Strawberry shortcake is one of those desserts that is the epitome of a Southern summer dessert. To top that, chocolate and strawberries are meant to be served together, especially on Valentines Day! Combining those two things, I created a rich, intensely chocolate biscuit made specifically for these Chocolate Biscuit Strawberry Shortcakes.
The key to tall, flaky biscuits is cutting the fat (butter and/or shortening in large enough pieces so they create air pockets when they melt in the oven. Another key is to fold the dough, not knead it, which creates the flaky layers.
Not all cocoa powders are the same. The two main varieties are natural cocoa powder and Dutch process cocoa powder. Serious Eats breaks down the difference in detail here. In a nutshell, natural cocoa is the most common and works well with baking soda because baking soda is neutral and needs added acidity. Dutch process cocoa has the acidity removed with an alkali (giving it that deep, rich, dark color) so, it works well with baking powder because baking powder is basically baking soda with cream of tartar added for acidity.
I experimented with several types and brands of cocoas, flour, and leavening. I was amazed at the differences in color. I took a quick picture with my cell phone to share with you here. (Note: The one on the left was cut with a slightly smaller cookie cutter.) If you don’t have self-rising flour, you can use all-purpose flour and 1 teaspoon baking soda.
The chocolate biscuits in the photo of the shortcakes are made with Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa, a blend of natural and Dutch processed cocoas. After reading Stella Parks’ cookbook Bravetart, I ordered Cacao Barry Extra Brute (A higher fat Dutch processed cocoa) from Amazon because she used it in her Homemade Oreo Cookies. The color difference in it and a regular unsweetened cocoa is like night and day (dark and light) although it did not produce the darkest biscuit. I still preferred the results of the Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa for these chocolate biscuits. It is a mixture of regular cocoa which gives them the most chocolate flavor and Dutch process cocoa that gives them the intense dark color, so it’s the best of both worlds!
1) Since most of my recipes have shortcuts in them, I used self-rising flour (to save two ingredients) which has baking powder and a little salt added, so I used Dutch processed cocoa. I also love the intense color it gives the biscuits. Oreo cookies are made with a Dutch process cocoa to give you an idea of how dark some Dutch processed cocoas can be.
2) I also use the food processor instead of using a pastry blender to cut in the butter and shortening. I love this method because it cuts the fat into just the right size with just a few pulses and many people don’t own a pastry blender or even know what it looks like.
If it’s Winter where you are and strawberries are not at their peak, no worries! Slather Strawberry Freezer Jam between the biscuit halves or use frozen strawberries.
Gild the Lily: Drizzle chocolate syrup or chocolate ganache over the shortcakes.
No waste Cooking: Don’t throw out those left over components of the shortcakes if you don’t use all the biscuits for shortcake. Crumble the day old chocolate biscuits and layer them in a glass bowl with strawberries or Strawberry Freezer Jam, chocolate pudding, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce for a Chocolate Strawberry Trifle.
These rich chocolate biscuits get their color from Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder. Strawberry shortcakes are high on my list of favorite Southern desserts, but these are at the top!
- 1 3/4 cup self-rising flour
- 1/3 cup Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder*
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup cold shortening cut into 6 pieces
- 1/4 cup cold butter not margarine, cut into 6 pieces
- 1/2 cup buttermilk plus 1 tablespoon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 1 16-oz container fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 11/2 cups whipping cream beaten with 2 tablespoons sugar or 3 cups Cool Whip or 1 (6.5 oz can) Reddi-Wip
- 9 fresh strawberry halves for garnish
Preheat oven to 425°. Add flour, cocoa, and sugar to the bowl of a food processor or medium size bowl. Add shortening and butter. If using the food processor, pulse 6 to 8 times or until until the shortening and butter pieces are the size of pencil erasers. If using a mixing bowl, cut shortening and butter in with a pastry blender or two table knives until they are the size of pencil erasers.
Pour buttermilk and vanilla over dry ingredients in the bowl. If using the food processor, pour it through the food chute while pulsing just until dough starts to form a ball. Be careful not to pour to slowly or you will over mix the dough. Stir dough in the mixing bowl just until it looks “shaggy”. Use the extra 1 to 2 tablespoons buttermilk, if needed to get this look and feel. The dough should not be wet like muffin batter but not as dry as a yeast bread dough.
Scrape dough out onto a floured work surface. With floured fingers, gently form the dough into a ball. Gently pat dough down to 1-inch thickness. Pull one side over to the other side and gently press it slightly into the bottom half. Now pull the left side over to the right and press down. Repeat twice. You are trapping air between the layers which will give you the best “lift” and mile high biscuits. Gently pat dough down to 1-inch thickness (about a 6”x7” rectangle).
Using a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter or circle cookie cutter, cut out 5 biscuits and place in an greased 8-inch cake pan or cast iron skillet. Press the remaining dough together to cut out the last biscuit. Brush with melted butter.
Bake at 425° for 11 or12 minutes or until biscuits do not leave an indention when touched on the top. (Chocolate biscuits will not be golden or lightly browned.) Let cool completely in pan. Actually, they are fabulous warm with strawberry jam at this point, but hold off if you’re going to have any to make shortcakes!
Combine strawberries and 2 tablespoon sugar and let stand 10 minutes. This will create the strawberry “syrup” you will want for the shortcakes.
Slice chocolate biscuits in half horizontally and place bottom halves on serving plates. Spoon about 1/3 cup strawberries on bottom halves. Dollop about 1/4 cup whipped cream on strawberries and place top halves of biscuits on top of whipped cream. Dollop about 1 tablespoon whipped cream on top of biscuit; place a strawberry on top for garnish and drizzle with any remaining strawberry “syrup”.
Tip: I store my shortening in the freezer for the best pie crusts and biscuits. Tip: Don’t have buttermilk? No worries. Add 1 tablespoon white or apple cider vinegar per cup of milk and let it stand 5 minutes. Tip: Biscuit dough should be slightly sticky before rolling out. Working with fingers lightly coated with flour or cocoa powder is better than adding more flour to the dough. *I used Hershey’s Special Dark because I love the rich color it gives but regular cocoa is fine. It is a mix of regular and Dutch process cocoas. Gild the Lily: Drizzle with chocolate syrup or melted hot fudge ice cream sauce.