Sunday, March 24, 2013

Strawberry Shortcake Season

The first strawberries of the year have arrived, and by my watch that means: It's shortcake season!

{succulent strawberries from the Hillcrest farmers' market}
When I was a kid, my mom would celebrate shortcake season by buying those bright yellow, spongy, Twinkie-looking "shortcakes" in noisy plastic wrappers from the grocery store. She'd top these neon disks with canned whipped cream, plop some sliced strawberries on top and call it a day. And a delicious day it was. Strawberry shortcake has always been one of my favorites, but it wasn't until I was an adult that I learned the crumbly, flaky beauty of true shortcake. Lightly sweet, crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, shortcakes are biscuits from heaven. Topped with softly whipped cream and fresh berries, these little cakes taste like spring with a side of summer. Let's get to it.

First, slice up your strawberries, put in a bowl, top with about a tablespoon of sugar, a tablespoon of lemon juice and some grated lemon zest. Let rest for at least 2 hours, so juices can macerate (I love that word).
{slicing berries}
Then, make your dough (recipe below), cut out your shortcakes, and bake.
{I should really get a biscuit cutter}
Finally, make your whipped cream.

NOTE: Halfway through the baking process, I had a terrible realization - my beloved mixer is broken! How on earth would I make the whipped cream? A wire whisk? No. My mother-in-law was coming over for dinner in 30 minutes and I wouldn't have time to hand-beat the cream into submission. I wondered: Could I make whipped cream in my trusty food processor? I could. And I did! And guess what, I think I'll make whipped cream this way from now on. The texture was perfect and it was faster than any other method I've used. How to do it below.

Put it all together, and...

Perfection on a plate.

(Adapted from the biscuit recipe here)

2 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cold and cut into cubes
2 eggs
1/2 cup cream 

:: Put the dry ingredients into the food processor and pulse to combine.

:: Add the cubes of butter and pulse 7 or 8 times for about 1 second each.

:: Mix together the cream and the eggs and then pour into the food processor while pulsing. A ball of soft dough should form within a few seconds. Be careful not to overmix.

:: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and gently shape into a rectangle approximately 1/2 inch thick. Fold in thirds lengthwise, turn one quarter turn and repeat once more. This gentle folding creates a soft, flaky biscuit.

:: Pat the dough out with your hands to about 1/2 or 3/4 inch thick. Cut out your biscuits and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment.

:: Bake in a 425 degree oven for about 10 minutes, until the tops are just golden brown.


Fit food processor with chopping blade. Place 1 cup cold heavy cream, 1 tablespoon powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla in food processor at same time. Pulse a little at a time -- just for a couple seconds at a time. Stop when soft peaks form - maybe 10 seconds in. Take it slow - be careful not to overwhip.

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