The season for fresh strawberries is here, and they’re at their peak.
Last weekend, I visited two berry farms in northern Fauquier County, Hollin Farms and Hartland Farm, and came home with three quarts of strawberries. Earlier in the day, a friend also brought us some from the Warrenton Farmers Market.
With Memorial Day weekend, the traditional dessert for the holiday is Strawberry Shortcake.
“Shortcake” varies from person to person. A biscuit was originally served when the dessert became popular back in the mid 1800s. It is considered shortcake, but now angel food cake, sponge cake and pound cake are substituted and just as good, but maybe not better.
In my opinion, what really makes the difference between a good and a great dessert are fresh ingredients: the cake made from scratch, freshly-picked berries and homemade whipped cream.
Traditional Strawberry Shortcake
1 quart of strawberries
Sugar to taste
2 cups of all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
5 tablespoons of butter
3/4 cups of milk
2 cups of heavy cream
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 teaspoon of sugar
First rinse and hull the berries. Slice the berries and sprinkle with sugar, maybe two tablespoons. Let them sit for at least an hour to allow juices to release.
Preheat your oven to 450°. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl. Slice the butter into 10 pieces and then cut into the flour with a pastry blender or two knives, until the mixture is course like peas. Add the milk and gently toss with a spatula until the ingredients are blended.
Place the dough onto a floured surface. You’ll want to roll in to a thickness of ¾ of an inch. If you don’t have a 3 inch biscuit cutter, use a glass. You’ll probably get four biscuits out of the first rolling, and then roll out again and cut two more. Place the cut pieces of dough on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. When done, place on a wire rack to cool.
For the whipped cream, place the cream in a chilled bowl and blend in the sugar and vanilla. Slowing increase the speed of the mixer until the cream starts to thicken and then put the speed on high for about two minutes.
To serve, first split the biscuits, then spoon the berries and some juice on the bottom half of each biscuit, add a dollop of whipped cream, then top with the other half of the biscuit and finish with another dollop of whipped cream and a few more berries and there’s your strawberry shortcake.
As an aside, the cream I used is an organic heavy cream from Trickling Springs Creamery. It is delicious. Local stores that carry heavy cream and other fresh dairy products include The Farmer’s Wife, Great Harvest Bread Co., Lee Highway Nursery and the Marshall IGA.