A few weeks back my mom and I were talking about strawberries. Being the lovely chat that it was, it led to a discussion concerning strawberry shortcake. We decided that I should figure out a gluten-free version that we could enjoy this summer. But, our conversation determined, it should not be anything resembling those greasy, saccharine, sponge-like grocery store cakes that are often topped with flavorless, out-of-season berries and a noisy swirl of aerosol cream. It should be like the strawberry shortcakes that my grandma once made. It should take the form of a lightly sweet biscuit. It should be what strawberry shortcake is meant to be.
After hanging up the phone, as it was not quite prime strawberry time, I filed this away in my overflowing Must Make Soon folder. And then promptly forgot about it. See, I didn’t write the idea down, and the aforementioned “folder” is actually a place in my mind where things get lost because they weren’t written down. If I want to remember anything–ever–it must be in writing. My photographic memory unfortunately refuses to keep records of anything non-visual.
Thankfully Food & Wine had my back. Not only were they so kind as to remind me that my subscription is about to expire and I must renew now, but they included a cute little insert with a recipe for none other than strawberry shortcake in the mailing. And I will be renewing. I owe them big time for what came out of my kitchen last night and it seems the least I can do.
Something clicked so solidly between this recipe and my translation that I’m still feeling a little giddy. The dough came together like magic–sticky at first and then kneaded into a supple, pillowy round. As I held each cut biscuit in my hand, I could feel in the pit of my stomach that something special was about to happen. I watched impatiently through the oven door as they rose magnificently, impossibly high. If they tasted even a tenth as good as they looked, I was going to be in serious trouble.
I’m in serious trouble.
You have to trust me when I say that these are hands down the best biscuits I’ve ever tasted in my entire life. Or don’t trust me and make them yourself. Please. I generally don’t even care for biscuits. They crumble in your hands and suck the moisture from your cheeks like cotton. But these? They have that familiar biscuity crust on the outside and are so soft and tender on the inside that they almost seem to melt away on your tongue. I am stunned. Gluten or no, I didn’t know that it was possible for biscuits to taste this good.
What’s more, they even have that magical mid-line crack that allows you to press your thumb in and gently pull to reveal two lovely, moist and flaky halves. No knife required. It’s as though some cheerful oven-dwelling elf came out mid-way and said, Oh hey, let me help you out with that, and pre-sliced the biscuits for you. I didn’t think gluten-free baked goods could have that special split. I am so glad I was wrong.
These biscuits don’t ask for much. Eat them on their own if you please. With all the positively flavor-packed, seed-studded little gems popping up at the markets, however, I’m going to humbly suggest that you test out at least a couple mounded with freshly whipped cream and a cascade of strawberries. Many recipes will suggest that you toss the berries in a little sugar first. If you’re buying yours at the supermarket, I’d recommend it. The greenmarket berries are sweet enough to go without.
As for the whipped cream, let’s not make it more difficult than it needs to be. Pour a little cream in a bowl (really any amount is fine, as much as you like/need), grab your hand mixer, and beat it slowly until stiff peaks form. It only takes a couple minutes and the flavor is so far superior to anything you can buy pre-made in the grocery store that it just doesn’t make sense not to do it. If you want to sweeten things up a bit, you can sprinkle a little sugar into your cream. Taste it just before it’s completely done, adjust if it needs a little more, and whip until finished. Don’t overthink it–it’s whipped cream and it’s easy.
Now split open a biscuit, heap on the cream, and drop a handful of strawberries over the top. There you have it–an honest to goodness strawberry shortcake. If you’re hosting or attending a barbecue or gathering this summer, this would be the perfect thing to offer up to your guests. It manages to be homey and coo-worthy at the same time. And besides, who would say no to strawberry shortcake?
I made this batch specifically to stuff with strawberries and whipped cream, but I will make them again and again so I can eat them straight from the oven, or pull them apart and spread them with jam. A savory version of these will be following soon. I doubt many changes to the recipe will be necessary, but I’ll share my results here nonetheless. I foresee breakfast sandwiches with melted cheese and whole baskets of biscuits sidled up to meals for months to come.
I apologize in advance if I spend the remainder of the year baking and posting different versions of these biscuits. I don’t know if I can help it. Much like my banana bread, if I could eat gluten again tomorrow, I would still make these biscuits over any other.
Sweet Cream Biscuits
Adapted from Food & Wine
Makes 6-7 biscuits
¾ cup millet flour
¾ cup potato starch, plus more for dusting
½ cup sorghum flour
¼ cup tapioca flour
1 ½ teaspoons xanthan gum
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold & cut into cubes
1 cup heavy cream (or half & half)
2 tablespoons melted butter for brushing
Raw sugar for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
In a medium bowl whisk together the millet, sorghum, and tapioca flours, potato starch, xanthan gum, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Using a pastry cutter or a pair of knives, cut the cold butter into the flour until it is about the size of peas. Stir in the cream.
Dust a work surface with potato starch and turn out the dough. Knead gently, 2 to 3 times, until the dough comes together into a smooth, supple ball. Roll it out into a 3/4″ thick round. Using 2 3/4″ to 3″ biscuit cutters*, cut out as many biscuits as you can. Gather the dough scraps and lightly roll out again. Cut additional biscuits. You should yield 6-7 biscuits.
Transfer the cut biscuits to a baking sheet. Brush the tops with the melted butter and sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden.
To prepare all biscuits as strawberry shortcake, you will need 2 pints of strawberries, hulled and sliced/quartered, and one cup of heavy cream, whipped. Sweeten berries and cream to your liking.
*I don’t actually own biscuit cutters, so I set an appropriately-sized jar lid on top of the dough and used a knife to carefully cut out each biscuit. Worked like a charm!
UPDATE: Love strawberry shortcake, but looking to feed a crowd? Try bringing this mini version to your next gathering!