Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Sunshine Shortcakes

I adore the gentle radiance that early summer brings. Almost at once the world becomes resplendent, with unclouded skies, warm days and cool soothing evenings. We all know it won't last, but even now as I stare wistfully out into the rain that has greeted me this morning I still feel inspirited at the thought of more sun to come.

These individual shortcakes are a wonderfully indulgent treat, perfect both as an accompaniment to an afternoon tea or coffee in the sunshine or as a remedy to the grey, devitalizing days we are all too familiar with. With sweet fruity jam and velvety vanilla cream enveloped in two light, crumbly and sugary biscuits, the pleasure you and your guests will take in devouring them belies their simplicity. I encourage you to be generous with your fillings, but as always you are free to experiment with a variety of combinations. Buttercream, fresh fruit, lemon/orange curd, even ice cream are certainly worth trying, although maybe not all together!

Prep time: 20 Minutes
Baking time: 12 Minutes
250g Self Raising Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
1/2tsp Salt
100g Unsalted Butter (Cut into cubes)
2 Egg Yolks (Beaten)
50ml Milk
2tsp Melted Unsalted Butter (For brushing)
Caster sugar (For dusting)

For the filling
250ml Double Cream
1tsp Vanilla Extract
300g Jam (I used raspberry)

Begin by sifting the flour into a large mixing bowl with the baking powder. Add the salt, then rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, with no large lumps of butter left. Tip in the sugar and mix briefly with a wooden spoon, then pour in the egg yolks along with the milk and mix to combine. Once the mixture starts to come together use your hands to bring it to a soft dough. Tip the dough out onto a very lightly floured surface and loosely knead the dough (pulling and folding the dough) for one minute until smooth. Shape into a ball and return to your mixing bowl for 20 minutes. 

Whilst the dough is resting, preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7 and line two large baking sheets with baking paper. Dust a clean, dry surface with flour along with a rolling pin. Place the dough onto the floured surface and roll out, about 75mm thick, then using a 68mm pastry cutter cut into rounds. Place each round, evenly spaced onto your baking paper (you should get about 16 in total out of the mixture). You can re-roll the dough if necessary, but just remember to make sure the surface is still floured and the dough is shaped back into a smooth ball before rolling and cutting again. Lightly brush each biscuit with a little melted butter and bake in the centre of the oven four around 12 minutes, until the biscuits have risen slightly and are golden brown. When you are happy they are cooked, remove from the oven and leave for around 20-30 minutes, then carefully peel each from the paper and leave to cool completely.

When the biscuits are cool you can proceed with the filling. Pour the cream into a bowl with the vanilla extract and whip until thick. Take eight of the cooled biscuits and upturn onto you serving plate. Use the least attractive eight (if there are any!) as these will be on the bottom. Spread the jam onto each of the biscuits, taking care not damage or break them. On the other eight, spread the thick cream onto the bottom of each and sandwich with the jammy bases, gently pressing to secure. Dust each finished shortcake all over with caster sugar and they are ready to serve. Hooray!

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