Monday, October 4, 2010

Strawberry Shortcakes

To my surprise, at the farmers market this weekend, I saw rows of baskets filled with perfectly bright red, juicy strawberries.  I didn't get it.  I was expecting to see the squashes, huge cauliflowers, hearty greens and apples...but strawberries?  So I started asking questions and I got a very cool answer.  In recent years around our region of Ontario and Quebec, farmers have been extending the harvest season by planting varieties such as "Day Neutral" and "Ever Bearing" strawberries.  These fruits have a later season and can be harvested until after the first frost!  They were really delicious berries and I wanted to relive some of summer's splendour, so I decided to showcase them in a classic Strawberry Shortcake recipe.  Oh!  And I hear they are experimenting with fall harvest raspberries too...delightful!

Strawberry Shortcakes
Origin: Smitten Kitchen, adapted from this recipe

Notes:  The shortcakes were light, fluffy and buttery on the inside with a perfect crisp crust.  They were simple to make.  The most time consuming part was making the hard boiled eggs for the shortcakes.  Seems funny too, hard boiled egg yolks in a pastry batter.  But it works, they add a richness to the shortcakes.  The final outcome of your dish will depend on the ripeness and flavour of your fruit.  You could substitute many types of fruit for these shortcakes, peaches would be divine too.


1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 hard boiled egg yolks
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 teaspoons lemon or orange zest, optional (I forgot to add the zest -  but I would definitely use it in the future)
2/3 cup, plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
coarse sugar for finishing (I used regular granulated sugar)

Strawberry Shortcake Assembly
1/2 pound strawberries, washed, hulled and quartered
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup whipping cream, beaten to soft peaks

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, egg yolks, and salt.  Pulse to combine.  Add the butter and zest and pulse until the flour resembles coarse meal (the butter should be mixed throughout, in pieces no larger than peas).  Add 2/3 cup of cream and pulse just until the dough comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gather into a ball.  Knead a couple times to make it into a cohesive mass and then pat it into a rough circle about 6 to 7 inches in diameter, and 3/4 to 1-inch thick.

Using a sharp knife, cut the circle into 6 wedges and arrange on a parchment lined baking sheet.  You can also use a cookie cutter or biscuit cutter to make shapes of your choice.  Chill the pieces for 20 minutes (and up to 2 hours)

Preheat oven to 350° degrees.  Brush the tops of the shortcakes very lightly with heavy cream and sprinkle lightly with the coarse sugar.  Bake until risen and golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes.  Turn the pan around halfway through to ensure even cooking (my shortcakes took 22 minutes to start turning golden brown, then I broiled the tops of them for a couple of minutes, without taking my eyes off of them, to get the right colour).

While the shortcakes are baking, toss the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice together in a bowl.  Let stand several minutes (if the strawberries are extremely firm, do this 30 minutes in advance).

Split the shortcakes in half horizontally and set the tops aside.  Place the bottoms on dessert plates and heap strawberries over them.  Spoon whipped cream generously over the strawberries and replace the shortcake tops.  Serve immediately with any remaining whipped cream on the side.

Serves 6.

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