What can I say? Everywhere I turn lately, I see juicy, luscious strawberries on sale in huge quantities - big overflowing pints of ruby red berries just begging to be dipped, sliced, sugared, baked or eaten as is. So who am I to buck the season's bountiful offerings? When I want sweet inspiration, there's only one thing to do: reach for Joanne Chang's Flour cookbook. I've said it before, and I'll say it forever - this is my all time favorite baking book (until she writes another one). If you don't own this book, you don't know what you're missing.
I have not changed or adapted this recipe, because I think it's perfect just the way it is. The addition of balsamic vinegar adds a sweetness to the strawberry syrup that's insanely rich and just a tad tangy. And these biscuits are not your standard dry, tasteless biscuits. Baked up to golden perfection, the egg wash, which is sprinkled with sugar for a final touch gives each cake a gorgeous sheen and crunch, while the crumb is moist and full of buttery goodness. And don't forget the whipped cream - perhaps the single most sensual "garnish" ever invented by nature and woman. Need I say more?
Balsamic Strawberry Shortcakes (Flour Bakery)
2 1/2 cups (350 grams) unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup (100 grams) plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks/170 grams) cold unsalted butter
cut into 12-14 pieces
1/2 cup (120 grams) heavy cream
2 pints (600 grams) strawberries
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (about 2/3 lemon)
6 tablespoons (75 grams) plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1-1/4 cups (300 grams) heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
To make the shortcakes: Position the rack in the center of the oven, heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, and alt on low speed for 10-15 seconds or until combined. Scatter the butter over the top and beat on medium low speed for a bout 30 seconds or until the butter is brown down the mixture get sort of mealy.
In a small bowl, whisk together 2 of the eggs and the cream until thoroughly mixed. On low speed, pour in the egg mixture all at once and beat for 10 to 15 seconds, or until the dough comes together.
Dump the dough out onto a floured work surface and press it out into a circle about 8 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick. Using a 3-inch biscuit cutter, cut out circles, rerolling scraps as necesary to get 8 circles total. Place them on an ungreased baking sheet several inches apart.
In a small bowl, whisk the remaining egg until blended. Brush the tops of the dough circles with the egg. Sprinkle evenly with the the 1 tablespoon of sugar.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until light golden brown. Let cool on pan or on wire rack until cool enough to handle, then transfer to a rack to cool until warm.
Meanwhile, stem the strawberries, and cut each berry lengthwise into four or five slices. In a medium bowl, toss the strawberries with the vinegar, lemon zest, and the 6 tablespoons of sugar and let macerate for about 30 minutes.
Using a handheld mixer or whisk, whip the cream wit the 1 tablespoon sugar and the vanilla just until it hold soft peaks.
Split each shortcake in half horizontally. Set the bottom haves, cut sides up, on individual services plates. Divide the strawberries and their syrup evenly among the bottom halves, then top the strawberries wit the whipped cream, again dividing evenly. Balance the top halves on the whipped cream and serve immediately.