This recipe came to me as I was meditating on how to create a better than “plain Jane” version of strawberry shortcake. My love of the combination of lemon and black pepper inspired me! I went straight to the kitchen to try this out, and sure enough, it was amazing, with samplers concurring! The lemony shortcake livens up a usually bland element to this dessert, while the lemon-infused simple syrup lends flavor and extra juiciness to the berries. Adding the black pepper gives it just a hint of warmth at the end. So good! Serves 6
2 cups flour
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons lemon zest
12 Tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
2 cold large eggs
½ cup cold heavy cream
¼ teaspoon each vanilla and lemon extract
1 Tablespoon half and half
Sugar, for sprinkling
2 pounds ripe strawberries
¾ cup sugar
½ cup water
2 Tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper, medium grind
1 cup cold heavy cream
2 Tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
To make shortcake:
Preheat oven to 400-degrees
Combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and zest in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add butter and pulse until mixture just starts to look crumbly. (Don’t over-process, the small bits of butter make the shortcake tender!)
Transfer to a large bowl. Beat eggs in a small bowl until no streaks remain, then beat in the cream and extracts. Pour over the flour mixture and mix gently with a rubber spatula until the wet and dry ingredients just come together. Dump out onto a floured board. With floured hands, pat the dough into a rectangle, approximately 6 x 9-inches. Cut into 6 equal square pieces.
Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Beat together the remaining egg and half and half together until light and well-combined to create and “egg wash”. With a pastry brush, brush over the tops of the shortcakes, and sprinkle generously with sugar to cover the tops.
Bake for 8 minutes, rotate baking sheet, then bake another 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and transfer to a cooling rack.
Simple syrup: Combine sugar, water, and lemon juice in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and cool completely. Strain mixture into a small bowl and set aside while preparing strawberries.
Wash, dry and stem strawberries. Cut into halves or quarters, depending on size of berries and place in a large mixing bowl. Using a potato masher, smash the strawberries until half are well mashed and half are still intact. Add enough of the simple syrup to thoroughly moisten all of the berries, 1/2 to ¾ cup. Stir in black pepper.
Prepare whipped cream:
Place heavy cream and sugar in a chilled bowl. Beat with mixer until firm peaks form.
Split shortcakes. Place bottom half in serving dish. Top with strawberries and a dollop of whipped cream. Top with shortcake “lid” then more strawberries (and juice) and finish with a generous dollop of whipped cream. Serve!