Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Real Strawberry Shortcake

I grew up in Minnesota and knew strawberry shortcake as a slightly sweet biscuit topped with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. It was very popular in the summertime, and on the Fourth of July, blueberries were added along with the strawberries for a patriotic, red-white-and-blue dessert.

I don’t know if it’s a west coast thing or if old-fashioned strawberry shortcake is being forgotten nationwide, but at least out here, most people make strawberry shortcake with pound cake or sponge cake. The combination is good, but it just isn’t shortcake. I looked it up to make sure I wasn’t confused – maybe we Minnesotans had it wrong. I found that traditional shortcake is indeed, “a sweetened biscuit pastry, plenty of sliced strawberries, and a generous dollop of whipped cream.” (See About.com or Wikipedia for more.)

It’s a pretty straightforward concoction, but I set out to find just the right recipe. They’re all pretty similar, but I mixed and matched ideas from a couple and put it all together last night. It was so good, I almost cried – even better than I remembered. I wish I'd taken a picture because it was so pretty, and I can't find a decent picture of real strawberry shortcake anywhere.

The biscuits were perfect! The kids liked them so much, they were happy to eat them without berries or whipped cream. A couple of the extras mysteriously disappeared from the cooling rack. (I guess you can’t go wrong with over a cup of heavy cream!) I used two tablespoons of sugar for the biscuits, and I thought they were just right when combined with the sweetened strawberries. If you like though, you can add a third tablespoon of sugar to make them a little sweeter.

If your strawberries are really sweet and delicious, and you can’t bear to add sugar to them, you can certainly just slice up the strawberries and leave it at that. Adding the sugar, however, allows the strawberries to develop juice that the biscuits will absorb nicely.

My final tips: 1) Assemble while the biscuits are still slightly warm. You’ll be glad you did. 2) Make your own whipped cream. It’s easy, and it adds a nice, homemade touch. If you want to add a little extra pizazz, add 1/2 teaspoon of grated lemon zest along with the vanilla. Your friends will be so impressed!

Strawberry Shortcake  PRINTABLE RECIPE
(makes 6 servings + extra biscuits)

STRAWBERRIES

1-1/2 Lbs fresh strawberries – stemmed & quartered (or sliced if the strawberries are large)
3 Tbsp sugar

Mix strawberries and sugar, and refrigerate while juices develop – about an hour.

CREAM BISCUITS

2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1-1/4 cups heavy cream
milk (for brushing tops of biscuits)

1. Preheat oven to 425°.
2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Add cream and stir just until a dough forms. Gather into a ball and knead gently about 6 times on a lightly floured surface.
3. Roll out the dough to 1/2" thickness. Cut out rounds (or any basic shape – I made diamonds) using a 2-1/2" cutter dipped in flour. Place biscuits on parchment paper on a baking sheet. Re-roll the remaining dough and cut out more biscuits to make a total of 10.
4. Brush the tops of the biscuits with milk and bake at 425° for 15 minutes or until golden. Transfer to a rack and allow to cool for 5 minutes.

BASIC WHIPPED CREAM

1 cup chilled heavy cream
2 Tbsp confectioners' (powdered) sugar – or more to taste
1 tsp vanilla extract

Use a mixer to beat the cream and sugar until soft peaks form – about 1-1/2 to 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and mix just until blended.

ASSEMBLY

Use a fork to split the biscuits into top and bottom halves. Place the bottom halves on small plates. Spoon some of the strawberries with their juice onto each shortcake bottom. Top with a generous dollop of whipped cream and then the biscuit top. Enjoy!

2 comments:

  1. I would like to add write a cookbook to the list of things I am thinking you are cut out to do very well!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Jen from Portland, OregonJune 11, 2009 at 7:53 AM

    Thanks! I've always thought that would be fun to do.

    ReplyDelete