Dried fruit is a reliable standby during winter months, when fewer fresh fruits are available. Cut any large pieces in half or smaller to ensure even cooking and to make the dessert easier to eat. Substitute full-fat sour cream for crème fraîche, if desired.
Cooking Light JANUARY 2007
To prepare compote, combine first 5 ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Stir in fruit. Reduce heat to medium; simmer 5 minutes or until fruit is tender and liquid is slightly thick. Pour into bowl; cover and chill at least 3 hours. Discard anise and cinnamon stick.
Preheat oven to 375°.
To prepare shortcakes, spoon pumpkin onto several layers of heavy-duty paper towels; spread to 1/2-inch thickness. Cover with additional paper towels; let stand 10 minutes. Scrape into a medium bowl using a rubber spatula. Add milk and 1/4 cup water, stirring to combine.
Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through nutmeg) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk; cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until butter pieces are pea-sized. Add pumpkin mixture; stir just until moist. Drop dough by level 1/4 cup measures 2 inches apart onto a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Flatten dough to 1/2-inch thickness using lightly floured hands. Sprinkle evenly with 1 teaspoon granulated sugar. Bake at 375° for 15 minutes or until golden. Remove from pan; cool on a wire rack.
Split shortcakes in half horizontally using a serrated knife. Spoon about 1/4 cup compote over bottom half of each shortcake; top each serving with 1 tablespoon crème fraîche and top of shortcake.
When mixing the dough for shortcakes, use a light hand and work quickly for the most tender cakes. If the recipe calls for kneading the dough, knead lightly only a few times so the dough doesn't become overworked.
Use a serrated knife to split the shortcakes. It will cut through the cakes without crumbling them.
You can bake the shortcakes up to a day ahead. Cool completely, and store at room temperature in a large zip-top plastic bag. To reheat, wrap in foil and heat at 350° for 10 minutes.
To freeze shortcakes, cool them completely, place in a heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag, and freeze up to two months. Thaw at room temperature, then reheat as instructed above.
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