Baking in Eagle County: Star spangled shortcake
Vail CO, Colorado
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Editor’s Note: Living in the Colorado high country is pure joy. Baking in it isn’t. High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the mountains successful.
This is the quintessential summer dessert: A golden shortcake cradling fresh berries floating above softly whipped cream. Star-shaped cut outs on the cake’s top give you a preview of the strawberry and blueberry filling and create a visual, as well as a patriotic, delight.
In spite of its good looks, this dessert is no prima donna. The shortcake is made in a food processor and the dough will sit in the refrigerator overnight. You can assemble the whole thing up to three hours before serving it; the baked shortcake is sturdy enough that it will hold the filling without getting soggy or collapsing.
You need a 2-inch star cookie cutter to make this dessert. If you lack one, don’t despair; make the cut outs on the shortcake top with a 2-inch round cookie cutter instead. Though no longer “star spangled,” it will taste just as good and look almost as pretty.
Star Spangled Shortcake
Adjusted for altitudes between 8,000 and 10,000 feet
Serves 6 to 8
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons of flour
2 tablespoons of granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
4 tablespoons of cold unsalted butter (one half stick)
4 ounces of cream cheese
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of buttermilk or a mixture of plain yogurt and milk
1 1/2 cups of strawberries, washed and quartered
1 1/2 cups of blueberries, washed and picked over
3 tablespoons of sugar
1 tablespoon of Creme de Cassis, optional
3/4 cup of cold whipping cream
1 scant tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
For the shortcake: Combine the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt) in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until well combined. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch pieces and add them to the food processor. Pulse only until the largest pieces are about the size of peas. Cut the cream cheese into 2-inch pieces, add them to the food processor and pulse until they are about the size of peas. Add the buttermilk or the mixture of plain yogurt and milk (the mixture should contain half of each ingredient to make a total amount of 1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons). Pulse just until the dough comes together; don’t let it form a ball that rides the blade. Turn the dough out of the bowl and gently knead it into a ball. Place it in a bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least an hour and up to overnight.
Step Two: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees, with a rack in the center position. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and set it aside. Divide the dough ball in half. Place one half on a lightly floured sheet of waxed paper or Saran Wrap. Gently reshape it into a disk, then place another sheet of waxed paper or Saran over it and roll it into a circle that is 7 1/2 inches across. Carefully remove the top sheet of waxed paper or Saran and flip the circle of dough over onto the parchment-lined baking pan (the uncovered dough is now on the parchment). Position it so there is room on the pan for the second circle of dough. Carefully remove the remaining sheet of waxed paper or Saran. Repeat this process with the other half of the dough. Brush both shortcakes with milk or cream and generously sprinkle granulated sugar all over them.
Step Three: Place the shortcakes in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 400 degrees. Bake until the cakes have risen slightly and turned golden brown. This takes about 13 to 16 minutes in my oven. Remove the shortcakes from the oven, leave them on the baking pan, and immediately cut out, but don’t remove, four stars (using a two inch star cookie cutter) from one of them. Let them cool completely. When they are completely cooled, use the sharp tip of a paring knife to remove the cut out stars. If they don’t come out easily, use the knife to re-trace the cuts, and then try lifting them out again.
Step Four: About 15 minutes before assembling the dessert, combine the quartered strawberries and the blueberries in a bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of sugar and the creme de cassis (if you’re using it), stir gently until well combined. Give them a taste to see if they need more sugar. If they do, add another tablespoon and stir again. Place the bowl in the refrigerator while you whip the cream.
Step Five: Combine the whipping cream, sugar and vanilla in a small bowl and whip to medium peaks.
Step Six: Place the shortcake without the stars on a serving plate and spread the whipped cream all over it. Top the cream with most of the berries (save about a cup of them), and gently level this filling so the top shortcake can sit on it evenly. Carefully place the top shortcake over the filling and fill the star cut outs with more strawberries and blueberries. Use the rest of the berries to surround the base of the dessert. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to three hours before serving. Cut this dessert with a serrated knife; plunge it in the center and then cut with an up and down motion. Top each piece with more fruit and serve.
This recipe is a variation of one found in Martha Stewart’s Living.
Vera Dawson lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact Vera Dawson with your comments about this column and/or your baking questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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