I have a penchant of declaring arbitrary celebration days (remember March Muffin Madness?). Last week, I wanted a reason to celebrate something so I declared April 29 The Official Dessert By Candy Strawberry Shortcake Day.
Happy Strawberry Shortcake Day Everyone!!
Okay, now that the greeting is out of the way, of course the only way to celebrate is by making and munching some delicious strawberry shortcake. Strawberry shortcake has always been a bit of a deceiving name to me because it is the furthest thing away from "cake". In fact, it's really a tea biscuit filled with macerated strawberries and cream. The basic premise is simple so it opens up lots of opportunities for interpretation.
When I see all those containers of strawberries on sale at the supermarket, how can I resist bringing them home? However, I personally prefer to use a mixture of fresh and individually frozen berries. Nothing compares in flavour when the fruit is picked ripe at the height of the season but that is not always possible. Therefore, frozen berries offer a bit of consistency in terms of quality. A squeeze of lemon juice works wonders to brighten up the flavour. To fancy things up a bit, I added Grand Marnier.
If classic is what you have in mind, chantilly cream is what you're after. It certainly is good but I adore the richness of creme anglaise (i.e. custard sauce). For my version of strawberry shortcake, I made a vanilla creme anglaise and dispensed it using an iSi Pro. The result is the lightness of a loose whipped cream combined with the yumminess of custard.
The biscuit part is the most challenging. Though deceptively simple, there is also nowhere to hide so technique is everything (kinda like my love-hate relationship with pie dough). A tender biscuit requires a very gentle touch. However! If you do end up overworking the dough just a smidge, serving the biscuit warm can somewhat mask the toughness. Oh yeah, and drenching it with cream and syrup doesn't hurt either. I used the butter biscuit recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Bread Bible. It's an interesting recipe because it uses hardboiled egg yolks in the dough. The last time I worked with hardboiled egg yolks was in a linzer cookie dough. I have a long way to go to perfect my biscuit technique, sigh.
Just before serving, sandwich some strawberries and cream between a biscuit sliced in half. With a sprinkling of icing sugar and some fresh strawberries halves to garnish, this is one gorgeous dessert to kick off the beginning of summer!
(psst: serving the shortcakes at 5C plus windchill is a bad idea. Everything hardens except for the cream which loves the cold temperature.)