Go Long on Shortcakes
From a savory spin to new ideas for cakes and fillings, this formula will keep you going all summer
Algebra wasn't my thing. Just never bought the premise that its principles might somehow be useful in real life. That is, until I started working with Mark. Suddenly the components of a dish became variables to manipulate, swap, and reinvent, always with an eye toward a solution that was equivalent to the original but expressed differently—and often way better.
Let's break down the basic formula for shortcakes on the blackboard:
biscuit + whipped cream + strawberries + sugar and lemon juice = strawberry shortcake
a + b + c + d = the classic fruity and creamy dessert
And now let's propose a hypothesis to switch all the variables so that:
w = The Base
x = The Cream
y = The Fruit
and z = The “Macerade”
The new equation would look like this:
w + x + y + z = a sweet or savory summertime sandwich
Using this math, I solved for a savory spin on strawberry shortcake:
pita + herbed yogurt + strawberries + salted whole lemon and chiles = Pocketful of Shortcake
The lists that follow will help you mix and match components and come up with new shortcake formulas. Like:
pound cake + ricotta + peaches + honey
angel food cake + mascarpone + blueberries + gin
Theories are meant to be tested, right? The variables and recipes that follow will help you do just that. Lucky for us, cooking is a lot more fun than long-form algebra. And for extra credit, check out a fantastic spin on the classic, Holly's Triple Strawberry Shortcake.
(w) The Base
Shortcakes are usually a knife-and-fork affair. So pick something that will soak up extra juices and develop a pleasant texture.
Drop Biscuits (recipe follows)
Angel Food Cake (recipe follows)
Cornbread (recipe follows)
Buns or rolls
Pita (see the savory recipe below)
(x) The Cream
You've got to have something to smear or dollop on The Base. Once you decide what that is, let your sweet or savory intentions determine whether or not you season it with sugar, herbs, spices—or nothing.
Labneh or strained yogurt
(y) The Fruit
Be sure to count vegetables that eat like fruit, vegetables that are in fact fruit, and actual vegetables in your calculations. Then halve, slice, chop, or shred accordingly.
Tomatoes or cherry tomatoes
Roasted chiles or peppers
(z) The Macerade
Yes! I just nouned a verb to describe the liquid and seasoning used to macerate the fruit. Think of it as a marinade if that's more familiar, though the process is intended to draw out and season the fruit's juices while softening the flesh and concentrating its natural flavors. The photo above is the macerade of berries, minced and salted whole lemons, scallion, and Aleppo chiles from the recipe that follows. Here are some other ideas for macerade ingredients, to use on the fruit alone or in combination:
Sugar (granulated or turbinado)
Lemon or lime juice
Booze (gin, bourbon, or sparkling wine)
On to the recipes. I hope the first inspires you to build your own savory shortcakes. Easy biscuit and cake options from Mark's books follow to set you on your way. Summer on, people!
Pocketful of Shortcake
Makes: 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes