Go Shortcake, It's Your Birthday

The following post was written by my mom, WWW. Thanks, Mom!
Biscuits are one of those foods that can be either heavenly or deadly. There is nothing more delicious than a buttery and flaky biscuit. But they can also be heavy, dry and pasty. Years ago, I got a recipe that originally came from Regina’s at the Regis in San Francisco (chef Regina Charboneau) and made it down to one of my favorite haunts, San Juan Capistrano’s RamosHouse Cafe via chef John Q. Humphries. These biscuits are by far the best I have ever had. The secret is using half butter and half margarine and although I know that margarine is a no-no because of its hydrogenated fats, before we were gluten-free, I made these biscuits once in awhile as a treat. And a treat they are. What I love about the recipe is that you freeze the biscuits before baking so you can make a bunch up and bake as needed, for an easy last minute dessert or side bread. (John serves them at Ramos house with a warm berry and banana compote—see below—that is scrumptious.) Biscuits are always best fresh out of the oven, so just bake up as many as you need just before serving.

Regina Chaboneau’s Buttermilk Biscuits 
(By way of Ramos House Café)

20 oz flour
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup baking powder
1 scant tsp salt
¾ cup butter, cold
1 ¼ margarine cold
1 ½ cups buttermilk

Cut cold butter and margarine into ½ inch squares and set aside.  Sift flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a mixing bowl.  By hand or with a pastry cutter, work butter into the flour mixture until the butter pieces are the size of large peas.  Repeat procedure with margarine.  Add the buttermilk and mix until the dough is just combined, being careful not to over mix. Turn the dough out on a floured cutting board and roll out to 3 inch thickness.  Using a biscuit cutter, cut out the biscuits and place onto a cookie sheet.  

Cover in plastic wrap and place in freezer for at least 2 hours.  Bake biscuits from frozen on upper shelf of preheated 375° oven for approximately 25 minutes, or until golden brown.  
Makes about 20 biscuits. You can keep them frozen in an airtight container until you need them.


Now that we are gluten-free, I have missed these melt in your mouth biscuits. This week I made the Light and Fluffy biscuits from The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook byAmerica’s Test Kitchen and they are delicious…not exactly the same as the buttermilk biscuits from Ramos House, but fresh out of the oven, they are light and fluffy as their name suggests. I am very impressed with America’s Test Kitchen cookbook. They scientifically studied all of the gluten free flour blends, rated them in recipes, and then came up with their own blend. They also figured out how to solve problems brought on by using gluten free flours by adding more protein via psyllium husk powder or varying the fat content.  As a scientist, I appreciate the very careful and systematic methods they used to come up with their recipes. I made these biscuits two ways—once with their own blend and then again with their favorite commercial flour blend (King Arthurs Gluten Free Flour). I love how they discuss each recipe, explaining why they work, and what is different about making them with their blend and King Arthur’s (or Bob’s Red Mill). For instance, the book says that biscuits made with King Arthur flour will be slightly sandy and bit starchy. I found this to be true. They were very good, but the ones made with the ATK blend were definitely better tasting and had a softer texture. 
This is the first time I have made a flour blend. It really wasn’t a hassle at all, and since all of the baked goods in ATK cookbook use the same blend, you can make a bunch up and keep it on hand for your baking needs. It is important to get a good kitchen scale and weigh the flours to get an accurate mix since all of the different flours have a different density and grain size so just measuring by volume isn’t accurate. 
The recipe makes quite a bit of flour blend and you can keep it in the refrigerator for several months.

American Test Kitchen Gluten Free Light and Fluffy Biscuits 
(makes 6)

9 oz (2 cups) ATL gluten-Free Flour Blend* (see below) or 9 oz King Arthur Gluten-Free Multi-Purpose Four (1 ½ cups)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons powdered psyllium husk
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into ¼ inch pieces
3/5 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (not Greek)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice

1.     Whisk dry ingredients together until combined. Add butter to flour blend and using a pastry cutter or your finger tips, break chunks until only small, pea-size pieces remain. In separate bowl, whisk together wet ingredients until combined.  Using rubber spatula, stir yogurt mixture into flour mixture until thoroughly combined and no flour pockets remain, about 1 minute.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let batter rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
2.     Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450°. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and place inside of a second baking sheet.  Using greased 1/3 cup dry measure, scoop heaping amount of batter and drop onto prepared sheet.  (Biscuit should measure about 2 ½ inches in diameter and 1 ½ inches high.)  Repeat with remaining batter, spacing biscuits about ½ inch apart in center of prepared sheet.
3.     Bake until golden and crisp, about 15 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking.  Transfer sheet to wire rack and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. 
Serve warm.
Biscuits are best eaten the day they are baked, but they can be frozen.  For sweet biscuits for shortcakes, increase sugar in dough to 2 tablespoons.

You can buy psyllium husk powder at any health-food store (make sure you get the powder and not the whole psyllium husk).

*America’s Test Kitchen Gluten-Free Flour Blend

24 ounces (4 ½ cups plus 1/3 cup) Bob’s Red Mill white rice flour (Must be this brand)
7 ½ ounces (1 2/3 cups) Bob’s Red Mill brown rice flour (Must be this brand)
7 ounces (1 1/3 cups) potato starch (not potato flour)
3 ounces (3/4 cup) tapioca starch
¾ ounce (3 tablespoons) nonfat milk powder
Whisk all ingredients together in a large bowl until well combined.  Transfer to airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 months. Weighing the flours will give you the most accurate results. 


Biscuits are also called “shortcake” (a short dough is crumbly and mealy). Although crumbly “shortcake” biscuits have been around since at least the 1500’s, they weren’t paired with strawberries until probably the 1800s and quickly became an American tradition.

Traditional strawberry shortcake pairs a buttery, flaky biscuit with sweet and juicy strawberries, topped with whipped cream. I am often perplexed when I see those sponge cakes next to the strawberries in the grocery store with signs for making strawberry shortcake. The sponge cakes serve as an easy way to make a strawberry dessert, but they are far cry from shortcake. It’s worth it (and really very easy) to make your own biscuits and serve with either fresh strawberries or a fruit compote, topped with whipped cream. What a wonderful dessert to serve as a celebration for the beginning of summer!

Strawberry Shortcake

Quarter strawberries and sprinkle with sugar.  
Let stand in refrigerator for at least an hour, until the juice starts to come out of the strawberries.  Cut biscuit in half and spoon strawberries on bottom half.  Top with whipped cream, top half of the biscuit, and more whipped cream and strawberries.  
You can also serve open faced.

Ramos House Warm Banana and Berry Shortcake 
(makes 6-8)

4 bananas, sliced
3 cups mixed blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries
2 Tbsp butter
¾ cup white sugar
6-8 cooked biscuits
2 cups sweetened whipped cream.

Saute bananas with butter in a pan until golden brown.  
Add the sugar and cook until the sugar dissolves and begins to caramelize. Add berries and saute for an extra 30 seconds and then set aside. 
Cut biscuit in half and pour fruit over the bottom half of the biscuit. Top with fresh whipped cream and the top half of the biscuit.  Serve warm.