Sunday, June 1, 2008

Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry shortcake. Everyone's had it a bagillion times, but the name itself begs the obvious question: what really is a shortcake? I mean, don't get me wrong; there's usually always cake involved, but I'm pretty sure that somewhere we've migrated away from what strawberry shortcake's founding fathers had envisioned.

I've had unnatural-looking strawberry gloop on top of angel food cake a whole bunch, and sometimes even on just straight-from-the-box yellow cake. As quick and easy as these alternatives are, they don't really satiate that part of my childhood that remembers made-from-scratch, flaky, slightly sweet drop biscuits with strawberry sauce and real whipped cream (Mom, with all her ultra-healthy ways, always had a soft spot for real whipped cream).

The last time I saw Mom, we sat down and pulled out that old shortcake recipe from where it had been hiding, and I threw in a few little twists to the strawberry sauce that I got from
Bon Appétit magazine. Unfortunately, this was such an impromptu event that upon realizing that there was no whipping cream available, we opted to just use the stuff from the can. I would recommend against it, except in emergency dessert situations.

Strawberry Shortcake


Shortcake biscuits
  • 2 Cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 2/3 cup milk
Strawberry Filling
  • 2 quarts fresh strawberries
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange zest
  • splash lemon juice
  • Whipped cream to top

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut the butter into the sugar, flour, baking powder with a food processor with the plastic dough blade (you could do this by hand, but it's such a chore) until the mixture looks like meal or fine crumbs. Transfer to another bowl and add the egg and milk, stirring until just mixed. Drop heaping spoonfuls of the dough onto a greased cookie sheet (enough to make 8 biscuits) and bake for about 10 minutes until the tips and ridges turn golden brown. Don't overcook or it becomes too hard and not dessert-like.

Strawberry Filling

Cut the strawberries into slices of fourths. Heat a little oil or butter in a large saucepan and sauté the strawberries until slightly soft. Add the sugar, cinnamon, orange zest, and lemon juice and stir until the sugar is dissolved in the juice. You really don't want this to be too runny, but it should thicken as it cools.

Cut the biscuits in half, and thickly layer the strawberries and whipped cream on the bottom half. Place the top on and serve. There you have it: childhood summer memories on a plate.

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