Recipe Review

This One Ingredient Drastically Improves Whipped Cream

updated May 4, 2021
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne

Claudia Fleming is best known for her time as the pastry chef at the very highly regarded Gramercy Tavern. She’s also the former owner of the Long Island food destination North Fork Table. Her 2001 cookbook, The Last Course, was a favorite among pastry chefs — it was so popular, in fact, that vintage copies would sell for over $200 (luckily, it was reprinted in 2019). All that to say, when several of my colleagues recommend Claudia Fleming’s shortcake recipe for our strawberry shortcake showdown, I knew I was in good hands.

Claudia’s recipe takes the classic strawberry shortcake and gives it a few elevated upgrades. Most noticeably, she infuses the shortcakes with tarragon flavor by macerating the strawberries with fresh tarragon sprigs and making a tarragon-flavored whipped cream. I personally love how anise-y flavored tarragon plays with strawberries, so I was super excited to try her shortcakes. Would these fancy techniques steal the show? Read on to find out.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne

How to Make Claudia Fleming’s Strawberry Shortcakes

You’ll start by making the biscuits. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (Alternatively, you can use a food processor). Pulse or mix to combine, then add cold, cubed unsalted butter and mix until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add heavy cream and mix until the dough comes together. Transfer to a floured surface and pat into a 1-inch-thick square. Refrigerate for 1 hour, then cut into 9 biscuits. Brush the tops with heavy cream and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet until golden-brown. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Next, start the tarragon whipped cream. Blanch fresh tarragon leaves in a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds, then shock the leaves in an ice bath until cool. Drain and squeeze any excess water from the tarragon, then transfer to a blender. Add light corn syrup and purée until smooth. Let the mixture rest for 30 minutes. Right before serving, strain the infused syrup and whip it with heavy cream and powdered sugar until soft peaks form.

To make the strawberries, you’ll bruise large sprigs of tarragon, then toss them in a bowl with fresh strawberries and sugar. Let the mixture rest for 20 minutes, then remove the sprigs of tarragon and discard. To assemble the shortcakes, split the biscuits in half. Place the bottom half on the plate, then top with berries and cream. Cover with the top biscuit and serve immediately.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne

My Honest Review of Claudia Fleming’s Strawberry Shortcakes

Claudia’s shortcakes were almost the winner of this showdown. The biscuits themselves were super tasty: They had great flavor and a light and tender texture. She describes them as resembling a less-dense scone more than a biscuit, and I agree. I also loved their crisp, sugared edges. Unfortunately, they didn’t rise nearly as much as I’d hoped, which made it difficult to split them in two. I also couldn’t taste the tarragon in the strawberries as much as I would have liked.

With that said, I LOVED the tarragon whipped cream. I could have easily eaten a whole bowl of it myself. Sure, it requires a little more work and planning than your standard whipped cream, but it was so worth it. I will say my 10-year-old daughter didn’t love it — even though she has a mature palate for someone her age — so maybe it’s best for adults. But that’s OK … more for me!

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this elevated take on a shortcake. But because some elements were better than others, it didn’t receive the top spot.

Credit: Amelia Rampe
Claudia Fleming

If You’re Going to Make Claudia Fleming’s Strawberry Shortcake, a Few Tips

  1. Use fresh baking powder. I know my baking powder wasn’t expired because I used the same container to make a different biscuit recipe with plenty of rise, but these flat biscuits were a good reminder to check the date on the can. If your baking powder has been sitting in your cupboard for a few years, it’s likely time to get a fresh one.
  2. Don’t skip the tarragon whipped cream! It is absolutely delicious. Make regular whipped cream if you’re serving younger palates, and save the good stuff for the adults.

Rating: 9/10

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne

Have you tried Claudia Fleming’s Strawberry Shortcakes? Let us know in the comments!