The industrialized production of wheat has stripped so many breads, pastries, cookies and cakes of taste and nutritional value. Enter Nan Kohler. In Pasadena, California, she is trying to give wheat back its good name at her flour mill Grist & Toll. During a recent chat about the revival of regional grain production, Nan shared her recipe for whole grain berry shortcake. I’m a sucker for any kind of shortcake when berries are in season, and I am looking forward to trying this version that makes use of whole grain Sonora flour.
The key is not to over-bake your shortcake to keep it from getting too tough and the texture creamy and delicate. This also makes it easier to reheat leftovers the following day, though shortcake is also great eaten straight out of the fridge or room temp.
GRIST & TOLL’S WHOLE GRAIN BERRY SHORTCAKE
Yield: Makes six 1-inch-wide by 3-inch-wide shortcakes.
2 cups (9 oz) Sonora or your favorite whole grain flour
3 tbsps sugar + additional for sprinkling
1 tbsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp kosher salt
5 oz (10 tbsps) unsalted butter, chilled for grating
8 oz heavy cream + extra for brushing
Preheat oven to 375ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Working quickly, grate the cold butter into a bowl and transfer to the freezer to firm up. Once frozen, take half the frozen butter and work it into your flour mixture until you achieve a coarse, sandy texture. The goal is to coat the flour with the butter for texture. Then, add the remaining half of the grated butter and cut it into the dough mixture as you normally would, leaving in some larger pea-sized pieces.
Add the heavy cream to the dough in 2 batches, working it in gently with a rubber spatula just until everything comes together. Then turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.
Dust your hands with flour and gather up the dough. Press the dough gently into a thick rectangle. Fold the dough over four times and then press the dough gently again to tidy up the resulting rectangle, keeping it to a thickness of at least an inch.
Using a knife, carefully trim off the folded edges — this helps to release and open up the layers of dough on the sides, giving them room to expand while baking. Next cut the dough into 6 equal squares. Transfer the squares to the parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush the squares with the additional heavy cream and sprinkle them with sugar.
Transfer them to the oven and bake until the shortcake turns a light golden color, about 15 to 17 minutes. Once done, the shortcake should be firm to the touch but remain a bit moist in the center.
To serve: Split the shortcakes in half and slather on a thick layer of whipped cream, strawberries and any other fresh berries you’ve got on hand. Cover with the top half and serve immediately.
To reheat: Wrap any leftover shortcake in foil and reheat in the oven at 325ºF. The foil helps prevent the shortcake from drying out.