Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberries seem like they have been in abundance this year. I’ve seen them readily available at our local produce stand, shiny, red, and ripe for months now. Our CSA has included them in both deliveries we’ve received this season so far, and admittedly, I love these even more than the produce stand ones. I can think of no other situation where the benefits of produce that has traveled fewer miles and has been picked off the vine more recently are more evident than with these little babies. They taste sweeter, are juicier, and are firmer in texture– heaven in a little pint-sized box.

As soon as our first pint arrived, I knew that shortcake had to be made. Admittedly, when it comes to strawberry shortcake, the big attraction for me is the giant mound of whipped cream. Yes, I would just eat a bowl of whipped cream for dessert if it wasn’t somehow just a little unsettling in concept. So my goal with this shortcake was to make the whipped topping more interesting in flavor and texture.

For me, the answer came from whipping creme fraiche and not just your regular heavy cream. Sweetened with some vanilla sugar and orange zest, I whipped up a container of tangy creme fraiche with a splash of heavy cream until fluffy. I liked how the creme fraiche added a bit of density to the topping, not to mention how the slightly sour taste was better for highlighting the sweetness of the berries. Here we had a strawberry shortcake where the berries, shiny like jewels after macerating in a bit of vanilla sugar, were able to stand up against, rather than sink into the whipped topping. Summer is definitely going to be a good one with this new take on a warm weather dessert staple!

Note: Vanilla sugar is a great way to be more thrifty in the kitchen. Simply take a vanilla pod after you’ve stripped it of its beans for a custard or some other purpose and cover it with sugar in a lidded jar. Otherwise, regular sugar and some vanilla extract is a fine substitute. I used powdered buttermilk in the shortcakes since I had some leftover from a waffle recipe. If you don’t have any, try swapping out the milk in the biscuits for buttermilk, adding some more flour if necessary to achieve a biscuit dough texture.

Shortcakes:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 tablespoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup granulated  sugar
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk powder
  • 4 tablespoons cold shortening
  • 1 teaspoon amaretto or almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2/3 cup whole milk

Topping:

  • 1 pint ripe strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 3 tablespoons vanilla sugar, divided
  • 7 oz container creme fraiche
  • 2-3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, and buttermilk powder (if using). Using a pastry blender, cut the shortening into the dry ingredients until the shortening is evenly distributed and flour clumps together in fine crumbs. Add the almond flavoring, zest, and milk. Using a wooden spoon, stir together until just combined. Dump contents of bowl out onto a floured surface and knead the dough until smooth, about 6-8 times. Roll out to 1/3 inch thickness, then cut out circles using a 4 inch biscuit cutter. Bake on a silpat lined baking sheet for 15-20 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Yields 6 shortcake rounds.

Mix together strawberries with 1 tablespoon vanilla sugar (or 1 tablespoon regular sugar with 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract.) Let sit for at least 15 minutes.

In a standing mixer, add the creme fraiche, heavy cream, remaining 2 tablespoons of vanilla sugar, zest, and vanilla extract. Whip on medium high speed until mixture if fluffy, about 5 minutes. When ready to serve the shortcakes, take a shortcake round and carefully split it into two using a serrated knife. Top the bottom half of the shortcake with as much whipped topping and strawberries as you like then cap with the remaining half.

CSA Count: 1

Strawberries

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