I’ve never understood how a fruit as delightful and sweet as a raspberry could have inspired the term “blowing a raspberry.” How could such a sweet and luscious plump red berry get such bad rap? Out of curiosity, I looked up the term. From what I can tell, it all started sometime in the late 1800s when some witty Brits thought the sound they produced when making derisive spitting noises sounded like flatulence. As “raspberry tart” rhymes with “fart” (a word that never ceases to incite giggles with my daughters and I’m sure was hilariously funny back then as well) the term was born. Makes no sense to me, but apparently it’s part of a British rhyming tradition. As my family is originally from New York City, I’m more able to understand the reasons behind why someone would blow a raspberry (or give a Bronx cheer) than the etymology behind it.
So what does this all have to do with shortcake and berries? Well, not much other than I adore raspberries and have been contemplating how wonderful they are, particularly now, when they’re in season and reasonably affordable. My mind also has a tendency to wander into etymological corners — a trait I once assumed was charming, but now fear makes people nod off — and this is where it led me as I stared at a beautiful mountain of raspberries in Whole Foods the other day.
Now that raspberries are in season, I want to gorge myself on them, sucking up their potent antioxidants and sweet juiciness. Earlier this year, I stopped buying raspberries (and all berries) when they’re out of season because they’re usually grown in Mexico, often with the help of strong pesticides that end up killing off song bird populations. Out of a sense of environmental responsibility and guilt, my family and I have gone a long hard winter without berries and we are ripe (excuse the pun) for indulging ourselves.
To celebrate raspberry season, I decided to indulge in a dessert where the raspberries are fresh and uncooked. I wanted to pay tribute to their sweet unadulterated plumpness, and so paired them with a slightly-sweet (but not too sweet) shortcake with whipped cream. As I love the flavor of almonds with raspberries, I added some nuts to the shortcake. The result was everything I had hoped for: a fresh burst of raspberry flavor atop buttery shortcakes, finished off with pillowy whipped cream and a hint of almond crunchiness. It was really the antithesis of a Bronx cheer.
Raspberry Almond Shortcake
Ingredients for shortcakes: 2 ½ cups flour ½ cup sugar 1 Tbsp baking powder ½ tsp salt ¼ cup chopped toasted almonds 6 Tbsp cold butter 1 cup whole milk ½ tsp almond extract
Ingredients for topping: 4 cups raspberries ½ cup sugar ½ tsp lemon juice 2 cups whipping cream ½ cup powdered sugar 1 tsp vanilla extract Toasted almond slivers for garnish
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Add flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and almonds in a large bowl. Whisk to mix thoroughly.
3. Cut in the butter (you can either do this by hand with a pastry cutter or with your fingers. If you have a food processor, just pulse about ten times).
4. Add the almond extract to the milk and then add to the flour mixture.
5. Gently incorporate the milk into the flour. Be sure not to over mix as doing so will make the flour rubbery. If the mixture remains too wet to properly handle, add a little more flour until you can pat the dough firmly into a round disk.
6. Cut with a biscuit cutter (if you don’t have one, you can use a jar or ramekin) and place onto a baking dish or large cast iron pan.
7. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 – 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
8. Mix berries, sugar and lemon juice in a bowl and set aside for at least 10 minutes.
9. Beat cream with powdered sugar and vanilla until whipped (but not too long or you’ll have butter).
10. When ready to serve, slice each shortcake in half. Top the bottom with a healthy dollop of whipped cream and then cover with berries. Top with more whipped cream and lay the top of the shortcake against the berries. Serve.
Lemon Buttermilk shortcake alternative: 1. Substitute buttermilk for the milk. 2. Remove the almonds and almond extract. 3. Add 1 Tbsp lemon zest.
Strawberry shortcake alternative: 1. Use strawberries instead of raspberries. 2. Use the buttermilk shortcake alternative for the pastry.