These light, crumbly shortcakes work well with all kinds of wild berries but are especially good with blackberries. They’re an excellent way to make a substantial dessert out of a smallish haul – a handful of berries per person is all you need – and to use up fruit that is a little past its best. The sweetness of blackberries can vary enormously, but crushing them with a little sugar really helps to balance this and brings out their fragrant fruitiness.
- 150g blackberries, rinsed and drained
- ½ – 1½ tablespoons caster sugar (to taste)
- 150ml double cream, whipping cream or clotted cream
FOR THE SHORTCAKES:
- 175g self-raising flour
- 100g fridge-cold unsalted butter, cubed
- 50g caster sugar
- A little milk to bind, and for brushing
- Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Line one large or two smaller baking sheets with greaseproof paper.
- Mash the berries lightly so that their juices begin to run. Sprinkle over ½ tablespoon of the sugar, stir through, and taste. Add more sugar if you feel it is necessary: how much is down to personal preference, but the idea is to soften the sharpness of the berries but for them to remain a little tart, as a contrast to the rich cream and sweet shortcakes. Once the berries are sweetened to your liking, set them aside.
- To make the shortcakes, lightly pinch the butter into the flour with your fingertips or pulse very briefly in a food processor, working the mix as little as possible to keep the shortcakes light. Once the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs, toss through the sugar and then, using your hands, add a little milk to bring together the mixture into a soft, slightly sticky dough. Lightly flour your work surface and hands, turn out the dough and gently pat it into a ball. Divide the dough equally in four and shape into rounds about 6cm in diameter and 6cm thick.
- The shortcakes will spread out to around 10cm wide as they bake, so space them well apart on the lined baking sheet. Brush the tops lightly with milk and bake for 20 minutes until golden brown and firm. Remove the shortcakes from the oven and lift them carefully to a cooling rack (they are fragile, especially when warm). Leave to cool for a few minutes. In the meantime, if you are using double or whipping cream, whip it to soft, floppy peaks.
- While the shortcakes are still warm, slice them in half, delicately lifting off the tops and setting them aside. Put the bottom halves onto your serving plates, spread each with a thick layer of cream and top with crushed berries. Drizzle a little of the juice over each serving, put on the shortcake tops, and serve.