I just bought what I think may be my last strawberries of the season! I’m sad, but there’s so much great produce hopping into farmstands that I can’t weep for long.
I haven’t made jam yet this year so I hope to use some of my new berries for that. I’m also planning a classic shortcake for our Singing Brook Farm neighborhood picnic on Independence Day. If I decide that my contribution HAS to be red, white, and blue, I’ll throw in a few blueberries as well. (In fact, this shortcake may be made with just about any fruit; I may love it best with a mixture of peaches and raspberries.)
This recipe is flexible. If you don’t want to prepare your whole shortcake at once you may cut the dough into squares or circles before baking it. Or you may cut the baked big shortcake into wedges and THEN add the strawberries and cream to each piece. Any way you slice it, this dish will sweeten your Fourth of July.
I’ll write more about our picnic after the event. It features fabulous foods, games, a rubber-duck race, and convivial company. Meanwhile, happy Independence Day to all! Be sure to pursue happiness on Saturday………
for the berries:
1 quart strawberries
sugar as needed
for the shortcake:
2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 to 2 tablespoons melted butter
for the topping:
butter as needed
1 cup heavy cream, whipped (and sweetened if you really need to do that!)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or silicone.
For the berries: wash and hull the strawberries. Save out 6 to 8 berries for a garnish. Sprinkle sugar over them as needed (this will depend on how sweet they are—you’ll just have to sacrifice yourself and taste them!). Set them aside to juice up while you make the shortcake.
For the shortcake: in a large bowl stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut it in the shortening with knives or a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Whisk together the buttermilk, egg, and vanilla, and stir them into the flour mixture. Mix just until the dry ingredients are moistened.
Turn the dough out onto a floured board, and knead it 8 to 10 times. Shape the dough into a circle that measures 6 to 8 inches in diameter, and place it on the lined cookie sheet. The trick in the kneading and shaping is to be VERY gentle with the shortcake dough; if you abuse it, your shortcake won’t puff up beautifully as mine did. (Of course, I employed my secret ingredient—my sister Leigh—who has artistic hands!)
Brush the top of the shortcake with melted butter. Bake it for 15 to 20 minutes, until it is a light golden brown. Cool it on a wire rack. It will look like a delicious giant biscuit or scone.
When you are ready to eat the shortcake put it on a platter and carefully split it with a knife into two horizontal pieces. Butter the cut pieces.
Place the bottom half of the biscuit on a plate, and spoon half of the strawberries on. Top with the other shortcake half, and put on the additional strawberries. Top with whipped cream and the six reserved berries.
If your shortcake didn’t rise sufficiently, forget about cutting it in half and just butter the top. Place all of the strawberry mixture, the whipped cream, and the reserved berries on top.
Serves 6 to 8.