Dorie Greenspan's Tips for Perfect Strawberry Shortcake Every Time

Expert Interview

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This coming Saturday, June 14, is a national food holiday, paying homage to one of summer’s quintessential desserts — strawberry shortcake. So, what better time than now to talk to expert baker (and one of our favorites!), Dorie Greenspan, about her tips for preparing the perfect strawberry shortcake, complete with tender, mile-high biscuits, every time!

Is shortcake a project that any baker can take on?
Shortcake is such a great project for newbie bakers and pros, alike! The dough is forgiving, so precision isn’t as important as with more technical desserts. Even first timers get top-hat mile high biscuits, thanks to the baking powder - the magic that powers biscuits to puffiness.

When people think shortcake, sometimes they think it’s a piece of cake simply to hold berries and cream. Any tips for flavor?
I use a baker’s trick for pulling flavor out of zest and putting it into every bite of the biscuit. This is one of the best techniques, ever! Everyone I’ve ever shown it to loves it and uses it forever after.

Biscuits aren’t usually flavored with much, but I brighten up my shortcakes with lemon zest (it’s so good with strawberries!). I massage freshly grated lemon zest into the recipe’s sugar until the sugar is wildly fragrant and every grain is steeped in lemon oil. It’s also my favorite form of aromatherapy!

What's the secret to shortcake biscuits with lots of buttery layers?
It’s all in your fingers! The key to great biscuits is rubbing the flour and butter together with your fingertips until the ingredients are bumpy, lumpy and pebbly — the technique is easy, fun, messy and effective.

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What tips do you have for achieving tender shortcake biscuit dough?
To make tender dough you need three things:

  • A good recipe: Make sure to measure the ingredients accurately.
  • A light touch: Go easy on the kneading! This sounds easy but kneading is so much fun and it feels so good that everyone, both first timers and pros, has a tendency to knead too much. As soon as the dough comes together — STOP. A few lumps and bumps are good.
  • A watchful eye: Keep an eye on your biscuits while they’re in the oven, as not to over bake them. Biscuits are best baked in high heat for a short time.

Homemade biscuits always seem to fall flat. Any suggestions for mile-high biscuits?
The key to mile-high biscuits is part conviction and part sharp edge. Biscuits rise hight in part because of the dough and in part because of the way they’re cut — straight down, no shimmying with the cutter, no shaking, no swiveling. After babying the biscuits in the bowl, you show them who’s boss when you punch them out on the counter.

How do you prepare the fruit for strawberry shortcake?
You can do just about anything you want with the berries for the shortcake. Many people just cut strawberries and spoon them over whipped cream - it’s the way my mom did it. I sometimes do that but I also like to play around with the fruit a little and build in more contrasts.

In the Double Strawberry and Rose Shortcakes that I created for Driscoll’s, I quickly cook a smidgen of sugar and cut berries until the berries soften and there’s a little syrup in the pan, and then I add some pure rose extract. This is the mixture that I layer directly onto the bottom of the biscuit. I circle the berry compote with whipped cream flavored with rose and tinted with rose-berry pink (it’s not necessary, but it’s so pretty!) and then I finish the shortcake with sliced strawberries.

How can you build a superior shortcake?
I love when a dessert is surprising, when each spoonful has a mix of flavors and textures. My shortcakes double-up on strawberries - there are fresh berries on top and, hidden beneath them, a cooked-berry compote. I go a little lighter on the whipped cream, making the cream even more of a treat than it always is.

How do you keep them coming back for more?
Keep ‘em guessing! I like to add something, often a background flavor, that is fascinating, something people will love but find hard to place. With these shortcakes, the mystery ingredient is rose! I gently flavor the strawberry compote and the shipped cream with rose. It’s not obvious but it is delicious and it makes the shortcakes even more irresistible.

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(Image credits: Dorie Greenspan)