One of the first (and nicest) signs of the arrival of spring is the appearance of French-grown strawberries in the markets. After months of relying on root vegetables, apples, increasingly-dry oranges and anemic tomatoes we finally have real fruit. And so in a rush of spring fever I recently bought two large containers of plump ruby red berries.
My stepdaughter's favourite thing to do with fresh strawberries is to make them into ice cream. In fact, it's the onlyl kind of ice cream we have made together and it is pretty good. But when I don't have anyone but myself to consider I like an old fashioned strawberry shortcake. When the biscuits are hot and buttery (none of those mass produced sponges for me, thanks), the cream is rich and cold and the strawberries glisten with sugary sweet juice I'm in strawberry heaven.
To give credit where its due, I have to admit this is a Fannie Farmer recipe. I grew up with the Fannie Farmer Cookbook and as I grew more experienced and confident I realized that while full of good advice on how to pick vegetables it's missing a little oomph in the spice of life. Even when you double the spices in the dishes that have them it's a bit bland. But the Fannie Farmer comes into its own with classic recipes like this. If you tinkered with the simplicity of these stawberry shortcakes, it would ruin the balance irretrievably in my opinion. Maybe I am a cooking conservative at heart...
Fannie Farmer's Strawberry Shortcakes (makes 8 generous desserts)
Did you know that the "short" in shortcake (and shortbread, incidentally) refers to the shortening in them? Well it does. And that's why you can take it from me that this is the original way to make shortcakes for your strawberries and not those cute little sponge cakes. They should be called Strawberry SpongeCakes to be honest. Anyway, on with the recipe.
500 grams/at least a pound of fresh ripe strawberries
1/2 cup (roughly) sugar for the strawberries
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 cups/280g flour
4 tsp bakikng powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 Tbs sugar
5 Tbs butter
2/3 cup/150 ml milk
First wash and slice the strawberries in big chunks and sprinkle with the sugar to taste, depending on how sweet the strawberries are. You might have to force yourself to try a couple to determine how much sugar you'll need. Set them aside in the fridge while you make the biscuits.
Preheat the oven to 425F/220C. Butter and flour a cookie sheet. Mix the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a bowl. Cut the butter into bits and work it into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or your fingers until the mix resembles coarse meal. Slowly stir in the milk, using just enough to hold the dough together. Turn out onto a floured board and knead for a minute or two. Roll the dough into a sheet about 3/4 of an inch or slightly more than a centimeter thick. Cut out rounds and place them on the cookie sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until they have risen and are golden.
While the biscuits are cooling slightly, whip the cream until it's light and fluffly. Split the warm biscuits, butter them, cover them with the sweet strawberries and top with whipped cream. Serve with a nice dry glass of bubbly wine and dream of the summer days around the corner!