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Strawberry Shortcakes

Even though strawberries are available year-round in supermarkets, you should wait to make this recipe until your local crop comes into season in the spring. Your patience will be rewarded with juicy berries that sing with flavor and take this beloved classic over the top. And don’t be shy with the whipped cream.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lbs. strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 8 Tbs. sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbs. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
  • 6 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

In a bowl, toss the strawberries with 3 Tbs. of the sugar. Cover and refrigerate until the berries release their juices, at least 2 hours or up to 6 hours.

Preheat an oven to 400°F. Have ready an ungreased rimmed baking sheet. In a bowl, sift together the flour, 3 Tbs. sugar, the baking powder and the salt. Cut the butter into tablespoons and scatter over the flour mixture. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture just until the mixture forms coarse crumbs the size of peas. Add 1 cup of the cream and stir just until the dough comes together.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead gently just until smooth. Using a light touch, pat out the dough into a round about 1/2 inch thick. Using a 3-inch round biscuit or cookie cutter, cut out as many dough rounds as possible and place them 1 inch apart on the baking sheet. Gather up the scraps, pat them out again, and cut out more dough rounds to make a total of 6 shortcakes. Add them to the baking sheet. Bake the shortcakes until golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack until warm.

To make the whipped cream, in a chilled bowl, combine the remaining 1 cup cream, 2 Tbs. sugar and the vanilla. Using a handheld mixer on medium-high speed, beat until soft peaks form.

To serve, split each shortcake in half horizontally and place a shortcake bottom, cut side up, on a dessert plate. Top each shortcake bottom with a heaping spoonful of strawberries with their juices and a dollop of whipped cream. Place the shortcake top over the whipped cream and serve at once. Serves 6.

Variation: Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, nectarines and peaches (or a combination) all go great with shortcake. For a grown-up variation, substitute 1/4 cup orange-flavored liqueur, such as Grand Marnier, for the sugar, then add a little sugar to taste, if you wish.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Comfort Food, by Rick Rodgers (Oxmoor House, 2009).