Sunday, April 25, 2010

Strawberry Shortcake

In Southern California, you know it's springtime when you start to see an abundance of gorgeous strawberries popping up at the farmers markets. Gaviota, Camarosa, Chandler many varieties to taste, all with their own textures and flavors.

Growing up in Orange County way back when, my family lived in an area where land originally devoted to strawberry fields and orange groves were transitioning into residential tracts. During strawberry season, my mom would give me a few dollars and send me across the street to the local strawberry farm to pick up a bounty of beautiful berries for my family to enjoy.

Today, most of those strawberries fields have all but disappeared from the Orange County landscape, and I'm sad that I took for granted the opportunity to buy beautiful fruit straight from the farm. Although dwindling in number, a few strawberry farms still exist in Orange County. Mary (aka Food Librarian) has a great post about her recent visit to one.
I usually enjoy strawberries simply as is, as they are so sweet and juicy and don't really need anything else to enhance their flavor. If I do make something, I want the strawberry to be the star, like this strawberry shortcake recipe.

The base of this recipe is a simple, slightly sweet delicate scone, which can be baked and cooled a few hours in advance. The shortcakes do not rise much when baked, but it has a wonderful cakey, crumbly texture---perfect for strawberries and whipped cream!
The components of this recipe is short and sweet - shortcake, strawberries (macerated with a little sugar, balsamic vinegar), and vanilla whipped cream.

I like to mash some of the strawberries with a little sugar, as it own juices create a beautiful syrup that is soaked up by the shortcake. A few drops of a good, aged balsamic vinegar really enhances the berry flavor. If you have a pint or two of strawberries sitting on your counter and wonder what to do with them, consider trying this simple and delicious recipe!

Strawberry Shortcake
serves 4

1 C AP flour
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
4 Tbsp unsalted butter - cold and cut into little cubes
3 oz heavy cream
extra cream and sanding sugar for the biscuit topping

Strawberry Mixture
1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
2-3 Tbsp sugar, to taste
1 tsp good aged balsamic vinegar (optional)

Whipped Cream
2/3 C heavy cream
1-2 Tbsp powdered sugar
1/8 tsp vanilla extract

For the Shortcakes
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silpat and set aside.
- Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and stir to mix.
- Add the butter and cut into the flour until the mixture resembles a coarse meal (I like using my fingers to do this, but you could use two forks or a pastry cutter).
- Add the cream and stir to mix until the dough comes together. Use a light hand, and don't overwork.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and press together into a flat square shape, and roll out dough to 3/4 inches thick. Cut the dough into quarters, and place on the prepared baking sheet.
- Brush the tops with a little heavy cream and sprinkle with a little sanding sugar.
- Bake for 12 minutes, or until golden brown. Place on baking rack to cool.

For the Strawberry Mixture
- Mix half of the strawberries with the sugar and balsamic vinegar, mashing gently with a fork to release the fruit juices.
- Toss in the remaining strawberries and set aside for 15 minutes to macerate.

For the Whipped Cream
- Whip the cream in a bowl with and electric mixer (or use a whisk if you've got strong arms!). When soft peaks form, add the sugar and vanilla and continue whipping until stiff peaks form.

Assemble the Shortcakes
- Slice each shortcake in half crosswise. For each shortcake, place the bottom half of one shortcake cut side up on a plate.
- Layer a generous spoonful of the strawberry mixture, then the whipped cream, and finish with the top half of the shortcake. You can top with more of the strawberry mixture or whipped cream, or both.
- Serve immediately and enjoy!


Rebecca said...

Wow! Those strawberries look amazing and I love the shortcake. Also, I really enjoy your blog. It is terrific.

The Food Librarian said...

Oh, these look fantastic. California strawberries are the best. Thanks for the shout out...I think I'm living on a former strawberry field in so cal right now! - mary

Amy @ cookbookmaniac said...

This is the essence of summer and relaxation. It all looks so lovely!

Hungry Dog said...

How beautiful! I love strawberry shortcake and it is definitely strawberry season now! Your photos are lovely.

Helen said...

oooo strawberries are the ultimate summer fruit. I love the look of this so much. Strawberries and cream = heavenly!

Anonymous said...

That sign looks like the ones my fave berry people at the Santa Monica Farmers Market use. Seascape are my favorites!

Ingrid said...

We have a strawberry farm near here. I keep saying I'm going to take my children... I need to stop talking about it and just go!

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