Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Real Strawberry Strawberry Shortcake

When my brother and I would spend time with my grandparents in Tolono every summer, it miraculously coincided with strawberry time. Luck, perhaps. Grandma took us every season to the patch where we loaded up on as many as we could pick and then headed home were we ate the tiny, shiny fragrant berries until they were gone.

Years later, when pregnant with Jake I went down to spend a weekend with my Grandma during berry season. This time, I drove her burgundy Chevy sedan and we headed to a new patch. We had no idea where it was, Grandmas was nervous, I forged ahead, a firm believer you can never really get lost. Upon arriving Grandma donned an enormous hat to protect her from the sun. I, with my stomach sticking out a good two feet by this time, had chosen to wear an enormous aqua and yellow maternity top. Lovely. I looked like an Easter egg. We must have looked hilarious. I've always carried that image in my mind. We picked enough berries that day to gorge on and for me to bring some home. It was with these berries I attempted my first strawberry jam. Grandma consulted over the phone, quick snippets of updates and advice back at a time when long distance was a costly treat. I think of her every year at this time. The smell of warm strawberries makes me think of her.

Last week at the first Geneva Green Market my favorite fruit grower had these beautiful berries. I left with 2 quarts, one for a dessert to be determined and one for smoothies.

After consulting my favorite book for fruit desserts, I decided on the perennial favorite, Strawberry Shortcake. At what point did strawberry shortcake become something you could buy in the produce section of the grocery store? Marginal, at best - even organic, grocery store berries are merely a shadow of what a strawberry truly is. Placed in a nasty sponge cake cup and topped with non-dairy topping. Poetic justice.

This shortcake recipe calls for a bit of cornmeal which was the tipping point. I love the bit of crunch cornmeal imparts in baked goods of all kinds. I happened to have plenty from Three Sisters Garden and was excited to be able to use it in this sure to be delicious recipe.

The other nice addition was the citrus zest. Lots and lots of lemon and orange zest made these biscuits super fragrant!

Brushed with a bit of melted butter and dipped in sugar means....

...a pleasantly crunch top then a citrus punch. A punch with explosion. ;)

All done and ready to serve. This one is made with a dollop of creme fraiche. I like the counterpoint of the tanginess. My favorite way, (I mean if I had truly eaten more than one) was with heavy cream poured over the berries and bottom cake.

Grandma would have like it like that, too.

Strawberry Shortcake
Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber

1 T. unsalted butter, at room temperature, for sheet pan

2 dry pints ripe strawberries, hulled and sliced
2 T. granulated sugar
2 t. freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 1/2 cups (12oz.) all-purpose flour
2 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
2/3 cups granulated sugar, plus 1/3 cup to top shortcakes
1 t. fine sea salt
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
4 t. lemon zest
4 t. orange zest (about 1 large orange)
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
Chantilly cream ( I served it with heavy cream or creme fraiche)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a baking sheet.

To prepare the fruit, toss the strawberries in a bowl with the sugar and lemon juice. Mash a small amount of the berries so they release their juice. Place the berries in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to draw out the juices.

While the strawberries are macerating, prepare the shortcake. Mix together the flour, baking powder, cornmeal, sugar and salt in a bowl, then stir the cream, lemon zest, and orange zest until just combined. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and form into a ball, then knead 8-12 times, or until the dough holds it's shape (but be careful not to overwork it). Cut the dough into 8 equal portions and roll into balls. Dip each ball into the melted butter, then dip half of the ball into a small bowl with 1/3 cup sugar. Place each ball on the prepared baking sheet, sugar side up. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until lightly browned and baked through. Cool on a wire rack.

While the shortcakes are cooling, make the Chantilly cream (if desired).

To serve, cut the shortcakes in half horizontally. Place the bottom of the shortcakes on a small plate, then ladle a scoop of the juice berries on the shortcakes so the fruit covers part of the shortcake and cascades down the side onto the plate. Top the berries with Chantilly cream, and lay the top of the shortcake biscuit tipped on it's side next to the shortcake. Serve immediately.

Storage: Once assembled, these shortcakes will not keep; however if the berries and shortcake are kept separated, you may make the leftover shortcakes the following day. Store the shortcake biscuits in an air-tight container at room-temperature, and keep the strawberries refrigerated.

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