Strawberry Thyme Shortcakes

Strawberry shortcakes are a great litmus test for a person's food experience.  When testing this recipe out, you'd be surprised at how many people think a strawberry shortcake is one of those store-bought sponge cakes shaped like little cups with strawberries and some mystery red gel.  This is wrong.  It is not shortcake, it is an food injustice and it makes me sad.

A true shortcake involves a biscuit; it should be soft and flaky and crumble a bit when you break it.  Our biscuit accomplishes this by folding the dough before cutting out the biscuit rounds.  Our biscuit also incorporates lemon and thyme.  These flavors provide a savory balance to the sweet components of the strawberry conserve.  Topped with fresh whipped cream,  these complex flavors are sure to be hit!  This is one dessert that will leave you satisfied without putting you in a sugar coma.

Yields 10-12 shortcakes.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour (we suggest White Lily Flour, it will give you the lightest biscuit you've ever had)
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided ¼ + ¾, plus additional for sprinkling
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 sticks very cold salted butter, cut into small pieces (pro tip: cut butter into small pieces, then let sit in the freezer for 10-15 minutes for optimal results)
  • 2 vanilla beans
  • 3 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped, plus additional for sprinkling
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest 
  • Peel from ½ a lemon
  • 1 ½ cups cold buttermilk
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions:

  1. Make strawberry conserves: In a medium saucepan, combine ¾ cup granulated sugar, strawberries, and lemon peel.  Cover and let sit for about 2 hours, until the berries ooze and the sugar dissolves.
  2. Bring strawberry mixture to a simmer over medium heat.  Cook until the strawberries are tender, about 1 minute.  Don’t let them get mushy!
  3. Remove strawberries, place in a bowl and set aside.  Continue simmering liquid until it thickens into a syrup, about 2 minutes.  Discard lemon peel and add sauce to strawberries.  Cover and let cool to room temperature.
  4. Make biscuits: Whisk together both flours, ¼ cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Using your hands, incorporate the butter into this mixture until the largest pieces are pea-sized.
  5. Scrape vanilla seeds out of the pod and into the buttermilk and add to flour mixture.  At this time, also add lemon zest and thyme.  Stir with a fork until a moist dough has formed.
  6. Turn out dough onto a clean, floured workspace.  Press the dough lightly and form a rectangle. Take care not to overwork the dough! 
  7. Fold the dough into thirds, starting to the short end.  Pat out dough until it is about 1 ¼ inches thick.  And repeat the folding process.  Use a floured biscuit cutter (or glass), cut dough into 2 ½ inch rounds.
  8. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or silpat and preheat oven to 400 F.  Place prepared rounds onto baking sheet, approximately 1 inch apart.  Chill for 20 minutes.
  9. Brush tops of biscuits with 2 tablespoons cream and sprinkle with sugar and thyme.  Bake for 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway.  Reduce heat to 375 F and bake for an additional 10-12 minutes.  Biscuits are done when they are golden brown.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  10. Make whipped cream:  In a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, combine heavy whipping cream, powder sugar, and vanilla.  Mix until a medium stiff cream has formed.
  11. Compose shortcakes: Halve biscuits and layer with fresh whipped cream and strawberry conserve.  Serve with additional strawberries on the side.