Summer Recipe: Old-Fashioned Strawberry Shortcake

When it comes to desserts there are usually only two categories I'm interested in: chocolate and dark chocolate — but then there's strawberry shortcake which sneaks into my repertoire every summer and I'm so glad it does! Strawberry shortcake delights us all with its bejeweled, sparkly appearance on the picnic table. Here's the classiest recipe I know for real, honest-to-goodness shortcake, which is just essential to making this dessert properly. Read on for step-by-step photos and the recipe.

Growing up I went to many summer parties with store-bought pound cake, strawberries and Cool Whip piled high to form this so-called "strawberry shortcake." I was turned off for years by the idea of this grocery-store style dessert. I came around to embrace the real thing — fresh cream, juicy real berries, tender, sugar-encrusted sweet biscuits; now this was an idea I could get behind!

The extravagant layers beg to be devoured and are a great party dessert, you can lay out all the ingredients and people can assemble to their heart's content. You've been warned — this dessert is delicious and addictive!

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I'm a fiend for biscuits so it's no surprise I adore this treat, in its most old-fashioned iteration. You're not dealing with many items here, so ingredients have to be of the freshest and highest quality. The cream scone/biscuit base makes the perfect basket for just-macerated sun-ripened strawberries and softly whipped cream.

It's a rather triumphant dessert that everyone will coo at. The shortcake also makes a superb accompaniment to morning coffee, the tender butter cakes soaking up the sharp bitter coffee nicely.

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Strawberry Shortcake
serves 10

Strawberry Filling
4 cups strawberries, roughly chopped
sugar to taste

Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons sugar
pinch salt

Cream Biscuits (Shortcake)
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, plus extra for glazing
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 425°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In the bowl of a food processor (or just a regular bowl) pulse (or stir) the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar to combine. Add the butter cubes to processor and pulse until the butter is cut into the flour, until whole pieces of butter the size of large kidney beans remain (the butter should seem a little bit big to be left like that, but don't worry, you'll process more later).

Add the cream and vanilla and pulse again until a shaggy, sandy dough is formed. Turn dough onto a dry, clean work surface and gather all the bits into a ball, handling it as little as possible. You want the dough to be barely holding together. The dough will be sticky.

Roll the dough ball to about an inch thick and cut with old jar, glass, biscuit cutter or cookie cutter. Place on lined baking sheet, brush lightly with cream (adds a nice brown to finished dough) and sprinkle the turbinado sugar onto each of the creamed, uncooked biscuits.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until just golden brown. Allow to cool on wire rack.

To assemble:
First bake the sweet biscuits. While the biscuits are in the oven, chop the strawberries and season with a little sugar, to taste. The sugar helps the fruit become juicy. You want the juice. Set aside for at least 10 minutes to fully develop flavor and juices.

Whip the whipping cream in a stand mixer and add sugar and vanilla. Whip until soft peaks form.

To serve, slice a cooled shortcake in half, pile high with berries and a dollop of whipped cream. I like it best served at room temperature, but cold or biscuits hot from oven are both fine.

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Related: Recipe: DIY Strawberry Shortcake

(Images: Leela Cyd Ross)

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