¾cup(1 ½ sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
¾cuphalf and half or whole milk
2tablespoonsmelted unsalted butter
2pints(4 cups) fresh strawberries, sliced
For the Whipped Cream
1cupheavy cream, chilled
2tablespoonssour cream, crème fraiche or mascarpone (optional)
1teaspoonpure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Very lightly flour a clean counter or work surface.
Combine the flour with 2 tablespoons of the sugar, the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest in a medium bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or use your fingers to rub it into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Alternately you can pulse the butter into the flour mixture in a food processor, stopping when it reaches the coarse crumb texture.
Add the half and half or milk and stir just barely combined. Turn the mixture onto the lightly floured surface. Use your hands to lightly mix the dough just until it barely holds together. Pat it out into a circle or a rectangle about ½-inch thick.
Use a 3-inch round biscuit or cookie cutter to cut out the shortcakes, keeping them as close together as possible to minimize extra dough. Make sure you use a sharp biscuit cutter vs. a glass, and press down and pull straight up, without twisting; twisting will hinder their rising as they bake. If you dip the biscuit cutter in flour in between each biscuit cutting, it will help prevent sticking. You can collect the scraps and re-pat them out into a ¾ inch disk and cut out another 2 or 3 when you are done. Try to handle the dough as little as possible.
Brush a baking sheet with some of the melted butter. Transfer half of the biscuits to a baking sheet. Brush the tops with a bit of the melted butter. Place the rest of the biscuits on top of the buttered biscuits, and brush the top with a bit more of the melted butter. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar over the shortcakes.
Bake for about 15 minutes until light golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Meanwhile put the berries in a medium bowl and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar or to taste. Toss with a fork, and lightly crush some of the berries so you have some different textures going on and some of the juices are released. This will also help keep the berries from slipping and sliding on the shortcakes.
Once the berries are macerating, make the whipped cream. Place the heavy cream, sour cream, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla in a clean bowl (if you chill it first, the cream will whip up faster), or the bowl of a standing mixer outfitted with the whisk insert.
Use a whisk or a handheld electric mixer on high speed to beat the cream, moving it all around the bowl, until it starts to form stiff peaks (or turn on the standing mixer). Stop beating at this point – overbeating can cause the cream to separate. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Just before serving cut each biscuit crosswise so you have a top half and a bottom half. Place the bottoms halves on plates, layer on some strawberries, then some whipped cream, replace the top of the shortcake, then spoon over some more strawberries and whipped cream. Serve immediately.