The perfect vehicle

At this time of year, when you can get that perfect peach or that sweetest of strawberries, let it speak for itself.  The shortcake is perhaps the best vehicle of this (second only perhaps to a slice of pound cake).  Slice a shortcake in half, top with the fruit, a dollop of whipped cream and Bob’s your uncle.

I know there is the great revelry between Team Scone and Team Biscuit.  I am a fan of the scone-type shortcake... so there.  I'm also a fan of a more rustic look to the shortcake, rather than the perfect cookie cutter-style.  By leaving the dough in a ball on the sheet pan, the shortcakes bake up into these lovely, cracked mounds of tastiness.

White peaches on rosemary shortcake

(makes 8)
1 lb flour
1 tbsp baking powder
5 oz sugar
1 tsp salt
1 3/4 cup heavy cream
In a bowl, stir the dry ingredients together.  Add some of the cream and fluff the dry ingredients to moisten, then stir in the remaining cream.  Transfer the dough to the work surface and gently knead the bits of dough to bring it together.  Do not work the dough too much as if it were bread, and if it seems a little too dry, wet your hands and work the stray bits into the mass.  Either eye-ball the dough into eight portions, or (for the anal ones like me) scale out 4.5 oz portions.  Roll the portions into balls, and place on a parchment-lined sheet pan (do not flatten).  Egg wash the dough balls and sprinkle with sugar (vanilla sugar is nice).  Bake at 375º-400º until golden.

You can flavor the shortcakes anyway to desire to match or contrast your fruit.  For the picture, I added 1 tbsp of finely chopped rosemary to the recipe to go with some delicious, lightly vanilla sugar-macerated white peaches.

For an extra thick and rich whipped cream, take equal parts mascarpone and heavy cream.  In a mixer bowl with the whip attachment slowly mix the mascarpone and sugar to taste to stir out the cheese.  Slowly add the heavy cream to avoid lumps.  Once all the cream is in, turn the mixer up and whip to soft peak.  Don’t go too far, or the mixture will become thick and gritty.  I prefer this to just whipped cream, which I find weak and uninteresting.