Hiya, all. I’ve decided to combine two of my favorite things, food and writing, for a new blog feature called Cure for a Starving Writer. I’m in the testing phase, but I’m currently thinking of making this a regular thing.
Anyway, so that brings me to the inaugural post of Cure for a Starving Writer. Where I live, in Indiana, winter is at last coming to an end, and we’re beginning to get strawberries in the grocery stores. Things won’t really get good for another couple of months, when the locally-grown berries show up at farmers’ markets or U-pick places.
But sometimes you need strawberry shortcake so badly that you’re willing to make do with the grocery store berries. Or who knows? Maybe where you live, you can already find fresh berries in season. Whatever you do, don’t buy those dried-out yellow cakes and gelatinous red goo you find in the produce section this time of year. It’s not hard at all to make something wonderful, I promise!
Without further ado, I present my guide to awesome strawberry shortcake. So, the perfect shortcake is made up of three components: strawberries (duh!), shortcake (saw that one coming, did you?), and whipped cream. All three are easy to make yourself. The recipe for the shortcake is from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, BTW. (Note, if you want an easier, slightly less heavenly but still good shortcake, you can buy a box of Bisquik and follow the shortcake recipe on the back.)
Here’s what you’ll need for the fully homemade version:
- Strawberries (a quart is good)
- Heavy whipping cream (a pint is plenty)
- 1/4 cup sugar for the shortcake, plus 1/4 cup (or more to taste) for the berries and to taste for the whipped cream (you can substitute Splenda for part of the sugar on the berries and whipped cream if you’re watching sugar intake)
- 2 cups flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 stick (or 1/2 cup) butter
- 1 beaten egg
- 2/3 cup milk
Start with the strawberries. You need to give your prepped berries time to break down and release their juice because (being totally honest here) the juice-soaked shortcake is the best part, IMO. So minimum 5-6 hours before you plan to serve, be sure to wash, cut the stems off, and halve the strawberries. If the berries are huge, you may want to cut them into quarters instead of halves.
Start with about 1/4 cup of sugar, and then taste it. Add more if you prefer them sweeter. You can use Splenda or another sugar substitute for part of the sugar, but not all. Why? The sugar draws out the juice and softens the berries. If you use only Splenda, you’ll have hard, non-juicy berries. Stir well, cover, and put in the fridge.
For the shortcake, preheat your oven to 450. Stir together 1/4 cup sugar, the flour, and baking powder. Cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Combine egg and milk; add all at once to the dry ingredients. Stir just to moisten. Spread into a greased 8×1 1/2 round baking pan. (You can use a small, square brownie pan too.) Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool in pan for ten minutes.
While the shortcake is cooling, make the whipped cream. Pour a pint of whipping cream into a blender and turn on the mixer as high as you can without splattering cream everywhere. Add a couple of tablespoons of sugar and taste; add more if you prefer. Keep beating until it resembles the consistency of whipped cream that can be easily scooped up with a spoon. This will take several minutes, so don’t worry if you don’t see results right away. When it looks like whipped cream, stop. Don’t overdo it, or you’ll wind up with butter.
To serve, scoop up some shortcake, split it in two pieces horizontally, and add strawberries (and plenty of juice) to both layers. Top with whipped cream and enjoy!
The berries and whipped cream will last a couple of days in the fridge if well-covered. Store the shortcake at room temperature for no more than 3-4 days.