~ Scrumptious Sweet-Cream-Biscuits & Strawberries (commonly referred to as: Strawberry Short Cakes) ~
Strawberry shortcake conjures up memories for me -- not all as sweet as this post. During my formative foodie years (I turned 5 in 1960), "this stuff" (pictured just below), was showing up on TV-tray-tables in American livingrooms everywhere -- and it was hard for me to swallow.
"This stuff" was supposed to be a treat, and because I was a kid it was assumed I'd like it. I was a pint-sized strawberry shortcake snob. My mom, grandma and aunts made great strawberry shortcake. Their sponge cake wasn't rubbery or sealed in celophane, and, their whipped cream didn't swoosh out of an aerosol can.
My dislike of strawberry shortcake made with "this stuff" was the cause of many awkward moments. When school was out for the Summer, I was often invited to play at friends houses and many times asked to stay for dinner or overnight. I was like a bad penny (definition: an objectionable person or thing) at their dinner table if "this stuff" was served in the name of strawberry short cakes. Eyes rolled and heads shook as I painstakingly picked through my pile of dessert only to eat the berries and leave the rest. It must have been really hard to watch.
Sponge cake. I've lived my life here in Pennsylvania, where, for the most part, everyone puts their strawberries on yellow sponge cake, which they bake in a single layer and slice into squares. This makes perfect sense because sponge cakes are a specialty of our many Pennsylvania Deutsch, Amish and Mennonite communities. Sponge cake is a very light cake that gets its texture from beaten egg whites that get folded into a mixture of egg yolks and sugar. They rely entirely on the eggs for their leavening, and, they contain no shortening of any kind.
Short cakes (biscuits). If you grew up in New England, everyone there puts strawberries on short cakes (biscuits). This makes perfect sense because this type of short cake, called a biscuit by the British, was brought to America by the English settlers. Their use of the word "short" refers to their crumbly texture. Their use of the word "cake" refers to the fact that they sweeten them to make them more tender. They rely upon baking powder or baking soda for their leavening, and, while some contain copius amounts of shortening, others contain none at all.
Thanks to the development of strawberry varieties with extended growing times, and, refrigerated transporation, we can all enjoy strawberry shortcake any time. While I am appreciative of this, nothing compares to a just-picked, never-refrigerated, red-through-the-center strawberry. For our first settlers, strawberries were a sweet treat that signaled Summer, but, their growing season was short, June through July. "Shortcake parties" were held to celebrate, and, many Americans celebrated July 4th eating strawberry shortcake!
June 14 is America's National Strawberry Shortcake day!
8 1/2 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour (a little less than 2 cups), plus a sprinkling of additional flour for dusting pastry board
2 tablespoons corn starch
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/4 cups cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons melted butter
"sanding" or "sparkling" sugar (coarse sugar crystals), for topping biscuits
2 quarts strawberries, hulled, sliced, tossed with 2 tablespoons sugar and allowd to macerate at room temperature for about 45-60 minutes
2 cups heavy or whipping cream, whisked or beaten with 2 tablespoons sugar until desired degree of consistency is reached
Note: Short cake is best served ASAP after the biscuits have cooled, so, prep strawberries and whip cream before baking biscuits.
~ Step 1. Lightly dust a pastry board with flour and set aside. In a large bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder, sugar and salt. In a 1-cup measuring container, stir together the cream and vanilla. Melt the butter and set aside.
Do not overmix this or any biscuit dough!
Note: The entire mixing and cutting process will only take 2-3 minutes.
~ Step 6. Bake on center rack of 425 degree oven until tops are lightly browned around the edges, 14-15 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately transfer to cooling rack to cool 5 minutes. Serve slightly-hot, warm, or at room temperature.
Indulge yourself, break one biscuit open and take a bite...
Special Equipment List: large spoon; 1-cup measuring container; pastry board; rolling pin; 2 1/4" biscuit cutter, round, square or your favorite shape; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2 baking pan; parchment paper; pastry brush; cooling rack
Cook's Note: Father's Day is this Sunday. For another one of my favorite recipes for freshly-picked strawberries, check out ~ It's a Dad Thing: My Father's Strawberry Soup ~. in Categories 6, 11 or 16!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)