Is there a finer way to celebrate the fruits of summer than with shortcake? Is there a finer shortcake than the traditional one -- two layers of biscuit dough, slathered with whipped cream and bedecked with berries?
I think not. Here's the way my daughter makes it. HELEN'S SHORTCAKE Dough: 2 cups bleached self-rising flour (stir with a whisk, then measure) 2 tablespoons sugar 1/4 cup unsalted butter 1/4 cup lard 1/2 cup milk, approximately Filling and Topping 1/2 pint heavy cream 1/2 cup confectioners sugar (remove lumps by mashing with a fork) 1 pint of any of these fruits: sliced strawberries; whole raspberries, blackberries, or blueberries; peeled sliced peaches
Heat oven to 450 degrees. Mix flour and sugar in a medium-size bowl. Work in butter and lard with your fingers until a texture of coarse meal is achieved. Add milk, stirring to make a soft and somewhat sticky dough.
Turn dough out onto a generously floured pastry board or cloth and knead briefly, about a dozen strokes. Divide dough in half. Press into greased or nonstick 8-inch cake pans. Bake until quite brown at the edges, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool slightly. Remove from pans and cool on a rack.
(Shortcake should be made on the day it is to be eaten. If it must be made in advance, it should be frozen.)
Whip cream until it begins to thicken. Add confectioners sugar gradually, beating until cream holds soft peaks.
As close to serving time as possible, spread about 1/2 of the cream on top of one of the shortcakes. Arrange about 1/2 of the fruit on top of this. Cover with second cake, then remaining cream and remaining fruit. Refrigerate until ready to serve.