Winter Shortcakes with Maple Crème Fraîche

winter shortcakes with maple creme fraiche

Shortcakes aren’t just for summer strawberries. Lots of fruits pair well with cake and cream, including dried fruits like cherries, apricots, prunes and pears, which require little in the way of added sugar. The result: intense fruit flavors and lots of luxurious juices perfect for soaking into biscuits. It’s a great use for leftover buttermilk biscuits. Simply reheat them in the oven, spoon warm fruit and syrup between the halves and drape the whole lovely package with a thick, silky ribbon of maple crème fraîche. For best results, make the fruit compote a day or two ahead of time and let it sit in the refrigerator in its syrup so the flavors can mellow and meld.

Adapted recipe reprinted with permission from Wintersweet: Seasonal Desserts to Warm the Home © 2013 by Tammy Donroe Inman, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group.

Winter Shortcakes with Maple Crème Fraîche
Makes: Makes 6 individual shortcakes
Fruit Compote:
  • 2 ounces (57 g) dried pears or dried apricots, halved
  • 2 ounces (57 g) prunes
  • 2¼ cups (560 ml) water
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) brandy
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cinnamon stick
  • 2 ounces (57 g) dried cherries
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
Buttermilk Biscuits:
  • 2 cups (280 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup (110 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • ¾ cup (175 ml) buttermilk, plus more for brushing
Maple Crème Fraîche:
  • 4 ounces (113 g) crème fraîche
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (preferably Grade B)
  1. For the fruit compote, add the pears and prunes to a small saucepan and cover them with the water and brandy. Add the vanilla and ½ cinnamon stick to the pot. Bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the fruits are starting to become tender when prodded with a knife. Add the dried cherries and continue to cook for 5 to 10 minutes more, or until the fruits are soft but not disintegrating. Cooking times will vary depending on how big the pieces of fruit are, how thoroughly they were dried and how long they’ve been stored. Bigger, tougher fruits will require more time to cook.
  2. Transfer the fruits from the pot to a small bowl with a slotted spoon and measure the liquid left behind. You should have at least ½ cup (125 ml) of liquid remaining in the pot. If not, top it off with a little water. Return the liquid to the pot and stir in the sugar. Increase the heat and boil the syrup until it has thickened and little bubbles spread from the edges to the center, 5 to 10 minutes. You should have about ⅓ cup (80 ml) of syrup. Pour it over the fruit and gently stir. Taste the compote and add some fresh-squeezed lemon juice to balance the sweetness. (The compote can be made one or two days ahead of time and, in fact, is best that way. Store it covered in the refrigerator, and rewarm it just before serving.)
  3. For the biscuits, preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Grease a baking sheet or line it with parchment paper.
  4. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda to the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter cubes and pulse 20 to 30 times, or until the largest butter pieces are about the size of peas. (You can also cut the butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or your fingers.) Dump the mixture into a medium bowl. Add the buttermilk and fluff the mixture with a fork until the liquid is absorbed and it forms a shaggy dough that holds together when pressed. If it seems too dry, add another tablespoon or two of buttermilk.
  5. Flour your counter well and turn out the dough. Bring the dough together and fold it over on itself several times to create buttery layers. Now, gently pat it into a disc about ¾-inch (2 cm) thick. Using a 2½ -inch (6-cm) biscuit cutter or jelly jar, cut out as many rounds as possible, cutting straight down without twisting. Dip the cutter in flour to prevent sticking. The scraps can be rerolled, but handle gently. Set the biscuits on the prepared pan about an inch (2.5 cm) apart. Brush the tops with buttermilk for shine, if desired.
  6. Bake the biscuits for 18 to 20 minutes or until they’re golden brown and crusty on the tops. Remove them from the oven and transfer them to a rack to cool slightly. Serve the biscuits warm with butter, jam or honey butter. Cooled biscuits can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 3 to 4 days. Reheat them in a toaster oven.
  7. For the maple crème fraîche, whisk the crème fraîche and maple syrup together in a small bowl. It will not be thick like whipped cream, but thin and satiny.
  8. To assemble the shortcakes, split six biscuits in half so that the bottom half is thicker than the top half to allow the fruit syrup to soak in. Set the bottom halves of the biscuits in individual shallow bowls and spoon the warm fruit compote over them. Place the other biscuit halves on top. Spoon a ribbon of maple crème fraîche over the sides. Serve additional compote and maple crème fraîche at the table.

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