Berry picking shouldn’t be a rare occurrence in anybody’s life. There is nothing like walking barefoot through blueberry rows or a strawberry patch, bucket swinging, fingers dripping, the sun beating down on your hair while you reach for handfuls of colour.
Last week found me kneeling in the straw, filling quarts of strawberries and chatting it up with my sister. Berry picking isn’t comfortable, but I wouldn’t like it so much if it was. The bugs and heat and itches are part of summer, as are the long conversations with people you love and the explosions of flavour when you pop a fresh-picked berry in your mouth.
I soaked in every minute of our morning. Because summer is my favourite season, and because we’ll be saying goodbye to Michigan in little more than a month.
At the end of it, I looked with triumph at the streaks of sticky juice laced through my fingers, and I didn’t wash my hands until I got home.
That night we did the only thing that reasonable people do with buckets of strawberries only hours-old: we made strawberry shortcake!
Growing up in the South, strawberry shortcake made a regular appearance at our dinner table. We didn’t use any particular recipe–there were several in Mom’s cookbooks to choose from, and Mema often bought cakes from the grocery store.
When I made my own version, I tweaked my biscuit dough recipe for the base. These shortcakes are richer and more dense than a regular biscuit, thanks to the addition of an egg, and the addition of sugar (or maple syrup) makes them sweet!
We used to sugar the strawberries ahead of time, but I chose to pass on this step. While sugaring the berries does coax out a nice juice, I always felt that the sugar masked the berry flavour and made the whole dessert a little too sweet.
However, if you serve the strawberry shortcake with a pitcher of milk for pouring (as Mom used to do!) the desserts will still be very moist.
Beating cream cheese into the whipped cream is an unexpected twist that you can surprise your family with(:
Strawberry Shortcake with Cream Cheese Filling
For the shortcakes:
- 2 cups unbleached flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 Tbsp sugar or maple syrup*
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 egg
For the filling:
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- 8 oz cream cheese
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 2 quarts fresh strawberries washed, hulled, and sliced
Preheat the oven to 400, and set out the cream cheese to soften.
Stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.
In a separate bowl, mix the cream and egg. Pour cream mixture into flour mixture; stir to combine.
Divide the dough into 12 pieces and place, touching, on a baking stone or buttered cookie sheet. Use your fingers or a spoon to gently round and flatten each piece of dough.
Bake until golden and fluffy, about 12-15 minutes. Don't open the oven until at least 10 minutes have passed!
While the shortcakes bake, pour the 2/3 cup cream into a bowl and beat with a hand mixer until soft peaks begin to form. Add cream cheese and sugar; beat until smooth.
To serve, let the shortcakes cool slightly, then split open and pile with strawberries and cream. Top with the other shortcake half. Drizzle with milk, if desired.
*To substitute the sugar for maple syrup, reduce cream by 1 Tbsp and add 3 Tbsp maple syrup to the egg and cream mixture. Reduce baking temperature to 375.