Strawberry Shortcake Scones

Strawberry Shortcake Scone

If you’re a tennis fan, then you’re probably well aware that Wimbledon begins today. I enjoy watching from time to time, but with only the loosest grasp of the rules and a sketchy knowledge of the players involved I can’t really consider myself especially invested in the sport. What I am invested in is a sporting tournament that has a long-standing traditional dish. That part is definitely in my wheelhouse, and according to the Wimbledon librarian, strawberries and cream have been associated with the event since 1877.

Trust the British to make a genteel sport even more refined, and frankly what better way to celebrate summer than with time spent outside in the fresh air accompanied by a summery treat? And, can you think of a purer distillation of English cooking than a scone studded with bright red strawberries?

So, in honor of lawn tennis played on grass courts, and as part of my continued efforts to bring you an enormous amount of butter and fruit based baked goods this summer, may I present: Strawberry Shortcake Scones.

The more I bake, the more I realize what a difference a little buttermilk, yogurt, or cream can make toward a tender, moist crumb. In this case, slightly sweet ricotta cheese fills that role and helps these scones tip their cap at the American strawberry shortcake, while maintaining their cream-tea bonafides.

Strawberry Shortcake Scone

Strawberry Shortcake Scones (yield: 12 scones)

1 cup chopped fresh strawberries
2 1/2 cups, plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter, diced
1 large egg
3/4 cup whole milk ricotta, bought or homemade
1/4 cup, plus 3 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. If it's a very hot day, chill the baking sheet and keep any ingredients in the refrigerator when they're not in use.

In a large bowl combine 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt. Lightly toss the diced butter in the flour mixture to coat, then using a pastry cutter, blend in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside in the refrigerator.

In a large liquid measuring cup, combine the egg, ricotta, and 1/4 cup heavy cream. Make a well in center of the flour mixture and add egg mixture all at once, fork together until just combined. Some of the flour may not be fully incorporated. Chill the dough while you hull and dice the strawberries into 1/4" sized pieces.

In a small bowl, toss together strawberries and 1 tablespoon flour, then add to the chilled dough, again using a fork until the strawberries are evenly distributed.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Gently fold the dough 10 to 12 times, pressing it together until dough is nearly smooth. Pat into a rectangle about 1 inch thick and cut into 12 rectangles.

Place the scones 2 inches apart on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Brush with the additional 3 tablespoons of heavy cream and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar. Bake about 15-16 minutes or until golden brown. Slide the parchment and scones onto a cooling rack. Best when served warm.

Slightly re-written from Better Homes and Garden’s Strawberry Shortcake Scones.

Strawberry Shortcake Scone

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Actually, yes. I used a large mixing bowl, pastry cutter, 2 cup-size liquid measuring cup, dry measuring cups and spoons, a butter knife, and a dinner fork. I also needed a small bowl, small cutting board, paring knife, baking sheet, pastry brush and parchment paper.

The Verdict:
The scone itself is tender and gently fluffy with a slight crunch from the coarse sugar, while the ripe strawberries add a bright sweetness that sings against the richness. To me, these scones are the epitome of summery ease – the intentionally casual shape and simplicity of the ingredients conjure a lazy morning on the porch. Definitely worthy of any Sunday brunch table or an international tennis event.

Strawberry Shortcake Scone

Peach Strawberry Shortcakes

Each week I follow along with Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) and attempt to recreate one of her dishes in my tiny New York City kitchen. The catch? This is my version of cooking school and I’m making these recipes for the first time. I’ll share both my successes and um, challenges, along the way and we’ll see if I can keep up with the Contessa!

Peach Strawberry Shortcakes  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Peach Strawberry Shortcakes | Image: Laura Messersmith

Episode: “What Are Friends For?”

The Set-up: Ina is helping a friend by preparing a house-warming dinner for her friend Greg.

The Menu: Peach Raspberry Shortcakes, Mac and Cheese, Radishes with Butter & Salt

0:41 – Ina agrees with what we’re all thinking: moving is the worst. But I’d consider it if it meant a meal prepared by the Barefoot Contessa.

1:16 – I’m going to pretend that she didn’t just hate on the “blue box.” Circle of Trust time. We can admit to each other that we’re occasionally tempted by it’s electric orange hue right…?

2:44 – We begin with the Mac and Cheese, which naturally means melted butter and a cream sauce.

3:32 – Forget what I said about the blue box; this Mac and Cheese is going to be off the hook. I think there’s about 4 pounds of Gruyere and cheddar involved.

4:50 – Pro Tip #1: Add the grated cheese to the cream sauce off the heat. I have messed this up so many times and had no idea that less heat was the key!

5:25 – Ina is using cavatappi instead of macaroni because it’s more festive for a party. The idea of certain pastas being more fun than others makes me laugh, but it’s so true!

6:17 – This mac and cheese is getting a topping of sliced tomatoes and toasted fresh breadcrumbs. To be honest, I’ve never understood the whole breadcrumb thing. Why do people love it so much?

10:33 – Shortcake time! These are Peach Raspberry Shortcakes and if I’ve learned anything from Ina it’s that you can revamp a recipe just by changing one ingredient.

11:38 – Pro Tip #2: Make sure that the butter is still visible in the dough to guarantee a light, flaky shortcake.

12:46 – Am I the only one who finds shortcake dough totally impossible to work with? It’s so sticky and unmanageable!

13:29 – Apparently not, Ina says she usually gets it all over the kitchen and herself. So, now I feel better.

14:15 – In case you were wondering; Ina does collect the scraps after the first round of cut-outs and makes a second pass. Looks like she’s using the second largest of these round fluted biscuit cutters.

15:40 – Shortcakes are in the oven and we catch up with Ina’s friend Alison who’s picking up the fruit and some salad makings for the party.

16:22 – Back to finish up prep on the Radishes with Butter & Salt. Ina says this is a classic sandwich given to French children, which sounds like an urban myth, but the Internet says it’s true.

17:11 – Pro Tip #3: The baguette slices will toast better if they’re placed on a rack.

20:04 – Ina plans to serve the radishes with a compound butter of scallions, dill, parsley, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Now we’re talking!

21:18 – Back over to Alison, who agreed to take on the arduous task of making the whipped cream for the shortcakes.

22:36 – Even though it’s incredibly simple, there’s something so satisfying about making whipped cream.

23:47 – A platter of radishes, a small heap of sea salt, and the buttered tartines is arranged and now it’s time to relocate over to Greg’s.

27:03 – The party is in full swing as Ina and Alison duck into the kitchen for the final prep. Either Alison has never assembled a shortcake before or for the purposes of the show a demo is required. I’m hoping for her sake it’s the latter...

28:39 – Ina mixes a simple vinaigrette, while Alison works on the shortcakes. I guess the demo worked because she managed to finish them off without incident.

29:53 – Dinner is served and Ina angles for an invitation to the next housewarming party. Somehow I think her presence will be required…

Final Thoughts:
Please don’t let me forget Pro Tip #1. Weirdly grainy cheese sauce has to stop right now!

Please also help me remember that a whole recipe overhaul isn’t required to add variety – just a simple tweak will do!

I’ve noticed that every time a friend of Ina’s (F.O.I.) moves into a new house they get a dinner party. Anyone think that people are moving just for the food?

Peach Strawberry Shortcakes   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Peach Strawberry Shortcakes | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lessons Learned:
I know, I know. I’m supposed to be making pie, but in my defense the strategies for great shortcakes are closely aligned with making great pie crust. As I’ll demonstrate below, Peach Raspberry Shortcakes are a perfectly cromulent way of practicing…

Temperature – Cold ingredients, cold bowl, cold baking sheet, HOT oven. You may already know that the “fluffiness” of shortcakes depend on pockets of cold butter hitting a very hot oven and releasing steam. Occasionally Maddie’s walks interrupt work on a recipe leading to unintended, but successful experimentation. In this case, I was just about to add the cream/egg mixture when we had to head outside, so everything went into the fridge for 30 minutes including the baking sheet. I’d recommend this step anytime you have to pause or clear the decks  before the next step, especially in hot weather like we’ve been experiencing lately.

Mixing Dough – I went super low-tech with this dough – no mixer, no food processor. I diced the butter on the smaller side (~1/8”) and tossed it in the dry ingredients to coat it before using the pastry cutter. I beat the heavy cream and eggs together in a liquid measuring cup and then used a fork to “fluff” them into the flour until just moistened. It kept the texture light and helped prevent over mixing.

Whipped Cream – I’d echo the “keep things cold” advice for this stage too. Pop the empty bowl and beater attachments in the freezer 20 minutes before you want to make the whipped cream, it will help the heavy cream retain the air and whip up more quickly into a lighter, softer cream.

Peach Strawberry Shortcakes   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Peach Strawberry Shortcakes | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Surprisingly, yes! For the shortcakes I used a large mixing bowl, pastry cutter, biscuit cutter, liquid measuring cup, dry measuring cups and spoons, a butter knife, and a dinner fork. For the fruit and whipped cream I also needed a small cutting board, paring knife, medium mixing bowl, and electric hand-mixer.

The Verdict:
When has a shortcake, especially a miniature one as fluffy and butter filled as these, ever been a bad choice? Would a generous layer of subtly sweet whipped cream and juicy summer fruit change your mind? If these facts don’t sway your decision then I’m not sure what will because these Peach Raspberry Shortcakes are just lightly sweet and so easy to make ahead of time. They're perfect to bring for a dinner party or a picnic in the park. Shortcakes with berries celebrate summer like nothing else, but there’s no reason not to eat them year-round paired with any fruit you can get your hands on. I’m already plotting a fall-ish version…

Peach Strawberry Shortcakes   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Peach Strawberry Shortcakes | Image: Laura Messersmith

Honey Vanilla Pound Cake with Strawberries

Honey Vanilla Pound Cake with Strawberries  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Honey Vanilla Pound Cake with Strawberries | Image: Laura Messersmith

Each week I try to expand my culinary horizons and improve my technique by cooking a new recipe in my tiny New York City kitchen. (Seriously, this baby is small!) My inspiration and guiding light: Ina Garten, aka The Barefoot Contessa. Follow along with me, learn from my mistakes!, and let's see if I can keep up with the Contessa!

Episode: “Market Day”

The Set-up: Ina visited the Sag Harbor Farmers’ Market and is really jazzed to use local produce to inspire her recipes.

The Menu: Honey Vanilla Pound Cake, Mache Salad with Brie and Apples, Vanilla Extract, Garlic & Lemon Oil, Basil Mayonnaise

0:51 – We get a voiceover tour of the Sag Harbor Farmers’ Market as Ina explains how seasonal ingredients determine what she’ll cook. I would love to get in this mindset but 99% of the items I buy at markets are jam related…

1:15 – Case in point: Ina found some local honey (cue a “loving local honeys” joke for my sister in law…) and decided to make Honey Vanilla Pound Cake.

2:07 – Courtesy of Cooks Illustrated magazine we get Pro Tip #1: ‘cool room temperature’ butter makes the best pound cake crumb. This seems like a tricky distinction, but worth trying for?

3:22 – Next, we get a bee keeping tutorial from Frederique Keller of Bee Pharm – the producer of the honey Ina purchased. I swear this looks like a Honey Nut Cheerios commercial (in a good way!) all warm sunlight and golden wheat oat fields.

4:23 – Back to Ina and the Honey Vanilla Pound Cake. The honey seems to be getting the best of her, but she still manages to deliver Pro Tip #2: Adding the honey to the eggs in a measuring cup will make it easier to pour into the mixer.

4:39 – Ina’s using cake flour but offers us a helpful substitute if we only have all-purpose flour in the pantry. Making a note because I literally never have anything other than all-purpose…

5:55 – The cake is baked and Ina expertly turns it out of the loaf pan thanks to the parchment paper liner. She suggests some serving ideas – butter, more honey, berries – but says really she likes it best plain.

9:43 – Next up, Ina’s making a salad using cheese produced by the Mecox Bay Dairy for her staff. Do you think Barefoot Contessa HR lists ‘lunches prepared by Ina’ in it’s benefits package? Who needs paid vacation!

9:55 – During her Ina’s intro to the dairy we get the most idyllic, sun-dappled scenes of cows strolling through a green pasture and munching on hay. For Kate, my one word review: pastoral.

10:37 – She’s baking wedges of a Mecox cheese similar to Brie with honey and pistachios for the Mache Salad with Brie and Apples. This looks truly awesome, but I’m not sure it can really be called ‘salad’ yet…

11:04 – Apparently baked Brie has to be watched carefully or it liquefies “likethat” [finger snap]. You’ve been warned.

13:16 – The mache greens have arrived and are dressed with balsamic vinaigrette. They look pretty similar to clover, so now I suppose it’s a salad.

14:29 – Oooh, nice. Ina asked Art for a cheese-pairing lesson on the Mecox cheeses. Here’s the rundown: Farmhouse cheddar + chutney & malt-y beer; Sigit + salted cashews & dry hard cider; Mecox Sunrise + pears & sweet Sauterne; Shawondasee + celery & crisp Sauvignon Blanc.

15:58 – We’re back with Ina and she’s assembling the salads. The devouring hordes, ahem I mean ladies, from Barefoot Contessa HQ arrive and dive in.

20:12 – We’ve reached the ‘potions and concoctions’ portion of the show. She doesn’t call it that, but I think it’s appropriate.

21:03 – First potion: homemade Vanilla Extract = Vanilla Beans + Vodka + Time. I’d like to point out that the recipe says this takes 720 hours or 1 month. Ina recommends 6 months, which would be 4,320 hours. No big deal.

21:36 – Second potion: Garlic Lemon Oil = Hot Oil + Garlic Cloves + Lemon Peel + Red Pepper Flakes. This does require a little cooking, but I bet this is super flavorful.

22:14 – Finally, a concoction: Basil Mayonnaise. I have to be honest – the closest I’m going to get to making this recipe is if I blend store-bought mayonnaise with basil leaves.

27:32 – Ask Ina Time! The first question is a request for a Roasted Beet recipe. I actually love beets, so I’m paying close attention here and adding ‘beets’ to my grocery list.

28:45 – Second question: how to get the core out of a head of lettuce. I would normally consider this question absurd, but then we get to see Ina smash a head of iceberg on the counter. Twice! The second time is in slo-mo and it’s amazing. Also, this trick totally works, so there’s that.

29:50 – Third question: another recipe request this one for radishes. Ina recommends eating them raw dipped in a pile of sea salt with bread and butter. I’m not kidding. This apparently how French school children eat them? I feel like she’s pulling my leg. Perhaps this is her new way of dealing with silly questions? Anyway, that’s the end!

Final Thoughts:

I love farmers’ markets but I’m always overwhelmed, hence the jam purchases. Time to take Ina’s approach.

The Hamptons seem to have so much great produce – farms, fishing boats, wine – I need a harvest-time visit!

This set of Ask Ina questions must have required a particular amount of restraint. She needed to whack that lettuce. Seriously. 

Honey Vanilla Pound Cake with Strawberries  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Honey Vanilla Pound Cake with Strawberries | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lessons Learned:

I’ve made sweetbread before, but never Honey Vanilla Pound Cake, which sounded amazing. I had to take Ina’s advice on the cake flour substitute but I did remember to take the butter out in advance to come to room temperature, so progress!

I had no trouble with the measurements or the process, but the baking time is a different question. The recipe calls for 50-60 minutes, but I needed more like 75 before the toothpick came out clean.

I have a few theories that bear future trial:

1.     Typically, I place all baked goods on the middle rack (something to do with even air circulation), but in my oven the heat comes from the bottom. Perhaps placing the pan on the bottom rack closer to the heat source would help it cook correctly?

2.     I’ve never noticed a problem with our oven cooking at the correct temperature, but without a thermometer it’s impossible to know for sure. Perhaps it’s a few degrees off?

3.     It’s pretty warm here in New York and my butter was definitely very soft by the time I started to bake. Maybe that pesky ‘cool room temperature’ butter is more essential than I realized?

Small Kitchen Friendly?

Yes, for a baked good especially. I used two medium sized bowls (butter & sugar, and dry ingredients) and a two-cup liquid measure for the eggs, honey, etc. The recipe calls for a stand mixer, but I couldn’t be bothered to pull it out and used handheld mixer instead.  I also used a glass loaf pan, rubber spatula, microplane grater, and measuring spoons and cups.

Honey Vanilla Pound Cake with Strawberries  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Honey Vanilla Pound Cake with Strawberries | Image: Laura Messersmith

The Verdict:

I brought Honey Vanilla Pound Cake and Strawberries (recipe below) to a backyard picnic for my take on Strawberry Shortcake. I got positive feedback from everyone on the results and I personally though the pound cake served as an excellent compliment to the fresh berries.

The flavor is light - I’d probably add a bit more honey and vanilla to the next attempt - however, as a vehicle for juicy strawberries it’s perfect. I’d make this again for an easy summer dessert, or when I needed something portable and easily assembled for a crowd at a Fourth of July barbecue. Try this, but keep an eye on it and let me know how it turns out!

Macerated Strawberries
(serve 6-8 ppl)

1.5 lbs. fresh strawberries, sliced
1/3 cup sugar, or less to taste
1 tsp. lemon zest

In a medium bowl, stir together sliced strawberries, sugar, and lemon zest. Allow the mixture to rest for 45-60 minutes before serving over biscuits, cake, or ice cream.

Honey Vanilla Pound Cake with Strawberries  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Honey Vanilla Pound Cake with Strawberries | Image: Laura Messersmith