The base recipe for this shortcake has two tricks: First, I grate my butter on a cheese grater before adding it into the dry mixture. The long, thin strips of butter give the shortcakes a higher rise and flakier layers. Second, instead of using a biscuit cutter, I just shape the dough into one big square and then cut it into smaller squares. It saves time because you don’t have to worry about reshaping the dough for round two, and you won’t have to spend twenty minutes looking for your biscuit cutter (you know you will).
Now, for the fun part. The toppings! My favorite awesomely autumnal topper for sweet, buttery shortcakes is tart, stewed cranberries. Dollop a dreamy cloud of orange and nutmeg spiced whipped cream on top, and it suddenly becomes the thing that fall fantasies are made of. Of course, if your orchard haul is looking particularly abundant, you should try the caramel apple topper. It’s sweet and salty perfection. Or, if you’re looking for a really intriguing pear-ing (hehe), try the pear-ginger compote. —Grant Melton
about 9 shortcakes
1 1/2 teaspoons
cold butter, grated on a box grater and chilled
Preheat oven to 400° F. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add in the grated butter and lightly toss with your hands to fully coat the butter with the flour mixture, being careful not to break the butter pieces up too much. Add in the buttermilk and mix just until the dough forms to avoid over handling. If the mixture is too dry, add a little more buttermilk.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and, with your hand, press it out into an 8x8 square. Using a long knife, cut the square into three long strips and then cut each strip into three square shortcakes to make nine shortcakes.
Place the shortcake onto a parchment lined sheet tray. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown on top. Let cool slightly and then dust the tops with some confectioner’s sugar.
When you’re ready to serve, split the shortcakes open. Place the topping of choice on to the bottom cake and place the top back on.
Stewed Cranberries with Orange-Nutmeg Whipped Cream: Place one 12-ounce bag of cranberries, 3/4 cup sugar, a pinch of salt, and the juice of an orange into a sauce pot. Let cook over medium heat until mixture begins to bubble and cranberries start to burst. Remove from heat and let cool. For the whipped cream, whisk 1 cup of heavy whipped cream. Once stiff, add 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, the zest of an orange, a pinch of salt, and some freshly grated nutmeg.
Salted Caramel Apple: Melt 3 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Once melted, add 1/3 cup brown sugar to melt. Once the mixture begins to bubble, whisk in 1/4 cup of heavy cream. Season with the caramel sauce with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add in 3/4 lb. (a little less than 3) thinly sliced granny smith apples. Let cook until apples soften a bit but don’t lose their shape. For the whipped cream, whisk 1 cup of heavy whipped cream. Once stiff, add 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and a pinch of salt.
Ginger-Pear Compote: Heat 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Once hot, add 1 tablespoon chopped ginger, one cinnamon stick, 1/4 cup honey, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt and splash of water. Add the pears (I use Bartlett) and cook until pears begin to soften. Remove cinnamon stick before serving. For the whipped cream, whisk 1 cup of heavy whipped cream. Once stiff, add 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom and a pinch of salt.
Grant Melton is an Emmy Award-Winning Producer of the Rachael Ray Show, food writer and recipe developer. He's a contributor to Food52, NYT Cooking and Rachael Ray Every Day Magazine. He loves cookies, cocktails and kindness.