My fiancé and I were just down in Florida for work and it was impossible not to notice that strawberry season had started! Not only do the prices drop but the berries get juicier, redder, and more fragrant. When I saw pallets (yes, pallets) of strawberries from Plant City, Florida at the Atlanta farmer’s market, I knew I had to incorporate them into a dessert. There is no better way to showcase strawberries than with strawberry shortcake!
Apparently I am not alone in my strawberry fervor. According to Roger Williams, founder of Providence in 1636, “[the strawberry] is the wonder of all the Fruits growing naturally in those parts.” The American Heritage Cookbooks tells us that, “From the time the colonist first discovered strawberries, a proliferation of Strawberry Shortcake recipes has sprung up.”
While the final product looks involved, like one spent hours in the kitchen, Strawberry Shortcake is one of the easiest baked desserts that I have ever made. The shortcake only took 5 minutes to get in the oven, and the rest of the preparations are done while the shortcake bakes. I halved the original recipe (shown below) and it generously served two. Easier than pie!
Strawberry Shortcake – Serves 4
American Heritage Cookbook
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup softened butter
½ cup milk (about)
1 quart strawberries
3 tablespoons of butter
Preheat oven to 400°.
Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add butter, working it thoroughly into the flour mixture with hands or a pastry fork. Using a fork, lightly mix in the milk – just enough to make a soft dough. [A quick aside: given my prior experience with adding in “just enough” milk, I was skeptical at best that I would be able to pull this off. With an elevated heart rate I proceeded and thought, “Man, I hope this works.”] The dough should not be crumbly, but you want to add milk just to the point where it all holds together when lifted. You don’t want it to be sticky either. Just like with piecrust, you want to do this step as quickly as possible to ensure a light, flavorful shortcake. It isn’t shortbread after all!
Divide dough in half and pat each portion on the bottom of an inverted 8-inch cake pan. The dough is cohesive enough that you can press it into two square pans or baking sheets with sides – whatever suits your fancy. Bake in preheated 400° oven for about 15 minutes or until golden.
While the shortcakes bake, wash and hull the berries. Crush half of the berries and sprinkle generously with sugar. I used ¼ cup of white sugar, so this recipe would be ½ cup of sugar. This makes a perfectly sweet strawberry sauce. If you want it less sweet and more healthy, then I think you could safely cut this back to ¼ cup for the full recipe. Sugar the remaining whole berries. I only used just enough to lightly coat them. Start with a teaspoon and go from there.
Take shortcakes from the oven and, while still hot, dot surfaces with butter. Drain crushed berries in a colander (save the juice) and spoon on one layer of shortcake, cover with second shortcake, and place drained whole berries on top. Return to oven for about 5 minutes, then pour fresh strawberry juice over the top and serve warm with whipped cream (recipe below).
This is my whipped cream recipe that I have been using over the past 8 years. It is sweet but not too sweet, and it is the perfect accompaniment to fresh berries, pumpkin pie, or Strawberry Shortcake! It keeps for several days, tightly sealed, in the refrigerator.
Lindsey’s Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar, sifted
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whip with a whisk until stiff peaks form. You can use an electric hand mixer, but I think it whips too much air into the cream too quickly and the results aren’t as flavorful. Just don’t whip them up by hand after a tough gym workout. Experience has taught me that this makes it indescribably more difficult. Enjoy!