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from my table: strawberry-basil shortcake

July 2, 2011

So let’s talk shortcake, shall we?

To be honest, growing up, my experience of shortcake mostly involved a box of Jiffy mix. The shortcakes, instead of being actually short-crumbed and melty, were more like glorified, chunky biscuits — thick and doughy, the sort you have to chomp on a little and soak with strawberry juices. I won’t complain; I ate plenty of them and have fond memories of summer evenings scented with vanilla ice cream and sugared strawberries.

But I had this dream of something more…

A shortcake to end all shortcakes.
A shortcake that brought a tear to the eye.
A shortcake that couldn’t be used to break a window in an emergency.

I tried a recipe or two last summer with “ehhh” results. Still too chompy and too dry. Then, on a hallowed day this summer, I came across this Smitten Kitchen recipe (I should just build an altar to Deb in my kitchen already) and was intrigued. I’d never heard of using hard-boiled egg yolks in a baking recipe. It sounded just crazy enough to be delicious.

And oh, was it ever. Light, crumbly shortcakes that were soft and delicious, but still sturdy enough to hold up under all the strawberries and cream.

But of course, being the foodie renegade I consider myself to be, I had to give it a twist, a tickle, something a bit sassy and unexpected; a different sort of feather in shortcake’s hat.

So I just added fresh basil right into the shortcake dough.
Baked it right in there.
100% great way to get your kitchen to smell like a bakery and garden all at the same time.
Butter and basil.
I mean, HELLO.

Draped with lightly macerated farm fresh strawberries, homemade whipped cream and a drizzle of reduced, syrupy balsamic vinegar, it’s just the tops. The tip tops. Make it for friends and family this Fourth of July weekend and let them fawn over you a little, marveling at your fabulous creativity and culinary prowess.

Go on. It feels so good.

Basil Shortcake with Strawberries
Shortcake recipe slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 hard-boiled egg yolks
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 large basil leaves
2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream

1/2 pound strawberries, washed, hulled and halved
2 tablespoons sugar

1 cup whipping cream, beaten to soft peaks
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, egg yolks, and salt. Pulse to combine. Roll up the basil leaves like a cigar and slice them into strips. Add the butter and fresh basil strips and pulse until the flour resembles coarse meal. Add 2/3 cup of cream and pulse until the dough comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gather into a shaggy mass. Knead a couple times to make it into a cohesive mass and then pat it into a rough circle about 6 to 7 inches in diameter, and 3/4 to 1-inch thick.


Using a sharp knife, cut the circle into 6 wedges and arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Alternately, you can use a cookie cutter to make shapes of your choice. Chill for 20 minutes (and up to 2 hours).

Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush the tops of the shortcakes very lightly with heavy cream and sprinkle lightly with the coarse sugar. Bake until risen and golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Turn the pan around halfway through to ensure even cooking.


While the shortcakes are baking, toss the strawberries and sugar together in a bowl. Let stand several minutes.

Once the shortcakes are done, let them cool for 10 to 15 minutes. While they are cooling, whip the heavy cream and powdered sugar to soft peaks. Set aside. Pour the balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan and put over low heat, reducing it by half until it is syrupy, about 3 to 5 minutes. (If you over-reduce it like me, and it becomes really thick and sticky, heat it back up a little to salvage its drizzling capability. But don’t be like me.)

Place a shortcake on a plate, top with strawberries, a dollop of whipped cream, a drizzle of balsamic reduction and perhaps a fresh basil leaf to garnish.

Eat vigorously.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Amber permalink
    July 9, 2011 2:46 pm

    Oh wow! That looks so good and it totally just took my idea of the typical strawberry shortcake to another level. I might just have to get one of my foodie friends to make this for me :oP


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