On a gloomy, bleak, midwinter morning, only a bright little strawberry offered a splash of color.
Studding the raw shortcake dough in front of me, it was like a small ruby jewel against the cement-colored sky.
Quite honestly, I was enjoying the morning. Despite its tendency to push me towards gloom, these pale mornings extend into the afternoon, prompting journalistic thoughts and deep philosophical questions that result in either delicious baked goods or burying of the nose deep into another food history book.
(Currently re-reading Bee Wilson’s Consider The Fork, my all-time favorite food research book that will never, ever grow old, wondering why we no longer carry personal dining knives on our belts.)
This is ideal writing weather. Fortunately, it is also ideal cooking weather — there’s nothing going on outside, everyone is busy unto themselves. There is no better time to face the stove with ambition, taking the time to lavish upon neatly dicing strawberries and giving into the urge to create something tasty.
Because it is not really the season for fresh and beautiful fruits, I didn’t expect much from my strawberry shortcake. All I knew was that it needed to be simple and sweet.
Fortunately, by quite a happy accident, the batch of strawberries I snatched from the store happened to be bright, juicy and remarkably good. Go figure.
I broke out an old stand-by recipe and went to town. One thing I love about making old, familiar recipes is the way they become muscle memory. There’s very little thinking required, just simple memorization and the ability to tell when things are perfect or when they’ve gone wrong.
Sugar. Flour. Cream.
So, without further ado, here’s my recipe for strawberry shortcake. Hopefully it brightens up your dreary midwinter blues!
Or, you can do what I do (proudly wearing the badge of a Portland hipster foodie as I realize I’m leaning into the curve) and jam out to some meandering acoustic tunes while you bake, letting the bleak morning run into the afternoon., aided by a mug of coffee.
5 T sugar
2 c flour
2 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/2 stick of cold, cubed butter
5 – 9 medium strawberries, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 c heavy cream
- In a medium-sized bowl, combine sugar, flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, strawberries and cubed butter. Mix to combine, coating butter and berries with flour.
- Add the heavy cream, stirring with a wooden spoon (or your hands– don’t be afraid to get messy!) until combined. Avoid over-mixing your dough! It should still be a little ragged and definitely not sticky.
- Transfer dough to a greased baking sheet, spreading dough to a large, flat disc about 1 1/2 inches thick. If desired, brush with an egg wash (1 egg, beaten with a tablespoon of water) for shine and sprinkle with sugar.
- Bake at 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden, ensuring the center is no longer moist.
- Let cool, cut, and serve with whipped cream and fresh strawberries.