Ahhh! This weekend has been gorgeous. Sunshine at last!
If you aren’t from this part of the country you may read that last line and smile faintly thinking, “Sure, sunshine is nice but what’s the big deal?” You may be thinking you are tired of the heat already. You may say to yourself, "It’s June" and "It’s hot!" and "Isn’t air-conditioning the greatest modern convenience ever?"
On the other hand if you are from Portland or Southwest Washington or even Seattle, I have no doubt that you are smiling and nodding and doing a little dance in total agreement. After an extremely sparse spring and a lackluster Memorial Day weekend, following day after day of gray and cold and soggy, after looking at folks walking around in boots and sweatshirts and dark colors and still appreciating your fireplace in June, this was a weekend to break out in color and celebrate. And, given cause to celebrate, no one knows how to drop everything and celebrate sunshine like those who live in this part of the country.
Suddenly summer is at least knocking on the door and nothing says summer is very nearly here quite like the advent of Strawberry Season. Though the fruit and vegetable stalls at our farmer’s market are sparse and there is nothing at all growing in my garden that isn’t left over from last year I have seen strawberries featured at the grocery store and Friday I ordered Strawberry Shortcake from Roots local seasonally inspired menu.
Having tasted a few bites of Roots’ inspired response to sunshine, on their patio no less, with sunshine and shadows dancing across my table in a faint breeze, I couldn’t resist the call to make my own version of Strawberry Shortcake. The inspiration happened to coincide with my husband’s birthday so guess what kind of cake he got for the celebration?
1½ - 2 pounds strawberries
¼ (to ½) cup sugar, more as needed
1 cup whipping cream
¼ cup sugar
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar, if desired
1 recipe of Buttermilk Scones
Wash, hull and cut strawberries into ¼-inch slices. Sprinkle with ¼ cup of sugar and stir. Allow the berries to sit for 10 minutes, taste and adjust sugar adding up to ¼ cup more to achieve the sweetness you desire. Allow the strawberries to macerate (soften and release their juice) at room temperature for another 20 minutes or so.
Meanwhile, prepare dough for Buttermilk Scones as directed. Bake the dough in one large circle, as the recipe suggests, but without cutting the dough into wedges before baking. Alternately, cut the dough into 3 or 4-inch rounds, for individual sized shortcakes. These may take a few minutes less to bake so watch them carefully. I bake mine on an ungreased baking stone to encourage a crispy bottom crust which makes a nice counterpoint to the soft berries and cream.) The scones are done when the tops begin to turn golden.
Combine the whipping cream along with ¼ cup sugar and 1 Tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, if desired, in a small mixing bowl. Beat at medium to high speed until peaks form.
Just before serving, cut the scone in half horizontally. Place the bottom half on a serving plate and top with a layer of berries. If you are making one large shortcake use about 2/3 of the berries in this layer.
Top with a layer of whipped cream and then position the upper half of the scone on top. Arrange the remaining berries on top of this layer letting the juice run down the sides. Drop a nice sized dollop of whipped cream over the berries to top it off.
Strawberry Shortcake can be served a number of different ways depending on the occasion and your preference:
- One large cake cut into wedges is ideal for a family style dessert.
- For pretty individual desserts, cut the scones into 3 – 4 inch circles before baking and spend a little extra effort in arranging the strawberries over the biscuit layers and stacking the cream.
- As an alternate to layers of shortcake, berries and whipped cream you can go light on the whipped cream, place just a dollop on the top or even skip it altogether, and serve the berry filled shortcake in shallow bowls. After the cake is served, pass a pitcher of half-and-half for guests to pour over their shortcake as desired. It gives an extra homey feel to the dessert experience and tastes wonderful.
Strawberry Shortcake is delicious no matter the shape or style of assembly. It is best, however, to save assembly until just before serving. If the situation allows this treat is at its peak when the berries are freshly cut and macerated, with the shortcake still slightly warm from the oven and the cream cool and just whipped or the half-and half cold from the refrigerator. The subtle play of warm cake against cool cream, of tender berry against crispy crust, of tart fruit bathed in sweet juice, makes a beautifully balanced and expressive dessert.
In fact Strawberry Shortcake is so good that it almost seems a shame to dull the taste buds by eating dinner first. As my friend Alanna shared with me one spring-time long ago (and in a post at Kitchen Parade) in her family, when the first local strawberries are ripe and ready, “Shortcake is supper, nothing else.“
I had never thought of it before, but why not? Why not think of Strawberry Shortcake as more than simply a dessert? One day a year, when spring is blending into summer and the strawberries are at their peak of sweet perfection, why not focus on the moment and make Strawberry Shortcake the only thing on the menu? Share it with family or friends. They'll be glad you did!