When I saw table after table stacked high with gorgeous strawberries at our farmer’s market I figured out it must be the season here in New England. Berries so deep red they were almost purple sparkled from every table and the perfume…well! The sun was shining, there was a soft breeze and everyone was outside on the square. For someone who likes to bang around the kitchen it was quite a heady combination. We don’t get this at home in Florida. Nope. Organic or conventional our berries are without flavor and dry. Pretty much suffice it to say when I saw these I was happier than a dead pig in sunshine.
And there aren’t all that many farmer’s markets or stands because it’s so darned hot. So I bought as much as Jimmy could carry back to the apartment and set about to baking a shortcake with the ingredients we had on hand.
I didn’t have any eggs, buttermilk, butter or baking soda. But I DID have baking powder, whipping cream, vanilla extract, a little sugar and all-purpose flour. I found a recipe by Mary Nolan and based this one on her’s. I’m fully aware my recipe lacks butter but whipping cream has a good amount of fat so if prepared correctly this shortcake will not let you down. I also made it again when I did have the baking soda and I have to admit, it WAS better. I found the cake and fruit together to be so sweet and perfect that additional cream garnishing the top just wasn’t needed. The key, and I cannot stress this enough, is NOT TO OVERWORK THE DOUGH. I mean it. After assembling the cake you should have some crumbles and dry spots. It’s okay. If you attempt to bake a smooth, perfect shortcake you’re guaranteed to end up with a tough, hockey-puck fail. Just sayin’. Also, if you’re looking for a sweet cake-like product this ain’t it. This is a heavy, dense shortcake but it is rich, has a tender crumb and is the perfect foil for the sweetest of summer’s strawberries. Ditch that grocery store, nasty, yellow, cake cup thing and make your own shortcake.
While your shortcake bakes and cools hull and slice your strawberries. Or if you’re using fresh peaches slice them as well. Scatter a generous tablespoon of sugar over the fruit, stir it a bit so all the fruit is covered with the sugar and let it sit to release the fruit juices. Drizzle the sliced shortbread halves with that exquisite syrup. You’ll be sitting as pretty as those summer berries!
Slightly Sweet Summer Shortcake with Berries
Preheat oven to 400°, if your pan is dark metal preheat to 375°
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups whipping cream, all I had on hand was heavy cream and it turned out fine
- 4 cups or more of strawberries, sliced in half or quartered
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- Mix flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder and salt well.
- Combine vanilla extract with cream, pour cream into flour mixture and mix to BARELY COMBINE.
- Cover baking dish with non-stick spray. All I had on hand was a 1 1/2 quart ceramic, oval casserole dish. I think an 8X8 2-quart pan would be fine.
- Gently pat dough into baking dish and bake for 20-25 minutes or until edges pull away and turn golden.
- While the cake bakes, gently toss strawberries with 2 tablespoons of sugar and set aside to macerate.
- Remove cake from oven and to cool on completely on cooling rack .
- Slice into cake into wedges or squares. Cut each serving in half horizontally to stuff with macerated fruit.
- Cover bottom half of shortcake with fruit and a little of the juice. Cover with other half of shortcake and serve.