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Serve up instant smiles with fruit, shortcake

Fresh fruit is showing up in abundance. I am not talking about the usual apples, oranges or bananas, but the summery fruits, such as every kind of berry and luscious peaches and nectarines.

They are good enough just plain, but they are great combined with a buttery shortbread (or shortcake) and perhaps a topping of sweetened whipped cream. You can also serve the fruit over angel food cake, pound cake, sponge cake or regular white or yellow cake, whatever you prefer.

Excuse me if I am beginning to sound like Bubba in the movie, Forrest Gump, when he was reciting all the many ways to cook shrimp.

Most home baked shortcakes, at least in the USA, are a type of sweet biscuit dough. Why not celebrate the arrival of our fresh summer bounty by serving your friends and family a dessert of fruit and shortcake? Here are a few recipes to get you started. Strawberry shortcake

For shortcake:

2 cups flour 1 tablespoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 3 tablespoons sugar 1 stick butter, chilled 2/3 to 3/4 cup half and half, milk, or cream

For filling:

1 quart strawberries 1/3 cup sugar 1 1/2 cups whipping cream for topping, or non-dairy whipped topping

  1. Rinse the berries under cold water; drain well. Hull and slice the berries; place in a bowl. Sprinkle with the sugar; cover and let stand at room temperature for about 1 hour. Whip the cream (sweeten with 2 or 3 tablespoons of sugar, if desired) until it holds a soft peak. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Set rack at center level.

  2. In a food processor (you can use a pastry cutter or fingertips) combine the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar and pulse to mix. Cut butter into about 8 pieces and add to the mixture. Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal, but with few pea-size chunks of butter left in the mixture. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and make a well in the center. With a fork, stir in the cream or milk, just until dough is moist. Be very careful not to overwork. The dough doesn’t have to hold together well at this point. Let the dough stand for a minute. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Fold the dough over on itself (knead) 2 or 3 times, until it is holding together and is less sticky.

  3. Gently pat the dough into a 6- by 12-inch rectangle about 3/4-inch thick and cut into 8 (3-inch) biscuits with a floured round cutter. Transfer to a buttered foil-lined cookie sheet. Brush on a little milk or cream and sprinkle tops with some sugar, if desired. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until risen and golden brown. Remove to a platter and split each biscuit horizontally with a serrated knife. Butter the hot biscuits then top with about 1/3 cup of berry mixture. Replace the tops and top with a tablespoon or so of berries. Serve with whipped cream for topping. Makes 8 servings.

Warm peach shortcakes with bourbon-brown sugar cream

From Bon Appetit, July 2002. 2 1/2 cups flour 6 tablespoons plus 3 teaspoons sugar 4 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces 1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening, frozen, cut into 1/2-inch pieces 2/3 cup chilled buttermilk 1 large egg 1 large egg white 3/4 cup finely chopped pecans (about 2 1/2 ounces) 1 cup chilled whipping cream 2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar 1 1/2 tablespoons bourbon

Brown sugar peaches

3 pounds fresh peaches, peeled, pitted, sliced lengthwise and slices cut crosswise in half 1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

  1. Gently toss sliced peaches, brown sugar and lemon juice in bowl to blend.

  2. Let stand at room temperature until juices form, tossing occasionally, about 2 hours.

For shortcakes:

  1. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 425. Whisk flour, 6 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in medium bowl to blend. Add butter and shortening and rub in with fingertips until coarse meal forms. Whisk buttermilk and 1 egg to blend in small bowl. Add to flour mixture and stir until moist clumps form. Gather dough together; turn out onto floured work surface and knead gently just until dough holds together, about 5 turns (dough will be moist). Pat dough into 9-by 6-inch rectangle; cut into 6, 3-inch squares. Transfer squares to heavy ungreased baking sheet, spacing apart. (Can be prepared 4 hours ahead. Cover tightly and refrigerate.)

  2. Whisk egg white in small bowl until foamy. Add pecans and stir to blend. Spread pecan mixture over tops of biscuits, dividing equally. Sprinkle squares with remaining 3 teaspoons sugar. Bake biscuits until puffed and light golden, about 18 minutes. Cool biscuits 10 minutes. Meanwhile, beat whipping cream, brown sugar and bourbon in medium bowl until soft peaks form.

  3. Using serrated knife, cut warm biscuits horizontally in half. Place one bottom half on each of 6 plates. Top with brown sugar peaches. Spoon generous dollop of bourbon whipped cream atop each. Cover with biscuit tops. Garnish each with more whipped cream and 1 strawberry before serving.

Banana cream toffee shortcakes

2 Pillsbury Grands buttermilk or southern style biscuits (from 25-oz. bag) 1/2 teaspoon butter, melted 2 teaspoons toffee bits (not chocolate coated) and extra for topping 1 snack size container (4-oz.) vanilla pudding 1/4 cup frozen (thawed) whipped topping 1/2 small banana, sliced (or use a whole one) Caramel topping, if desired

  1. Preheat oven to 375. Bake biscuits as directed on package; place on cooling rack. Brush tops with melted butter and sprinkle with toffee bits, pressing down slightly.

  2. Place pudding in small bowl and gently fold in whipped topping. Carefully split warm biscuits on serving plates; top a bottom half of a biscuit with pudding mixture and bananas, then place the top over it, a bit askew.

  3. Drizzle with caramel topping and sprinkle more toffee bits. Makes 2 servings.

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