I have picked strawberries myself at the Silveridge Strawberry Farm behind the town of Bucksport, Maine. Somehow this uncomfortable ritual — squatting on hands and knees under hot sun, swatting away blackflies — makes the berries taste even sweeter. And of course you’re allowed to eat some as you pick, so there’s a stickiness factor that makes you feel like a child again.
However they’re procured — hand-gathered or purchased from roadside honor stands or farmers’ markets — native strawberries are surely one of nature’s most priceless seasonal offerings. Shortcake is one of America’s estimable contributions to the roster of the world’s great desserts. Simplicity itself, shortcake — which requires little in the way of culinary expertise except for a light hand with the dough — is the epitome of good Yankee country cooking, and strawberry shortcake, made with dead-ripe, fragrant native berries is probably the queen of all shortcakes. This “short” (meaning very buttery) egg biscuit is made into one large cake for an impressive presentation to a large group. Although shortcake is best served warm, I give instructions for preparing all the elements before guests arrive.
U-Pick Strawberry Shortcake with Egg BiscuitStrawberry Filling:
2 quarts ripe strawberries, preferably local berries
⅓ cup sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice (juice of ⅓ medium lemon)
Egg Biscuit and Topping:
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into about 12 pieces
½ cup whole or low-fat milk
1½ cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- To make the strawberry filling, choose 8 pretty berries and set them aside. Hull the remaining berries. Place half of the berries in a large shallow bowl or on a large rimmed plate and crush them with a large fork or a potato masher. Slice the remaining berries and combine with the crushed berries. Stir in the sugar and lemon juice and set aside at room temperature for at least 30 minutes to allow the juices to flow. (The strawberry mixture can be prepared up to 6 hours ahead and refrigerated. Return to room temperature before serving.)
- Preheat the oven to 450 °F. Generously grease an 8-inch cake pan with butter.
- To make the egg biscuit, pulse the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor to blend. Distribute the butter over the flour mixture and pulse until the mixture looks crumbly. Pour the milk into a glass measure and whisk in the egg. With the motor running, pour the milk mixture through the feed tube and process just until the dough begins to clump together. (To make by hand, whisk the dry ingredients together in a bowl, work in the cold butter with your fingertips, add the milk and egg, and stir with a large fork to make a soft dough.)
- Scrape out onto a lightly floured surface, knead lightly a few times, and roll to an 8-inch round. (The dough can be prepared ahead and refrigerated. To make individual biscuits, see Note.)
- Transfer the dough to the prepared pan, patting it gently to the edges. Place in the oven and immediately reduce the oven temperature to 375° F. Bake until the shortcake is pale golden brown on top, 22 to 26 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack for about 10 minutes.
- To make the topping, whip the cream with the powdered sugar in a medium to large bowl until it forms soft peaks. (This step can be done a couple of hours ahead; refrigerate the topping.)
- To assemble, using a large spatula, transfer the shortcake to a large serving platter. Use a serrated knife to split the cake horizontally and lift off the top with a large spatula. Spread the bottom of the cake with the softened butter, spoon on about half the berry mixture, and spread with about half the whipped cream. Replace the top, spoon over the remaining berry mixture, and top with the remaining whipped cream. Decorate with the reserved berries. Cut into wedges to serve.
Recipe excerpted from Dishing Up® Maine © 2006 by Brooke Dojny. All rights reserved.
Brooke Dojny is the author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, including The New England Clam Shack Cookbook, Dishing Up® Maine, and Lobster! (all Storey Publishing). She won the James Beard Award in 1997 for The AMA Family Cookbook, co-authored with Melanie Barnard. Brooke started her culinary career in the 1980s when she worked as a catering directress for Martha Stewart. From 1990 to 2004, Brooke co-authored (with Melanie Barnard) Bon Appetit’s monthly “Every-Night Cooking” column and has written for most of the other major culinary magazines. She lives on the coast of Maine, where she can be found hanging out at clam shacks and farmers’ markets. Her newest book with Storey, Chowderland, is now available wherever books are sold.