Sunday, May 16, 2010

Strawberry Shortcake

Because I love you, and because I want you to grow up healthy and strong, I'm going to share with you the the right the fastest the way I make Strawberry Shortcake. It does NOT involve using those scary, overprocessed hockey pucks that grocery stores like to put near the berries this time of year:

It does NOT involve any sort of foaming product that comes out of a can under pressure...

... or a tub of white goo from the freezer case.

Nope. Not this Strawberry Shortcake.

This recipe is real food, people. And it takes very little effort to put together an honest dessert, with nothing artificial about it.

I think you're gonna love it. (Recipe at the end of this post.)

It begins with a very basic, homespun biscuit, the kind you serve with fried chicken, or with sausage and scrambled eggs. Add some sugar to the dough, and you get the base of this dessert.

Sift together flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. If you don't have a sifter, you can use a sieve. If you don't have a sieve, just stir these dry ingredients together very well:

Cut up cold butter into small bits, and add to the flour mixture. Take care not to handle the butter any more than is necessary, because colder butter creates more tender biscuits:

Using a pastry blender or two knives in a scissoring action, break up the butter into the flour until everything is the consistency of a coarse meal:

Ooog. There's a reason I wasn't a hand model. Quickly pour in the milk and give it a stir:

The dough will come together in a shaggy mass. This dough, below, is a few strokes away from being finished. Don't over-mix it, but get those stray bits of dry flour to stick to the main mass of dough:

Watch out for pugs underfoot, staring intently at the floor, waiting for something yummy to fall:

Turn the dough out on a floured board and, working quickly, shape it into a single blob:

Knead the blob a couple of times, using swift, gathering-up movements:

Using a rolling pin or a straight-sided water glass, roll the dough out:

The dough is finished when it's an even half-inch thick:

Using a drinking glass or a cutter, cut out circles about 3 inches across. You should be able to cut four circles with the first attempt:

Gather up the scraps...

and roll them out again. You'll probably be able to cut one more disc, with dough to spare. Fashion the remaining dough into a circle, using just your fingers and the glass or rolling pin.

Place the biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet and brush with a little bit of milk:

Then sprinkle a little bit of table sugar or sanding sugar atop each biscuit. I had a little pink sanding sugar to use up, and I thought it'd be pretty with the red strawberries:

Pop the biscuits in a preheated oven...

and bake until they just begin to turn golden brown around the edges. The last biscuit (the one I finished by hand and didn't cut out) is to the right of center. See how it's a bit more blob-ular? It's all good:

Set the biscuits aside to cool. Meanwhile, wash and remove the tops on the strawberries:

Note: Set aside one beautiful strawberry for each serving of shortcake you're going to create. Slice up the remaining berries in quarter-inch slices.:

And throw them back in the bowl:

Add some sugar. I used 2 or 3 tablespoons to 3 baskets of berries...

...and stir the berries around. You can crush them a bit if you want, too. This is called macerating the fruit, and it helps draw out the juices:

Set the berry mixture aside for a moment, and whip up some heavy cream with a little vanilla extract. To a cup of cream, I probably tossed in a half-teaspoon of extract:

While the cream is whipping (which happens fast, so watch it!), pour in a tablespoon or two of powdered sugar. If you don't have any, you could use regular granulated sugar. The whipped cream may be a teeny bit gritty, but honestly, who cares? Either way, it's delish:

When it's finished, the cream should hold its shape, but just barely so:

To assemble each serving, split the biscuits open. Place the bottom half on the dessert plate and add a generous serving of berries. This biscuit needs two or three more spoonsful of berries than what you see before it's ready:

Add a generous dollop of whipped cream. Oh, go ahead and add two!:

Top with the sugared biscuit top, add a little dollop of whipped cream, and place one of the berries you reserved into this little dollop for decoration:

That's it! Dig in and enjoy.

And congratulate yourself on making a beautiful, authentic dessert from scratch. No preservatives or fillers or artificial anything in sight.

Strawberry Shortcake
for the biscuits:
2 C. flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1-2 tsp. sugar, plus another tablespoon or so for sugaring the tops
1/3 tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. very cold butter, cut up
2/3 C. milk, plus another tablespoon or so for brushing the tops

for the berries:
3 baskets strawberries, tops removed and sliced in quarter-inch slices (note: keep 5 or 6 berries whole for decoration)
1-2 Tbsp. sugar

for the whipped cream:
1 C. heavy cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 or 2 Tbsp. sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large mixing bowl, sift or stir together very well the flour, baking powder, 1 to 2 teaspoons of sugar, and salt. Add the cut-up butter and cut in to the flour finely until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Quickly stir in the milk until the flour is incorporated.

Tip the dough onto a floured board. Make a ball of the dough and knead five or six times. Roll out dough to half-inch thickness, then cut circles and place one inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Brush biscuit tops with milk and sprinkle with remaining sugar.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until edges are just golden brown. Move biscuits to a cooling rack and set aside. Yields six biscuits, approximately 3 inches across.

While biscuits are cooling, in a large bowl mix together the berries and 1 to 2 tablespoons of sugar. Mash the berries a bit to release juices. Set aside the bowl of berries.

To make the whipped cream, beat together the cream and vanilla extract. As they are being beaten, sprinkle in the powdered sugar. Stop when the cream forms soft peaks.

To assemble each dessert, split the cooled biscuits, place a bottom half on a dessert plate, top with a generous portion of berries and whipped cream. Set the top half of the biscuit askew, add a small dollop of cream atop that, and place one of the reserved whole berries in the little dollop of cream. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings.



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