As a child of the 1980s, when you say “strawberry shortcake,” I think of the cute red-headed Strawberry Shortcake character, whose doll I had when I was a kid.
(The doll smelled like strawberries, too.)
Yeah, we also ate strawberry shortcake, but that was a last-minute dessert my grandmother would make with Bisquick or maybe those little store-bought angel food cake cups.
I hadn’t thought too much about the differences between strawberry shortcakes (and biscuits and scones) until I started working on this month’s Year of Baking project. Turns out, there’s an immense variety in what people mean when they say “shortcake.”
For some, it’s those drop biscuits made with Bisquick. For others, they mean the angel food cakes sold right next to the strawberries in grocery stores. Then there are others who take a more handmade approach with from-scratch biscuits and scones, where the butter is cut into the flour, or an actual cake, where the butter is first creamed with the sugar and then mixed with the liquid and flour.
In Wednesday’s food section, you can read about the version I decided to make for this month’s baking experiment: Strawberry scones, a deviation from the standard strawberry shortcakes that I knew growing up but one that makes sense to have in my growing baking repertoire as an adult.
Scones have so much in common with biscuits that I’d argue that they are nearly identical, distinguished only by how the dough is shaped and the expectation that you can add whatever the heck you want. Square- or circle-shaped biscuits, on the other hand, are usually a vehicle for butter, jam or other spreadable accoutrements.
I chose to top my scones with a ton of sliced almonds and throw chopped strawberries into the dough, but the base scone recipe can be adapted in many ways, depending on your own tastes and what’s in season. (Want to see all of our Year of Baking stories, which so far have included muffins, brownies and cream puffs? Click here to fulfill your sugary dreams.)
Up next? An old-school recipe for skillet strawberry shortcake and what I learned about baking powder from King’s Arthur while working on this story.
Serve these scones with macerated strawberries and whipped cream for a shortcake-inspired spring treat.
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar, plus additional for topping
3/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 cup cold butter, cubed
1 1/2 cups chopped strawberries
2 large eggs
3 tsp. vanilla extract or the flavoring of your choice
1/2 cup milk (or half and half)
1/3 cup sliced almonds
Whipped cream and sliced strawberries mixed with sugar, for serving (optional)
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Using a fork, pastry cutter or your hands, work the butter into the flour mixture until it is unevenly crumbly. Stir in the strawberries.
In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, vanilla and milk or half and half. Reserve 2 tsp. of the milk mixture.
Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients. Gently fold together and then dump the mixture onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Coat your hands in flour and divide the dough in half. Form two circles that are between 1/2-inch and 3/4-inch thick. Brush each circle with reserved milk and sprinkle with sliced almonds, sugar and a pinch of salt.
Using a knife or a pizza cutter, slice each circle into six wedges. For best texture and highest rise, place the pan of scones in the freezer for 30 minutes, uncovered. While the scones are chilling, heat the oven to 425 degrees.
Bake the scones for 15 minutes and remove them from the oven. Cut through the score lines again and then bake for another 8 to 10 minutes, or until the scones are golden brown.
Remove the scones from the oven, and cool briefly on the pan. Serve warm. When they’re completely cool, wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for up to several days.
— Adapted from a recipe by King Arthur