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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Brown Sugar Berry Shortcakes

Late summer is berry time in my garden; we've been enjoying strawberries and raspberries for a few years and this year we are having our first small blackberry harvest. It won't be long until the raspberries overwhelm me. But I'm not sorry. When I eat a fruity dessert it is easier to rationalize any sense of guilt away and I love the season when I get to eat as many berries as I want. This version of shortcake is particularly lovely. The brown sugar complements the berries nicely; you don't have to dirty a food processor unless you want to; you don't have to roll the dough out; and the sour cream in the whipped cream stabilizes it and adds a bit a tang which contrasts with the sweet sugar.

When we lived in Belgium, our friend Gigi introduced us to one of the most simple and delicious ways to eat strawberries: dip them in sour cream, then in brown sugar, and pop them in your mouth. Fantastic! This recipe captures those flavors.


Brown Sugar Berry Shortcakes

Serves 6

For the fruit:

6 c mixed berries (any combination of strawberries, raspberries, black berries, blue berries, currants--the addition of the darker berries looks beautiful)
4-6 T packed light brown sugar

For the shortcakes:

2 c flour (I used a combination of unbleached flour and white-wheat flour)
3 T packed light brown sugar
1 T baking powder
1/2 teas table salt
8 T unsalted butter (frozen) plus 1-2 T for melting and brushing on shortcakes
1 large egg
1/2 c sour cream
2 T granulated sugar

For the cream topping:

1 c heavy cream
1/4 c sour cream
1/4 c packed light brown sugar

Prepare berries by trimming as necessary. Halve and slice strawberries; leave raspberries, blueberries or currants whole; halve blackberries. With a potato masher crush 2 c berries with brown sugar in a medium bowl and let sit out until the sugar has dissolved and the berries are juicy, about 30 minutes.

Prepare the shortcakes by heating the oven to 375F. With your hands mix the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl, making sure the brown sugar is fully incorporated. Remove the butter from the freezer and grate it into the flour mixture, using the larger holes of a box grater (or flat).  Lightly toss the butter into the flour to distribute it evenly. Whisk the sour cream and egg together in a small bowl and stir it into the flour mixture until large clumps form. Using your hands, knead it lightly until the dough comes together and all the flour is absorbed. If you prefer to use a food processor to mix the dough, you may pulse the dry ingredients together, then drop in tablespoon size chunks of the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 7 pulses. Transfer the mix to a large bowl and add the cream/egg mix.

Using a large ice cream scoop (a # 10 disher is best), scoop 6 dough rounds onto the baking sheet (either sprayed with cooking spray or lined with  silicone paper). If you don't have a scoop of this size you can divide the dough into 6 equal pieces and form into mounded shapes. Brush the tops with melted butter and sprinkle with the granulated sugar. Bake until golden brown, 25-30 minutes. Rotate the pan in the oven half-way through baking time. Cool the shortcakes for 10 minutes. (You may also cool, wrap and keep on the counter for 24 hours. My preferred method is to freeze them, otherwise the sugar topping tends to get soggy and they can be kept for a month or two which is helpful in my household of two.)

To prepare the cream, beat the heavy cream, sour cream, and brown sugar to stiff peaks.

To assemble, split each shortcake in half using a serrated knife. Place the bottom halves on serving plates and spoon some of the fruit mixture over each one, making sure each serving gets a good amount of juice. Top the fruit with the cream and nestle the cake top in the cream dollop. You're ready!

Note:  As my family knows, I love whipped cream. I advise you to double the cream. It is up to you whether you double the brown sugar. I think the amount of brown sugar makes the cream a bit too sweet, but it does make it a lovely color.


  1. Mmmmmm wow wee, that looks so yummy!

  2. To make sure I had enough light for the photo, I had to make the desserts before dinner.........let me tell you that is the way to start a meal!