I imagine it comes as no surprise that I have QUITE the recipe collection. From my cherished (and always growing) cookbook library, to hundreds of magazine clippings, to marked up dinner napkins with recipe ideas scribbled down while at a favorite restaurant, I have endless culinary possibilities. And while I try to always select several new recipes each season to prepare, I (probably like you) tend to circle back to my favorites time and time again.
To keep things fresh, however, I am always tinkering, even with my absolute favorite dishes. And tinkering is how I landed on this perfect dessert to celebrate the short but sweet season of strawberries. In my grandma’s house strawberry shortcake was pretty simple—crumbled up, shatter-short butter pie crust saturated with syrupy sugared strawberries in a bowl. Well, there was the homemade whipped cream.
But my love affair with a particular coffee cake—I make it ALL the time—was my nearly blank canvass for this delicious berry masterpiece. I say nearly because the original recipe isn’t mine; it is the creation of Greg Patent, an amazing bakery chef and food historian. Clipped from a decades-old Cooking Light Magazine, his “Spanish Buns” is a yeasted, no-knead cake with a beautiful texture and mellow, delicate flavor of nutmeg and vanilla.
My version has replaced some of the white sugar with amber honey and switched nutmeg out for fresh lavender, thyme and rosemary. I also added orange zest. The result was simply scrumptious. And, of course, there are the fresh market berries poured over the top. So before those berries are all gone….
Yeasted Herb and Honey Shortcake with Sugared Strawberries
- Three cups fresh ripe strawberries, washed, trimmed and sliced.
- Raw sugar, or sugar of choice, to taste. I used one-half cup raw sugar for the berry preparation.
- Three cups all-purpose flour
- One-half cup light brown sugar
- One teaspoon salt
- One package yeast
- One teaspoon each (or more or less to taste) finely chopped fresh lavender, thyme, and rosemary
- The zest of one large orange
- One-half cup melted unsalted butter (one stick)
- Three-quarters cup whole milk
- One-quarter cup honey (use a dark amber honey with robust and complex flavor)
- Four large eggs (at room temperature)
- Two teaspoons vanilla
- Combine the berries and raw sugar and refrigerate for at least eight hours, preferably overnight.
- When you are ready to bake the shortcake, begin with the herbs by finely chopping. Put the milk, honey, orange zest and herbs in a saucepan and gently heat to warm, about 110 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Add the melted butter and whisk to thoroughly combine. Keep fairly warm—the gentle heat will assist the yeast in rising, and allowing the herbs to steep in the liquid and then bake into the cake will strengthen the flavor. The herbal flavor will be fairly strong. That said, do not let this mixture boil or even simmer in a steady manner. Just above room temperature is your sweet spot.
- Whisk two cups of the flour, the brown sugar, salt and yeast in a large mixing bowl.
- Stir in the warm milk mixture with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, slightly beating the egg before each addition. Add the vanilla and continue to beat with the spoon until smooth. Add the final cup of flour and beat in until smooth.
- Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 13 x 9 dish—I use my glass Pyrex dish. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
- Cover the batter with plastic wrap and allow the cake to rise in a warm place (at least 70 degrees) for one hour.
- Once the cake batter has risen and become bubbly, bake for 30 minutes or until the top of the shortcake has browned to a golden color. Do not allow the cake to get dark brown—I baked my shortcake 25 minutes—every oven is slightly different. A toothpick inserted in the center of the cake should come out clean.
- Note that the cake doesn’t rise on the counter in a bread-like fashion—it is less high and more yeasty and sticky looking. The fact that you can skip kneading is a big plus. And this cake will totally rise to the occasion in the oven…be brave!
- Allow the shortcake to cool completely in the pan. Once cool, cut into squares and serve with the berries atop. You’ll easily have enough for six to eight diners.
- I like making this cake—my version or Patent’s original—the day before I serve it, refrigerating it once it has completely cooled.
This shortbread is super easy–about an hour and a half to get it ready for the oven.
If Greg Patent seems familiar, he should. I use a lot of his recipes, and I posted one of my favorite breads from his best seller Baking in America a couple of years ago. Bread: A Historical Romance showcases a double-loaf bread recipe that is good any time of year–whole grain, dense and slightly sweet with molasses. One of my Patent go-tos.
Looking for more ways to use up your luscious strawberries? How about Fresh Strawberry Oatmeal Cookies? A Strawberry Cornmeal Layer Cake? A Strawberry Lemonade Pound Cake? A Strawberry Smoothie? Aprons on!