Strawberry shortcake is, in my opinion, the most perfect dessert. Of course this is dependent upon the quality of the shortcake and the strawberries.
In June, you can pretty much count on strawberries being top notch. I’ve also found what is probably the best shortcake recipe on the internet– one that is as good as– no, actually trumps– the shortcake recipe on the Bisquick box which was long my favorite despite the fact it was on the Bisquick box. The completely homemade shortcake recipe was on the Food Network website and it was really wrong, but thank goodness for reviews and comments because that helped correct all its flaws. It makes a lightly sweet, slightly crumbly shortcake that’s soft in the middle and has a pleasantly crunchy crust.
I’ve been making this particular shortcake for about a year and have recently found myself wanting to experiment with some new flavors. My basil is starting to go nuts and I’m not quite ready to start making pesto, so I wanted to incorporate some of that. I made a lemon-basil shortbread a couple of years ago that was absolutely intoxicating. I figured if lemon and basil works in shortbread, why not shortcake?
I mixed the dry ingredients for the shortcake together and cut in the butter and shortening before adding in the finely chopped basil, lemon zest and lemon juice. After I’d incorporated that, I poured in the half-and-half (did I mention these aren’t lowfat?) and stirred until the dough just came together. The shortcakes went into the oven and came out 15 minutes later lightly golden, flecked with basil and sparkling on top from a sprinkling of raw sugar.
I couldn’t even wait for them to cool before I pulled a tiny nibble off one of the shortcakes. They brought the memory of that lemon-basil shortbread back to life. With ice cream and strawberries it was a taste of summer with the basil and lemon providing a je ne sais quois — that turned the familiar into something new and intriguing.
Next time, I’ll try the shortcakes with blueberries– I think the blueberries and basil will be an even more divine combination.
Lemon Basil Shortcake
2 c. flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1/3 c. sugar (or a little less)
2 Tbsp. shortening
2 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh basil
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. grated lemon zest
2/3 c. plus 1 Tbsp. half and half
Mix together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Cut or rub in shortening and butter until dough is the size of small peas. Add basil, lemon juice and zest and stir (don’t be tempted to the add lemon juice to the half and half– it will curdle it). Add the half and half and stir until all the dry ingredients are incorporated and the dough just comes together. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto a cookie sheet. Brush tops with melted butter and sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake in a 400 degree oven 15 minutes until lightly golden. Makes 8 shortcakes.