Strawberry season is full-bore, yay! We don’t grow them in our garden, though my grandma used to. Sis has a patch in her garden, though. The only thing fun about picking strawberries is popping them in your mouth while you do it. Otherwise it’s hunched-over, hunt-and-peck labor.
So we order them from a local grower. How do we know when they’re ready? When the ad appears in the local weekly announcing they are taking orders. Then I wind up with 4, 8, 16 quarts or more and knowing what I’ll be doing with some but not all.
And the first thing that gets done with them is to make strawberry shortcake. The recipe is from my dad’s mom, though I can’t guarantee old-world charm: It wasn’t until I was grown up that I discovered their special chocolate chip cookie recipe was the same as the one on the Toll House chocolate chip bag.
It’s a biscuit-like cake, not a sweet, spongy one. Those discs you see in the grocery store? Pure heresy. If you’ve never had a biscuit-like shortcake, you have to try this one. The combination of the barely-sweet buttermilk-scented crumbly cake with sweetened strawberries and whipped cream is to die for.
Note: Dad likes to butter his shortcake before ladling on the strawberries, but I don’t do that often. It impedes the berry juice from seeping into the shortcake. Oh, we WANT the berry juice seeping into the shortcake.
Watch out for the cereal effect. You know, how the milk and the box of cereal never run out at the same time. You’ll find yourself running out of shortcake with berries left, so you have to make more shortcake. Or you’ll run out of berries with shortcake left, so you have to mix up some more sweetened strawberries. Beware!
strawberry buttermilk shortcake
The original recipe uses all-purpose flour. I’ve found it works just as well with white whole wheat flour. While the shortcake is baking, you can prepare the strawberries.
prep: 15 minutes
to table: 35 minutes
oven: 425 degrees for 20 minutes
2 cups white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup canola oil
Oil an 8-inch or 9-inch square pan.
In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients; flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt. In a medium bowl, beat together the wet ingredients: buttermilk, oil, and egg. Add wet ingredients to dry, and mix together.
Pour batter into the oiled 8- or 9-inch pan. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.
1 quart strawberries, washed and hulled
granulated white sugar to taste (start with a few tablespoons; you may find yourself using up to 1/3 cup of sugar)
Coarsely mash berries, releasing juice yet keeping good-sized chunks of strawberry. Add sugar to taste.
To serve: cut a square-shaped piece of shortcake from the pan and split like a biscuit. Butter if desired. Spoon on heaps of sweetened strawberry mixture. Top with whipped cream if desired, or vanilla ice cream to be really decadent. Good warm or cold.
Nutrition information (per 1 of 9 generous servings): 293 calories; 9.4g fat; 21mg cholesterol; 321mg sodium; 50g carbohydrate; 4g fiber; 30g sugars; 5.2g protein; 1% vitamin A; 63% vitamin C; 8% calcium; 6% iron