It’s the Strawberry Moon. Strawberries ripen around the summer solstice. So with just a modestly sized strawberry patch, you can pick a pint or two a day this time of year. Strawberries are so easy to grow, so productive, so magical. And there is nothing for sale in the supermarket that comes close to a fresh-picked berry (this is true of most berries) because the sugars start turning to starch as soon as they are severed from the vine. What’s more, berries that need to be transported long distances are picked before they are even ripe, before they’ve developed those fruity sugars. So the best way to eat them is fresh from the garden. And the best way to eat strawberries fresh from the garden is Strawberry Shortcake.
This is the one recipe in which I use a baking mix voluntarily. (And yes, before you ask, there has been involuntary mix use because, well, I shall say “other kitchens” and leave it there.) But in this strawberry shortcake recipe, I prefer Bisquick. It is, indeed, quicker, but it also produces a “cake” that is more like a biscuit — a texture and flavor that I just like better than the traditional sponge. (OK, actually, I loathe most cake. There it is…) But I think it also might be more in line with the original idea behind short cake. The “short” refers to a high butterfat to flour ratio. Think short bread. The edges should be flaky and crisp and the interior should be fluffy. And in this recipe the dough is somewhat lumpy so that edge area is very high. You get a lot of flake out of it.
I suppose I could duplicate this recipe without Bisquick, and perhaps someday I’ll do just that. But for now, here is my favorite Strawberry Shortcake.
4 cups strawberries, washed, stemmed & sliced 4 TBS caster sugar (or granulated) 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream 1 TBS caster sugar 1/2 tsp vanilla grated nutmeg to taste
2 1/2 Original Bisquick™ mix 2 TBS white sugar (any kind) 1/4 tsp ground cardamom 1 egg, beaten well 1/2 cup whole milk 4 TBS unsalted butter, melted
Pre-heat oven to 425°F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicon baking mat. (This dough is sticky!)
Mix the caster sugar into the strawberries and let stand to develop a light syrup.
Stir together the Bisquick, sugar, and cardamom.
Add the egg, milks and butter. Don’t over-stir. The dough should be soft and somewhat lumpy.
Handling the dough minimally, form into 6 balls and drop on lined baking sheet.
Bake 12-15 minutes, until golden.
While the cakes bake, stir together cream, sugar, vanilla and fresh grated nutmeg and whip the mixture until soft peaks form.
When the cakes are cooled just enough to handle, split them in half horizontally.
Spoon strawberries and a dollop of whipped cream onto the lower half of the cake. Place the upper half of the cake on top of the strawberries. Top with more whipped cream and berries.
Eat while the cakes are still warm.
For true decadence, I’ve been known to place a thick pat of butter on the warm cake under the strawberries, so the butter melts into the shortcake.
Variation: Now and then, I like to use skyr (Icelandic yogurt) instead of whipping cream. And I always experiment with the spices. Thyme and nutmeg. Ginger, clove and orange flower water (or just extract). Cinnamon, allspice and vanilla. I’ve even used lavender buds, rose petals and almond extract. Strawberries complement so many flavors, it’s hard to go wrong!
©Elizabeth Anker 2021