It’s really warm right now. If you live in the central United States, you know what I’m talking about.
One of my Facebook friends posted this, an article that says that at one point yesterday, Moorhead, Minnesota was the warmest, most humid place on earth, with the heat index topping out at a whopping 134〫Here in the Twin Cities we only got to 119〫
Yesterday, the view out my front window looked a little something like this:
Oh yeah, that’s condensation due to the high humidity.
Anyway, there’s not much that will make me want to turn on my oven when it’s this hot out, but I happened to have perfectly ripe, sweet, organic strawberries. I ate a few by themselves, but they were calling to be showcased in a dessert. And I needed to use them that night to capitalize on their perfect ripeness. I had to make…
(Is it totally weird that I keep wanting to spell it “shorkake”? I have no idea why. It’s just what my fingers keep doing. It’s like they’re drunk and slurring their speech…)
There’s a recipe on MarthaStewart.com for almond-cornmeal shortcakes that I like a lot, but this time I wanted something more classic.
I didn’t have a recipe, so I looked at a few and decided to make one up. Here it is:
Preheat your oven to 425〫
In a food processor, measure out 2 cups all-purpose flour, 3/4 cup cake flour, 4 tsp. baking powder, 1/4 tsp. baking soda, 3/4 tsp. salt, and 1/2 cup sugar.
Add to that 2 Tbsp. butter, cut up, and 1/3 cup shortening.
Pulse until it resembles cornmeal. (Alternately, you can cut the butter & shortening in with a pastry blender or your fingers.)
Now, put this into a bowl. You could continue to mix the dough in the food processor, but I was afraid it would end up over-mixed, so I opted to put it in another bowl and mix it very gently by hand.
Once it’s in a bowl, you’ll need to add buttermilk. I generally don’t keep buttermilk on hand, but I recently was made aware of this stuff:
It’s buttermilk powder. Like powdered milk. Only you don’t reconstitute it like powdered milk. You mix the proper amount of powder in with the dry ingredients and then add water to the wet ingredients.
Add 1 cup of buttermilk (or the equivalent of the powdered stuff) to the dry ingredients, along with a teaspoon of vanilla or vanilla bean paste. I used the paste because I had it. And it’s fun. And it makes me happy inside.
Mix this together. The dough should be loose and sticky.
Ok, this was a little too sticky. I adjusted the measurement of the flour for you in the beginning so if you make this it’ll be slightly less sticky. You want it to hold together just enough that you can work with it. Turn it out onto a VERY well-floured surface.
I like to use a pastry cloth because it holds onto the flour, keeping the surface floury, but putting less flour into your dough than if you just did it on the counter. Either way, make sure you have a lot of flour on the surface you put this dough on, or you’ll be sorry!
Now you want to add a healthy dose of flour on the top.
Now, very carefully, work the flour into the dough, adding more as needed. Basically, you want to add as little flour as possible, mixing it as little as possible, until it holds together enough that you can roll it 1″ thick and cut it with a biscuit cutter.
Here’s the thing. I wish I could tell you exactly how much flour you’d need to add, but there are a lot of contributing factors to that. You have to do it based on feel. If you can’t touch it without it sticking to your hands, add more flour. And if it sticks too much to your hands, wash your hands and put more flour on top. The idea is that the less flour you have to add, and the less that you work the dough, the more tender the dough will be.
You can roll it out with a rolling pin, but I just pressed it with my hands until it was about 1″ thick. You’re better off erring on the side of too thick than too thin.
I used the fluted side of a 3-inch biscuit cutter, but you can certainly use a regular one. Re-roll scraps as necessary until it’s used up.
Very carefully (you may need to use a spatula) place the shortcakes on a baking sheet. I lined mine with parchment paper because my cookie sheets are dark and I didn’t want the bottom of the shortcakes to brown.
Place them very close together– almost touching– so they rise upward instead of outward.
That one in the back corner was the last of my scraps that I put together. It’s kind of wonky, but I’m ok with that.
Some of my shortcakes had a good deal of flour left on the top of them, so I brushed it off with a pastry brush.
Using your thumb or a couple of fingers, press a small indentation into the center of each shortcake. This will help them to rise evenly and not become domed.
Brush the tops with heavy cream.
Then I sprinkled mine with sanding sugar. I’m kind of a sanding sugar freak. I love adding it to sweet baked goods like muffins and such. It adds this little bit of delicate crunch. You can use regular sugar if that’s what you have, or skip it altogether.
Bake for about 15 minutes, or until they’re golden.
Here’s the wonky one. He’s still wonky.
It’s ok, wonky one. I’ll still eat you.
You’ll need to let these cool a while. It’s ok, you have strawberries to deal with.
Cut some strawberries into about a 1/2″ dice. This was about a pound, but it’s not enough for all the shortcakes, if you like as many strawberries on your shortcake as I do. You’ll probably need 2 pounds.
Zest a lemon.
And add the lemon zest to your strawberries.
Along with some sugar. I used 3 tablespoons for my 1 lb, so if you’re doing 2, you can go for somewhere between 4 and 6 tablespoons depending on how sweet you like your strawberries.
Mix them up, and leave them to macerate.
mac·er·ate (verb\ˈma-sə-ˌrāt\) : to soften or decompose (food) by the action of a solvent.
You’ll need to leave these for a good 10-20 minutes to get the full effect.
When the shortcakes are cool, split them down the middle with a serrated knife.
Mmm… look how tender and flaky these are. And this is what I love about using vanilla bean paste. You can see all the little flecks of vanilla caviar in the finished product. Yum.
When your strawberries have macerated, they’ll look shinier and softer.
But most of all, they’ll have released some of their juices.
See all those juices? You’re gonna want ’em.
Spoon some strawberries over the bottom half of the shortcake. Make sure to get some of those juices!
Look at how the juice soaks into the shortcake, imparting all the delicious strawberry flavor.
Top with whipped cream.
Normally I’d use fresh cream that I whipped myself, but I really didn’t feel like making another dirty dish, and I had some of the canned stuff in the fridge, so I copped out. But the fresh stuff really does taste better. And I’d recommend making it less sweet than the canned stuff for a better balance.
That’s the typical way to make strawberry shortcake.
But can I suggest another, and I would argue, more delicious, way to make your shortcake?
Start by putting the bottom half of your shortcake in something more bowl-like.
Like, y’know… a bowl.
Top with your strawberries (and juices!)
Add some blueberries for good measure.
Now, instead of whipped cream, pour half and half over the top.
I was out of half and half, so I had to use heavy cream. So sad for me.
Don’t be shy now!
Heaven on a spoon.
Try some today!