A shortcake not short on flavor

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Strawberry shortcake has always been a favorite dessert of mine — it reminds me of the carefree days of summer at my grandparent's house, where we'd buy strawberries by the pound and eat them in just about everything.

Our family always preferred the biscuit-shortcake to the spongecake variety, which was too sweet and ruined the strawberries, according to my grandma. I think she was right — a light fluffy biscuit with just a touch of sweetness and enough heft to handle seriously juicy berries is the ticket to perfect shortcake.

Since we eat shortcake all summer, I've created a recipe that includes a little extra fiber and protein by subbing out half the white flour with whole wheat flour (whole wheat pastry flour is particularly great for baked goods if you happen to have some). But with the husk and germ of the wheat comes a slighter darker, nuttier color, which isn't quite what children may be craving for dessert. My easy solution: embrace the beautiful brown color and enhance it with a little cinnamon.

Suddenly, wheaty biscuits are transformed into cinnamon shortbread in the eyes of my kiddos. And the flaky texture comes from just a little bit of butter, while low-fat plain Greek yogurt subs in for the traditional heavy cream and buttermilk. The berries are made perfectly tangy and sweet with some balsamic vinegar and brown sugar, an homage to my grandma, who used apple cider vinegar in just about everything, including her berries for shortcake. Balsamic is a little sweeter and more balanced than apple cider vinegar, so it's a nice upgrade.

The final touches of mint and orange zest add nuanced flavor, so the berries shine through without a ton of extra sugar. And instead of whipped cream, I mix up a luscious vanilla cream from part-skim ricotta and Greek yogurt. We'll be eating this recipe straight through to fall.

Cinnamon biscuit berry shortcakes

Start to Finish: 45 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients:

For the berries:

2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 cups raspberries, blueberries, and sliced strawberries

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint

For the shortcake biscuits:

1 ¼ cup flour — half whole wheat, half all-purpose

2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons sugar, plus more for sprinkling

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon cinnamon

3 Tablespoons cold butter, cut into small cubes

½ cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt

1 egg, lightly beaten, divided in half

For the creamy filling:

1/3 cup part-skim ricotta cheese

3 tablespoons low-fat plain Greek yogurt

1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon brown sugar

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400. In a medium bowl, toss together the balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, orange zest and mint and place in refrigerator while you make the biscuits. Place the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, salt and cinnamon in a small food processor. Pulse once or twice to mix the dry ingredients. Add the butter, and pulse 7 or 8 times until mixture looks like wet sand.

Add half the egg into the yogurt and stir to combine, and then pour on top of the flour. Process until the dough comes together in a large clump, about 30 seconds. Empty the dough onto the counter and form into a 6" disk. Slice the dough into 6 wedges and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment.

Brush lightly with a little remaining beaten egg and sprinkle with a little sugar on top. Bake until golden brown and fluffy, about 13-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, make the cream: in a small bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, yogurt, vanilla and brown sugar until smooth. Chill until ready to serve. To serve, split the biscuits in half, spoon some ricotta cream on the bottom half, top with macerated berries and the top biscuit half. Enjoy.

Nutrition information per serving: 255 calories; 80 calories from fat; 9 g fat (5 g saturated; X g trans fats); 58 mg cholesterol; 422 mg sodium; 36 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 13 g sugar; 9 g protein.

Food Network star Melissa d'Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the cookbook "Supermarket Healthy."

Online: http://www.melissadarabian.net


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