Strawberry shortcake never tasted so good -- or so nuanced. Heavy cream is steeped with basil then whipped, infusing it with its essence. Cover the cream with plastic wrap while it steeps to ensure that the basil flavor doesn't evaporate.
Shortcake is best served within 4 hours of baking but can be stored, untopped, at room temperature for up to 8 hours. Basil cream can be refrigerated for up to 1 day; whip just before using. Berries can macerate for up to 3 hours.
Strawberry Shortcake with Basil
2 1/4 cups cold heavy cream, plus 2 tablespoons, for brushing
20 large basil leaves, plus 1/3 cup small or torn basil leaves
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus more if needed
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups sliced strawberries (1 pound 4 ounces)
3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
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1. Bring 1 1/2 cups cream to a gentle simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bruise large basil leaves by hitting repeatedly with the dull side of a knife, and stir into cream. Remove from heat, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let steep for 25 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve, pressing solids to extract liquid. Refrigerate until very cold, at least 5 hours.
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Whisk together flour, 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, the baking powder, and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter or rub in with your fingers. (The largest pieces should be the size of small peas.)
3. Whisk together 3/4 cup heavy cream, the eggs, and vanilla. Stir into flour using a fork until ingredients are moistened but not fully incorporated. (Do not overmix.)
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4. Turn dough out onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, and pat into a 9 1/2-inch circle. Brush dough with remaining 2 tablespoons heavy cream, and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon granulated sugar.
5. Bake until light golden brown and just cooked through, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely, about 2 hours.
6. Meanwhile, macerate strawberries with remaining 1/4 cup sugar, plus more if needed, depending on sweetness, stirring occasionally, for at least 1 hour.
7. Toss berries with small basil leaves. Whisk basil cream with confectioners' sugar in the chilled bowl of a mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. Mound basil cream on shortcake. Spoon berries with juice over top.
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