Strawberry Shortcake

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Nothing short about my shortcake, sweetie. So I looked around and thought ... why shortcake? It isn't even a cake. I know, right? History says that this crumbly cake originated in the United Kingdom in the 1500s. It was a quick bread made by mixing all the dry ingredients, then the butter is cut in until the mixture resembles coarse sand, then finally the liquid is added until the dough is just moistened. It's a dough-y cake (compared to a batter cake) that is then rolled out, shaped, and baked at a high temperature.

In the 1800s, the shortcake was served with just butter or sweetened cream, and it was in the US that the strawberry was introduced to this shortcake, and strawberry shortcake parties were held in the summer to take advantage of the bountiful berry harvest. But wasn't until 1910 when French chefs made the final twist to that recipe to the modern version of this recipe as we know it - and that is with the addition of whipped cream. Today, Strawberry shortcake day is celebrated in the US on June 14th.

June has passed but berries are abundant, and my children are clamouring for the strawberry shortcake that made its last appearance 6 years ago. Yes, I can't believe I haven't made strawberry shortcake for six summers. What have I been doing? Slacking, no doubt.

This should make up for it, and hopefully the kids won't have to wait that long to have strawberry shortcake, or blueberry, or peach shortcake, for that matter.

680 g (2 pints/24 oz) strawberries
110 g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
Juice of 1/2 a lemon

250 g (2 cups) all purpose flour
2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
85 g (6 tbsp) unsalted butter, cut in small 1 cm cubes, cold
300 ml (1-1/4 cup) heavy cream
2 tbsp cream
2 tbsp turbinado sugar

Sweetened cream:
250 ml (1 cup) heavy cream
3 tbsp icing sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract

1. Wash, remove the tops, and thinly slice the strawberries.
2. Place in a medium bowl, mashing up to half of them to release their juices.
3. Add the sugar and lemon juice, mix well, and set it aside to macerate.

1. Preheat oven to 425F and line 2 baking sheets with silpat or parchment paper.
2. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl, transfer into the bowl of a food processor, and pulse a few times to mix everything together.
3. Scatter the butter cubes on top of the flour and blend until the mixture resembles coarse sand.
4. Slowly start pouring the cream down the chute. If your processor doesn't have a chute, add the cream in 2 batches.

5. Blend enough to let the mixture just come together. It will clump together on one side of the bowl.
6. Remove it from the processor, it's done.
7. Place on a lightly floured countertop and roll to 2.5 cm (1/2 inch) thick.
8. Divide the dough in 2, stack one slab on top of another, and roll out again to 2.5 cm (1/2 inch) thickness.

9. Using a floured pastry cutter, cut down into the dough, and place onto the prepared baking sheets. Space them about 5 cm (2 inches) apart.
10. Pile the scraps together and press them into a disc and roll it out again, trying not to overwork the dough.
11. After you've patched up and used up all the dough, brush the 2 tbsp of cream on top of the shortcakes and sprinkle them with a bit of turbinado sugar.

12. Bake for 10-15 minutes, rotating the baking sheets around the 8 minute mark.
13. Cool on the sheet for 5 minutes before placing them on a cooling rack to cool completely.
14. When cool enough to handle, slice them in half sideways with a serrated knife.
15. While the shortcakes are cooling, refrigerate the strawberries, and prepare the sweetened cream.

Sweetened cream:
1. In a preferably cold mixing bowl, whisk the heavy cream until slightly thickened, adding the icing sugar in increments.
2. Add the vanilla extract and give it a final whisking to bring the cream to stiff peaks.
3. Refrigerate the sweetened cream until ready to serve.

1. On the base of the shortcake, pile the strawberry compote, add a dollop of sweetened cream and top with the top half.
2. Garnish with a sprinkling of icing sugar and a sprig of mint.

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