Thursday, August 12, 2010

Strawberry Shortcake


I live for desserts. Whenever we go to any new restaurant the first thing I do is to check out their dessert menu, and then I plan my meal accordingly. A while back we went to Clyde's of Reston at Reston Town Center. I have always passed that restaurant but never been inside. For some reason it always seemed full and overflowing with happy diners. But that one day as we were sitting in front of the water fountain watching all the children play we had a hankering for something sweet. We had already had a heavy brunch but that was four hours ago and it was too late for lunchtime and too early for dinner time, so we decided to get some desserts. We had two choices, the Ben & Jerry's ice cream parlor down the street or Clyde's just across the street. Since we had never been to Clyde's we decided to try it out.

Their dessert menu is sumptuous to say the least and they had Strawberry Shortcake as one of the desserts on their menu. We all ordered different desserts to try out a wide range, but we all agreed that the strawberry shortcake was the best. After a while, much to my dismay, they removed it from their menu. So now it was left up to me to re-create that wonderful dessert at home.

I tried several recipes and while good, they were still not as good as Clyde's till I got Dorie Greenspan's book Baking: From My Home to Yours. She had a recipe for Tender Shortcakes and my oh my these shortcakes were the most tender, moist and flavorful ever. I had finally found my shortcake recipe. I love her book , she has so many great recipes in it. This is one of my go to books for desserts. She has a wide range of breakfast sweets , yummy cookies, beautiful cakes, pies, tarts and all other kinds of desserts. Some of her desserts have a little bit of french influence in them. This might be because she lives part of the year in Paris hobnobbing with some of the famous pastry chefs. Yes, I envy her. I mean she does everything I dream of doing, write cookbooks, live in Paris and get to be friends with Pierre Herme !






Anyway, back to the Shortcake, it was the best. The biscuit when baked looked just like a photo out of a professional cookbook. The color was perfect golden brown and the tops were all cracked and crumbly just as the shortcake should be. One bite into it and it dissolves on the tongue. It is also too beautiful to look, the golden base holding the juicy, scarlet strawberries covered with the snow white of the cream and topped with the golden domes of the biscuit.

When buying strawberries, buy them from a farmer's market instead of your local grocery chain. The difference in taste is huge. The strawberries at the farmer's market are sweet with a hint of tartness and the ones at the grocery store are tart with a barely discernible hint of sweetness.



 





makes 10-12 shortcakes

adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours

Ingredients

For the shortcake:

4 cups / 500gm  all purpose flour / maida
2 tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
6 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 sticks / 172 gm cold unsalted butter cut into small pieces
1 1/2 cups / 330 gm heavy whipping cream

Rest of ingredients for assembly:

1 lb / 454 gm fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/4 cup / 50 gm sugar
1 cup / 230 gm heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup / 38 gm confectioner's sugar / icing sugar


Method

For the Shortcake

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and place the rack in the center of the oven
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar together. Mix it all well.
  3. Now add the cold butter pieces to the flour and rub it in with your fingers. When done the mixture will resemble oatmeal.
  4. Add the cream and knead into a soft dough. Do not over mix the dough , just mix it enough to bring all the ingredients together.
  5. Divide this dough into 10-12 balls. Put them on a parchment or silicone lined baking sheet and place them 3 inches apart.
  6. Pat them down a bit till they are at least 3/4 to 1 inch high.
  7. Bake for 15-18 minutes. When done the shortcakes are a pale golden brown and are a little firm to touch.
  8. Remove from oven and transfer the shortcakes to a cooling rack.
To make the filling
  1. Place the sliced strawberries in a bowl and sprinkle with the sugar, let it sit for 10 minutes until they get a little juicy.
  2. Whip the cream in a chilled bowl with the confectioner's sugar till you get stiff peaks.
To assemble
  1. Cut each shortcake in half horizontally. The shortcakes are very fragile, so be gentle and use a serrated knife to cut.
  2. Put the bottom half on the serving plate and top with the berries and a little of its juices. Put a dollop of sweetened cream on top of the fruits and place the tops on the shortcakes or lean them against the cream. Serve and enjoy.
Note : The shortcakes should be served when they are slightly warm ( they are at their best then ) or at room temperature..
You can also freeze the unbaked mounds of dough. Thaw them before baking. This way you can have fresh shortcakes on hand whenever you want them.
























Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and place the rack in the center of the oven.



Add butter to the flour.



Mix in the butter with the flour till the whole mixture gets crumbly.



Add the cream to the mixture.



Gently form into a soft dough. Avoid overworking the dough.





















Divide the dough into 10-12 portions.








Place dough on a parchment lined baking sheet.







Flatten the balls slightly with the base of your palm.







Bake for 15 min, till pale golden brown in color.







Place slices strawberries into a bowl



Sprinkle with the sugar.







After about 10 minutes the strawberries start getting juicy.



Whip the cream and sugar till stiff peaks are formed.






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