Spring means strawberries.
I spent Mother’s Day with dinner at the Pearigens and enjoyed a lengthy phone visit with the Andersons.
Tina and Paul planned a relaxed day and an afternoon ride in rural Oregon. Wendy, Robert and the kids treated me to hamburgers with all the trimmings. Cheese, lettuce, chilies, pickles, onions, tomatoes and the secret sauce. Dinner included green salad and gourmet broccoli mac-and-cheese. Delicious.
So good in fact there was no room for dessert and that’s where strawberries come in. We all passed on dessert, exclaiming “too full.”
That brings me to this week’s recipe. Can you guess? Shortcake, of course, my grandmother’s traditional, old-fashioned take on this family favorite.
First off, we never use store-bought, spongy disks, which are basically unadorned Twinkies. I’ve known people who will decry the Twinkie and swear by their counterparts for dessert.
My grandmother’s base is a slightly-sweet biscuit, baked with butter. And she always used Bisquick, saying the mix had everything in it she would use and eliminated measuring. True.
You do need to get a head start by fixing berries at least a couple hours before dinner. Wash and husk them, slice and mix with a little sugar. Refrigerate to macerate, which softens berries slightly and draws out enough juices to make a lovely light syrup.
Here’s a hulling trick: use a small, demitasse or grapefruit spoon. Insert tip beside stem, dig slightly, place thumb on other side of stem, squish and pull. Stem and that little bit of pith from berry’s center will pop out with no trouble. No need to slice off top along with a healthy chunk of delicious berry.
Now let’s talk whipping cream. Sweeten with granulated, not powdered sugar for better results. Cream will beat up quicker since powdered sugar has the tendency to melt when mixed with any kind of liquid. Cream whipped with granulated will be light, fluffy and hold its shape better than when sweetened with powdered sugar.
For best results, whip — I use a hand beater for this, no need to tap into the electricity — cream until a froth begins to appear, add sugar and vanilla. Continue beating until thickened, only takes a few minutes.
MAMO’S STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE
2 cups fresh strawberries*
1/4 cup sugar
2-1/4 cups Bisquick
2/3 cup milk
1 to 2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1-1/2 cups whipping cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Wash strawberries and hull. Slice into large bowl and add sugar. Mix well and refrigerate one or two hours. To make shortcakes, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put butter in a 9-inch square baking dish and place on center rack. Watch carefully, remove when butter is melted, don’t brown. In medium bowl, mix Bisquick with sugar. Make a well in center and add milk. Lightly toss ingredients until soft dough forms. Turn dough onto lightly floured — with Bisquick — surface and knead until combined, about 10 times. Pat to 1/2-inch thickness and cut into eight rounds using biscuit cutter or glass dipped in flour. To bake, dip one round in melted butter and place, buttered side up, in baking pan. Repeat with second round and place on top of first, buttered side up. Continue dipping and placing to make four stacks of two. Sprinkle lightly with sugar, optional, and bake eight to 10 minutes or until golden. To serve, whip cream with sugar and vanilla, separate still warm — not hot — biscuits into two pieces, set top aside and place bottom in serving dish. Top generously with berries, cover with reserved half, add whipped cream and garnish with one or two berry slices. Makes four, recipe doubles easily.
*Any berry may be substituted for strawberries just remember, use fresh not frozen.