A question about a recipe: James Beard's Strawberry Shortcakes

I have a question about step 2 on the recipe "James Beard's Strawberry Shortcakes" from Genius Recipes. It says:

"Turn the dough onto a lightly floured board and gently knead to make a smooth dough (about two or three turns). Pat down the dough to make a 1-inch-thick round. Using a lightly floured 2 1/2-inch-round cookie cutter, cut out 6 shortcakes. Brush the tops with the melted butter and sprinkle with the reserved tablespoon of sugar. Place the shortcakes on a plate lined with waxed paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour." Why is it suggested that the cut shortcakes be chilled before baking? I made these this evening but overlooked that instruction. They turned out great. I'm really curious about this. Thanks, everyone. ;o)



Reiney July 15, 2012
Relaxing the gluten is one aspect, but the reason you bake things like puff pastry, pie crust & scones cold is that you want the fat (usually butter) to go from solid to steam as quickly as possible - this creates the layers.

If the butter is softened to room temp and then the dough is baked you'll end up with a more greasy, less leavened product.
IndianaBanana July 13, 2012
Another possible explanation - many pie and pastry crusts call for dough chilling. This weakens the gluten network- aka- it "relaxes" the dough. However, I cannot be certain this was the main intention of chilling in this recipe. The right amount of water can develop a strong gluten network and salt can tighten it...two ingredients missing in this recipe. Eggs, butter, and cream all act to "tenderize" the structure of the dough so I am guessing if you did a side by side comparison (chilled vs unchilled) it would be hard to tell the difference. In my experience, pie crusts (especially ones in which I added too much water and/or worked the dough too much) chilling the dough has a noticeably positive effect. Hope this helps!
Kristen M. June 16, 2012
Hi Antonia -- interestingly, I actually tried 2 versions of this recipe. Larry Forgione's recipe in An American Place didn't call for the chilling stage, but the JBF version did. While both were good, the chilled ones seemed to puff up a little bit better (owing to steam from the colder butter) and also seemed to make a crisper, more golden crust while waiting for the chillier interior to finish baking. But I think the differences were small enough that you could really go with either, depending on your schedule!
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