This post is a guilty pleasure, short, and sweet, like the subject line, and it is all about one of summer’s most iconic and beloved desserts. When local strawberries are in season the world becomes a happier and more delicious place. We put them in spinach salads, we eat them with cheese, we eat them with a goat, we eat them in a boat. And for those who like to work a little for their reward, picking fresh fruit can be a fun way to spend a few hours, and introduce the kids to the land and its bounty, and put themselves in the shoes of a farmer. Here is a really cool interactive guide that lets you select the fruits and vegetables you want; you can check for organic or conventional, and it lets you know when and where to pick them!
Fresh, local berries blow away the imported varieties in taste and smell. When local strawberries are on our shelves, or under the canopy of your favourite farmer’s market they are all too easy to find; all you have to do is follow your nose. The distinctive, sweet and floral perfume is unmistakable and irresistible.Try sniffing a serviceable, imported strawberry; it’s pretty much devoid of scent, and the taste is similar; it leaves you unimpressed, leaves you wanting the real thing. And for our money, the best thing you can do with an Ontario strawberry, short of eating it immediately, is to make strawberry shortcake.
Everyone who loves strawberry shortcake has a favourite recipe. Some like to make a grand shortcake and bring it to the table on a cake plate and cut generous, messy slices while others go the small, individually baked scone or tea-biscuit route, serving a dainty, biscuit sized dessert. To macerate or not to macerate, that is the question. And the whipped cream? Plain and simple, or sweetened with a little sugar? Perhaps a little brandy blended into the cream, or folded with crème fraiche?
When I worked at Chez Piggy in Kingston years ago, the number one dessert in the summer was the strawberry shortcake with brandied cream. We couldn’t make enough of them. And for good reason; perfect sweet, plump, local berries, macerated with a little sugar to bring out their full flavor, piled into and onto a perfect tea biscuit and smothered with brandied cream; an indulgence of the highest order.
Chez Piggy Strawberry Shortcake
3 cups flour
2 tbs sugar
1 tbsp baking powder + 1 ½ tsp
¾ tsp cream of tartar
¾ tsp coarse salt
¾ cup shortening, chilled
¾ cup milk
3 pints strawberries, cleaned and hulled
¾ cup sour cream
¼ cup sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp brandy
1 cup 35% cream, whipped and chilled
To make biscuits, preheat oven to 400 F. Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, cream of tartar, and salt in a large bowl. Cut in shortening until mixture forms pea-sized pieces. Stir in egg and milk until just mixed. Turn dough out onto floured board and roll to a one-inch thickness, taking care not to overhandel. Cut out 24 biscuits with a 1 ½ inch diameter round cutter. Place ½ an inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes. Let cool before assembling.
To make filling, slice strawberries and miz with sugar. Let stand until cream is prepared.
To make brandied cream, place sour cream in a medium sized bowl and stir in sugar, lemon juice and brandy. Fold in whipped cream.
Cut biscuits horizontally and arrange 3 pieces on individual plates. Spoon on strawberries and generously cover with brandied cream. Top with remaining biscuits.