Inspired by strawberry shortcake, this savory version celebrates fresh tomatoes. Homemade biscuits are topped with fresh ricotta cheese, tomatoes and basil. And, if you make the biscuits and ricotta ahead of time, it all comes together in just a few minutes.
For the ricotta:
1 cup cream
2 cups whole milk
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
Combine the milk and cream in a saucepan and heat just until boiling. As soon as it boils, remove the pan from the heat and gently stir in the lemon juice and salt. Let the mixture sit for about 10 minutes. While it sits, line a colander or strainer with cheesecloth. When the 10 minutes are up, the mixture should look curdled. Pour it through the strainer lined with cheesecloth. The liquid that drains out is whey - you can capture it for another use if you’re like. Let the ricotta curds sit in the strainer and drain for about 90 minutes. The longer you let it drain, the firmer it will set. We like it somewhat soft and spreadable, especially for this tomato shortcake recipe.
For the biscuits:
10 Tbsp butter cut into 1/2 inch cubes. plus 1 Tbsp for greasing the pan, and another for topping the biscuits when they come out of the oven
4 cups flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 C buttermilk, very cold (note: use real butter milk, this recipe doesn’t work with substitutes)
Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix well to combine. Add the 10 tbsp chopped butter to the dry mixture and stick the whole bowl in the freezer for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, use 1 tbsp butter to grease an 8x8 inch square baking pan. It may seem like a lot of butter, but use it all and spread it around as evenly as you can. Measure out the buttermilk and put it back in the fridge to stay cold. Preheat the oven to 450F.
When you pull the mixing bowl out of the freezer, give the ingredients a quick stir. Then, using just the tips of your fingers, quickly find and squish the pieces of butter. It’s a bit like pinching and rubbing it into the flour. You want to break up the butter into small pieces, about the size of peas, without warming them too much with the heat of your hands. When the butter has been broken down and mixed into the flour, take the measured buttermilk out of the fridge and pour it into the mixing bowl. Gently stir in the buttermilk until there are no dry spots left in the dough.
Add the biscuit dough to the greased baking pan. Sprinkle a bit of extra flour on top, and use your hands to push and pat the dough evenly into the pan. Then, using a lightly oiled knife, slice the dough in the pan to pre-cut 9 biscuits (so, make 2 cuts in each direction). Bake for 30 minutes, the biscuits should be nice and golden on top.
When you pull them out of the oven, immediately spread the reamining 1 Tbsp butter across the topcs of the hot biscuits. It melt andbe absorbed by the biscuits as they cool so they will not have greasy tops.
To assemble each shortcakes:
1 biscuit, cut in half
2 spoonfuls of fresh ricotta
A handful of tomato slices
A few basil leaves, thinly sliced
Optional additions: smoked trout, olive oil, balsamic glaze, salt and pepper
Lay the biscuit halves, cut side up, on a plate. Top each with a spoonful of ricotta cheese, handful of chopped or sliced tomato, and basil. You can add additional toppings if you like, but the shortcakes are delicious even at their most simple. If you really wanted to get fancy, you could marinate the tomatoes in a bit of good quality olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of salt and pepper.