Earlier this week I made strawberry shortcake, using genoise for the base instead of a biscuit. I've never been that crazy about biscuits, and you can't really make them ahead. I usually use poundcake as the base, but I thought it might be nice to have something lighter. While the strawberries were delicious, the cake was too light, and didn't have enough texture once the dessert was assembled. So I was going to make strawberry shortcake again this weekend, until I came across the most beautiful local blackberries at my local Earthfare store. Some of them were as large as my thumb, and sweet sweet sweet...
Instead of going back to the genoise, I decided to try biscuits again. I think I'm always trying to lower the fat in them, and that's probably why they aren't at the top of my list for dessert. This time around, I decided to go for it. I tried two recipes: 1 with buttermilk and the other with half & half, and I used 6 tablespoons of unsalted butter - that's not the most butter I've ever seen in a biscuit recipe, but it is up near the top. I like my biscuits sweet, too, so I chose the higher end for the sugar ingredient. Both the buttermilk and the cream biscuits came out great. They were toothly enough to stand up to the juicy fruit topping, and they had a delicious crunchy exterior. Yay for butter!
Shortbread biscuits are just about one of the easiest pastries you'll ever make. There's very little prep, very little worktime, and very quick cleanup. When paired with simple sugared fruit, it comes together in way less than 1 hour. I prefer blackberries to be quite well macerated so that they aren't as tough in the middle and so that the sweetness permiates the berry. If you like them like this too, and you want to serve the shortbreads within 1 hour of making them, you might want to start the berries first, otherwise you can start the berries while the shortbreads are cooling. If serving them for company, you might want to make and refrigerate the dough, and then shape and bake them just before sitting down to dinner. More details follow.
2 cups (260 grams) bleached all-purpose flour, fluffed scooped and levelled into measuring cups
3- 4 tablespoons sugar (to taste)
1 tablespoon baking powder if using cream, (2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder +1/2 ts.baking soda, if using buttermilk)
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup buttermilk or half & half (have 1 TB extra just in case)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
5 cups blackberries
2/3 cup sugar
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. with a rack in the middle of the oven. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
Place the flour, sugar, baking powder (and baking soda if you are using it) and salt in a medium-not too deep bowl. Sift, or stir it well to distribute the ingredients.
You need to get the butter "cut" into the flour mixture. You can do this with 2 knives, with a pastry blender, in a processor, or my favorite method, by rubbing the bar of butter against the coarse holes of a box grater.
(I hope you have one - the only reason I do, is that I have a friend who has given me several graters. Thanks, Ann!)