Sunday, March 30, 2008

Strawberry Shortcake

We had Easter Dinner with the Bishop's family and we brought the dessert - Strawberry Shortcake. Strawberries were such a good deal at Fiddleheads Marketplace last week it was a no-brainer - 99 cents a quart! The Bishop emailed and asked for the recipe for my shortcakes - anything that I make lately with a WOW factor comes from "America's Test Kitchen" - I love these guys. They publish "Cook's Illustrated", "Cook's Country" and a myriad of cookbooks. My cousin's son is an editor for them - they are based in Vermont. You will find that their recipes always include some "extra" steps that you might think to leave out. I find they have tested and tested these recipes to discover the ways to get the most flavor and best quality. Although occasionally tempted to leave out these steps, I find it wise to follow their suggestions. Someday I will take pictures as I cook and post them. Someday.
So... here it is.

Strawberry Shortcake

  • 2 quarts strawberries, hulled
  • 6 Tbsp sugar
Crush 3 cups of the strawberries with a potato masher. Slice the remaining 5 cups of berries and stir into the crushed berries along with the sugar. Let sit at room temperature until the sugar has dissolved and the berries are juicy, about 30 minutes.

  • 2 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for the counter
  • 5 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes and chilled
  • 2/3 cup half-and-half
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
While the berries macerate, adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Pulse together the flour, 3 Tbsp of the sugar, the baking powder, and salt in a food processor until combined. Scatter the butter pieces over the top and process until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, about 15 pulses. Transfer to a bowl. (I confess I don't have a food processor so I make it like pie crust, with a pastry blender)
Blend the half-and-half with the beaten egg and pour into the bowl with the flour mixture. Stir with a rubber spatula until large clumps form. Turn the mixture onto a lightly floured counter and knead lightly until the dough comes together.
Use your fingertips to pat the dough into a 9 by 6 inch rectangle about 1 inch thick. Cut out 6 dough rounds using a floured 2 3/4 inch biscuit cutter. Reform the remaining dough and cut 2 more rounds. Place the rounds 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet, brush the tops with the beaten egg white, and sprinkle with the remaining 2 Tbsp sugar.
Bake the shortcakes until golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes. Let the shortcakes cool on the baking sheet for at least 10 minutes.
To assemble: Split each biscuit in half, laying the biscuit bottoms on individual plates. Spoon a portion of the fruit over each bottom, then top with a dollop of whipped cream. Cap with the biscuit tops.
(I learned from the test kitchen that you shouldn't twist the biscuit cutter or your biscuits will come out flatter. Just push down, lift up and then lift up your biscuits by separating the dough. I repeat do not twist the biscuit cutter.)

Whipped cream
  • 1 cup heavy cream, chilled
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Whip the cream, sugar and vanilla in a chilled bowl with an electric mixer on low speed until frothy and the sugar has dissolved, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to high and continue to whip until doubled in volume and soft peaks form, 1 to 3 minutes.


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