I had my first strawberry shortcake last fourth of July. I was blown away for a few reasons - one being that it was amazing, but the second being that I hadn't had it before. It's just not a thing in New Zealand. We have scones, which are different to American scones, in that they are more like a biscuit. We call cookies biscuits. It gets confusing fast. The closest we probably get to a strawberry shortcake is a scone with jam and cream, but that isn't the same.
What we refer to as 'shortcake' in New Zealand is two layers of short pastry, filled with some sort of fruit filling. Generally this is apple, and most New Zealand Grandmas have a banging recipe for it. It is drowned in icing sugar, and perfect for heroing seasonal fruit, or using up fruit that is a little worse for wear.
I have subbed the traditional apple filling for apricots, which have just started to pop up in NYC! Yaaaay for stone fruit season! Finally. Finally I can think about fruit without having to consider the over-wintered apples and pears, and start to incorporate fresh stuff into my recipes! Going to make all of the pies this year. All of them. The great thing about this recipe is that it is super versatile - i've had it with rhubarb before, and am definitely going to try it with plum or peach this season!
This is a fairly quick thing to throw together, if you don't count the 45 minutes needed for resting the dough. A quick short crust, with a hint of vanilla bean is mixed together, rolled out and placed in a pan. We then add a layer of apricots, with just enough sugar to take the edge off, and cover it with a second piece of pastry. It is then baked until golden brown, and soon after cooling, is ready to enjoy! It's the best, I hope you try it!
A few wee notes:
The pastry can seem a little fragile / crumbly. If you do get a little tear or hole in it, don't worry too much, just patch it up, it will all bake up nicely in the oven!
If your peaches aren't quite ripe, add a little more sugar in the filling. With that being said if they are very ripe, hold back a little on the sugar.
Make sure this is cooled completely in the tin before you remove it for slicing!
If you store this in an airtight container the shortbread will go soft, so if you would like it to stay a little crispy, store this out of a container lightly covered with a paper towel.
- Makes 16 squares-
190g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
450g all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
600g (21oz) fresh apricots
1 Tbsp flour
1/4 c (50g) sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
- PROCESS -
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar for 2-3 minutes, until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing to combine before adding the next. Scrape down the bowl. Add the vanilla and mix to incorporate.
Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, and mix just to bring the dough together. Turn out onto a work surface, and bring the dough together lightly with your hands. Divide evenly into two pieces, flatten into rough square shapes, wrap tightly in plastic, and rest in the fridge for an hour.
Remove the stones from the apricots, and cut each half into approx eight pieces. Add to a bowl and toss with the sugar, flour and vanilla. Set aside while you roll the pastry.
Preheat the oven to 350°f / 180°c. Line a 9” square baking tin with two pieces of parchment paper, forming a “sling” so that you can easily remove the bars.
Roll out the first piece of pastry on a piece of parchment paper. Measure the size of the tin against the pastry, then trim the edges, and place the excess onto the piece of pastry, and roll out again to smooth - this ensures that your pastry is as thick as possible. Transfer to the freezer for 5 minutes, or until firmed up slightly. Remove from the freezer, and using the tin as a guide, trim to a 9” square. Place in the bottom of the baking tin, trimming if needed.
Add the prepared apricot mixture to the tin, smoothing down.
Repeat the rolling process with the second piece of pastry, and place on top of the apricot mixture.
Bake for 45-50 minutes, until the pastry is golden and the fruit is bubbling. Allow to cool completely in the tin before removing using the slings. Dust with powdered sugar, then slice with a sharp knife.
Store at room temperature covered lightly with a cloth or paper towel - they will go soggy if stored in an airtight container.