Sour Cream Almond Shortcake with Strawberries & Cream

 

                      azalea closeup Easter 2010 Forsyth Fountain Easter 2010 Cherry Blossom walk 2010

Easter Greetings from Savannah!  Hopefully your day was as beautiful as ours was here! Forsyth Park is bursting into bloom with azaleas, lorepetalum, and flowering cherries.  The cold winter set the azaleas back a bit but they’re becoming more vibrant each day.

As I mentioned yesterday, I was invited to a family “potluck” gathering for Easter today and was debating on what to take.  Debating partly because of the fact I was going to be limited on time- essentially only about 2 hours available this morning as I knew I wouldn’t be up for much cooking last night after work, and  also wavering because in these situations I invariably have too many ideas bouncing around and trying to decide on just one can be a challenge.

 Misc food - Coffeecake, berries & plums 030              Strawberry Shortcake Easter 2010

Strawberry season, coupled with a guest last week that inquired if I had a good recipe for a shortcake, seemed like the perfect opportunity to test out a new recipe.  I have had several versions of shortcakes that I’ve used over the years, the most recent one being a buttermilk shortcake.  The issue with the buttermilk shortcake however is that they have always spread more than they’ve risen and I have been wanting to create one that is taller.  Rather than adding more flour to the recipe or decreasing the buttermilk, I decided to work on a new one and use sour cream as the primary moisturizing agent.  It would also provide double benefit for for flavor and tenderness (the acid of buttermilk and sour cream help to minimize development of gluten which creates more tenderness).     Easter 2010 034 Never being able to quite just leave things alone, I decided to enhance the flavor with some almond extract and garnish the top with sliced almonds and sugar.   

While there were about 40 guests at the gathering and plenty of other desserts too, I’m happy to say that the empty dishes that accompanied me home seem to have spoken for themselves.

Here is the recipe as I created it today…along with some variation ideas that came to mind as I was preparing it.  Note that the variations haven’t been tested…only “brainstormed” so quantities might need to be adjusted to taste.

My article “Biscuit Bliss” will provide additional tips on making successful biscuits, shortbread and scones…which are all cousins.  It really just depends on what part of the world you’re in and in what part of the meal or day they’re being eaten.

Strawberry shortcake 2 Easter 2010

Sour Cream Almond Shortcake with Orange Scented Berries & Whipped Cream

These shortcakes could be drizzled with a powdered sugar glaze and be served as scones as well. Leave the orange zest out of the berries if you don’t care for the additional flavor.

 

Yield: 6 Servings

 

Shortcakes:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup granulated sugar + 1 tablespoon for garnish

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons cold butter, cut in small pieces

1 cup sour cream

¼ cup milk + 1 tablespoon for garnish

1 teaspoon pure almond extract (can use amaretto if extract is unavailable)

¼ cup sliced almonds (natural or blanched)

Berries & Cream:

1 lb. strawberries

¼ cup granulated sugar

Zest and juice of 1 orange

1 cup heavy whipping cream

¼ cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Shortcakes:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Combine flour,  1/3 cup granulated sugar, baking powder, soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Stir thoroughly to combine ingredients together. Using your fingers, rub the butter into the flour mixture until it’s the size of large peas. Make a well in the center by pulling the dry ingredients up against the sides of the bowl.

In a smaller bowl,combine the sour cream, 1/4 cup milk, and almond extract. Mix to blend sour cream mixture evenly. Pour the sour cream mixture into well in center of dry ingredients. Using a sturdy rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients over on top of sour cream and gently fold the dough until it forms a moist but firm dough. Once dough is brought together, lightly flour a large cutting board and dump the dough out on to lightly floured board. Gently fold the dough over on top of itself one or two times, just to bring it together into a cohesive mass. Pat the dough into a rectangle approximately 1” thick. Using the side of a large metal spatula or a large knife, cut the dough in half lengthwise and then in thirds across to create 6 squares. Place shortcake squares on a parchment lined baking pan and brush with the reserved 1 tablespoon milk. Garnish the tops of shortcakes with the sliced almonds, pressing into dough slightly to make them stick. Sprinkle reserved granulated sugar over the tops of biscuits to garnish. Bake in preheated 425 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until a pick inserted comes out clean or with 1-2 small crumbs attached. Remove from oven and cool before serving.

Orange Scented Berries with Whipped Cream:

Wash, hull and cut the strawberries into bite-sized pieces (I usually do quarters, sixths, or halves depending on berry size). Place berries into a mixing bowl and sprinkle with the granulated sugar and add the orange zest and juice. Toss lightly to coat. Set aside for sugar to dissolve. If more of a “saucy” consistency is desired, crush part of the strawberries with a potato masher.

Place the whipping cream, powdered sugar and vanilla into a small bowl and whip with a hand whisk or mixer until desired firmness is achieved. Chill until ready to serve.

Serving:

Split shortcakes and spoon strawberries over the bottom half of the shortcake. Replace top half and garnish with a dollop of whipped cream.

Variations:

Leave the orange zest and juice out of the berries and put the zest of 1 orange or lemon in the dry ingredients as additional flavoring for shortcakes.

Add 1 teaspoon of dried lavender flowers (make sure they’re culinary-grade from tea or health food/spice store) to the strawberries with or without the orange zest and juice.

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