Chocolate cherry bourbon shortcake ... I meant to take only a little bite to taste how the flavors came together. And then another, just to be sure. And then before I knew it, the plate was empty. Now I’m sighing in delight and can’t even think about dinner.
Strawberry shortcake is my favorite summer dessert, followed closely by Pavlova – any excuse to pair fruit and cream! My son, Isaac, chose strawberry shortcake for the dessert at his Bar Mitzvah Shabbat dinner ... it’s a family favorite. So when I saw that Abby Dodge selected shortcake for this month’s Bake Together challenge I was a bit gleeful.
Normally I am traditional in my shortcake and bake a cream scone as the base for luscious cream and juicy berries. Abby shares her chocolate shortcake, though, and I decided to try something new, adding a dash of ground espresso for more depth of flavor. My small counter space was taken up with a flat of raspberries, so I scooped the dough out rather than rolling and cutting it. The resulting shortcakes were quite rustic with craggy tops that I rather liked.
I haven’t cooked or baked nearly enough with cherries yet this season so I continued to branch out in my shortcake adventure and use cherries in place of berries. I seem to have misplaced my cherry pitter, but fortunately my friend Ashley shared her handy tip to pit with a chopstick – just give the cherry a poke and the pit bursts out. Now, pitting cherries is a tedious and messy process but if you can embrace the stained fingers and inevitable splatters you will be happily rewarded. I listened to Ladi6 and grooved a bit and two pounds of cherries were pitted before I knew it.
I didn’t stop there – cherries lend themselves well to booze and chocolate so I spiked the whipped cream with bourbon and sweetened it with brown sugar (I love bourbon as an added flavor and in cocktails ... I promise to share a smashing cocktail later this summer).
What a combination of flavors and textures! The dark sweetness of cherries and chocolate combined with billowy cream is rich and sublime, soft and tender. I will happily make this shortcake again.
Chocolate Cherry Bourbon Shortcake
Adapted from Abby Dodge’s Double Chocolate-Strawberry Shortcakes
For the shortcakes
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
3/4 cup buttermilk, chilled
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened, natural cocoa powder
2 teaspoons espresso powder
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
For the whipped cream
2 cups heavy cream, well chilled
2 tablespoons bourbon
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
For the cherries
2 pounds cherries
1/2 cup sugar
To make the shortcakes
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a nonstick liner.
Cut the butter into small pieces and place in the freezer until ready to use. Whisk the buttermilk and vanilla together and pop in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Put the flour, sugar, cocoa, espresso powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a food processor and pulse until well blended. Add the cold butter pieces and, using short pulses, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 1 minute.
Scrape the mixture into a large bowl and pour the buttermilk and vanilla over the flour mixture. Use a rubber spatula to stir until it forms a moist dough and holds together (do not mix too much).
Divide the dough into 8 portions and drop onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake until puffed and spring back when the tops are gently pressed, about 12 minutes. Let the shortcakes cool for about 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
To make the whipped cream
In a medium bowl, beat the chilled cream until soft peaks begin to form. Add the bourbon, brown sugar and vanilla and beat until mixed in. Serve immediately or cover and chill for a few hours.
To make the cherries
Pit the cherries using a cherry pitter or chopstick. In a bowl, stir the sugar and cherries together and then mash with a pastry cutter to start juicing and breaking the fruit down (you may also discover a pit or two that slipped by). Cover the bowl and refrigerate for a few hours until the cherries have released some of their juices.
Using a serrated knife, cut the shortcakes in half crosswise and place the bottom halves on serving plates. Spoon big dollops of whipped cream onto the bottom halves, ladle some cherries and their juices over, add a little more whipped cream because it’s so good, and cover with the top half of the shortcake. Serve immediately.