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cherry sumac shortcakes

Ingredients

For the biscuits:
350 grams flour (about 2 1/4 cups)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder (3 teaspoons)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
10 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup + 1 tablespoon cold buttermilk
egg wash: 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water (or skip the egg wash and just use extra buttermilk)

For the cherries:
1 pound cherries, pitted
2 1/4 teaspoons sumac
pinch salt
2 tablespoons cherry or strawberry preserves

For the whipped cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream (very cold)
1 to 2 tablespoons sugar, to taste
a pinch of salt

Instructions

  1. Bake the biscuits: Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Add the butter and use the tips of your fingers to work the butter into the flour (pinch a few pieces of butter in the flour, and rub them between your finger tips to flatten and break them up). Stop when there are still a few lumps of butter (like the above photo, or continue a little from there).
  2. Preheat the oven to 400° F convection*, and throw the buttery flour in the refrigerator to chill for 10 minutes. In the meantime, prep the cherries, clean and flour the kitchen counter, find a 2 1/2 inch round cutter.
  3. Make a few wells in the chilled buttery flour and pour the buttermilk over them. Mix everything together with a wooden spoon, just until there are no dry spots left.
  4. Turn the dough out onto the floured counter, flour the top, and pat it together into a cohesive dough ball (do not knead it). Roll it out to just over 1-inch thick (mine were 1 1/4 inch), dusting any sticky spots on the top or bottom with more flour as you go. Don’t worry if it’s wrinkly and imperfect.
  5. Stamp out as many rounds out as possible (probably 4), and then press the sticky unfloured sides together, patting everything back into a dough ball again (again, don’t knead it, and don’t worry if it’s lumpy). Roll it back out to just over 1-inch thick, and stamp as many more out as possible (probably 2 more).
  6. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and brush the tops with the egg wash (or a little more buttermilk). Bake for about 15 minutes. Remove them from the oven once they’re golden brown and cooked through.
  7. Prep the cherries: Mix everything together in a saucepan and let it sit for 10 minutes off the heat.
  8. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then cover and simmer over medium-low for 5 minutes, just until the cherries soften a bit and give up more juices. Remove the cherries with a slotted spoon, leaving the juices behind, and continue to cook the liquid uncovered (stirring often) for about 5 to 10 minutes, until it reduces a bit. Add the cherries back into the pot, stir everything together, and remove from heat.**
  9. Whip the cream and assemble the shortcakes: Combine the cream, sugar, and salt, and whisk at medium speed, just until soft or medium peaks form. This will happen quickly, so watch it very closely (you should be able to dollop it).
  10. Take a cooled biscuit and use a fork to cut it in half (like an English muffin). Pour some of the cherries and juices over the bottom half, top with whipped cream, spoon a little more juice over, and top with the other half. Repeat with the remaining ones, and serve immediately, or keep leftover components separately.***

Notes

* If you don’t have convection, you may need to increase the temperature a bit and/or bake them slightly longer. Keep an eye on them, and take out of the oven once they’re golden brown.

** If you want to make this without having to remove the cherries from the syrup, you can just make a compote by cooking everything together uncovered, until the cherries break down and the syrup thickens, but if you want the cherries to stay whole, you’ll have to cook them more briefly, and you’ll end up with a thin liquid. Either will be delicious though! For an even simpler option, macerated cherries are also fabulous; simply combine the 4 ingredients, plus an extra teaspoon of sugar, and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, until they’ve given up a lot of juices (no cooking necessary).

*** The cherries and whipped cream will keep in the fridge, but the biscuits will keep better at room temperature. If you’re serving them more than a few hours after baking, pop the biscuits in a 350°F oven for about 2 or 3 minutes, just until they’re warmed through.