Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Monday was my thirtieth birthday. Birthdays, especially milestone birthdays, are always an excellent excuse for gluttony, so even though I’d be receiving cake at the office, a Chinese dinner on Monday night, and a beach bonfire with a homemade-marshmallow smorgasbord the following weekend, I decided that on Sunday night, my birthday eve, I should cook some treats for myself. Plus, we had a guest, A’s mom, so I could pass my feast off as hospitality instead of selfishness. I made the infamous Brie pasta (which, due to its all-out decadence and my passionate love for it, I’d prudently avoided making for more than a year) and a nice green salad. Then I made strawberry shortcake.
I’d bought an obscene amount of strawberries at the farmers’ market that morning (a half-flat, six pint baskets, for $8). I sliced about a basket and a half of them and put them in a bowl with some sugar to macerate (hee, I love that word) while I made the biscuits.
Though I’ll contentedly eat strawberries and whipped cream over pound cake or angel food cake, or even those round divoted “strawberry shortcake” bases from the grocery store, I don’t call that real strawberry shortcake. Real strawberry shortcake should be made with biscuits. But since I’m not a baker or a glutton for punishment, and it was my birthday and I felt I deserved to take a shortcut, I made the biscuits from Bisquick, using the recipe on the side of the box (I halved it, so it conveniently made just three). They were easy and they tasted great. But to compensate, I made real whipped cream, which I’d never done before. I chilled the bowl and the beaters in the refrigerator. I poured the cream into the bowl and beat it with the electric hand mixer. It took long enough that I started to worry it would never firm up (and started sighing for a KitchenAid stand mixer), but it finally started to thicken, at which point I added a little sugar and vanilla. Finally, after a bit more beating, I achieved soft peaks. To serve, I broke up the still-warm biscuits with my hands into three bowls, spooned the juicy strawberries on top, and scooped on the whipped cream.
I don’t eat strawberry shortcake often, and whenever I eat it, a tide of nostalgia washes over me. It reminds me, intensely, wistfully, of childhood summers. (Actually, what it truly reminds me of is strawberry pie, absolutely my favorite treat my mother ever made, probably because, given the briefness of strawberry season in Minnesota, it was so rare and fleeting. I never felt like I got enough of it. Now I don’t get my mom’s version at all, and even the inferior store or restaurant versions are hard to find.) Anyway, what I’m trying to say was that this strawberry shortcake was heavenly. Now that I know how easy it is to make, I’m going to be tempted to make it often throughout California’s ridiculously long strawberry season. Certainly I might have to make it again this weekend; after all, I’ve still got at least three pints of strawberries to use up.
1½ pints fresh strawberries
2–4 tablespoons sugar
1 and 1/6 cup Bisquick
1½ tablespoons butter, melted
¼ cup milk
1½ tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 drop vanilla
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Remove the stems from the strawberries and cut strawberries into ¼-inch-thick slices. Place in a large bowl and sprinkle with 2–4 tablespoons sugar (depending on how sweet your strawberries are). Mix well and set aside at room temperature for about 20 minutes.
3. To make biscuits, stir Bisquick, melted butter, milk, and 1½ tablespoons sugar together in a mixing bowl until a soft dough forms. Drop by 3 spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake 10 minutes or until golden brown.
4. Whip the cream to soft peaks in a cold bowl, adding a teaspoon of sugar and a drop of vanilla.
5. Break up each biscuit into a bowl, spoon strawberries over it, and top with a dollop of whipped cream.
Time: 30 minutes