A few years ago, an email circulated among my friends asking us to pick our favourite dessert from one of 10 choices. The point was to find out what kind of personality we had based on our dessert preferences. A simple bit of fluff, but I did find the results telling. Not one of my friends chose the actual best dessert in the world, despite its presence on that list of 10 dessert choices. This told me less about my friends’ personalities and more about the sad lack of real homemade strawberry shortcake in this world.
I’ve seen a lot of soggy sponge cake and flavourless sickly sweet berries desecrating the name of strawberry shortcake. Honestly. It’s probable that my friends had never had a great strawberry shortcake, one made with a homemade buttery biscuit and freshly picked sweet local berries. And I worry that many others have suffered the same lack! So many are missing out. The inspired flavour combination of luscious cream, ripe berries and toasty biscuit is an absolute dream match, right up there with tomatoes and basil, or garlic and butter, or steak and black pepper.
So, I hope to change all this by example. I want to wow and excite everyone with this simple yet spectacular dessert. I plan to make and eat strawberry shortcake as long as the local strawberry season lasts. I will have friends over to share. I will make some raspberry and blueberry and peach variations while I am at it. And I am about to post my recipe for super specatular extra-yummy homemade strawberry shortcake. Now is the season! Seize and enjoy!
FRESH STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE ~ Makes 8 to 12 servings
This simple and delicious summer dessert is made in three parts and assembled at the last minute to maintain freshness. The individual parts can be made in advance.
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
5 Tb sugar, divided
½ cup cold butter
1 cup to 1-1/4 cup plain yogurt
Preheat oven to 400°F.
In a medium bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients, using 3 to 4 tablespoons of the sugar, and reserving the remaining sugar. Cut cold butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is crumbly, with pieces of butter no bigger than a small pea. Quickly stir in 1 cup of yogurt until mixture holds together. If mixture is too dry to hold together, stir in remaining 1/4 cup yogurt.
Turn dough out onto floured counter and gently pat into a disk about 1/3-inch thick. Cut with round biscuit cutter (use the 2-inch or 3-inch size). Place biscuits on an ungreased cookie sheet. Sprinkle the tops of the biscuits evenly with the remaining sugar.
Bake in the preheated oven about 12-15 minutes, until golden. Remove to a wire rack to cool.
Wash the berries and drain gently. Stem and hull the berries, if necessary. Place three cups of the berries in a large bowl and mash with a potato masher or fork. Slice the remaining 5 cups of berries into the bowl with the mashed berries. Sprinkle with the sugar and stir well. Let sit for about 20 minutes, until the berries are juicy (sugar draws the juice out of the berries)
2 cups whipping cream, chilled
1 to 3 Tb granulated sugar – optional
1 tsp vanilla extract – optional
I prefer unsweetened, unflavoured cream myself. I think it has a clearer flavour and lets the berries shine. But if you prefer the sugar and vanilla, then for sure use them.
Use a large chilled bowl to whip the cream. The cold will make the cream whip up faster.
Pour the cream, sugar, and vanilla extract into the bowl. Use a hand held electric mixer or a balloon whisk to whip the cream. Whip until the cream has thickened and makes soft peaks. (Alternatively, use a standing mixer such as Kitchen-Aid)
Cut each biscuit in half crosswise. Place each bottom on an individual small plate.
Spoon a generous portion of berries with their sweet juice onto each bottom.
Next, dollop on some whipped cream over the strawberries on the bottom biscuit. Top with biscuit tops, and decorate each top with a little dollop of whipped cream and one berry. Serve immediately. And enjoy!