The last real "store" I visited was Costco (Kailua-Kona). Strawberries were in the cold room, and they were absolutely irresistible. What a change from the off-season berries!
When I got home, I was faced with the dilemma of what to do with the berries. Not one to eat unadulterated fresh fruit, I needed to come up with ideas. Strawberry pound cake, strawberry cream cheese dessert, fresh strawberry pie . . . these were all valid ideas, however only strawberry pound cake was a realistic option since its made with ingredients one normally has at home. But it wasn't THE thing I wanted. Then it all came together . . . its summer . . . summer in Seattle is street fair season . . . there is always a strawberry shortcake booth at every street fair . . . that was it! Strawberry shortcake would be the fate of the strawberries.
I have a certain expectation of what is REAL strawberry shortcake. It is not a white-frosted white cake that is covered in a watery strawberry sauce made with sad, saggy frozen strawberries. That's a Hilo description. Don't get me wrong about this version. There is nothing wrong with the way it tastes/looks. In fact, I've knowingly ordered it in restaurants. I just wish it was called something else so people who share my strawberry shortcake ideals won't be expecting something else. I've been told that my idea of strawberry shortcake is very snooty and 'east coast' in foundation. However, having lived in Seattle for several years, I know that peeps on the west coast share my mana'o of what is strawberry shortcake.
A real strawberry shortcake begins with a sweet biscuit-like disc, the shortcake, baked just until barely colored.
The shortcake is then split hemispherically, either with a knife or a fork, in the same manner as rolled, baking-powder biscuits or English muffins are split.
Slices of fresh strawberries which have been macerating in a sugar syrup for several hours are placed on the bottom half of the shortcake, along with a mound of whipped cream, and then partially covered by the top half of the shortcake. Perfection!
Strawberry shortcake is not a dessert that can be fully assembled well ahead of serving time, but it does make an easily-portable dessert. The shortcakes can be made the day before, and the strawberry filling can be made earlier in the day. Assembly should take place just prior to eating.
I'm not quite sure where I got the recipe for the strawberries, but I've been making it for years. In addition to being used as a filling for strawberry shortcake, it can also be served atop a white-frosted white cake, a slab of chiffon cake, or even eaten as is, perhaps with a nice flute of asti.
The foundation recipe for shortcake biscuits was given to me by Renee (arigato, Renee). Its her sister's recipe. What I like about it is it can be made with common baking ingredients. Most other shortcake recipes call for buttermilk, which most people don't have all the time. I also like the fact that its made with flour, rather than Bisquick. I've made some minor changes such as baking at a lower temperature (original recipe suggested 450 degrees; most other shortcake recipes suggest 425 degrees), using butter for the shortening, and the providing a no-waste dough option (squares instead of rounds).
Fortunately, my period of house arrest should be over soon so I can go out and buy fresh food again. In the back of my mind, I'm thinking that I'm not quite over my strawberry phase yet. Anyone going to Costco soon?
click on recipe title for printable recipe
1 lb. fresh strawberries, hulled
1/3 c sugar
1 tbsp orange-flavored liqueur (Gran Marnier, Orange Curacao, etc.)
Slice or quarter strawberries (should be about the size of an olive). Sprinkle sugar and liqueur over berries. Cover and shake gently. Refrigerate for several hours. Keeps for several days. Double this recipe if serving all shortcakes at the same time.
2 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/3 c sugar
1/2 c butter
2/3 c milk
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Sift dry ingredients. Cut butter into the dry ingredients until crumbly. Add milk to make a soft dough. Knead a few times, adding more flour to prevent sticking. For easiest shortcakes, pat dough into a 5 x 10" rectangle and cut into 8 pieces. For round shortcakes, roll out to 1-2" thickness and cut with 2 1/2" biscuit cutter (makes about 8 biscuits). Gather and re-roll scraps once for additional shortcakes. Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 12 minutes.