September 10, 2011
Don't you love it when the new season produce hits the markets?
Well, I know I do anyway. We're so lucky in Australia to have such a diversity of climate that we have a huge variety of goodies available at any one time. But, while it's all very well to have access to strawberries in the middle of winter, they're very expensive and like tomatoes, lack the fragrance and beauty that a kiss of the sun wakes in their souls.
Strawberries are beautifully Queensland fresh at the moment with the new season berries pretty good at $8 kg and so very sweet that I really feel the need to show them off.
I thought about a pavlova, pastries, jam, but finally came around to Strawberry Shortcake.
I love shortbread, and first considered layering discs of this with the berries, but decided not to mess to much with a classic and went for the more traditional shortcake instead.
According to Wikipedia, 'Shortbread is different from shortcake, which can be similar to shortbread, but which can be made using vegetable fat instead of butter and always uses a chemical leavening agent such as baking powder, which gives it a different texture.'
Does that confuse you as much as it confused me?
Basically it means that shortcake is more of a scone-type consistency than a biscuity/cookie type crunch. Easy Peasy.
Shortcake should always be layered with billowy clouds of softly whipped cream, and of course lashings of strawberries gently oozing their pretty pink juices to soak into the shortcake for the perfect spring experience.
1 cup GF plain flour
50g Castor sugar
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Bicarb Soda
1/4 cup Lactose free Milk
Squeeze of Lemon juice
Punnet of Strawberries
Lactose free Cream (or cream, mascapone, yogurt etc.)
First things first, we want to get the strawberries going:
Roughly chop the berries and mix with a good handful of sugar. I won't tell you how much to use, because you should do it to taste, but you need enough to lightly coat the berries to draw out the juices.
You can also add in some extra flavourings now if you like- some scraped vanilla seeds, or even a quick splash of balsamic or raspberry balsamic would work really well.
Set aside the berries for an hour or so. The sugar will sweeten and draw out the juices of the berries almost creating a perfect strawberry sauce, yummm...
For the Shortcake:
Mix the milk and lemon juice together to acidulate it. You could use buttermilk instead, but I've not found a lactose free one before, so this will do the trick.
Place the dry ingredients together in a bowl, and mix together.
Rub the butter in with your fingertips until it looks nice and crumby.
(I had to use the mixer as my arms are partly out of action)
Mix the egg and milk mix together, then add into the flour combo and bring it together into a soft ball of dough.
Pat it out nice and thickly and either use a cutter or split it into 4 even pieces.
Brush the tops with milk, or water and sprinkle liberally with extra castor sugar.
Pop on a lined tray and into a pre heated 200*c oven for 10-12 minutes.
Allow to cool down.
Bringing it all together:
Beat the cream (or alternative) with some extra castor sugar until it's softly peaking, you can add in some vanilla too if you like.
Lightly crush the strawberries- I used a potato masher. We don't want a paste, just a rough smashing so the berries will mix through the cream nicely and not slip out of the shortcake the way they would if they were just sliced.
Gently fold the cream and berries together- spoon the berries out carefully leaving the juice behind, or it will thin the cream to much. We're looking for a lovely marbled effect with chunks of berries still intact.
Cut the shortcakes in half with a serrated knife.
Spoon a generous helping of berry cream onto the bottom half of the cake, then place the top half of the cake back on top.
Put a little pile of berries in the middle to look pretty, and spoon over some of the yummy strawberry juices.
Serve straight away, as it's not something that improves with time- and anyway, they're so pretty you won't be able to resist anyway!
These would be great for a BBQ, after a lunch or for afternoon tea. If I wanted them for dessert for a Spring Dinner, I would probably make thin discs of shortbread instead because I think the rich buttery crunch would be more elegant and provide a better contrast of textures. Just a more refined version of the shortcake is all.
littlej wolfed down my most photogenic example within minutes, so I guess that's a certain seal of approval from my family, and she can hardly wait for our own strawberries to fruit. The only problem is picking them before the dog sniffs them out and steals them all for himself!
So my Dear Readers, so you have any sweet treats growing in your garden, and do you have to fight anyone else for them like us?