Greetings! It’s May and that means strawberry season is just around the corner! When I lived in New York City as a graduate student, I would walk down to the Union Square Farmer’s Market every Saturday to stock up on produce. I loved that market! It was so convivial and there were so many fruits and veggies to choose from. There were Amish farmers, selling delicious cheese. There were fresh chicken eggs in a variety of pastel blues, greens, pinks, and of course, brown. As I look back on that time (20 years ago!), I am struck by the fact that I didn’t have any real “mission” when I went to the farmer’s market. I just went because it was something I wanted to do each Saturday. At that time, there was no media talk about “sustainability” or “local eating” or any of that. But living in New York City, arguably the most “city” of cities, I had deep inner need to connect with food that was fresh and that was grown by people I could talk to.
To mark the beginning of strawberry season each spring, I would (and still do) buy the first available strawberries at the market (usually the tiny alpine strawberries) and run home to bake with them. Yes, baking has always been in my blood. My first thought wasn’t centered around: “Yay! I can finally eat strawberries!” It was more: “Yay! I can finally bake with strawberries!” Weird, I know. I would bake a batch of muffins and then some shortcake biscuits for strawberry shortcake. And yes, I also ate a bunch just on their own. Because they were amazing. I now grow these little beauties in our garden and it is such a treat to wander around and snack on them while I am gardening.
Strawberry shortcake is a very strong part of my childhood memories of strawberry season. When I was a kid, our local grocery store had the small cake-type shortcakes–the ones that were round with an indentation in the top. My mom would buy them, bring them home, and we would be so happy to see them on the counter–because the sight of those cakes meant strawberry shortcake! And strawberry shortcake meant lots and lots of whipped cream! Um, yeah. We were all whipped cream fans. I still am. As is Girlfriend and dAhub.
There are many, many types of biscuits or cakes that one could make to pair with strawberries for strawberry shortcake. I decided to adapt a recipe from a cookbook by two of my favorite baking book authors: Kaye and Liv Hansen, the mother-daughter team of the Whimsical Bakehouse. They have three books out that are worth their weight in gold to me: The Whimsical Bakehouse: Fun-to-Make Cakes That Taste as Good as They Look!; Christmas Cookies from the Whimsical Bakehouse; and Little Cakes from the Whimsical Bakehouse. They also have a new cookbook due out June 1st, Kids Cakes from the Whimsical Bakehouse and Other Treats for Colorful Celebrations, which I will get as soon as it’s on the shelves! These books are excellent! Every single recipe I’ve tried from them is delicious! I will have a later post on them, with an adaption of one of my favorite cakes from their books.
When I started thinking about strawberry shortcake this year, I turned to their Little Cakes From the Whimsical Bakehouse book to adapt their Shortcake Biscuit recipe. The Little Cakes book has all sorts of recipes for cupcakes, muffins, and biscuits. It is so dang charming and the recipes are delicious! This recipe makes a nice, slightly sweet, and flaky biscuit that pairs wonderfully with the strawberries and cream. These biscuits are also really good to eat on their own or with a little butter slathered on them. I use a heart cookie cutter to cut out the biscuits, but you can use whatever cutter you like.
Shortcake Biscuits, Gluten-Free
-adapted from Little Cakes From the Whimsical Bakehouse
-makes about 13 4″ biscuits
Special Equipment Needed
-if you have a food processor, it’s nice to use for the initial cutting together of the ingredients, but one is not necessary
-a cookie or biscuit cutter–choose one(s) that are around 3-4 inches across
Note: This recipe uses my gluten-free flour mix:
Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Mix (mix together and store in fridge):
1 1/4 C. brown rice flour
1 1/4 C. white rice flour
1 C. tapioca flour
1 C. sweet rice flour (also known as Mochiko)
2 scant tsp. xanthan gum
(you can also use the gluten-free flour mixture (not baking mix) of your choice–just be sure it contains xanthan gum. Or, you can add 1/4 tsp. xanthan gum per cup of gluten-free flour. If you use bean flour, it will add a bean taste to the biscuits)
2 1/2 C (12.5 oz) Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Mix
4 tsp (.5 oz) baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 C (1.75 oz) brown sugar (I like to use dark brown), firmly packed
5 oz (1 1/4 sticks, 10 TBL) unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces
3/4 C (1/8 liter) cold milk
extra tapioca flour for your work surface
extra milk and granulated sugar for top of biscuits
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a food processor (or in a large bowl) pulse (or mix) together the flour, baking powder, salt and brown sugar until just combined. Add the butter, pulse (or squish in with fingers) until the mixture looks like sand mixed with pea-sized bits of dough.
Transfer to a bowl (or keep in the large bowl) and add the milk. Mix until just combined. Use your hands to do the final mix. If the mixture seems too dry (i.e., isn’t holding together), add more milk in TBL increments. I usually need only about 1 TBL extra. Bring the dough together into a disk.
Transfer the dough to a floured work surface. Carefully roll out the dough until it is 1/2″ to 3/4″ thick. Any thinner and your biscuits will be a bit on the thin side. Any thicker and it will be difficult to bake them all the way through.
Dip your cutter in tapioca flour and cut out your biscuits. I use a heart cutter that is 4″ across the top of the heart–from “hump” to “hump.”
Note: in order to allow your biscuits to rise to their fullest and flakiest potential, you must cut with a straight up and down motion–no twisting or jiggling. If you twist or jiggle the cutter, you will squish the the layers together and they won’t rise as much. Dip your cutter into the tapioca flour before each cut. Re-roll and cut until you’ve used all the dough.
Transfer your biscuits to the prepared baking sheet, with about an inch between each.
Brush the top of each biscuit with a little milk and sprinkle each with some granulated sugar.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes–until lightly golden on the top.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Like any biscuit, these are at their lightest and flakiest the day you make them.
To make Strawberry Shortcake:
1 pint (2 C) fresh strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced
2 TBL granulated sugar
Whipped cream, sweetened or unsweetened (I like to make my own unsweetened)
In a medium bowl, mix together the strawberries and sugar and place on the counter at room temperature to let the juices form. I usually do this before I make the biscuits.
Once the biscuits are cooled, get your strawberries and whipped cream ready. Carefully slice a biscuit in half horizontally. Place the bottom half on a plate. Pile some strawberries and their juice on top of the half. Place the top half of the biscuit on the strawberries. Place a dollop of whipped cream on top of this. Voila--springtime on a plate!
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