I find that the food I prepare most days is for comfort, rather than presentation. I tend to return to classic recipes and try to find a way to update, enliven or modernize the dish. Strawberry shortcake is one of those dishes that have a history with me; canned Redi-Whip, frozen berries and the slightly stale 6-to-a-pack spongy cakes that you buy in the grocery store. In the small town of Greenville, OH, where I grew up, this was the height of cuisine in our school cafeteria. Aside from the flat sheet pizza, strawberry shortcake caused otherwise sane honor roll students to beat each other for the chance to be first in line to receive this sweet treat. Reason being that if you were last in line (A) it could run out by the time you got to the front and you were stuck with raisins and (B) more importantly, if they didn’t run out, you were going to be stuck with the soggy pink domes of strawberry shortcake gone awry.
Until I moved to Oakland two years ago, I had not thought about strawberry shortcake, let alone elementary school strawberry shortcake. That all changed when I discovered Berkeley Bowl. Berkeley Bowl is an East Bay institution that is part grocery store, part co-op, part farm stand, part gift from the fruit gods. Entering Berkeley Bowl is like walking into an amusement park of veggie & fruit goodness. Now having two years of the freshest produce possible in the Bay Area readily available, I am a bit of a snob now when it comes to fruit. This brings me to why I decided to make strawberry shortcake yesterday.
Upon walking into Berkeley Bowl, I was greeted by a mound of fiery red jewels in cheery green baskets. These were not just strawberries; they were sun-kissed rubies of deliciousness. So I bought 4 pints and brought them home, not sure what I was going to do with them.
So I turned to the Epicurious iPhone app for inspiration. Doing a quick search, I came across a recipe from celebrity chef, Michael Mina. His recipe was a beautiful interpretation of what I envisioned strawberry shortcake to be. I have taken some liberties with his recipe, modifying it to suit my palate and tastes. I have broken up the recipe into three parts for easier reading, should any one want to only do a section of the recipe
Strawberry Shortcake with Cointreau Strawberry Compote and Chantilly Cream
Serves: 8-12 (depending in serving size)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups cake flour
1/2 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
2 tablespoons baking powder
Pinch (1/16 teaspoon) kosher salt
1/2 cup cold butter (1 stick), small squares
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1/2 cup cream
Finely grated zest from one lemon
1 egg beaten (for brushing the top)
Make Biscuits: In the bowl of a food processor, add the all-purpose and cake flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Pulse 4-6 times to mix. Add in diced butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. If you do not have a food processor, shift ingredients to the large bowl and cut butter into dry ingredients using two butter knives.
In medium bowl, whisk together buttermilk and cream, then whisk in lemon zest. Add liquid mixture to dry mixture, stirring with fork just until dough forms.
Note: Typically all good bakers will add wet ingredients to dry ingredients to prevent overmixing and clumping which makes for tough biscuits. However, since I used a food processor that was too small to accommodate the liquid ingredients, I folded my dry ingredients into my wet. To fold, place a third of your dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet and draw your fork through the center about three times. Continue to do this until all the dry has been incorporated with the wet.
Turn dough out onto floured work surface and knead gently just until dough holds together, about 10 turns. Form dough into a disk, wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400°F.
On floured work surface, roll out dough to 1/2-inch-thick round. Using 3-inch cutter, cut out biscuits. Transfer to ungreased baking sheet covered with parchment paper, brush lightly with egg wash, and sprinkle with sugar. Re-roll the excess dough and repeat until you have desired amount. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes, then transfer to rack to cool.
Note: Unless you are a fast roller and cutter (I am not), I suggest that you place your cut dough on the sheet back into the fridge for 15 minutes. The reason being that you want the butter in the dough to be cold, so when the heat of the oven hits it, it expands and puffs the pastry, rather than simply cook which is another reason you get flat dense biscuits.
Cointreau Strawberry Compote
4 pints strawberries, stems removed and quartered
1/2 cup Cointreau
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Pinch (1/16 teaspoon) kosher salt
Make Compote: In large mixing bowl, combine strawberries, Cointreau, 1/4 cup sugar, lemon juice, and salt. Mix gently, taste, and add more sugar if needed. Let stand at room temperature until juices form, at least 30 minutes.
Note: Strawberries can be made up to 2 hours in advance or the night before if refrigerated. Last up to 3 days in air tight container.
Lemon Chantilly Cream
1 cup cold heavy cream
2 tablespoons granulated or confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons lemon extract
Make Chantilly Cream: In a medium mixing bowl, whisk cream using a handheld mixer or whisk until it begins to foam and thicken. Add sugar & extract, continuing to whisk just until soft peaks form.
To Plate: Cut biscuits in half horizontally and place each bottom half in wide bowl or on plate. Divide compote among bowls, spooning strawberries onto biscuit bottoms and pouring some juice into each bowl. Top each shortcake with Lemon Chantilly Cream and biscuit top.
If anyone does try it, I would love to hear what you think and how it turned out!