Updated: May 23, 2019
Growing up, my idea of strawberry shortcake involved those very spongy sponge cakes sold in the produce department right next to the strawberries, and whipped cream from a can. Now, those things don't even merit the affection brought on by nostalgia. I whip my own cream - it's so easy - and prefer the more traditional biscuit-style shortcake. As for fruit, whatever is gorgeous and delicious at the moment is my favorite. Strawberry Shortcake is a classic for good reason, but blueberries and peaches are great options when strawberries are no longer at their peak. Regardless of your fruit preference, the Farmer's Market is where you want to do your shortcake shopping, if for no other reason than that is where you will find truly ripe, well-loved produce. Shortcake Biscuits This is a particularly rustic, toothsome sort of shortcake: I use ground oats for nubbiness and flavor. The addition of a few eggs makes for a very tender biscuit. The main thing to know with this, or any sort of biscuit, is to handle the dough gently, and as little as possible. You might note that I like a thinner shortcake biscuit. I love biscuits, but I'm not here for the bread, folks. You are welcome to make yours a bit thicker, but know that this may affect your bake time.
Oats, Old-Fashioned not quick 128g (1 1/3 cups) All-Purpose Flour 725g (5 cups) Baking Powder 45g (3 Tbl) Salt 20g (4 tsp) Lemon Zest 1 each Butter, Cold, Chopped into 1/2" chunks 340g (1 1/2 cups) Half & Half 340g (1 1/2 cups) Eggs , lightly beaten 150g (3 each)
If you'll be baking your shortcakes the same day, preheat your oven to 350°
Grind oats by pulsing a few times in your food processor. This will take 5-7 good pulses. You want the oats well-ground, but not powdery - a little texture is a good thing. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest to the oats in the food processor bowl, and pulse once or twice to combine the ingredients. Scatter the cold butter on top of the dry ingredients, and pulse until none of the butter pieces is larger than a raisin. At this point, you can transfer this mixture to a container and store it in the refrigerator or freezer. Kudos! You now have a handy shortcake mix that will be ready to go whenever your favorite fruit is ripe. Transfer this mixture to a bowl, right out of the fridge or freezer is fine, and make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Pour the half & half and the egg into the center of the well, and mix with a rubber spatula until you have a somewhat sticky dough, or until you've combined everything as much as you dare given prior warnings about gentle and infrequent dough handling. Dump this mass onto your lightly floured countertop, and knead it a little if necessary to make a cohesive dough. Pat the dough into a square or rectangle roughly one inch thick. Cut the square or rectangle in half, and stack one half on top of the other. Pat this double-decker dough into a square or rectangle roughly one inch thick. Once more, cut the square or rectangle in half, and stack the halves. Pat the dough until it's an inch thick one last time. Add a little flour to the top of the dough or to your countertop throughout this process to keep the dough from sticking. Be stingy, though - too much flour and your layers won't stick together. Now, here, friends, is my personal biscuit revolution. Any biscuit-maker worth her aluminum-free baking powder will tell you you shouldn't re-use your scraps. You cut out your biscuits with a sharp cutter (straight down, no twisting!) and that's it. You're done. Feed those scraps to the chickens because you will NOT be making a second round of what will be grossly inferior biscuits from those scraps. OR.. cut square biscuits! If you've patted your dough into a reasonably tidy square or rectangle, and you cut squares from that, you will have no scraps. If you insist on all right angles, or your shape is not so tidy, you will end up with some small scrap bits. Bake these and nibble on them, they are the baker's reward for all this hard work. Viva la revolution!
Place your revolutionary shortcake biscuits on a parchment-lined sheet tray. You can now freeze these, and transfer them to a container or bag for later baking, you can store them in the refrigerator for an hour or so, or you can get right to it.
Once you're ready to bake, brush the biscuits with a little half & half, and sprinkle with coarse or raw sugar if you have it, regular granulated sugar if you don't. Bake for 20-25 minutes, turning half-way through the baking time if you know your oven doesn't cook evenly - most don't. The shortcake biscuits will be what we in the biz call "GBD" (Golden Brown Delicious), with crisp-ish edges, and centers that spring back when you poke them gently.
Allow the biscuits to cool, slice them in half, and assemble your shortcakes as you like them.
I have been known to halve this recipe, and use just one egg for the sake of convenience.