Spring is fine time for strawberries

Published 12:00am Wednesday, March 26, 2014

It’s officially spring! I know we are having a little nip in the air here and there but officially it is spring, and I’m ready. Spring means two things to me. The first one is Easter, which we will cover next week and the second one is the arrival of strawberries, I mean, the arrival of real, grown in the South — most likely Louisiana — strawberries. These are not trucked from California, pretty red with no taste, strawberries.

There is absolutely no better way to eat fresh strawberries than as part of homemade strawberry shortcake. I know it is a lot easier to use those little weird sponge cake cups or just serve the strawberries over angel food or pound cake. But, please, just once, do yourself and your loved ones a favor and make this treat from scratch. It’s not that hard, and taste is something you will never forget.

True shortcakes are made like a biscuit, except you add sugar. Use the same philosophy as making your regular biscuit — don’t over-handle the dough or they will be tough.

 

Strawberry shortcakes

Shortcakes:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons sugar

1 stick butter, chilled

2/3 to 3/4 cup half and half or cream

 

Strawberries:

1 quart strawberries

1/3 cup sugar

 

Topping:

1 1/2 cups whipping cream

 

Rinse your berries under cold water and drain well. Hull the top and slice the berries into a medium bowl. Sprinkle with the sugar and cover and let stand at room temperature for about 1 hour, any longer than that and you will need to place in the refrigerator

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and then lightly butter the top. In a food processor combine the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar and pulse to mix. Cut butter into about 8 pieces and add to the mixture. Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal, but with few pea-size chunks of butter left in the mixture. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and make a well in the center. With a fork stir in the cream or milk, just until dough is moist; be very careful not to overwork. The dough doesn’t have to hold together well at this point. Let the dough stand for a minute. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead just 2 or 3 times, until it is holding together and is less sticky.

Gently pat the dough into a 6- by 12-inch rectangle about 3/4-inch thick and cut into 8 (3-inch) biscuits with a floured round cutter. (I have a tuna fish can that I washed really well and cut out the top and bottom that I use.) Place the cut out circles on the foil lined baking sheet. Brush on a little milk or cream and sprinkle tops with some sugar, if desired. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until risen and golden brown. Remove to a platter and split each biscuit horizontally with a serrated knife and top with about 1/3 cup of berry mixture. Replace the tops and top with a tablespoon or so of berries. Serve with whipped cream for topping.

You’ve gone through the trouble of making fresh strawberry shortcakes so don’t ruin them with pre-made whipped topping. While the biscuits are baking, whip the 1 1/2 cups of whipping cream until soft peaks form to use for your topping.

You can add 2 tablespoons of sugar to it while you are whipping it if you like a sweeter taste.

 

Christina Hall writes a food column for The Democrat. She can be reached at christina.hall@natchezdemocrat.com.