knife, carefully cut biscuits horizontally in half. Place bottom half of each biscuit on each of 6 plates. Spoon berries over, dividing equally. Cover with biscuit tops and serve with a pile of whipped cream.