Thursday, June 4, 2009

Local Strawberry Shortcake

Because my older daughter’s birthday coincides with strawberry season, we always celebrate with strawberry shortcake. It's her favorite, and it's much quicker to make than a layer cake. But I'm warning you, inserting the candles is tricky. Thanks to Bette and Dale (visit their stand at 1726 Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike) for setting aside two pints of berries for me yesterday morning so we could enjoy this truly local cake last night.

Local Strawberry Shortcake
Serves 4

For the most tender biscuits, make sure your butter and milk are chilled and just mix though dough until it barely starts to come together. Baking the biscuits at a high temperature will give them the best rise. But watch them carefully in the oven. I know from unfortunate experience that at 425 degrees they will go from golden brown to black in a minute or two.

For the biscuits:
1 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into bits and chilled
1/3 cup milk
2 teaspoons white sanding sugar or granulated sugar

For the filling:
1 pint strawberries, stemmed and sliced
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream, chilled
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and brown sugar. Add the butter and mix with an electric mixer on the low until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the milk and mix just until a rough dough forms. Do not overmix!
2. Drop the biscuits in 4 equal mounds on the parchment paper. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons sanding sugar or granulated sugar. Bake until the biscuits are golden, about 18 minutes. Slide the parchment paper onto a wire rack and let the biscuits cool while you make the filling.
3. Combine the strawberries and sugar in a bowl and let stand, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved, about 30 minutes. Combine the cream, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, and the vanilla and whip until the cream just holds stiff peaks.
4. Use a sharp serrated knife to cut off the top halves of the biscuits and set them aside (don’t worry if some of them are crumbly—you will be able to put everything back together beautifully soon). Spoon half the berries over the biscuit bottoms, spoon the whipped cream on top of the berries, and spoon the remaining berries over the whipped cream. Replace the biscuit tops and serve immediately.

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