One of my favorite spring dishes is shortcakes with fresh fruits or berries. The other day I decided to take advantage of some great looking berries and made a variety of shortcakes. To make them more modern, and to work on some recipes for my upcoming book, I used some whipping siphon foams and agar agar fruit gels.
I think playing around with the flavor combinations is one of the best parts of creating dishes like this so I decided to make four different kinds of shortcakes using different fruit gels and foams. However, for simplicity, you could always stick to one or two types. I made:
Blueberry shortcakes with blueberry gel and a maple whipped cream.
Strawberry shortcakes with strawberry agar gel and vanilla whipped cream.
Nectarine shortcakes with nectarine gel and lime whipped cream.
Blackberry shortcakes with blackberry gel and orange whipped cream.
These shortcakes represent one of the things I love about modernist cooking, each component was very simple and took almost no time to put together. Yet when you assemble the dish it looks really fancy and tastes great. The agar fruit gels are simply fruit juice or puree brought to a boil and mixed with agar, then cut with pastry round cutters. If you don't have the pastry rounds you can also cut them into squares with a knife. The whipped cream foams are heavy cream, sugar, and flavored extract, foamed with a whipping siphon. For garnish I used a few berries or slices of fruit plus mint and some shaved chocolate to top it off.
They are easy to put together, especially if you just do one or two kinds, and both the foam and gels can be made ahead of time, leaving only the assembly left for the day of your party.
If you like this recipe you can get it and more than 50 other recipes from my book Modernist Cooking Made Easy: The Whipping Siphon. The book covers the three main uses of the whipping siphon: foaming, carbonating, and infusing. It is all presented in an easy to understand format that anyone can follow.
Also, if you are just getting started experimenting with molecular gastronomy and modernist cuisine then I highly recommend one of these molecular gastronomy kits. They have everything you need to do many different dishes.
Modernist Shortcakes Ingredients
Because they use modernist ingredients, these amounts are given in metric by weight. For more information on how to measure modernist ingredients check out this article.
For the Siphon Whipped Cream
225 grams heavy cream or whipping cream
4 grams vanilla or other flavored extract
16 grams superfine or powdered sugar
For the Agar Fruit Gels
200 grams fruit juice or puree, strained to remove seeds
1-2 grams agar, 0.5-1%
Honey, to taste
Sponge or angel food cake
Dark chocolate, for shaving
Modernist Shortcakes Instructions
For the Siphon Whipped Cream
Combine all ingredients in a whipping siphon. Seal and charge as the manufacturer recommends. Shake well, 4 to 6 times, and chill until ready to dispense.
You can also make the whipped cream by combining all the ingredients in a bowl and whipping until the whipped cream forms. It is much easier with a standing mixer with a whisk attachment than by hand.
For the Fruit Gels
Combine the fruit juice with the agar and blend well with an immersion blender. Taste for sweetness and blend in any honey needed to balance the flavors.
Bring the agar and fruit mixture to a boil on the stove and let simmer for 3 to 5 minutes. Pour out into a mold or container and let it cool.
Once the agar fruit gel has cooled you can assemble the shortcakes. To assemble, use a pastry round cutter or ring mold to cut circles out of the short cakes and the gel. If the gel is thick, you can cut each round into multiple circles. If you don't have pastry round cutter you can cut them into squares or rectangles with a knife.
Set the short cake rounds onto a serving dish and place an agar fruit gel round on top. Top with the siphon whipped cream. Add a piece or two of fruit for garnish, along with some mint. Shave some chocolate over the top for added flavor.