Monday, May 11, 2009

Recipe: Weston's strawberry shortcake

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Weston, my younger son, is seven, and one of his favorite after-school activities is the cooking class he takes one afternoon a week. It might be his favorite class because he adores his science teacher so much, and she leads the brigade of young chefs. But it might be his favorite because he realizes it's the rare seven-year-old who can bring home something handcrafted and still truly edible to his family. He's baked cornbread and cookies, pizza and casseroles.

A few weeks ago he came home with a photocopy of a recipe for strawberry shortcake. He'd never had it before, but because esteemed science teacher handed out the recipe, he knew he had to have it. By the time I had a chance to pull it together a few weeks had passed, but he was just as enthusiastic. He wasn't crazy about the biscuit, but the fruit and whipped cream pleased him immensely. I thought the whole thing was divine.

The trick to good strawberry shortcake is to macerate the fruit in sugar and a little lemon while you're making the biscuits and whipping the cream. The sugar draws out the juices in the fruit and makes a sauce with no work and no cooking. The berries keep their fresh taste and most of their texture.

Weston's strawberry shortcake
  • 4 cups strawberries, sliced
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 cup cream
  • 2 Tbsp confectioner's sugar
Toss the strawberries, 1/4 cup sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest in a large bowl. Let stand while making biscuits.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Using your fingertips, rub in the butter until the mixture resembled small crumbs. Add the egg and milk, stirring by hand just enough to form a moist dough. Pat the dough out into a rectangle and cut into squares. Place the squares of dough on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and bake about 15 minutes, until tops are beginning to brown. Cool on a rack.

While the biscuits are baking, whip the cream with an electric mixer (or, if you're really ambitious, show off your muscles and do it by hand). When the cream is starting to look foamy, add the confectioner's sugar and continue to beat until the whipped cream holds soft peaks.

To serve, split open a biscuit, spoon on some strawberries with their juice, and top with the whipped cream.

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