The Best Quick and Easy Strawberry Shortcakes

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[Photograph: Carrie Vasios Mullins]

Shortcakes should be your go-to, easy summer dessert recipe. Why? They highlight fresh fruit (I used strawberries here but you can easily swap in a mix of any fruit that's in season, including stone fruits), they require very little oven time, and they look charmingly homemade. Exactly how fast are we talking? About 25 minutes start to finish. The strawberries macerate while the biscuits come together, and while the biscuits are baking, you make the whipped cream.

The trick to making great strawberry shortcakes is, no surprise, to make sure that each part is the best it can be. But special attention goes to the biscuit as it anchors, and in my opinion makes or breaks, a great shortcake.

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Some people prefer laminated biscuits to cream biscuits, but cream biscuits can be just as fluffy; the trick is to slowly incorporate the cream, and not over-mix the dough. Besides, when you eat a bite of assembled shortcake, you get the juices from the strawberries and the milky, airy whipped cream all leaching into the biscuit base. It's the sort of dessert you want to eat quickly, before the biscuit gets soggy, and to that end, the biscuit can get away with being less layered than one made with cold butter.

As for your strawberries, giving them enough time—but not too much—to macerate in the sugar is key; 15 minutes is enough time for them to let out juice and take on extra sweetness. The whipped cream is even easier—my rule of thumb is one tablespoon of confectioners sugar for every cup of heavy cream. Oh and those peaks? Just get them stiff enough that they won't melt out the sides.

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To make this recipe even more friendly, everything can be made ahead of time. Strawberries can be macerated for up to two hours before they start to get mushy; cover them with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge. Store cooled biscuits in an airtight container for up to two days, though they are best on the day they are made. If making the whipped cream ahead of time, store in an airtight container in the fridge; rewhip for 10-15 seconds before using.

It's worth noting that if you want a prettier, or at least less rustic looking, final product and don't mind adding 5-10 minutes onto the process, you can roll out your dough into a 1-inch thick rectangle and cut out 2 1/2-inch circles using a biscuit cutter. Brush the top of each biscuit with melted butter, then proceed with the recipe as directed.

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