As I was driving down highway 70 earlier this month, I saw him as I do every year around this time. The farmer was leaning against his beat-up white truck with the sign propped up against it: “STRAWBERRIES” in hand-painted red letters. We bought a gallon, and I knew exactly what I’d be using them for–old-fashioned strawberry shortcake, the perfect summer dessert.
Shortcake is not really cake; it is essentially a sweetened, very rich biscuit. It is crumbly, buttery, and slightly sweet. If you’ve had strawberries served over sponge cake or angel food cake that was called “strawberry shortcake,”
you’ve been eating an impostor. True old-fashioned strawberry shortcake is much more rich and solid.
Seeking a true shortcake, I experimented with a few different recipes and cobbled together my own based on all of the aspects that I liked. This dessert makes a wonderful spring and summer treat that will have you wishing that strawberries were in season all year round!
Old-Fashioned Strawberry Shortcake
makes 8 servings
- 1 quart fresh strawberries (as local as possible)
- 1/3 cup sugar or less (to taste)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 stick unsalted butter (cold)
- 3/4 cup cream
- 1 pint heavy whipping cream
- 1 1/2 tablespoon bourbon whiskey
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
1. Wash strawberries in cold water, drain, and hull. Slice the berries to taste–the larger the berry slices, the more tart the flavor.
2. Put the sliced berries in a bowl and add 1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar–the more sugar, the less tart the berries will be. Stir.
3. Cover and let sit for an hour at room temperature.
1. Put oven rack at center. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. In a bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
3. Slice butter into 1/4 inch thick pieces and then cut into the mixture with a pastry cutter. Cut into a course mixture like corn meal, leaving some pea-sized pieces of butter.
4. In the center of the mixture, form a well and pour the cream into it. Stir in only until the dough is moist. It does not yet need to hold together like dough, so take care not to mix it too much. Let sit for a minute while you prepare and flour your breadboard (or table or counter).
5. Carefully turn the dough out onto the floured surface, and knead it just a few times until it is just holding together and not quite so wet. Take care not to work the dough too much, or your shortbread will not rise well. Gently pat the dough into a rectangle about 7 x 10 inches and 3/4 inch thick.
6. Grease your baking sheet with butter or shortening.
7. Using a sharp, floured knife, cut the dough into eight rectangles. Gently transfer to greased baking sheet.
8. Brush tops of biscuits with a little milk or cream and sprinkle with sugar. Put in preheated oven.
9. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until they rise and are a golden color on top.
10. Remove to a plate.
1. While shortbread is baking, mix heavy whipping cream, Bourbon, and vanilla extract in a bowl. Add powdered sugar and mix in.
2. Whip mixture with an electric hand mixer until raised peaks form. It should take about four minutes (much longer if using a manual hand mixer or whisk).
1. Let biscuits cool to a non-burning temperature, then use a serrated knife to split each biscuit that you will be using horizontally. Butter, if desired. Set tops to the side.
2. Heap about a half a cup of berry mixture onto the bottom halves of the shortcake biscuits. Replace tops. Place a couple more spoonfuls of berries on top, and top with a huge spoonful of whipped cream.
3. Serve and enjoy!