Monday, April 23, 2007

The Sweet Smell of Strawberries

Costco did it to me again. I was carefully shopping from my list when, without warning, a large clamshell of strawberries leapt into my cart. I couldn't resist. It's been so long since there have been strawberries available. I'm not talking about the nasty faux strawberries that you get in the grocery store in March. You buy them because you're so desperate to be done with winter you snatch up anything that says summer's on the way. As soon as you get them home, you regret it. They look like strawberries...kind of. They are strawberry shaped and almost red. But they don't smell like strawberries. And when you bite into one you realize it's not an actual strawberry. God made apples to crunch, not strawberries. These are genetically manipulated to have the consistency of packing peanuts - with all of the flavor, too.

But spring is well and truly here because real strawberries are here. The luscious beauties passed the look, sniff, and taste tests, and I had the happpy dilemma of how to use up all of these strawberries. My children would have cheerfully eaten the whole container without any work on my part, besides washing, but I did want to get something baked to celebrate the return of the strawberry.

A classic and a family favorite is Strawberry Shortcake. I tried a new recipe from my Williams-Sonoma Desserts cookbook. Usually I just whip up some scones using the food processor, but I wanted to try some genuine shortcakes. These aren't difficult and would easily be done in the food processor as well, but I'll include the directions as I made them.

The shortcakes were light, fluffy, with a tender crumb, but up to the task of holding the delicious, juicy strawberries piled with whipped cream. And they were all quickly and appreciatively consumed. (Oh, someday I'll have to diet, but not today!)

Strawberry Shortcakes

1-2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups strawberries, hulled and cut into slices 1/4 inch thick
3/4 cup heavy cream, well chilled
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

The only changes I made to the recipe were adding a bit more flour (I used probably 1-3/4 cup), because with the original amount the dough was quite sticky, and I didn't have buttermilk, so I put 3/4 Tbsp vinegar in a liquid measure and then added whole milk to the 3/4 line.

1- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2- In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, zest and salt until well blended. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the pieces are no larger than peas. Add the buttermilk and vanilla and gently toss with a fork or rubber spatula until the flour is just moistened and the ingredients are blended.

3-Turn the shaggy dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently press the dough into a thick rectangle about 6 by 4 inches. Trim the edges even with a large sharp knife, then cut the dough into 6 equal squares.

4- Place the squares on the baking sheet, spacing them well apart. Bake until they are puffed and golden, 15-18 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly or completely.

5- Meanwhile, in a bowl, toss together the strawberries and the sugar with a fork, lightly crushing some of the berries. Cover the berries and refrigerate until well chilled or until serving time.

6- In a deep bowl, combine the cream, sugar, and vanilla. Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat until soft peaks form and the cream is billowy, about 2 minutes. Cover the bowl and refrigerate until serving or for up to 2 hours.

7- To serve, split the warm or cooled shortcakes in half horizontally and place the bottom halves, cut side up, on serving plates. Spoon some of the strawberries, including the juices, over each half and top with a dollop (or enormous blop for me, please) of the whipped cream. Top with the remaining shortcake halves, cut side down. Serve immediately.


Cookie baker Lynn said...

Hey Bella Molly - I miss you! Your sunny smile always makes me happy.

If you use regular butter, just cut back on the salt, say to 1/2 tsp. And don't forget the whipping cream!

Anonymous said...

Oh how I wish I had this delicious recipe on Saturday. We just used bisquick mix to make shortcakes and while they were tasty, they don't hold a candle to what these sound like. :D

Btw, something yummy to do with strawberries is to serve them sliced over that delicious lemon yogurt cake. Jonathan, my ever seeking to find something delicious boyfriend, combined them on Saturday and we served strawberries and lemon cake for dessert on Sunday night.

**doffs her cap and vanishes**

Brilynn said...

Strawberry shortcake just screams summer! Looks great.

Gattina Cheung said...

oh I don't know anything about faux strawberry, and wonder if I ever bought them and mistaken them as the real one...
But your strawberry shortcake is really lovely!