In his twenty-plus cookbooks, James Beard never published his mother's shortcake recipe, which relies on a clever secret ingredient: hard boiled egg yolks. Lucky for us, he saw fit to share it with his friend Larry Forgione one night as the two were relaxing and talking food at Beard's townhouse. As Forgione tells it, Beard believed "there can be no dessert better, only fancier." Taste his version and you're likely to feel the same. From The James Beard Foundation, adapted from An American Place by Larry Forgione (Morrow, 1996) —Genius Recipes
plus 1 tablespoon sugar
plus 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small cubes
hard-boiled egg yolks, pushed through a small mesh sieve
heavy cream, chilled
unsalted butter, melted
fresh strawberries, washed, hulled, and halved or quartered, depending on size
Sift together the flour, 1/4 cup of the sugar, and the baking powder into a bowl. Add 6 tablespoons of the chilled butter pieces and, using your fingertips, work the butter into the flour mix until it has the consistency of coarse crumbs. Add the sieved hard-boiled egg yolks and the cream; gently mix until it the dough just comes together.
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.
Heat the oven to 350ºF. Transfer the chilled shortcakes to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake on the center rack of the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden and firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
While the shortcakes cool, prepare the fruit filling and whipped cream: place the strawberries in a glass bowl and add the sugar. Gently stir and let sit for 1 to 2 minutes.
Whip the cream and sugar together in a medium bowl until the cream just begins to thicken.
Using a fork or serrated knife, cut the shortcakes in half lengthwise. Place the bottom halves on 6 plates and generously spoon the macerated fruit and juices over them. Top with a heaping dollop of lightly whipped sweetened cream. Top with the top halves of the shortcakes.
Genius recipes surprise us and make us rethink cooking tropes. They're handed down by luminaries of the food world and become their legacy. They get us talking and change the way we cook. And, once we've folded them into our repertoires, they make us feel pretty genius too. Watch for new Genius Recipes every Wednesday morning on our blog, dug up by Food52's Creative Director Kristen Miglore.