Strawberry shortcake is elegant, unpretentious, and simple. Yet so often it goes unbearably awry. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen this thing that often lives near the strawberry display in the supermarket. It’s a little bowl-shaped golden cake, encased in plastic packaging, that bills itself as the shortcake component of the dessert, and sometimes makes the claim that it’s ready for reddi-wip, or some such other nonsense.
This is not a shortcake. This is an angel food cake — generously speaking. Or less generously — in Sarah’s words — it is a Twinky without the filling. Shortcake has a technical definition, and what it is is a biscuit. That simple. Sometimes it’s a biscuit of the same sort that you’d serve with fried chicken. Or sometimes it’s sweetened slightly — which it is in this recipe, here.
Here are some helpful rules for heading out to a local farm to pick your own produce:
Always wear sunscreen. And don’t forget dabs for your neck, ears, and the small of your back (plumbers out there, you know what I’m talking about).
Drink lots of water, and take lots of breaks. Fruit season is hot here in the mid-Atlantic, and you wouldn’t want to overdo it.
Don’t pick more than you need. Call this the ‘save some for the fishes’ rule, if you want. The point is that the next group might want some berries / peaches / asparagus, too.
And above all, be nice to the plants.
It wasn’t my plan to start a new mead this past week. On Monday, I thought to myself that this summer might be a good time to test the waters of melomel, fruit mead, a style that I had never attempted before. But later in the summer would be better, I thought, when blackberries were ready, or even once pears had come into their bloom. Definitely, there should be melomel sometime this season. But definitely, that sometime was not now.
And then there were strawberries — buckets and buckets of the best strawberries in the greater Philadelphia area, ripe almost to bursting, at a price that was far too good to be refused.
Strawberries and rhubarb are a classic combination. They’re sweet and sour, bright and luxurious, irresistible as dessert, or as jam, or in just about any other context that I can rattle off. David Lebovitz recently extolled their virtue, cooked together with sweet wine and honey, as a compote.* And in the rhubarb entry of The Flavor Bible, Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg place strawberries in bold caps with an asterisk, signifying that this is one of those “Holy Grail” pairings that are the most highly recommended by the greatest number of experts.
But then, you don’t need some fancy book to tell you that. One needs only look at the critical mass of strawberry-rhubarb pie recipes out there (a quick Google search yields more than four million results) to figure out that this is one of the most beloved flavor combinations in world cuisine.
So … strawberries. They’re in season in the mid-Atlantic. For real this time. They weren’t just a couple of weeks ago, when I made my mixed berry tart. Those strawberries were trucked up from Florida — characteristically swollen and colorful, but also characteristically bland. The strawberries in this post are different. They are from right […]
Someone at work is having a baby shower, Sarah said. Will you make a dessert? Sure, I thought. I had just been watching this sexy video chronicling the construction of a Sachertorte — a classic Viennese chocolate-on-chocolate-on-apricot number that l desperately wanted to reproduce. So I restarted the video and showed it to Sarah. And […]