July 2nd, 2010
I dragged my older daughter to our neighborhoods Thursday farmers market last night, right before it closed. I was so happy to get out of the house and grab some fresh air, but it turned out it is a great time to hit a farmers market. It was still really crowded and the market was half beautiful local produce and half gourmet, portable food court! (I will do a post about these gourmet “food trucks”!)
Also, there are deals to be had. Some of the farmers aren’t keen on having to pack up the remaining produce and haul it back, so they start wheeling and dealing! I don’t tell you this to take advantage of these very hard working and talented farmers, I just say that if you are there late, see if anyone is offering a great deal.
That is how I was attracted to the strawberries that inspired this dessert. We were on our way back to the car when a fine gentleman shouted out that this half flat of exquisite little strawberries was only $10. Well, that stopped me in my tracks, and I snatched them up.
(thanks guys- great berries!)
I had been in the process of thinking of food that really feels like summer. A food that you maybe have once or twice a summer, because it’s not only delicious, but nostalgic, and because that is just what you have always done. For me, strawberry shortcake is just one of those things. We grew up eating it with fresh strawberries from the garden, and it is something wonderful that I would love for my girls to know all about!
To me, the most important part of a strawberry shortcake, (besides having beautiful strawberries!) is the shortcake. To me, you want the moist, sweet flavor of a cake, mixed with the buttery, flakiness of a pastry. This was a process to find a great combination, and the first time I arrived at the following recipe, I almost didn’t even bother to bake them. They just seemed like heavy hockey pucks, and baking isn’t often one of those things where you just sort of cross your fingers and hopes it turns out right (you usually know when something is off). But this was an exception- they turned out awesome!
They are so moist on the inside they will almost seem like they are not cooked- but they are! The top is biscuity and has a nice sugary crust. Paired with a vanilla scented whipped cream and fresh strawberries, it is a wonderful, delicious treat. Your friends and family will l-o-v-e them!
Strawberry Shortcake, serves 4
2 cups flour
3 Tbs sugar
½ tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
½ cup cold butter, cut up into small pieces
½ cup cold heavy cream, (best quality)
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups fresh strawberries, stems removed
(2 cups sliced, 2 cups whole if small)
3 Tbs sugar
1 ½ cups cold heavy cream, (best quality)
2 Tbs white sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste or vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Take two cups of the sliced strawberries and add them to a bowl. Sprinkle them with the 3 Tbs of sugar, and leave them to macerate.
In a food processor, add the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Pulse to combine. Pulse in the cold butter and mix until the dough has a coarse crumb texture.
In a separate bowl, combine the cream and the vanilla. Add this to the wet ingredients and pulse to combine. The dough will be moist and crumbly. Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Press the dough together with your hands until it barely forms a disc of dough. Cut it into 4 pieces, and gently form them into circles.
Place the shortcakes onto a silpat or parchment lined sheet pan. Gently brush the tops with a little leftover cream and sprinkle them with sugar. Bake the shortcakes at 425 for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and let them cool at least slightly before cutting them in half horizontally.
Place each shortcake on its own plate, (or all of them on a serving platter). Remove the top of the shortcake and spoon about ½ cup of the macerated strawberries onto the bottom of the cake, (this way the juice will really sink into the cake). Top those berries with a big dollop of whipped cream. Place the top on the shortcake, and add another dollop of whipped cream. Add another ½ cup of sliced strawberries or small whole strawberries, and garnish the top with a strawberry, mint or a small edible flower.