Who says strawberries have a monopoly on shortcake desserts? In serious denial regarding the end of August and the daylight hours that get shorter and shorter, I bought a huge basket of blackberries at the market today. I tossed them with a little lemon juice and sugar and let them macerate while I made a batch of butter and cream biscuits.
Of course the problem with making shortcake biscuits is that I can’t help but to call my dad to tell him about it. Which of course means that before I’m even done photographing the finished work, he’s knocking at the door. (I think he drove to get here faster. He lives seven houses down the street. It takes 5 minutes to walk.)
Dad tried to leave with half of the biscuits, but stayed to chat so we ended up eating several and he barely got out of here with enough to take home to mom.
Regarding the berries, for this batch we used berries from the market. They weren’t as flavorful as the wild berries that I pick on foraging trips, or as tart. So I added lemon juice and zest to intensify the flavor. If you are using wild blackberries, or you have a particularly good batch of market berries, you could probably easily skip the lemon. Berries vary in their sweetness. Start light with the sugar and add more to taste.
The biscuit recipe is one we’ve adapted over the years from an old (2003) issue of Fine Cooking. We’ve reduced the amount of butter from the original recipe. With all of the cream, you could probably reduce it even further if you wanted, or substitute some of the cream with buttermilk.
Blackberry Shortcake Recipe
- 2 to 2 1/2 pounds of blackberries (6 to 8 cups), gently rinsed if fresh, defrosted if frozen (save any juices that come from defrosting!)
- 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of sugar (to taste, depending on the tartness of the berries)
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
- 3 cups flour
- 3 Tbsp sugar
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 8 Tbsp cold butter, cut into small cubes
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 teaspoons powdered sugar
- A few drops of vanilla extract
1 Put the blackberries into a large bowl, sprinkle with sugar, and toss to coat all the berries with sugar. Use a potato masher to gently mash about half of the berries, releasing their juices. Stir in lemon juice and zest. Let sit for 20 minutes to an hour to macerate, allowing the sugar to help release more of the juices from the blackberries.
2 In a large bowl vigorously whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the chilled butter cubes and use your fingers (or a fork, pastry cutter, or food processor) to break up the butter and mix with the flour until the largest pieces of butter are the size of peas.
3 Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the cream and vanilla. Use a fork to mix the flour and the cream until the dough just comes together. It should have a rather shaggy appearance. Empty on to a clean surface and knead a few times to form a loose ball. Do not over mix or over knead!
4 Place ball on a small tray or baking sheet and form into an 8-inch by 8-inch square. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill for 15 to 20 minutes.
5 Preheat oven to 425°F. Once the dough has chilled sufficiently, remove it from the refrigerator and cut it into 9 even squares. Arrange them on a baking sheet with an inch or two between each square.
Bake at 425°F until the biscuits are nicely browned, about 18 minutes.
6 While the biscuits are baking place the heavy whipping cream into a large chilled bowl (I usually put a metal mixing bowl into the freezer for a few minutes if I know I'm going to be making whipped cream.) Sprinkle with powdered sugar and a few drops of vanilla extract. Use a hand mixer to beat until you have peaks that somewhat hold their shape. Chill until ready to serve.
7 When the biscuits are ready, remove them from the oven and let them cool for a few minutes. To serve, place one in a bowl or dessert plate, pull it apart in half. Place a large scoop of berries and the juices from the berries over the bottom half. Top with the other half of the biscuit and a generous dollop of whipped cream.
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