It’s strawberry season. Last year we attempted strawberry jam (I promise we will try it again with my mom’s supervision!). This year, after grabbing our haul from Maple Acres Farm, we decided on strawberry shortcakes and Ina Garten’s fruit tart!
George came back to give us his baking tips and enjoy the deliciousness of our favorite summer fruit.
I couldn’t wait to get started on the strawberry shortcakes. We used a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen (below). I can’t remember making shortbread before – and I was thankful that George was here! He told me to throw a stick of unsalted butter in the freezer ahead of time. Even though it made no sense to me, I did it. Turns out for shortbread, it's good to have little bits of butter in the mixture (not completely smooth), so we used a cheese grater to grate the frozen butter. When baked, the little bits of butter - fat and moisture - create lift and little air pockets in the finished biscuits. Make sure to lightly kneed the dough so you don't break them up too much.
We rolled out the dough about 1 in thick. I know it says this in the recipe (below), but the biscuits cut from the first rollout will be lighter. We rerolled our scraps to make two additional biscuits – they did turn out a little flatter but they tasted just as good!
Before baking we added a bit of egg white on top of each biscuit and added shimmering sugar – such a cute touch. We mashed up a third of the strawberries and added some sugar. Then added our hulled strawberries to the mixture and let it sit for a bit.
The whipped cream recipe called for up to six, yes six, tablespoons of sugar. I couldn’t come to terms with that much additional sugar – so we only added two, but I think I could have added one more. There were no complaints about the dessert so I may just stick with the two and keep a clear conscience. The strawberry mixture sweetens it up. (Find our berry dish here.)
Once the shortbread was cooked, we cut each one in half and added the cream and strawberries. They were amazing. I even called a few friends over to enjoy them and they were so impressed! I will definitely make these again. Thought they would be a great dessert for Father’s Day too!
While the shortbread cooked, we started on the tart. George came prepared with the fruit tart crust from Ina’s Lemon Curd Tart recipe. We used Ina’s recipe for the Pastry Cream. I’d never made custard, so I was happy to have George there to walk me through the subtleties. For example, adding the warmed milk little by little as not to raiser the temperature of the eggs (aka scrambling them - you can strain them out like the photo below) and after adding cornstarch we taste-tested to make sure there was no flour-y taste to the custard.
For the fruit topping, we warmed 2 tablespoons of raspberry preserves in the microwave until it was syrupy. It gave our fruit topping (strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries) the perfect sweet sheen. It was almost too beautiful to eat! I’m so pleased that we got to make these beautiful and delicious desserts with our local strawberries. Thank you Maple Acres Farm and thank you George!
Shortcakes with Strawberries & Whipped Cream
2 cups bleached all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface and biscuit cutter
½ teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar for sprinkling
1 stick unsalted butter (8 tablespoons), frozen
1 egg, beaten
½ cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon half-and-half
1 egg white, lightly beaten
3 pints fresh strawberries, hulled; 1 pint crushed with potato masher or fork, 2 pints quartered
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream, chilled (preferably pasteurized or pasteurized organic)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
After cutting six perfect rounds of dough, you can re-knead the scraps and repeat the cutting process to get one or two more rounds. These shortcakes will be a little tougher and less attractive than those from the first cutting. If you prefer to make the shortcake dough in the food processor, pulse the dry ingredients to combine them, then add cold butter that has been cut into half-inch pieces and continue to pulse until the mixture looks like coarse cornmeal flecked with pea-sized bits of butter. Pour the mixture into a bowl; stir in the egg and half-and-half with a rubber spatula until the mixture comes together. Continue with step 4 of the recipe instructions.Mix crushed and quartered berries with sugar in medium bowl; set aside while preparing biscuits (or up to 2 hours).
Mix beaten egg with half-and-half; pour into flour mixture. Toss with fork until large clumps form. Turn mixture onto floured work surface and lightly knead until it comes together.
Adjust oven rack to lower middle position; heat oven to 425 degrees. Mix flour, salt, baking powder, and 3 tablespoons sugar in medium bowl. Using large holes of box grater, grate butter into dry ingredients, (see illustration 2). Toss butter with flour to coat. Use pastry cutter to finish cutting butter into flour. Or scoop up coated butter with both hands, then quickly rub butter into dry ingredients with fingertips until most of butter pieces are size of split peas.
Pat dough into 9- by 6-inch rectangle, 3/4 inch thick. Flour 2 3/4-inch biscuit cutter; cut 6 dough rounds. Place 1 inch apart on small baking sheet; brush dough tops with egg white and sprinkle with remaining sugar. (Can be covered and refrigerated up to 2 hours before baking.) Bake until golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes. Place baking sheet on wire rack; cool cakes until warm, about 10 minutes.
Split each cake crosswise (see illustration 3); spoon a portion of berries and then a dollop of whipped cream over each cake bottom. Cap with cake top; serve immediately.
Chill nonreactive, deep, 1- to 1 1/2-quart bowl and beaters for a handheld mixer in freezer for at least 20 minutes. Add cream, sugar, and vanilla to chilled bowl; beat on low speed until small bubbles form, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium; continue beating until beaters leave a trail, about 30 seconds more. Increase speed to high; continue beating until cream is smooth, thick, and nearly doubled in volume, about 20 seconds for soft peaks or about 30 seconds for stiff peaks. If necessary, finish beating by hand to adjust consistency. (Can be transferred to fine sieve or strainer set over measuring cup and refrigerated up to 8 hours).
Strawberry Shortcake Tips
- For best taste and appearance, crush one-third of the berries.
- Grating frozen butter into the flour makes for easy mixing.
- Split biscuits by hand before adding strawberries.