In case you are still searching for a tasty red, white and blue dessert for your Fourth of July get-togethers, look no further!  Berry shortcakes are the dessert I always make when I need something delicious fast.  Whenever I find out I’m entertaining guests at the last minute, this is usually my go-to dessert.  These shortcakes require few ingredients and minimal effort.  I normally make them with just the strawberry sauce as traditional strawberry shortcake, but tossing on a few blueberries gives them the extra little something to make them just right for the Fourth.  I took the theme one step further and cut a star shape out of the top half of each cake to make them even more festive.  (Because this is a very crumbly cake, I chilled them in the refrigerator for a bit to firm them up before cutting out the stars.)

The shortcake is light and crumbly, with just a hint of sweetness.  It is the perfect accompaniment for the light, sweet whipped cream and fresh berries.  This dessert could be adapted in many ways.  If you are a shortcake lover, you may opt not to cut out the star shape and simply leave the top half in one piece for more cakey goodness.  For another fun personalized dessert option, you could simply crumble up the shortcakes and assemble individual trifles in dessert glasses.  Or, use different fruits if you aren’t going for the red, white and blue – I’m sure this would taste great with just about any fruit.

Berry Shortcakes
Yield: 6 servings

For the shortcakes:
2 cups flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar, divided
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup heavy cream

For the berry topping:
1 quart strawberries, hulled and quartered
2 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar
Blueberries (optional)

For the whipped cream:
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar

To make the shortcakes, preheat the oven to 400° F.  Line a baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper.  In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder and salt with a fork.  Pour in the heavy cream and stir together with the fork until almost all of the dry ingredients have come together to form a dough.  Gently clump the dough together with your hands and transfer to a work surface.  Form into a 6-inch round log.  (The dough can seem very dry and crumbly, but just do your best to keep it together, and avoid kneading as much as possible.)  Slice the log into 6 equal rounds and transfer them to the prepared baking sheet.  (Even if the dough seems like it is not sticking together, just gently squeeze it into the disc shape.  It will fuse together during baking.)  Sprinkle the tops of the rounds with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar.  Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  

To prepare the berry topping, transfer about one third of the strawberries to a mixing bowl.  Add in the confectioners’ sugar, and mash together with a fork until the mixture is mostly liquid.  Stir in the rest of the quartered berries.  Chill until ready to assemble the shortcakes.

To make the whipped cream, combine the heavy cream and confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Mix on medium-low speed until frothy, and then increase the speed to medium-high.  Whisk until stiff peaks form, being careful not to over-beat. 

To assemble the shortcakes. slice each one in half horizontally.  If desired, use a star-shaped cookie cutter to cut a star out of the top portion of each cake.  Transfer the bottom half of each cake to a serving plate, top with the strawberry sauce and a dollop of whipped cream.  Arrange the cake stars and blueberries on top.  Serve immediately. 

Source: significantly adapted from Cook’s Kitchen Handbook