It’s strawberry season here in Southern California, and for several weeks now we have been spending a small fortune on the world’s best strawberries at the farmer’s market, and eating them by the basketful. In fact, I think that eating them plain, unadorned and preferably unwashed is really the most sublime way to eat strawberries. The time does come, however, (though it comes after many, many, many strawberries have been eaten) when I start casting about for other things to do with my strawberries that still makes all the strawberry goodness shine through. The answer, of course, is strawberry shortcake.
Now, I grew up with a mother who has many positive qualities, but she does not like whipped cream (probably because her mother is a fan of Cool Whip) and so the only strawberry shortcake I knew growing up was the little doll that smelled like sugar. In fact, when I was three, I had some rawther lovely Strawberry Shortcake underoos. Aren’t you jealous? But real strawberry shortcake is nothing short of a miracle — strawberries and whipped cream and tender cake, not too sweet, with good, plain flavors and strawberries. What could be better than that?
Inspired by recent recipes in the LA Times and smitten kitchen, I set out to make a classic strawberry shortcake. I can taste baking powder in plain cakes like these, so I always try to reduce it. In this case, I subbed out the cream with buttermilk and replaced the baking powder with a smaller amount of baking powder + some baking soda (because buttermilk is acidic, it interacts with the base of baking soda to produce leavening, which straight cream will not do). I don’t know how the substitution changed the original recipe, but the buttermilk and the addition of the egg yolks yielded an incredibly light and tender shortcake.
Being a purist, I also left the orange out of the shortcake altogether, and macerated the strawberries in balsamic vinegar and brown sugar, which really enhances the strawberry flavor and color.
Strawberry shortcake, worthy of the strawberries themselves. Make it before it’s too late.
- 2 cups flour
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ tsp. baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into slices
- 2 hard-boiled egg yolks
- ¾ c. buttermilk (NOTE: If you don't regularly keep buttermilk around, I would suggest buying powdered buttermilk. It stores indefinitely in the fridge and works perfectly in any baking recipe that calls for buttermilk. You add the powder with the dried ingredients and water in place of the buttermilk).
- Coarse sugar for topping (I used pearl sugar because I had it, but raw sugar or even regular granulated can be used as well.)
- 3 pints strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced
- 2 T brown sugar
- 1 T balsamic vinegar
- 1 cup whipping cream, beaten to soft peaks
- tops very lightly with a little buttermilk, cream or melted butter and sprinkle with the sugar. Transfer to a cookie sheet and bake 18-20 minutes, until pale golden brown.
- Combine the strawberries, sugar and vinegar, let stand about 20 minutes.
- While the shortcakes are baking, toss the strawberries, sugar and orange juice together in a bowl. Let stand several minutes. (If the strawberries are extremely firm, do this 30 minutes in advance.)
- To serve, slice the shortcakes in half horizontally and make a "sandwich" with the cream and berries.