Chocolate Strawberry Shortcakes

As a high school freshman, I remember overhearing a conversation between two junior girls in the cafeteria who were comparing notes on their respective Valentine's Days. Once one had finished describing the ever so romantic mix CD she had received, the other proceeded to recount how her boyfriend, Alex, had given her red roses and, most exciting of all, a box of chocolate covered strawberries. I raised my eyebrows upon hearing this, not because of the rather cliche choice of flower, but rather the chocolate covered strawberries.What was so exciting about chocolate covered strawberries?! How could this girl have been so pleased about receiving them?! I'm most certainly in the minority here, but I've never liked chocolate covered strawberries (they fall into the category of "Food that everyone likes but me," right alongside mashed potatoes and buffalo chicken). The few times I encountered them as a kid, I would carefully break the chocolate off the strawberries and eat the two things separately, finding that the strawberry juice mingled with the chocolate in an unpleasant way that left it kind of soggy. Strawberries were excellent on their own, and chocolate as well, so why mess with a good thing? In any any case, if I'd been dating this Alex, I would have much preferred a slice of Valentine's Day pecan pie or, I don't know, a Valentine's Day carrot cake, never mind the fact that my 15 year old self was very much single, of course.

But this recipe! Now, this is a chocolate and strawberry pairing that I can get behind, one that lets both ingredients shine and complement each other another perfectly (hurray!) For any non-American readers who might not be familiar -- strawberry shortcake is a quintessential American summer dessert consisting of a crumbly, buttery biscuit (kind of like a scone) that is split and filled with lots of whipped cream and fresh berries. Since I already have classic shortcakes on the blog I thought it would be nice to mix things up with chocolate biscuits. The biscuits used here are not scone-like like the classic shortcake biscuits described above, but are more of a brownie-biscuit hybrid, more similar to a fudge-y and intensely chocolate-y cake (no complaints here). When topped off with a swoosh of freshly whipped cream and juicy sweet strawberries infused with a hit of orange, well, it makes for one heck of a dessert, one that is decidedly worthy of your haul of freshly picked summer strawberries. Bonus: I was finally able to satisfy that strawberry craving I mentioned in that post from a few weeks ago. Phew.

A couple of notes: I have made these chocolate biscuits two different ways. If you want two thinner biscuits per shortcake to sandwich around the cream and berries, roll the dough out thinner, as you would to make cutout cookies (see the photo of the dough being rolled out below). I have also left the dough on the thicker side (about 3/4 inch thick) to make individual biscuits that come out a bit higher, that I then top with berries and cream (pictured in the last two photos below). Both ways work great, it is up to you to decide how you want to serve them. Keep an eye on the biscuits as they cook fairly quickly and can thus dry out. I think this would also be good with a chocolate whipped cream, if you're making this dessert for chocoholics. You could also substitute raspberries for the strawberries and make Chocolate Raspberry Shortcakes.

If you're looking for more seasonal summer fruit desserts, I've made a few of them so far this season. Check out this Blueberry Pie, this Peach Raspberry Buckle, this Watermelon Granita, these Glazed Honey Cinnamon Peaches, and these Berry Tartlets. If you're looking for another twist on shortcakes, you might like these savory summer shortcakes


Ingredients for biscuits:
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup chilled whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ingredients for the strawberries:
3 1/4 cups strawberries, hulled and quartered
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon orange zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

Ingredients for the whipped cream:
1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line baking sheet with parchment. Whisk first 5 ingredients in large bowl. 
Using electric mixer, beat the cream and vanilla in medium bowl until firm peaks form. Stir cream into flour mixture to form a dough.
Transfer the mixture to a lightly floured surface and knead gently until dough forms ball, about 10 turns. To make thicker biscuits (see notes above) pat the dough out to 3/4-inch thickness. Using 3-inch cutter (or in a pinch, a Nutella lid!) and cut out biscuits. Gather dough, pat out again, and cut out total of 6 biscuits. To make thinner biscuits, roll out the dough as you would to make cut out cookies and cut out about 8 biscuits. Place the biscuits on the prepared baking sheet. 
Bake biscuits until toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean, about 12-15 minutes (the thinner biscuits may bake a little faster). Transfer to rack; cool. 

For the strawberries and whipped cream: Stir the strawberries, sugar, orange juice, and orange zest together in a medium sized bowl. Cover and chill 1-2 hours. 
Next, beat together the whipping cream and powdered sugar in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Place one biscuit on each of the plates, and top with whipped cream and berries. Cover the biscuits, berries, and cream with another biscuit. Or, if you're using just one thicker biscuit, distribute the strawberries and cream over the top. Makes 4 shortcakes with two biscuits each, or 6 one biscuit shortcakes.
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine, June 2007.

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