The table as the gravitational center of our lives.

Classic Strawberry Shortcake

“I’ve got it all in here. Ultra Violets. Flying Saucers. Strawberry Bootlace. C’mon. Get involved.” -Self-proclaimed “confuser” Noel Fielding as “The Hitcher” in the trippy, brilliant television version of Britain’s so-so-so-good The Mighty Boosh

Strawberries aren’t the most exotic or unusual fruit in the roster of world produce or anything, but I adore them.    (But then again, they are unusual in a simple and astonishing way.  They are the only known fruit with seeds on the outside.)  At the age of 32, I still carry around a strawberry-shaped wallet probably meant for someone half my age, just because it makes me happy when I pull it out of my purse.  I had a little white terry cloth sun hat as a little girl with a chin strap and an an appliquéd strawberry on it.  Strawberries were always in the garden when I was a kid, and waaaaay back when my family still lived in South Bend, Indiana, you could drive out into the country and go to “U-Pick” strawberry fields with a big basket, pay a couple of dollars, and spend the afternoon in the sun looking for the perfect berries to bring home.  People did this normally on summer Sundays, and then went home and did things like, for example, bake pies with them.  They would cool the pies on windowsills, like a precious country painting.  (For real.)

I’m certain that, to my sister and I, these adventures carried a similar thrill to an Easter egg hunt.  What a wonderful way to engage young minds and develop an appreciation for food, the outdoors, and nature.  (Adorable sundresses, too.)  Also, we got to use the word “eezer-beezer” when strawberries were brought up in our family.  In addition to being incredibly fun to say, it was my hair-roller-coiffed, thickly-Pittsburgh-ese Grandmother Rose’s random nickname for “really big strawberries.”  (Don’t ask, that’s just how it was.)

I talk often about my weird, sort-of trashy-but-in-a-good-way early upbringing in Indiana, and I have a lot of fondness for it.  I get cravings for lazy Sundays playing cards in screened-in porches.  I get cravings to whirl around and around and around on a Sit ‘n Spin.  I crave that everyone at Nickelodeon will just get over whatever legal contract nonsense is involved and put Pinwheel on Blu-Ray for Pete’s sake.  I get real, legitimate cravings for the food of my youth, and sometimes I just want some ghetto-ass Tuna Noodle Casserole with some crushed-up Pringles on top .  And even though it goes against everything I stand for now, I will publicly admit to cravings for my Grandma’s crappy Old El Paso tortilla chip rounds with canned refried beans and Velveeta on top, nuked for about 20 seconds and somehow called “nachos.”  Sometimes I just miss breakfasts that were called “Full Stack of Flapjacks,” and sometimes I just get needy for the simple stuff, like Creamed Chipped Beef, and like Strawberry (ahem, “Eezer-Beezer”) Shortcakes.

And something to this effect happened to me this week.  A big, yummy container full of “eezer-beezers” wound up mysteriously in my fridge (hmmm…..wonder how it got there?), and I thought of my gorgeous, Scarlett Johansson-esque friend Aja.  Aja is a living, breathing Larry David sitcom, and I love the shit out of her.  (I will never forget when she worked as an agent for male models, and forwarded me the hilarious, un-solicited resumé of a middle-aged man who wanted to model, claiming his special talents were “talking like a deaf person” and “disco.”)  She used to ask me lots to make her some strawberry shortcake for dessert, and I never got around to it last summer, and then it became fall and strawberries started basically sucking, and then fast forward and it’s getting summer-y again.  Strawberries aren’t at their best yet, but that’s not really going to stop me from eating some frickin’ shortcake if that’s what I wanna do, and I’ve owed Aja this for ages.  Plus she works really hard and I miss her.  So there.

I pretty much kept it as simple and humble as it gets here, but I made it appropriately Mid-western by eating it for breakfast instead of for dessert.  (You can take the girl out of the Mid-west, etc.)  I made a batch of classic buttermilk biscuits, some homemade vanilla whipped cream, some simple syrup, and sliced up some “eezer-beezers.”  Then I cut some of the biscuits in half, brushed them with simple syrup while still warm, and layered on the berries and whipped cream.  Holy wowzers yumtime.  Do yourself a favor and make this.


For the buttermilk biscuits  (pretty much Krista-fied from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook since baking isn’t really, ahem, my forte…..):

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for bench flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

3 tbsp. buttermilk powder  (NOTE:  You could absolutely use fresh buttermilk, and just eliminate the powder and the water and use 3/4 cup fresh buttermilk in place of the water instead, but I love this SaCo Cultured Buttermilk Blend stuff, which is a dried, powdered version that reconstitutes with water.  It works just as well, and you can keep it in your refrigerator pretty much indefinitely.  I mean, how often do normal people really use buttermilk anyway, you know?)

8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut up into small cubes and reserved in the refrigerator to keep as cold as possible

3/4 cup cold water

For the whipped cream (or “Vanilla Chantilly,” if you want to sound fancy):

1 pint heavy cream

1 tbsp. confectioner’s sugar

1 tsp. real vanilla extract, or better yet, 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped out with the back of a knife

For the simple syrup (NOTE:  You can store the leftovers in the fridge and use it to sweeten iced tea, cocktails, cereal milk, coffee, toast, cake…..pretty much anything!  It keeps for a few weeks, too, and I’ve found it to be indispensable in my kitchen.):

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

And of course:

1 16-oz. package strawberries (bonus points if you get the big “eezer-beezers”!), rinsed in a strainer just before prepping, green tops removed, and quartered


For the buttermilk biscuits:

1.  Preheat oven to 450ºF and make sure there is a rack in the middle of the oven.

2.  Dump the flour, baking powder, sugar, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk powder into the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times until just combined.  Sprinkle the very cold butter cubes over the top of the dry mixture and pulse several more times to combine, or until the mixture looks like coarse sand/small pebbles.  It should take 12-15 quick little pulses or so.

3.  Dump all that stuff into a big stainless steel or glass bowl, and stir in the water with a rubber spatula, working quickly, until the mixture just barely forms a slightly sticky ball.

4.  Lightly dust a clean countertop with flour, then turn the dough out on top of the flour.  Working quickly, use clean hands to form it into a rough ball.  Use a good, sharp knife to divide the dough ball into 12 equal pieces.  Gently shape each piece into a rough ball and place onto a parchment paper or Silpat-lined sheet tray.  Bake for 10-12 minutes (NOTE:  mine took slightly longer), or until biscuit tops are a nice golden brown and the centers look fluffy and puffed.

5.  Remove biscuits from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool, about 15 minutes.

For the whipped cream:

1.  Pour heavy cream into a stainless steel or glass bowl.  Whisk vigorously for about 15-20 seconds, or until you visually start to notice the cream beginning to thicken up.  (NOTE:  You could also use an electric hand mixer on low-to-medium speed here.  Not a problem.)  Add confectioner’s sugar and vanilla and continue to whisk vigorously for a few more minutes, or until the cream forms beautiful, smooth peaks that are somewhere between soft and stiff when the whisk or mixer paddles are lifted.  (NOTE:  I like the more-detailed explanation and the photos given here.)  Reserve in the refrigerator.

For the simple syrup:

1.  Literally the easiest thing in the world to make.  Dump the sugar and the water into a small saucepan, bring to a boil, and then allow to cool.  That’s it, for serious.

To assemble:

1.  Split the buttermilk biscuits in half.  Lightly brush the inside of each half with some of the simple syrup.  Spoon on a layer of the whipped cream, top with a few of the quartered strawberries, some more of the whipped cream, and then place the top half of the buttermilk biscuit on top.  Serve at room temperature.  Be happy.

Yield: If you can squeeze all of the berries and whipped cream into 10 of the biscuits, you’ll have 2 left over for breakfast in the morning.  Just a thought.

Printer Friendly Printer Friendly

3 Responses Subscribe to comments

  1. Rochelle

    Absolutely one of my favorites pieces on yours. But you forgot to mention that these are also good for breakfast … ;o)

    May 05, 2010 @ 8:45 am

  2. kirbie

    These look huge! And delicious. I’ve been wanting to make strawberry shortcakes. Never made them before!

    May 06, 2010 @ 12:55 pm

  3. admin

    @kirbie – they only look huge because of the macro lens I shoot the pics with. The biscuits were actually about the size of golf balls…erm, heavily stuffed, tower-like, monster-sized golf balls. :)

    May 06, 2010 @ 3:15 pm