Yields: about 8 3-inch shortcakes

Cook’s notes: This is a variation of cream biscuits, and like the biscuits is wide open to variations; try grinding a little mint, thyme, lemon thyme, rosemary, lemon verbena, cinnamon basil, or lemon or orange zest with the sugar in a food processor, or whisk in chocolate shavings to the dry ingredients, or add about 1/2 cup ground nuts.  Adjust the sugar to your taste for sweet shortcakes. For strawberry shortcakes, about 1 1/2 pounds sliced berries works for this quantity of shortcakes.

3 cups all-purpose flour, preferably bleached

4 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt

1/4 to 1/3 cup granulated sugar, to taste

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

1 3/4 cups heavy cream, or more as needed

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Pour in vanilla and cream and stir it in gently with a rubber spatula until dry ingredients are just moistened.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and press it together with your hands, slowly adding more cream if needed to get dough to hold together. Roll or pat dough into a circle 3/4-inch thick. Cut into 3-inch rounds with a floured biscuit cutter or drinking glass; pull the cutter straight up each time — twisting it will make the biscuits rise lopsided. Place each shortcake slightly separated on a parchment paper-lined or lightly greased baking sheet.

Bake shortcakes for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Serve immediately, or transfer to a wire rack to cool. (They’ll split better if left to cool for a few minutes.)

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