When it’s my friend Sue’s birthday, or at least if I can find one, I send her a birthday card with strawberries on it.  Sometimes I can’t find one.  Sue loves strawberries and so when I knew she was coming for our Mother’s Day cook-out, I knew what the dessert was going to be.   It’ll be just perfect for Memorial Day, too, though I’ll be busy making carrot cake sheet cakes for a graduation party.  (Carrot cake was one of my first posts as a blogger.  Things, luckily, have really improved!  If all goes well, I’ll take some better photographs than I did three years ago.)

Taking vanilla bean out with my kids’ Mickey Mouse spoon.

I only make Strawberry Shortcake once or twice a year, so I try and make it light, layered with lots of ripe fruit, full of textural and temperature contrasts, and touched just enough by two kinds sweet cream–frozen and fresh whipped.  It’s a celebration  of the start of summer, though if we’re lucky, we have strawberries coming for a good part of summer in Minnesota.

For the best Strawberry Shortcake, you need each ingredient to be fresh and/or the best you can find or make.  So for this dessert, I made the shortcakes as well as homemade vanilla ice cream. (Baby spoon used at right still in drawer and my kids are 25 and 34.  We’ve moved 20 times since the oldest was a baby, so it’s been through at least 20 kitchens.  Geez.)    Ripe strawberries (some mashed) and just-whipped cream, of course.   My other tiny, but critical element is a gentle smear of raspberry jam on each half of the sliced sweet biscuits we use for shortcakes.   This recipe makes enough for 8 with a few shortcakes leftover for breakfast the next day. (Slice them, spread with butter, slip under the broiler and serve with jam and lots of hot coffee.)
 

Try this:

 strawberry shortcake with homemade shortcakes and 
            ice cream  serves 8 

8 freshly baked and cooled shortcakes, each sliced in half (recipe below)
1/2 cup best quality raspberry jam, room temperature
2 qts ripe strawberries, stemmed and sliced.  Mash about 1/4 of the berries with a tablespoon of sugar
             and mix the rest of the berries into the sugared ones.
1 1/2 qts homemade vanilla ice cream*

1 cup whipping cream, whipped with 1/4 tsp vanilla and a pinch of sugar

 To assemble...for each shortcake in a deep individual serving bowl or plate:

  1. Spread the two halves of the shortcake gently with a little raspberry jam, using about half a tablespoon for each half.  Place one half (jammed side up) in the bottom of bowl or plate and top with sliced strawberries.  
  2. Dollop in a little whipped cream on top of the berries and place the second half jammed shortcake on top.  Spoon on more strawberries and top with whipped cream.
  3. Garnish with a couple strawberry slices.
  4. Add a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream to the side of the cake and berries or on top, if you wish.
  5. Strawberry shortcake is good with a cup of coffee.

 *I made Jeni’s Ugandan Vanilla Ice Cream.  You can make any kind you’d like or even buy some best quality vanilla if you don’t have time to make it.  This recipe from epicurious.com is similar to Jeni’s, though Jeni’s has no eggs.

 My ice cream:

Chilling the ice cream mixture.

All frozen and ready for you in about 25 minutes.

And the shortcakes:

Making the shortcakes, which are like a sweet biscuit.
Shortcakes cooling on the rack.  Don’t want them too brown.

 Recipe for Shortcakes from Fanny Farmer’s Baking Book, by Marion Cunningham:

fluffy shortcakes makes 16

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 4 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t cream of tartar
  • 3 T sugar
  • 8 T butter
  • 1 egg, well-beaten
  • 1/3 c milk or cream,  plus droplets if needed  

    Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Get out 2 8 or 9″ round cake pans or a large baking sheet, but do not grease.

  Combine the cake flour, salt, baking powder, cream of tartar, and sugar in a mixing bowl, and stir ad toss them together with a fork or wire whisk. Cut the butter into bits and add it to the dry ingredients.  Then, using two knives or a pasty blender (I do this in the food processor.), or your fingertips, work the butter into the dry ingredients until you have a mixture of fine, irregular crumbs that resemble fresh bread crumbs.  Add the beaten egg and the milk all at once, and stir with a fork until the mixture just holds together.
    Turn out (it will probably be sticky) onto a smooth, well-floured surface, and knead 12-14 times.  Pat into a rectangle 1/2″ thick.  Cut the dough into squares or rectangles, using a knife, or into rounds with a 2″ cookie cutter.  Place the biscuits touching each other in the cake pans or on the baking sheet.  Bake for 15\to 20 minutes, or until very lightly browned.

two-dog kitchen and around the hood or other stuff I’m cooking:

 

I had fun making an eggplant risotto (lots of tomatoes and basil) and a little red-winey salad for dinner the other night.   I like cooking risotto when I’m not making five other things to go with it.  (I typically do asparagus risotto with filets for a celebration dinner, for example.)   With a nod to the food world’s discussion of how long it takes to make certain dishes, I’m with the group who wants to know, “Can we be honest about how long it takes to make risotto?”  My F&W recipe says 25-30 minutes, but the rice is still crunchy then and the broth isn’t all used.  Closer to 40 minutes was right, I think.  I find that I can do a few other things in the kitchen and stir periodically, I’m not chained that risotto pot.  Neither can I go cut some peonies or trail behind my husband down the stairs to the tv either.  I haven’t yet tried the oven version that was in Oprah’s magazine a couple of months ago.  This will be a lovely dish later in the summer when all these ingredients, including fresh basil, are in good supply at the Saint Paul Farmer’s Market. Now that I think of it, there’s a microwave risotto in the Fanny Farmer Cookbook that’s really good.   It’s actually called “Spinach and Rice,”  I think.  (That, after all these years,  is still my go-to microwave section — thanks to Marion Cunningham.) Lovely for summer–no heat.

 Bleeding Hearts (I have pink and white) and Pansies…  
I’ll decorate the sheet carrot cake next weekend with the edible pansies.

One of these girls lays eggs so big they don’t fit in the carton!  (Top right corner)

I got more eggs from Cathy’s ladies this week. (Cathy’s a friend and fine pianist whose family owns a terrific coffee business, Velasquez Family Coffee, in St. Paul)  I usually save them for an omelet dinner, poached eggs on grilled cheese tomatoes:

or
Poached eggs on grilled asparagus and mushrooms with hot balsamic vinaigrette
or even Dave’s favorite, Porridged Eggs (on my dinnerplace blog)

 and I did make an omelet, but I also spread my wings and beat some up to use in making some fried chicken out of the Olives cookbook (the recipe is actually for cornish hens; I subbed boneless chicken thighs and served them with a spicy black bean-ham salad.)  This chicken is worth the price of the book.

Tucker sneaking around the cookbook corner.  Red stool @ counter = my kitchen table!

Hey, Mom!  Time to eat yet?

These are my youngest peonies planted in the shade on the west side.  Must be moved to sun.  I have some on the south side that are literally on the ground because they’re so big and I don’t have a peony cage for them.

  
If you liked this, I think you’d like my Fresh Berry Cake--.  Take the components separately to a Memorial Day Picnic. Make it with a one-layer butter cake sliced in half, or buy a Sara Lee (or bakery) pound cake, slice it horizontally, and serve a rectangular version.  Time for berries!  Recipe for Fresh Berry Cake courtesy Aida Mollenkamp, whose recipes–every one–have been delicious and spot-on.

The other thing I get to do this week is make a BBQ Chicken Pizza for our 50 Women Game-Changers (Gourmet Live); this week–almost the end–is Foodspotting.  I really love making pizza, though I don’t do it often.  (My son Sean makes the best pizza I’ve ever eaten and I’m embarrassed to think how much pizza I’ve eaten.  And in how many countries!)

A little guilty admission: I recently moved my computer to the basement temporarily and find I’m blogging while I watch Morning Joe, one of the few tv shows to which I’m addicted.  So as Joe holds forth and Mika never gets to say her piece, the blog gets written.   Thanks, guys.

Sing a new song,
Alyce