The snow is melting, or melted, the temperatures are moderating, although they can be fickle during spring, but we need not wait for Mother Nature to get her act in gear to enjoy a simply delicious dessert. Fresh-picked wild blueberries might have some of the most intense blueberry flavor, as compared to farmed berries which can be tasteless and mushy if not grown under ideal conditions or picked too early, but another option exists. Frozen berries are the perfect option for this dessert. Since we’ll be cooking the berries, or rather half the berries, and adding the other half off heat to warm and soften, fresh berries aren’t required.
Frozen berries can also be found year-round and have a better track record for flavor since they are picked when they are perfectly ripe and frozen immediately to conserve the best flavor. Make no mistake, frozen berries cannot take the place of fresh berries. Once thawed, they are soft and messy and certainly not suitable for any dish where fresh berries are served as such. But in pies, cobblers, shortcakes and fruit drinks, frozen is certainly the way to go. The simple berry topping is easy to make, and retains that deep purple color. Leaving half the berries to add after the topping has been cooked ensures you have whole berries in your topping rather than berry pieces.
The shortcakes are another matter altogether. If you are not experience with biscuit making, or don’t want to risk a shortcake disaster, using purchased biscuits, or biscuit dough and baking those, are an acceptable alternative. But if you’re willing to waste a bit of flour and buttemilk perfecting your biscuits, it’s certainly worth the time and effort. Homemade biscuits are usually significantly smaller than purchased biscuits, which is what we’re looking for. Unless this dessert is the only thing you plan to eat, filling and topping a purchased biscuit would easily be enough dessert for two people, good if you want to share, but not so good if you plan to serve these to friends or guests.
Like all pastries, the key is working the dough as little as possible. These biscuits need to be very wet and barely together. Your hands will be messy and that’s ok. There’s also no need to use a biscuit cutter for these biscuits. We prefer to use a rotary cutter and cut these biscuits into squares. That way, there is no need to reform any scraps. While not the traditional shape of a biscuit, every biscuit is perfect. Reformed biscuits are always slightly tougher than the first cut biscuits. Baking placement also affects how your pastry rises. Biscuits that are touching will rise higher and have softer sides. Biscuits that are placed about an inch apart will have crustier sides, but won’t rise as high. Your preference will dictate how you bake these.
White Lily flour, the flour used here, has about half the gluten of all-purpose flour. While it’s not necessary, it does help keep the biscuits lighter and softer than regular flour. If you don’t have self-rising flour, you can add a tablespoon of baking powder, a ¼ teaspoon of baking soda, and a teaspoon of finely ground salt to the flour. Combined with the acid in the buttermilk and exposed to the heat of the oven, your biscuits will be able to rise significantly creating light, layery shortcakes.
Until you can find fresh berries, frozen blueberries are the perfect alternative when you are chomping at the bit for desserts of the summer.
Blueberry Shortcakes with Lemon Cream
For the biscuits
- Non-stick cooking spray or non-stick aluminum foil
- 2 cups White Lily Enriched Bleached or Unbleached Self-Rising Flour
- ¼ cup vegetable shortening, chilled
- ¾ – 1 cup buttermilk
Heat oven to 425°F. Coat baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray or line a baking sheet with non-stick aluminum foil.
Measure flour into large bowl. Cut in the shortening with pastry knife until crumbs are the size of peas. Blend in just enough milk with fork or a rubber scraper until dough leaves sides of bowl.
Turn out dough onto lightly floured surface. Knead or fold gently 2 to 3 times until the dough comes together. Do not overwork the dough or the biscuits will be tough. Roll dough into ½-inch thick square. Cut the biscuits into 10 squares using a rotary knife (pizza wheel). Transfer the biscuits carefully to the baking sheet and arrange them, far apart for crisp sides, or close together for softer sides.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Do not overbake.
For the blueberry topping
- 3 cups fresh or frozen blueberries, divided
- ½ cup sugar
- ¼ cup water
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Simmer 1½ cups blueberries with the sugar, water and lemon until the mixture thickens, about 10-13 minutes. Off heat, stir in the remaining blueberries. Let cool to room temperature.
For the Lemon Cream
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ½ cup sour cream
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest, grated
Whip heavy cream and sugar until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in the sour cream and lemon zest using a rubber scraper. Refrigerate until ready to use.
To assemble: spoon a small amount of berry sauce in the plate or bowl; split the biscuits and place the bottom half in the sauce; add a scoop of lemon cream and top with the biscuit top. Spoon sauce over all and garnish with a lemon zest strip.