Friday, February 13, 2009

Chocolate Shortcakes with Red Fruits & Cream

For the fruit:
2 pints fresh, ripe strawberries, hulled and sliced
⅓ to ½ cup sugar, depending on sweetness of fruit
1 pint fresh raspberries
½ pound sweet red cherries, pitted and halved

For the chocolate shortcake dough:
2½ cups unsifted all-purpose flour
¼ cup cocoa powder
½ cup sugar
1 T baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
¾ cup cold buttermilk
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons cold milk
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
6 ounces (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into ¼-inch slices
3 T sugar, for topping

For the cream:
1½ cups cold heavy cream
1 T sugar
1½ teaspoons vanilla
¼ cup powdered sugar, optional

Preparing the fruit:
In a large bowl, pour sugar over strawberries and gently toss. Set aside at room temperature for at least 2 hours. Using a fork, mash a third of the berries in the bowl, toss mixture again, add the raspberries and cherries, and let stand another hour. (You can make this the day before, but refrigerate the mixture after mashing some of the berries, and bring berries to room temperature before serving.)

Preparing the chocolate shortbread dough:
Adjust oven rack to lower third and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a small bowl, mix the egg with the buttermilk, milk and orange zest. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in the egg mixture just until it forms a soft and moist, sticky dough. Spoon ¼ cup mounds of dough, about 2-inches apart on the baking sheet. Sprinkle a small amount of sugar over each shape and with fingertips pat dough to ½ to ¾-inch thickness. (After patting, shortcakes should be about 1-inch apart to allow for spreading while baking.) Bake about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool shortcakes on a wire rack. (You can freeze shortcakes in a sturdy container for up to 2 weeks.)

Preparing the cream:
Whip cream with sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form.

Split shortcakes in half horizontally, preferably with the tines of a fork. Place bottom halves on dessert plates, top each with berries, cherries and whipped cream mixture and set other half of shortcake onto the whipped cream. If desired, sprinkle with a light dusting of powdered sugar.

Serves 12


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