Ever notice how people from big families eat fast? That’s because if you finish your food first, you’ll be assured of seconds. In our family we kids perfected the art of eating quickly with strawberry shortcake. If there was one food we dreamt of, fought over, couldn’t get enough of, it was strawberry shortcake. Made with biscuits. And real whipped cream. Sigh. There is no more of a perfect dessert than this.
Which is why, when my mother asked me to make something for her book club meeting, and with big, juicy, sweet strawberries showing up in the markets all over town (even at a street vendor on the corner of my block), that I couldn’t wait to make these mini shortcakes. I don’t take credit for the idea, or the name for that matter. We were served mini strawberry shortcakes at an event for Ruth Reichl when she was in town recently, and my pals Garrett and Amber took one look at them and called them “sliders”. Why a slider? Because like a burger slider, you can hold them in your hand to eat. They are perfect little finger food shortcakes.
Shortcake biscuits are typically very crumbly; the crumbles just absorb all of that extra juice from the strawberries. But with sliders, you don’t want them to crumble. So the solution is to add an egg to dough, to give the biscuits a little more structure, and to knead them just a few turns more than you would normally.
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 Tbsp baking powder*
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 8 Tbsp (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter (if using salted, skip the salt in dry ingredients), cut into small cubes and chilled (freezer for 15 minutes or longer)
- 7/8 cup (that's one cup minus 2 tablespoons) heavy whipping cream
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 baskets of fresh strawberries, rinsed, stems removed and discarded, sliced (1/8" to 1/4" thick)
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
*Make sure your baking powder is less than 6 months old or it may be flat and your biscuits will have a hard time rising. If you don't have baking powder you can combine two teaspoons cream of tartar (a dry acid) with one teaspoon baking soda (a dry base) for the same effect.
1 In a large bowl, vigorously whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder for the biscuits. Cut the butter into the flour mixture with a fork or a pastry cutter, or pulse in a food processor until the largest pieces of butter are the size of peas.
2 Use a fork to whisk together the cream, egg, and vanilla in a small bowl. Make a well in the large bowl of the flour mixture and pour the cream mixture into the center of it. Use a fork to mix until the dough is evenly moistened. The dough mixture should look shaggy. Knead the dough with your hands 8 turns or so to create a ball.
3 Lightly flour a smooth surface. Turn the dough out onto the surface and pat or roll out until it is between 1/4 and 1/2-inch thick. Use a 1 1/2-inch diameter biscuit cutter (or a juice glass) to cut out round biscuit shapes from the dough. (It helps to dip the biscuit cutter in some flour before each cut, so that the dough doesn't stick to the form.) Place rounds on a baking sheet, space about 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart from each other. Chill for 10 minutes in the refrigerator before baking.
4 Heat oven to 425°F. Bake biscuits on middle rack for 12 minutes, or until risen and lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool.
5 While the biscuits are baking, prepare the strawberries and whipped cream. Place the sliced strawberries in a bowl and sprinkle sugar over them. Gently mix so that the sugar coats most of the strawberries. Let sit until the sugar dissolves and the strawberries release their moisture.
6 To make the whipped cream, make sure you are starting with cream that is very cold. It helps to chill the bowl first too. Use a hand mixer (you can make whipped cream in a blender, but watch out; it's easy to over-whip the cream in a blender) to whip the cream until it just begins to firm up. Sprinkle the sugar and vanilla over the cream. Continue to whip until it is thick and holds its shape. Cover with plastic wrap and keep chilled until it's time to assemble the mini strawberry shortcakes.
7 When the biscuits have cooled to room temperature, gently break them apart, separating the tops from the bottoms. Place a strawberry slice or two on each bottom, and place a dollop of whipped cream on top of the strawberries. Then place the top biscuit piece on top of the whipped cream. Voilá! You have your slider. Alternatively, you can serve them without the top.