2 pounds strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced
2 to 4 tablespoons sugar (depends how sweet you want your strawberry syrup)
2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon table salt
2/3 cup cold buttermilk
1 large egg
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the fruit:
Gently toss the strawberries with the 3-4 tablespoons sugar in a large bowl to macerate. Let stand at least 30 minutes.
For the biscuits:
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 475F. While fruit is macerating, whisk flour, baking powder, 1 tablespoon sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk together buttermilk and egg in a medium bowl; add melted butter and stir until butter forms small clumps.
Add buttermilk mixtture to dry ingredients and stir with wooden spoon until dough comes together and no dry flour remains. Continue stirring vigorously for 30 seconds. Using greased 1/3 cup dry measure, scoop up mound of dough and drop onto parchment-lined baking sheet (if dough sticks to cup, use small spoon to pull it free). Repeat with remaining dough, spacing biscuits about 1 1/2 inches apart, to create 6 biscuits. Sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon sugar evenly over top of biscuits. Bake until tops are golden brown and crisp, about 15 minutes. Transfer to wire tack and let cool at least 15 minutes before assembling.
For the whipped cream:
Using hand mixer or stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat cream, sugar, and vanilla on low speed until bubbles form, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium; continue beating until beaters leave trail, about 30 seconds longer. Increase speed to high; continue beating until nearly doubled in volume and whipped cream forms soft peaks, 30 to 45 seconds longer.
Split each biscuit in half and place bottoms on individual serving plates. Spoon portion of crushed fruit mixture over each bottom, followed by any exuded juices. Top fruit with 2 tablespoons whipped cream, cap with biscuit top, and dollop each shortcake with some remaining whipped cream. Serve immediately.
Personal Note: Ganked from the summer issue of Cook's Illustrated, but altered. They were trying to make store bought crap peaches palatable and soft for peach shortcake by adding a step with peach schnapps boiled to soften the fruit up. I tried it as the peach shortcake but it was still crap; Robert bought seriously the worst, hardest, most flavorless peaches imaginable as a fluke (he said so himself; he tried to eat one over a week after we bought them when they should have been very ripe and they were so hard and tasteless he threw his out!). But in the process I discovered with wonder that this biscuit recipe rules; it's so much fun to make and foolproof (which CANNOT be said for pretty much any biscuit recipe I've ever tried...I have horrible luck making biscuits). When you do the step with the buttermilk, egg, and butter, it really does clump like magic, forming what almost looks and feels like homemade butter or curds or something. It's neat! And it painlessly forms a magic dough ball clean and neat and just sticky enough, not messy at all. I love it.
The whipped cream method is one I've never done before either, and I love it. It's less clean up for me than using the immersion blender, and though the results are solider and less pure tasting than the homemade whipped cream my parents make and hence I was making on my own, it holds up really well and is still miles better than anything from a tub. And it's so, so easy and foolproof, like most Test Kitchen methods, ha.