Ricotta Blackberry Shortcakes with Honey and Thyme {Gluten-Free}

I’ve developed a physical dependance on Bellwether Farms’ basket-dipped ricotta. The thick, rich cheese is the perfect combination of salty and creamy, with fat, irregular curds. I’m powerless against it. Largely, I invent recipes just so I can have it around. I put it in pancakes. I put it in gnocchi. I smear it on pizza and under carrots. And the other day, when I could stop putting it directly on a spoon and into my mouth, I put it in this dessert. Twice.

Gluten-free scones had thus far eluded me, and I was overjoyed when ricotta turned out to be the answer. Among my past attempts, there was a super chewy scone made with rice flour, honey, and dried fruit. There were some savory biscuits that stayed gummy in the middle no matter how long I baked them. There were dry, chalky cobbler biscuits, and the biggest disaster of all: scone dough that melted into more of a cake batter that I baked anyway and then threw most of it away.

Since scones are one of my favorite things to bake, I found this frustrating.

Gluten-free flours lack the protein present in wheat (i.e. gluten) that helps baked goods hold together. The protein is often replaced with bean flours (which have an off-taste) or nut flours such as almond (which are lovely, but make everything taste like marzipan [not necessarily a bad thing, but not always what one wants]). Ricotta added the protein needed to create a pillowy texture, while altering the flavor for the better. These are some of the tastiest shortcake biscuits I’ve ever had.

So I’m extra excited to share this recipe because not only does it contain a double dose of my favorite ricotta (in the biscuits and in the cream) but also because I finally baked gluten-free biscuits that are good on their own and undetectably sans wheat. Woohoo!

The inspiration came via Smitten Kitchen. I had a hunch that the extra protein would help the biscuits maintain their biscuity texture, and it worked like a charm, no xanthan gum necessary (though I did add a bit of ground chia seed, cornstarch, and tapioca flour to help the millet and oat flours hold together). The dough is a pleasure to work with, and the biscuits bake up with craggy tops, crisp edges, and soft, wheaty-tasting middles. They spread a bit in the oven, but as Danguole pointed out, they’re called shortcakes for a reason: thinner biscuits mean that the ratios are just right. (Also: Danguole is awesome.)

It took all my willpower to let them cool long enough to whip some ricotta and cream together, macerate blackberries with honey and thyme, and assemble and shoot the shortcakes.

Ok, maybe I had one or two straight from the oven. But I’m glad I had enough restraint to make these shortcakes with the rest of them.

The idea for this combination of flavors came from this ice cream and it is a winner: savory-sweet, bright and deep, mild and herbaceous all at the same time. I love the contrast in textures of toasty biscuits topped with a crunch of coarse sugar, thick cream studded with ricotta curds, and juicy blackberries sweetened with blackberry honey and dotted with lemon thyme.

Jay made himself one for a snack today, and later we shared one for dessert after which he said, “I could eat like ten of those.” This from the man with no sweet tooth.

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Very Berries:

Tayberry, Rose Geranium and Buttermilk Popsicles
Berry, Plum and Rose Sangría
Skillet Custard Cornbread with Berries and Honey

Shortcakes, previously:

White Nectarine and Lemon Verbena Shortcakes

One year ago:

Oatmeal Chocolate Stout Ice Cream Sandwiches

Two years ago:

Cherry Marzipan Scones

Three years ago:

Berry Peach Oven Pancake

Four years ago:

Crispy Sesame Kale Chips

Ricotta Blackberry Shortcakes with Honey and Thyme {Gluten-Free}

I highly recommend using a good quality store-bought or homemade ricotta cheese here. The one I love is Bellwether Farms’ Basket-Dipped Whole Milk Ricotta; I eat it by the spoonful. If you or your guests are highly sensitive to gluten, be sure to source certified gluten-free ingredients (especially oat flour). If gluten isn’t an issue, feel free to try this recipe with 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour and 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour, omitting the cornstarch, tapioca flour and chia seed altogether and adjusting the cream as needed to make a firm dough that holds together. The blackberries here are something special, but other berries or stone fruit could easily stand in. The biscuits are also lovely on their own when freshly baked, spread with a bit of jam and more ricotta.

Makes 6 modest servings

For the ricotta biscuits:
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (1.75 ounces / 50 grams) millet flour
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (1.5 ounces / 40 grams) gluten-free oat flour
2 tablespoons (.5 ounce / 15 grams) tapioca flour/starch (same thing)
2 tablespoons (.5 ounce / 15 grams) cornstarch
2 tablespoons (.75 ounces / 20 grams) organic blonde cane sugar
1 tablespoon (.25 ounce / 5 grams) ground chia seed
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 tablespoons (1.5 ounces / 45 grams) cold, unsalted butter, diced
zest from 1/2 a large lemon
1/2 cup (4.25 ounces / 120 grams) whole-milk ricotta cheese
6 tablespoons (2.5 ounces / 70 grams) cold heavy cream, plus another 2 tablespoons for brushing the biscuits
coarse sugar (turbinado), for sprinkling

For the shortcakes:
3 cups (12 ounces / 340 grams) blackberries, halved lengthwise
3 tablespoons (2 ounces / 55 grams) honey (blackberry honey, if you’ve got it), plus extra for drizzling
1-2 tablespoons loosely packed thyme leaves (lemon thyme, if you’ve got it), plus a few pretty sprigs for garnish
1 cup (7 ounces / 200 grams) cold heavy cream
3/4 cup (5 ounces / 145 grams) whole-milk ricotta
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make the biscuits:
Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 425ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the millet, oat and tapioca flours with the cornstarch, sugar, chia seed, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter and lemon zest, and rub with your fingers until the mixture looks like gravel with some pea-sized butter bits remaining. Add the ricotta and cream, and stir / knead with your hands until the dough comes together in a rough ball. The dough should feel fairly firm, but evenly moistened.

Working quickly to keep the dough cold, turn the dough out onto a surface dusted lightly with oat flour and form it into a disk. Cut the disk into six equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball, place on the sheet pan spaced well apart, and flatten slightly. Brush the tops of each biscuit with cream and sprinkle with a bit of coarse sugar. (If the biscuits have become soft, you can chill or freeze them until they have firmed up a bit; this will keep them from spreading too much.)

Bake the biscuits until golden on top, 14-18 minutes. Let cool at least 30 minutes; they are still cooking from residual heat. The biscuits are best the day of baking, but they will keep at room temperature for a day or two. Toast before serving.

Finish the shortcakes:
Toss the halved berries with the honey and thyme and let macerate for at least 10 minutes and up to an hour or two.

Whip the cream, ricotta, sugar and vanilla until the mixture forms soft peaks. Chill if not using right away.

Slice a biscuit in half using a serrated knife. Place the bottom half on a plate, top with a large dollop of ricotta cream, and place a mess of honeyed berries on top, letting some fall off onto the plate. Top with the biscuit lid, garnish with a drizzle of honey and a thyme sprig or two, and serve.

45 thoughts on “Ricotta Blackberry Shortcakes with Honey and Thyme {Gluten-Free}”

  1. This is may be my perfect dessert! One of my favorite late night snacks is whole milk ricotta on a saltine cracker with a little jam on top – good stuff! I think your shortcakes are the thing that will finally push me over the edge to throw on some boots and head out to the field and pick a bucket of blackberries. :: )

  2. I LOVE ricotta and can also eat it with a spoon. I never thought to use it as a binder for GF breads, but now I'm definitely going to be trying it. Cheers!

  3. I just stumbled across your blog from Tieghan at Half Baked Harvest and I am ever so glad that I clicked on the link. I have mourned not being able to eat my Mum's scones ever since going GF a few years ago, and now you have provided me with the answer. Thank you. These will be making an appearance at a family scone and cream tea very soon, and you have a faithful new follower :)

  4. These scones look perfect – especially when paired with those sweet blackberries, cream, and honey. I've never thought to add ricotta to my gluten-free baked goods (or chia seeds, actually!). These are bound to make a brunch appearance very soon.

  5. Pingback: | BHG Delish Dish

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