Some commercial versions of shortcake are built around little sponge-cake molds. We favor the noncommercial biscuit-based interpretation of this definitive American dessert—and instead of making individual small shortcakes, we like to construct an heroic big one.
4 cups strawberries,
washed, hulled, and halved
6 tbsp. sugar
1-1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
6 tbsp. chilled butter,
cut into small pieces
3/4 cup milk
Whipped heavy cream (optional)
1. Put strawberries in a medium howl, sprinkle with 5 tbsp. sugar, and set aside to macerate for 30 minutes at room temperature.
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Sift flour, baking powder, salt, and remaining 1 tbsp. sugar together into a mixing bowl. Cut 4 tbsp. butter into flour mixture with a pastry cutter, or use your fingers to work it in, until mixture resembles coarse meal. Mix in milk. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface, knead several times, then shape dough into a large biscuit, 2" thick and 6" in diameter. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet until just golden, about 15 minutes.
3. Cool biscuit slightly, then slice it in half horizontally. Spread remaining 2 tbsp. butter on cut sides. Place bottom half of biscuit on a plate and spoon half the strawberries and juice on top. Cover with other half of biscuit and spoon remaining strawberries over top. Serve with whipped cream, if you like.
When colonists arrived in the New World, they found fields carpeted with small crimson strawberries. In 1838, this native East Coast variety was cross with a larger, West Coast berry, to produce a more sizeable but unfortunately less flavorful fruit. Ralph Waldo Emerson once took time out from his busy philosophizing schedule to bemoan the cultivated strawberry. "Bluntly," he opined, "[strawberries] lose their flavor in garden beds." and he never even tasted the strawberry of the late 20th century. Our advice: Buy the best local varieties, by varietal name if possible, at the height of their season. Specifically look for earliglow, sparkle, and jewel in the Northeast and Midwest; cardinal in the South, totem and red crest in the Northwest; and chandler out West. In winter, if you're desperate, look for camarosa, a new California variety.
Saveur Cooks Authentic American
By the editors of Saveur magazine
320 pages, full-color photographs
Publication Date: November 1998
Recipe Reprinted by permission.
This page created April 1999
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