Sunday, August 14, 2011

biscuit blackberry shortcakes with vanilla bean custard

I can't hardly believe that we're approaching the end of summer. It's gone by so fast. Very soon, the temperature will drop drastically, and after approximately one month of autumn, we'll be back in a winter wonderland. Casual summer at work will end. Reading in the park will end. Cicadas will end. Iced coffees will end. Summer dresses will end. flip flops will end. Fruit will end. Barbeques will end. All of these things give me the sad face.

Speaking of barbeques, there is no better reason to concoct a delicious dessert than a barbeque. Sadly, as we do not have a barbeque, we have to rely on others for our deliciously charred meats and veggies, so we bribe our potential hosts with the promise of a lovingly prepared homemade dessert.

This is fairly simple to prepare. None of it is very hard - the biscuits are a snap, and so is the custard. The custard has been in my rotation for probably around ten years and I don't think it has ever failed me. Sometimes I use vanilla bean, sometimes I use vanilla extract. It's best prepared the night before so it has some time to chill and set a bit. Another tip - use frozen (or chilled) butter and grate it with your cheese grater. This way, you can just dump it into your dry ingredients and work it in without handling the dough too much - you've already done most of the work!

biscuit blackberry shortcakes with vanilla bean custard

adapted from Joy of Cooking 

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 cup chilled or (preferably) frozen butter, grated
2 tsp minced orange zest
3/4 cup milk

Adapted from

2 cups whipping cream
1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated sugar


Make the custard the night before if possible, but as long as it has enough time to chill, it should be fine. In a medium sized pot (off heat), whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Add whipping cream then turn on the heat to medium low. Split vanilla bean and scrape seeds into the cream. Stir constantly and bring to a simmer, custard should have thickened considerably.

Once it has reached a simmer, take the custard off heat and pour it through a fine sieve. Chill.

Preheat oven to 450ºF. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Add grated butter and, using pastry blender, fork or hands, combine until texture resembles oatmeal. Make a well in the centre of the bowl, then pour in milk and add zest. Combine well, but don't overhandle.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 3/4 inch thickness. Cut into 3" rounds (I used a glass dipped in flour). Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Place biscuits on baking sheet and brush with milk. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until lightly browned.

You can assemble them however you see fit. I found it worked best and looked nicest to cut the biscuits in half and layer them, cut side up, with a dollop of the custard between layers and on top. Arrange blackberries on top of custard. Serve immediately.

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