Monday, June 9, 2008

Fresh Pickin's

I'm not usually one for getting up early on a Saturday. In fact, I'm often not one for leaving the apartment on Saturday. I prefer to stay in my PJs all day and putter around the house, cooking a little, maybe tidying up a little, and generally enjoying a slow and relaxing day. Add 98-degree weather to the mix, and you'd be out of your mind to expect me to step beyond my front door.

So what was I doing getting up and dressed at 6:30 a.m. this past hot and steamy Saturday? I was preparing to go strawberry picking. Crawling around a field is another thing you typically won't find me doing, but there I was, dirty and sticky, greedily scavenging all the ripe berries I could get my hands on at Butler's Orchard. Sixteen pounds of strawberries and two dirty knees later, I was on my way home with my goods.

I have a tendency to underestimate amounts in almost all scenarios. I'll buy another 5-pound bag of potatoes when there's already one in the pantry, just in case. And then I'll use 6 of those potatoes to make mashed potatoes, even though there are only two of us eating, ignoring the fact that we can't eat 3 potatoes each. And, this Saturday, I bought 16 pounds of strawberries, even though I don't have nearly enough room in my fridge for that amount and, even if I did, couldn't possibly use them all before they started to go bad.

I ended up freezing most of them. The texture of a frozen strawberry, once it's thawed, is generally not very good, but I figured they'd be fine to use in things like strawberry lemonade and strawberry margaritas. I already made Strawberry Agua Fresca, which is a fabulously delicious summer drink, and I don't see why frozen berries wouldn't work fine in that, as well. To freeze strawberries, just rinse them clean and hull them, then arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet and store them in the freezer for a few hours. Once they're frozen, you can transfer them to a plastic freezer bag. Freezing them on a baking sheet first ensures that they won't stick together and freeze in one massive brick of strawberry ice.

Saturday night, I made strawberry shortcake. I was very tempted to use the Bisquick recipe. I've made it before, and it's really good. And it's so easy! I'd already been standing in the kitchen for several hours, cleaning, hulling, and storing berries, and the thought of simply mixing up some biscuit dough in a bowl and dropping it in big, careless dollops on a sheet tray was very tempting. But in the end I decided to be a good blogger and make them from scratch. I used a recipe from Joy of Baking, which begins with the assertion that the only proper way to make strawberry shortcake is with a cream scone. So that's what I did.

The shortcakes were very good. No surprise there—I mean, it’s strawberry shortcake. Of course, my scones didn’t bake up as big and fluffy as the ones in the picture at Joy of Baking. That’s no surprise, either. My relationship with scones, much like my relationship with biscuits, is strained, at best. There’s plenty of room to grow there. But you know what I discovered? Anything can be made instantly better by smothering it in sweet berries and fresh cream. Especially a flat scone.

Strawberry Shortcakes
from Joy of Baking

Scones:
2 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar
2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (76 grams) cold unsalted butter
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (120 ml) light whipping cream or half and half (12 - 18% butterfat)

Egg Wash:
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon cream

Filling:
2 pounds (900 grams) fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/4 cup - 1/3 cup (50 - 65 grams) granulated white sugar (or to taste)

Topping:
1 cup (240 ml) heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon (14 grams) granulated white sugar

Scones: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) and place rack in middle of oven. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut the butter into small pieces and blend into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or two knives. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs. Whisk together the egg, cream and vanilla extract and add to the flour mixture, mixing just until the dough comes together. Do not over mix the dough.

Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead dough gently four or five times and then pat or roll the dough into a circle that is about 7 inches (18 cm) round and about 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick. With a 3 inch (7 cm) round cookie cutter, cut out rounds and place the scones on the baking sheet. Make an egg wash of one well-beaten egg mixed with 1 tablespoon cream and brush the tops of the scones with this mixture.

Bake for about 15 - 20 minutes or until nicely browned and a toothpick inserted in the center of a scone comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack.

Filling: Wash and slice the strawberries. Place about one third of the strawberries in a large bowl and crush them with a potato masher or fork. Add the remaining sliced strawberries, along with the sugar. (The amount of sugar used will depend on how sweet the berries are.) Set aside to macerate at room temperature for about 30 to 60 minutes.

For whipped cream: In a large mixing bowl place the whipping cream, vanilla extract, and sugar and stir to combine. Cover and chill the bowl and beaters in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. When chilled, beat the mixture until stiff peaks form. The whipped cream will hold for several hours in the refrigerator.

To serve: Cut the scones in half and place the bottom half of the scone (soft side up) on a dessert plate. Top with some of the strawberries. Place the top half of the scone on the strawberries. Top with whipped cream and a few more strawberries. If there is any juice from the strawberries, drizzle a little over the top of the scone. Serve immediately.

13 comments:

noble pig said...

I'm sorry but that was an awesome way to spend a Saturday...heat and all...looks like perfection to me.

Jeff said...

I see no problem with that for a Saturday.

16lbs is a good amount. I was doing backflips that I got about 3lbs out of my garden and now have a ok great now what look. Hmm..cereal and a bad attempt at strawberry rhubarb pie later I hate strawberries. However, I like this shortcake idea so I may burn the remaing attempting that.

Grace said...

i sort of wish i had been doing what you were doing saturday rather than being completely lazy and wandering around my apartment. if i had, i'd be enjoying a nice portion of delicious strawberry shortcake (my summertime favorite) right now instead of a turkey sandwich. dang.

The Urban Eater said...

Bummer! Strawberry season just passed in Tampa, but I picked a bunch of blueberries last weekend!
And I totally agree, although my leisurely day rolls into Sunday, too!

Kevin said...

I haven't been strawberry picking in a long time! I will have to do it again. That strawberry shortcake looks really good!

giz said...

I'm totally jealous that your strawberries are ready. Last time I went strawberry picking I think I ate more than I picked so now I just go to the farm and pick up a flat.
The shortcakes - yowzer -

Chuck said...

Holy Moly... 16 lbs of strawberries! That's a lot of picking. How many pounds did you eat while picking? ;-)

The strawberry shortcake looks really good! We have a super easy strawberry kuchen recipe, if you need to use up your strawberries.

Deborah said...

That's a lot of strawberries! The shortcake looks amazing!

Brentwood Kitchen Shopper said...

Strawberries must be the single food item, that I can eat without end. Yum

Vicarious Foodie said...

Chuck: I've never made a kuchen before. Do share!

CEW said...

You should check out Larriland Farms. They do pick-your-own stuff for all kinds of fruits (blueberries, apples, peaches, etc.) and veggies (beets and spinach to just name two). Their website is www.pickyourown.com.

--CEW

Vicarious Foodie said...

Thanks CEW! I didn't even know about this place, but it's pretty close to me. Definitely going to check it out.

Elle said...

Oh my gosh, that looks so good! I think it would even be delicious for breakfast right now.