01 June 2009

Shortcake Saga

I'm sitting at my kitchen table, enveloped in a cloud of beet-pickle aroma and dreaming of strawberry shortcake. No, not the little pink fairy-tale character. I'm talking about a slightly sweet, warm shortcake smothered with vanilla ice-cream and fresh-picked strawberries. The very stuff we neatly polished off the remains of today. It's starting to feel (and taste) like summer.

I definitely remember where this story begins. Well, I remember where the story of this particular shortcake begins though the relationship with "strawberry shortcake" in a general since has murky beginnings way back into my childhood I'm sure. But back to the present. This cake began with a phone call from my sister-in-law. "We're going to be away for the weekend and were wondering if you'd like to pick some of our strawberries while we're gone." Would we?!? Ever!

On Sunday afternoon we donned our stainables and headed for strawberry country. I promise, most of the berries made it past our mouths and into our picking bowls. Most. Oh, but the few glistening red, sun-warmed berries that tempted our tongues and whispered, "you're all grown up now. go ahead. eat me!" With that digression and a quick note to say we spent another considerable chunk of time ooohing and aaahing over the size of the country relatives' garden . . . I'm back to the shortcake saga.

When we got home with our berries, several actions were in order. Wash, cap, slice and freeze some. Wash, cap, crush, and make freezer jam out of some. Wash, cap, slice, and spoon over the aforementioned "slightly sweet, warm shortcake smothered with vanilla ice-cream". Are you drooling yet?

I went in search of a recipe. My mom always made strawberry shortcake in a pan. It was a cake, dense and moist with a wet finish. To me, that's shortcake. But could I find such a recipe among all the cookbooks and recipe sites I frequent? You guessed it: NO. And my mom wasn't at home either. It was near-desperation. But the berries were fresh, and I was determined to make some kind of shortcake to have under them.

It was back to the classic "Mennonite Country-Style Recipes (& Kitchen Secrets)" by Esther H. Shank. The cookbook I grew up on. On page 207 was a recipe for the kind of biscuit shortcakes that abounded everywhere. I resigned myself. And with a few minor cuts and changes, I had some biscuits baking in the toaster oven in no time.

Wow. YUM! I know I say that a lot about food. But: YUM! The biscuits weren't too sweet (we saved that role for the ice-cream) but moist, and light-tasting, and just wonderfully yummy smothered with ice-cream and those fresh-picked strawberries! (I'll admit, without the ice-cream . . . well, let's just say the ice-cream added a lot)

Overall, Cook's Word is: I've said enough. Recipe below.

Shortcake Stack

Or Open-Face Shortcake (my preference)

Shortcake with Strawberries

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. cold butter
1 small egg, beaten (really, use a small one--it should actually be a 1/2 egg)
1/3 cup milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Optional (but highly recommended): vanilla ice-cream and sliced, slightly-sugared strawberries

Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into a mixing bowl. Cut in butter and set aside. In another bowl beat egg and add milk and vanilla. Stir wet ingredients into flour mixture only until moistened. At this point you will have a very sticky dough. Resist the temptation to add more flour!!! Make a little pile of flour on your working surface and dump the dough onto it. Generously sprinkle more flour on top of your dough and pat into a 1/4 inch shape. Cut biscuits. Bake at 350F for 12 minutes (or a little longer if you like them browned). The rest is up to you! Stack. Open. Ice-cream. Whipped cream. Strawberries. Blueberries. Go wild! And enjoy.

Yield: I got 7 biscuits with a 3-inch cutter

1 comment:

  1. I have mom's recipe- you should have e-mailed me!! :) I love that cake, and am holding out in the anti-biscuit camp. Tom's mom makes that kind of shortcake and I've always liked the yellow cake kind better. But, hey, if you liked it that much, maybe I'll try it. One thing Mom Mast has converted me on is real whipped cream vs. cool whip. Cool whip just seems so crappy to me now. Those berries look wonderful!! Candice