Lemon Shortcake

Photo: Lauren Colchamiro for Sweets & BItters

This is one of those desserts that will make your cooking seem fabulously effortless! Make the lemon curd ahead (pretty little jars of it also make a wonderful gift). While you’re at it, cut a lemon into thin slices and leave it to soak in rich simple syrup: 1/2 cup sugar dissolved, with the help of heat and stirring, in ¼ cup water. When your guests are on their way, a batch of fresh biscuits can be mixed and baked in 20 minutes. Whisk up a bowl of lightly sweetened whipped cream. Just before serving, split the biscuits, fill them with lemon curd and whipped cream, and put another little dollop of cream on top with a sweetened lemon-slice pressed into it (save the syrup for cocktails). Edible flowers add a lovely flourish if you can find some.

Hint: Buy potted pansies, violas, or johnny jump-up plants to use for your edible flower garnish. It can be hard to find just the flowers, and this way you will have a nice little

 

Lemon Shortcake

make about 12 shortcakes

 

for the lemon curd

  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold

 

for simple biscuits

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 5 Tablespoons cold butter
  • 3/4  cup buttermilk or plain yogurt

 

for assembling shortcakes

  • whipped cream
  • syrup-soaked lemon slices (see headnote)
  • edible flowers, such as violas (optional)

 

cooking the lemon curd

1. In a double boiler or a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together the eggs and yolks. Whisk in the sugar and salt, then the lemon zest and juice. Cut the butter into several small pieces, and add it. Set the saucepan or double boiler over medium heat.

2. Cook, stirring constantly, until the butter is incorporated and the mixture thickens. Never allow it to boil, or it will separate and curdle. When the curd is nearly thick enough that you can imagine spreading it on toast, but still a little too runny for that, remove it from the heat; it will continue to thicken as it cools.

3. Transfer the curd to a bowl or jar. Press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface of the curd, and pierce a small hole in it. This will prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cool. This will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to two weeks.

 

baking the biscuits

1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees fahrenheit, and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Combine all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl; stir with a fork or whisk to combine. Cut the butter into small pieces and work it into the dry ingredients: pinch the butter and flour together until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs or coarse cornmeal. 

2. Stir in the buttermilk or yogurt. When the mixture becomes too stiff to stir, mix and knead with your hands, just until it holds together in a ball. Roll the dough out onto a floured surface to about 1/2 inch thick, then fold it in half, and in half again. Roll out again to about 3/4 inch thick. Cut 2-inch circles out of the dough, using a cookie cutter or a sturdy glass. Place them on the baking sheet. (Scraps can be pressed together, rolled out again, and cut out).

3. Bake the biscuits for 7-9 minutes. Serve warm, if possible. These are best within a few hours of baking.

 

assembling the shortcakes

1. Break the biscuits in half. Fill each with a spoonful of lemon curd and a spoonful of whipped cream. Put the top back on the biscuit.

2. Dollop more whipped cream on top, and garnish it with one of the syrup-soaked lemon slices and an edible flower. Serve right away.