6.28.2014

Strawberry Shortcakes



There is this heavenly place...



A white 19th century farmhouse. Where the windows are open on summer nights. Wind rustling through leaves, revealing their silvery undersides. There is an orchard on a grassy hill. The wild growth of black raspberry bushes at the edge of a wood. A pond with dry grasses protruding from black ice, powdery threads drawn across by the blades of ice skaters under thickening skies. The sound of a rear screen door closing in its wooden frame. There is an enormous vegetable garden. And an enormous flower garden. And a cow with long eyelashes. 


Maybe someday this place will exist for me outside of my imagination. Until then, White Gate Farm, like a postcard with softened edges, carried in a wallet for too long, sent to me from my dream.


Located in the next town, beyond a white fence, and a white wooden gate, the driveway winding to a farmhouse and a collection of outbuildings. A side door is the entrance to a tiny store, with the bounty of the farm beautifully displayed, a self-serve organic farm stand. In addition to produce, they offer prepared foods such as kimchi or curried lentil salads, carrot leaf pesto, local cheeses, crusty freshly baked breads, cups of lime and ginger chilled green tea, tall bottles of vinaigrette made with organic olive oil. Today there were long stems of brilliantly deep-pink ruffled peonies and graceful vine-like indigo baptisia.


There were generously-sized slices of incredible roasted butternut squash and red onion pizza, piled high with kale, sprinkled with garlic and olive oil, brought in warm from the kitchen at noon, along with two other delicious varieties.


Enormous handmade cookies studded with pecans and chunks of glossy melted chocolate. 


 Bouquets of herbs. Containers of multicolored eggs with shells of blue-green and rust.  Radishes and turnips in jewel-like hues of purple, pink, and scarlet. Baskets of freshly harvested greens: spinach, baby kale, bok choy, mustard greens. All organic, pristine, lovely.


We brought home three pints of strawberries, small, deep red, fragile, and sweet.
  

My daughters and I were excited to try a new recipe, likely the last recipe... the most amazing shortcakes I have ever tasted.


With one tablespoon plus one-half teaspoon of baking powder, they puff beautifully, creating soft, tender cakes.  After cutting the dough into thick rounds, the biscuits are brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with sugar before chilling for a delicate crust.


Lightly sweet, the shortcakes are enriched with the addition of hard-boiled egg yolk pressed through a sieve to create fine grains, resulting in a lovely texture.


 James Beard remarked of this, his mother's recipe, when he shared it with his friend Larry Forgione, that "there can be no dessert better, only fancier."

I believe it... beautifully simple, brilliant, perfect... it tastes of heaven.




Jim Beard's Strawberry Shortcake
adapted, barely
 makes 6

his mother's recipe, from the James Beard Foundation as shared by Larry Forgione in An American Place: Celebrating the Flavors of America


Shortcakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 tsp baking powder
6 tablespoon unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small cubes
2 hard-boiled eggs yolks, pressed through a fine mesh sieve
3/4 cup heavy cream, chilled
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Sift together flour, 1/4 cup sugar, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Toss in the butter cubes. Pinch and squeeze the butter between your fingertips into the flour mixture until large pieces are no longer visible. Whisk in the sieved egg yolk. Add the cream. Gently mix until the dough just comes together. Turn the dough, and any extra flour, out onto a board or countertop, and gently knead to make a smooth dough (about two or three turns). As soon as the dough holds together, pat it into a rough circle about 1 inch thick. Using a lightly floured 2 1/2-inch-round cookie cutter, cut out 6 shortcakes. (I needed to gather and re-roll for the last two biscuits). Brush the shortcakes with the melted butter and sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon sugar. Place the shortcakes on a plate or baking sheet lined with waxed paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Transfer the chilled shortcakes to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake on the center rack of the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until pale golden and firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. 


Berries

3 pints fresh strawberries, washed, hulled, larger berries halved or quartered
2 tablespoons sugar

While the shortcakes cool, prepare the strawberries: place the berries in a glass bowl and add the sugar. Gently stir and let sit for 1 to 2 minutes. (I let mine macerate a little longer for a more juicy filling)


Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy cream, chilled
1 tablespoon sugar

Whip the cream and sugar together in a medium bowl until the cream just begins to thicken. (I made the mistake of over-whipping mine)


Assemble the Shortcakes:

Using a fork or serrated knife, cut the shortcakes in half horizontally. Place the bottom halves on 6 dessert plates and generously spoon the macerated berries and juices over them. Top with a heaping dollop of the lightly whipped sweetened cream. Replace the top halves of the shortcakes and serve.






2 comments:

  1. the photos and the strawberry shortcakes are gorgeous!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much Dina!!

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