Sunday, April 29, 2012

Cooking from the Books with K: Strawberry Girl Shortcake

Food styling by K: star biscuit, lime curd, berries, whipped cream and backyard berries on top.

Sometimes Cooking from the Books with K starts with a book, sometimes with a recipe. In this case, it started with K repeatedly asking to make strawberry shortcake. It was easy enough to put her off in January, with "the berries are not good right now" and "no, strawberry jam is not a substitute for fresh berries." But now that strawberries are at the farmers market and ripe in our own yard, I had run out of excuses. So it was time to find a book pairing.

After a search of K's bookshelves, we opted for Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski, a Newberry Award winning book in 1946. From K: "It was about people who lived in Florida. There were two families. One grew strawberries and the other had cattle that walked in the strawberry fields. It was interesting to hear what it was like to live on a farm, kind of like a newer Little House. I also thought that Birdie was a funny name, but so was her real name Berthenia Lou. There was also a boy named Shoestring. The dad said "Don't count your biddys fore they're hatched."

Since, as K pointed out, I "never make strawberry shortcake," I asked on twitter for recipe suggestions. Thebestjasmine had a few, including large cakes, individual biscuit versions and even one with chocolate. K opted for what she decided was the traditional version, made with individual biscuits. The recipe Jasmine had suggested for that was an Alice Waters' recipe on the Ezra Pound Cake blog, a blog that you really should visit if you haven't been before. I can also recommend the Overnight French Toast there, as it was breakfast after K's sleepover birthday party.

The recipe, with our changes in italics:

Strawberry Shortcake from Ezra Pound Cake

Adapted from Alice Waters’ “The Art of Simple Food”
Makes 6
  • 4 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (We used 1 teaspoon as K loves vanilla.)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, or to taste
  • 6 baked 2-inch Cream Biscuits (recipe below)  (We made star shaped biscuits)
              • Homemade lime curd (We had some in the freezer from our lime jelly      
  • Backyard berries: We substituted for her optional powdered sugar, some of the small berries from our yard as an additional topping.

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the strawberries and sugar.
  2. Remove 1 cup of the strawberry mixture, and purée it in a blender or food processor (We mashed with a potato masher.) Return the purée (mashed berries) to the rest of the strawberries; stir. Set aside at least 15 minutes.
  3. In a standing mixer with the whisk attachment, whip together the cream, vanilla and sugar until it starts to form soft peaks.
  4. Slice the Cream Biscuits in half. For each biscuit, spoon the strawberry mixture onto the bottom half, and add a dollop of whipped cream. Top with the other biscuit half, and dust it with powdered sugar. (We did not slice in half but simply placed 1 large spoonful of lime curd on top of each biscuit, covered it with sliced berries and whipped cream and then garnished with a small handful of backyard berries.)

Brushing the biscuits with cream.

Cream Biscuits

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons sugar (optional) (We did include it)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, sugar (if using) and baking powder.
  3. Cut the butter into the flour with a pastry blender or your fingertips. The pieces should be the size of small peas.
  4. Measure cream; set aside 1 tablespoon. Add the remaining cream to the flour, and stir with a fork until the mixture just comes together. Lightly knead the dough a few times in the bowl, turn it out onto a lightly floured board, and roll out about 3/4 inch thick.
  5. Cut six 2-inch circles or squares out of the dough. Reroll the scraps, if necessary. (We used a star shaped cookie cutter for this. We ended up with 6 stars and 1 medium size biscuit.)
  6. Place the biscuits on a baking sheet lined with parchment, and brush the tops with the tablespoon of cream.
  7. Bake for 17 minutes or until golden and done. (Note that this is one of the few times the baking time has been right on for our oven.)

Lime curd and star shaped biscuit

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