These are my version of a cream tea. While I do love scones with clotted cream and jam, I find this combination of just-sweet shortcake, creme fraiche and fresh lemon with fennel-spiked strawberries a little fresher on a warm day.
For the shortcakes
320g plain flour
1 pinch sea salt
1 tsp baking powder
50g golden caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
125g unsalted butter, frozen
2 large free-range or organic eggs
125ml single cream
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
For the filling
½ tsp fennel seeds
300g strawberries, hulled: large ones quartered, smaller ones halved
1-2 tbsp golden caster sugar
Juice and zest of 1 lemon; reserve some zest for sprinkling
200ml creme fraiche
Heat the oven to 240C (220C fan)/465F/gas 9. If you haven’t already, put your butter in the freezer – it will need about 30 mins to chill.For the shortcakes, mix the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar in a bowl. Grate in the butter and lightly bring together with your fingers until it resembles breadcrumbs.
Whisk one egg into the cream, add the vanilla bean paste and pour into the flour mixture bit by bit using a fork. Bring the mixture together to a dough, but don’t overmix.
Tip out the dough on to a lightly floured work surface, roll out to about 3cm thick, then, using a 6cm round cutter, stamp out 10 discs.
Line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper and arrange the shortcakes about 2-3cm apart, because they will spread slightly.
Separate the other egg whisk the white (keep the yolk for something else), brush the cake tops with the egg white and sprinkle with a little extra caster sugar. Put in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill.
In a small frying pan, lightly toast the fennel seeds for a minute, until lightly golden, then transfer to a bowl. Add the strawberries, caster sugar and lemon juice and zest, mix well and leave to marinate for 10-15 minutes.
Remove the shortcakes from the fridge and bake for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown, then let them cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack.
Halve each shortcake as you would a scone, then top with a generous dollop of creme fraiche and the marinated strawberries; add a little fresh lemon zest, if you like. Best eaten warm.
IMAGE: Matt Russell for The Guardian