You could serve these shortcakes with any kind of berry, and I’ll bet sliced nectarines or peaches would also be outstanding. You’ll want about ½ cup fruit per serving. I like to keep it simple and toss the fruit only with sugar – a small amount, to taste – and whatever you do, be sure to let the sugared fruit sit for about 15 minutes before serving, so that it gets nice and juicy and some syrup pools at the bottom of the bowl. That’s the stuff. Serve with unsweetened, softly whipped cream.
Center a rack in the oven, and preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Add the butter and, using your fingers, toss to coat with flour. Quickly, working with your fingertips, pinch and rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is pebbly. Some pieces of butter will be about the size of peas, while other will be more like flakes of oatmeal.
Pour the cream over the dry ingredients, and toss and gently turn the ingredients with a fork until you’ve got a very soft dough. You’ll probably still have some flour at the bottom of the bowl, so reach in and use your hand to mix and gently knead the dough until it’s evenly blended. But don’t get overzealous: it’s better to have a few dry spots than an overworked dough. The dough should be soft and sticky.
Cut the dough into 10 roughly equal portions (each will be about 1/3 cup), and put 5 or 6 of them on the baking sheet, leaving about 3 inches of space between them. Pat each portion down until it’s about 1 inch high. [The shortcakes can be made to this point, wrapped in plastic wrap, and stashed in the freezer. Bake without defrosting – just add 5+ minutes to the baking time.]
Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the sheet from front to back midway through, until the shortcakes are puffed and give just a little when poked with a fingertip. Pull the pan from the oven, and carefully transfer the shortcakes to a cooling rack. Repeat with the remaining dough, cooling the baking sheet first.
Serve the shortcakes slightly warm or at room temperature. To serve, use a serrated knife to gently cut each cake in half horizontally. (They’re fragile, so go easy.) Put the bottom halves on plates, top with berries and whipped cream, and then cap with the top halves.
Yield: 10 servings
The multiple steps in this recipe can feel daunting, but it’s actually pretty quick to make. I usually make the aioli while the eggs are cooking, and while they cool, I fry the capers. And if you’re feeling really short on time, just skip the frying and use drained, rinsed capers. No sweat.
Hard-boil the eggs. I’m sure you have a favorite way to boil yours, but just in case, here’s mine. Put them in a large pot, so that they can sit in a single layer. (That’s important.) Add cold water to cover by an inch or two, and place the pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil; then immediately cover the pot and remove it from the heat. Let sit exactly 12 minutes. Drain and rinse well with cold water.
Warm the oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot and runs easily around the pan, add the capers. They should sizzle. Fry, shaking the skillet occasionally, until they split open and start to crisp, about 3 minutes. They should not brown. Fish them out of the skillet, leaving the oil behind, and drain them on a paper towel.
When the eggs are fully cool, cut them in half crosswise. (I think this looks prettier – and is easier to eat – than cutting them in half lengthwise.) Carefully remove the yolks and put them in a medium bowl. Trim a tiny sliver off the rounded end of the whites, so that they will sit upright when you serve them; then set them aside. Using a fork, mash the crap out of the yolks. Add the mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, and salt. Mash and mix until smooth. Taste, and adjust as necessary.
Just before serving, spoon the filling into a pastry bag, and pipe the filling into the egg white halves. If you don’t have a pastry bag, spoon the filling instead. Top the filled eggs with a small dollop of basil aioli. (You will have aioli left over.) Finish with a few fried capers.
Yield: 24 deviled egg halves