A true strawberry shortcake IS NOT made with those packages of little round sponge cakes you find in the produce department, nor is it made with anything that comes out of an aerosol can! A true strawberry shortcake is the culinary equivalent of The Mona Lisa, and Beethoven’s Fifth. Once you have experienced the real thing I doubt you will ever go back to the soggy sponge cake variety again.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
A few gratings of nutmeg
½ cup sugar
¾ cup cold butter or margarine
2/3 cup cold water
Egg wash – (1 egg white beaten with 1 tablespoon of cold water)
Preheat the oven to 500°. Sift the flour, baking powder and nutmeg together. Add the sugar and mix well. Cut the cold butter into small pieces and using a wire pastry blender, cut it into the flour mixture. When finished no piece of butter should be larger than a small pea. Make a well in the center of the flour and butter mixture and pour in the cold water. Using a table fork, stir round and round until all of the dry ingredients are moistened. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead very gently. Don’t worry if the dough is rough and cracked. That’s O.K. The more you knead the dough the tougher the product will be. Pat or rollout to be about one inch thick. Cut into three inch circles. Pace an inch or two apart on a baking sheet lined with bakers’ parchment. Gather the scraps of dough up, very gently press them back together, pat out and cut as many more circles as possible. When all the circles are cut, paint the tops and side with the egg wash and place in the center of the pre heated oven. Bake at 500° for five minutes, then reduce heat to 350° and continue baking for another twenty to twenty five minutes, or until golden brown on top. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Choose perfect berries. Rinse them and drain well. Choose several large perfect ones to use as garnish. Remove the stems and slice the berries. Sprinkle with sugar to taste. Toss gently and allow to sit while the shortcakes are cooling any you whip the cream.
Please, please use real cream, not something that comes in an aerosol can or any of the whipped toppings. Your shortcakes and the strawberries are perfect creations. They deserve natures own, real, rich and sinful whipping cream. Have your cream and your utensils cold. Pour the cream into a deep mixing bowl and with a wire whisk, rotary beater or the whisk attachment on your mixer, whip the cream until it holds soft peaks. If you are going to add sugar, now is the time to do it. Personally, I prefer not to add sugar, just a bit of good vanilla or even a bit of brandy. Now, continue whipping until the cream is quite firm an holds stiff peaks. If you continue whipping much longer you will get butter.
Split one shortcake in half and set the bottom half on an elegant dessert plate. Top with a generous scoop of the berries, including some of the juice from the bottom of the bowl. Cover with the other half of the shortcake. Top with a generous dollop of cream and finish with one perfect berry and perhaps a small sprig of fresh mint. Now that is Strawberry shortcake!