Oh, hello. It’s been a huge couple of weeks of hosting at House Morell – I think we’ve had friends here for dinner every other day for two weeks straight. SO much fun! While I’ve been cooking away and tinkering with recipes, I haven’t paused to photograph and write much, and I can’t wait to catch up.
First up: these perfect chocolate kissed strawberry shortcakes. I’ve been serving them all summer. In fact, I’ve been serving them for years. They’re all that I love in summer cooking – a bit of buttery pastry stuffed with fresh fruit. Bonus: They’re incredibly easy to make.
I whipped up a batch of the shortbreads the other day while binge-watching The Great British Baking Show on PBS (via my Apple TV, that is). It comes at a perfect time in my life, as my desire to stay informed has collided with my desire to stay sane, and I’ve had to turn off all cable news for the time being. The recent utterly appalling attack by Trump on the dear Gold Star Khan family has pushed me over the edge (I had been teetering for a while). I simply can’t listen anymore. I may never turn it back on.
So let’s focus on this lovely group of British bakers, shall we? This group, which started with 12, meet up each weekend in a mixing-bowl- and oven-filled tent out on the back garden of Welford Park, an impossibly picturesque British Estate. Judged by a grand dame of British baking, Mary Berry, and the Dr. McDreamy of baking, Paul Hollywood (Where did they find this guy? Could that possibly be his real name? Those blue eyes! Where on earth did he learn so much about puff pastry?), the competition seeks to simply name the “Top Baker” in the land. No cash prizes, no contracts for TV shows. Only the title. Our friends compete each week around a topic: Cakes, Biscuits (American translation = cookies), Victorian recipes, Patisserie etc. It’s all quite civilized and restrained by American standards. The contestants seem to genuinely like and root for each other (my faves are Nadiya, Tamal, and Flora, by the way.) Unlike American shows featuring behind-the-scene back-stabbing and ill-will, the drama seems to only come from overcooked frangipane tarts and cakes that don’t set-up properly and ooze all over the place just as the clock is running down. That’s quite enough drama for me – I find it mesmerizing.
It’s the perfect balm to the U.S. election. I suggest you try it.
Now back to the lovely shortcakes. It’s a fairly classic recipe if you fall into the biscuit-style over cake-style shortbread camp, as I do. I’ll find any excuse to indulge in a biscuit, and I find that shards of finely chopped dark chocolate adds a lovely kiss of chocolate flavor to the light, buttery pastry.
Stuff them full of fresh strawberries topped with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream, and you have a fantastic way to finish a summer barbecue.
I understand there are 98 days until Election Day. Tell me, what else shall I binge-watch while avoiding Trump coverage on the news?
Strawberry Chocolate Shortcakes
- 1 cup chocolate chunks, chopped into slivers
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 3 tablespoons sugar, plus more for sprinkling on top.
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 stick of butter, cut into small pieces
- ¾ cup half-and-half or heavy cream
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 cups sliced strawberries
- 1 cup chilled whipping cream (or heavy cream)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
- Place the strawberries in a bowl with 3 tablespoons sugar. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Chop the chocolate chunks into fine shards. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine the flour, baking powder, 3 tablespoons of sugar, salt and nutmeg.
- Mix to combine, then add the very cold butter.
- Stir this mixture until it resembles course meal (you should still be able to see pea-sized bits of butter.)
- Add the chocolate shards.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the half and half (or cream), vanilla, and egg.
- With the mixer on low, slowly pour the milk and cream mixture into the flour mixture until it just begins to come together. Be careful not to over mix the batter.
- Knead the dough for one minute on a lightly floured pastry board, then roll it out to about one-inch thickness.
- Using a 4-inch biscuit cutter, cut out as many rounds as you can and place them onto an cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Sprinkle a generous teaspoon of sugar on the top of each shortcake.
- Bake for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned on top.
- Add the vanilla and powdered sugar to the heavy cream. Whip the mixture until soft peaks form.
- Split each shortcake down the middle. Spoon strawberries with a bit of juice onto the bottom half, then top with whipped cream. Place the top half of the shortcake back on top of the whipping cream.