2 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold butter, divided
1 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate, cut into 1/2 -inch pieces
1 cup drained brandied cherries
1 teaspoon instant espresso
1 tablespoon hot water
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon coarse or sanding sugar
1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut 5 tablespoons of the cold butter into half-inch pieces; incorporate the butter into the flour mixture using a pastry cutter or fork until crumbly. Stir in the chopped chocolate and brandied cherries.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the espresso and hot water until the espresso is dissolved. Stir in the heavy cream, sour cream and vanilla.
3. Stir the espresso mixture into the dough mixture. The mixture will still be very crumbly at first. Knead the dough (still in the bowl) with your hands until it just comes together. Lightly flour your work surface with cocoa powder and flatten the dough to 1 1/2 -inch thickness. Using a 2 1/2 -inch round biscuit cutter, cut the dough into 8 rounds. Place the rounds at least 2 inches apart on two stacked baking sheets lined with a sheet of parchment paper (the double layer of baking sheets will prevent the shortcakes from overcooking on the bottom before they are fully baked).
4. Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons butter. Lightly brush the top of each shortcake with melted butter. Lightly sprinkle the coarse sugar over the shortcakes and place in the oven. Bake the shortcakes until puffed and they spring back lightly when touched, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the tray halfway through for even baking.
5. Remove the shortcakes, still on the parchment, to a rack. Cool completely. The shortcakes will keep for 3 days, covered, at room temperature.
Each of 8 servings: 631 calories; 7 grams protein; 85 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams fiber; 27 grams fat; 16 grams saturated fat; 59 mg. cholesterol; 422 mg. sodium.