tastes of spring and summer in january

During the coldest month of the year, I often long for spring and summer, and the tastes that come with the seasons. This recipe makes me smile because growing up, we had a constant debate over which was better. Strawberry shortcake or angel food cake with strawberries. My dad preferred the strawberry shortcake (or the dry biscuits, as we called them), while the rest of us loved the light, airy sponge of angel food cake. Twenty some years later, I’ve decided to give the “biscuit” version another try.

I have to say I was very pleased!  And, a few others didn’t think these were too shabby, either.  This recipe could easily be substituted with any fruit, ie. blackberries, mangoes, blueberries, peaches. Mmm. I baked my biscuits ahead of time and warmed them up prior to serving. 

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This one, not so much.  Or, at least she’s giving it some thought.  Maybe next time.

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This recipe’s for you, Dad. Enjoy.

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Classic Strawberry Shortcake
adapted from Fine Cooking

Strawberry Topping
1 lb. ripe strawberries, hulled (about 4 cups)
2 Tbs. granulated sugar; more to taste

9 oz. (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for rolling
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbs. granulated sugar
2-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
4 oz. (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large egg
1/4 cup heavy cream; more for brushing
1/4 cup buttermilk

Whipped Cream
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
2 Tbs. granulated sugar
Prepare the strawberries
Put one-third of the berries in a medium bowl and, using a potato masher, crush them into a chunky purée. Slice the remaining berries 1/4 inch thick and stir them into the mashed berries along with the sugar. Taste the berries, adding more sugar if necessary. Let the berries sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

Make the biscuits
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 425°F. Line a large heavy-duty baking sheet with parchment.

Sift the flour, 1/3 cup of the sugar, the baking powder, and baking soda into a large bowl.  (I don’t have a flour sifter, so I improvise.)  Stir in the salt.

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Using a pastry blender, a fork, or your fingertips, work the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.

In a small bowl, beat the egg and heavy cream with a fork. Mix in the buttermilk. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the cream mixture. Mix with the fork until the dough is evenly moistened and just comes together; it will still look a little shaggy. Gather the dough and gently knead it three or four times. If the dough seems dry and doesn’t form a cohesive mass, work in more cream, 1 tsp. at a time.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and roll it into a 3/4 -inch-thick disk. With a sharp 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter, press straight down to cut the dough into rounds and lift straight up to remove (don’t twist the cutter or it will seal the sides of the biscuits and interfere with rising). Transfer the rounds to the prepared baking sheet. Gather the dough scraps, gently knead them together, re-roll, and cut out more biscuits until you have a total of 6.

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Lightly brush the biscuit tops with cream (about 1 Tbs.) and sprinkle with the remaining 1 Tbs. sugar. Bake, rotating the baking sheet once, until the biscuit tops are lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes.

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Let the biscuits cool slightly while you whip the cream.

Whip the cream
In a large, chilled metal bowl, whip the heavy cream and sugar to soft peaks with an electric hand mixer. (Use immediately or refrigerate, covered until ready to serve).

Assemble the shortcakes
Using a serrated knife, split the warm biscuits in half horizontally and transfer the bottoms to 6 dessert plates. Spoon about three-quarters of the macerated berries and their juice evenly over the biscuit bottoms. It’s OK if some of the berries spill out onto the plate. Top with a generous dollop of whipped cream and cover each with a biscuit top. Spoon more berries and cream over each shortcake and serve immediately.  Enjoy!

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