National Strawberry Shortcake Cake Day: Make this!
• Check your ingredients. Make sure your buttermilk is very cold; ditto your butter. (I cut my butter into small bits and put it back in the fridge while I get the rest of my ingredients ready and preheat the oven.) And don’t forget to look at the expiration date on your baking powder: Fresh powder = puff power, and biscuits need plenty of puff.
• Mix it up, but not too neatly. No matter what you do, your biscuits will rise: it’s the power of baking powder. But they’ll rise more beautifully and taste better if you use your fingers to rub the butter into the dry ingredients and if you don’t overdo it. Biscuits are better when the dough is speckled with flour-covered bits of butter that are every size from oatmeal flake to baby pea. Think rocky road and you’ll get it.
• Knead the dough, but not too much. You want to knead the dough to gather up any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing and to bring the dough together. Kneading is fun and it’s easy to just keep going: Don’t! Restraint’s the key here.
• Cut with conviction. As gentle as you were with the biscuit dough while you were making it, that’s how strong you have to be when you cut them out. Choose a tall cutter and cut like you mean it: Press the cutter straight down into the dough and then straight up. Don’t twist or twirl the cutter! Ever! Twisting seals the sides and doesn’t allow the dough to rise top-hat high or to form buttery layers.
Finally, here’s my best tip: Share your shortcakes! Nothing’s better than making something with your own hands and then sharing it with people you love.
And when you do, I’d love to know if you played around with the recipe. Did you change the size? Add another flavor? Tweak the whipped cream? Change the look? Tell. Tell.
You can find this recipe – and more from other bakers and me – on the Driscoll’s website.