imagine eating something that, for a few minutes, makes nothing else seem to matter.
this strawberry shortcake is AMAZING. amazing. like, make-you-forget-that-you-have-questions-about-the-meaning-of-life amazing. the drop biscuits come together like a dream and hold up perfectly while soaking in all of that syrupy strawberry juice. the berries are dark and sweet, the cream is light and dreamy-- between the berries, the juice, the biscuits, and the lightly sweetened cream, each bite actually made me whimper a little.
but there's a catch-- you have to have the right berries.
my parents came to visit me in portland a few years ago, and though we were wrapped in jackets and scarves, it was june berry season. we stopped by a produce market on sauvie island where we found a giant table of small and squishy strawberries that looked to me like they were almost ready for the compost pile. they had a sign that said "try me!" so we did. the look on my mother's face was, i'm sure, mirrored on my own-- "that's a strawberry? but it's SO GOOD!" they were a variety called hood, and i learned to look forward to their june arrival every year. i don't even know how to describe the flavor-- it's nothing like the jumbo, shiny, taut, shippable red fruits with the white centers that you find in the grocery. they are full of sugars and flavor, and are solid, deep red all the way through.
we grew honeoyes this year. not a big yield, but definitely a fine berry.
a variety i heard of for the first time this year, reported to be even better than hoods, is called shuksan. i'm a little broken hearted that i didn't get a chance to try them before they were gone. thing is, the good berries, the BEST berries, are generally an extremely short harvest, and don't last or transport well at all. you can get decent berries later in the summer, but for true transcendence, you need june-bearing varieties. when they're gone, they're gone, but thankfully, some of them freeze well.
the variety i did manage to get my hands on this year is called rainier. we got the last flat of berries at the u-district farmers market, and the next week, all of the june-bearing berries were finished. i made a pitcher of strawberry lemonade with one pint and froze the rest. (freeze in a single layer on a cookie sheet, then move to a freezer container.)
yesterday, i thawed some of the rainier berries and made this shortcake. best. idea. ever.
jon rowley's old-fashioned strawberry shortcake with drop biscuits
adapted from edible seattle, may/june 2010
for the berries:
3 pints organic, local, june-bearing strawberries, the reddest, juiciest, sweetest you can find
1-4 Tbsp sugar
rinse and hull the berries and chop into irregular chunks. mix the berries with a tablespoon of sugar or two and set aside to macerate for at least an hour. before serving, taste and add more sugar to taste. (the berries and their juices are the sweeteners in this dessert, so don't overdo it, but don't underdo it either!)
for the biscuits:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 oz butter, chilled (the recipe didn't specify, so i used salted since i had it on hand)
1 cup milk
2 Tbsp cream (optional-- i forgot this step and it was fine)
heat oven to 400 degrees.
stir dry ingredients together in large mixing bowl. cube the chilled butter and work it into the dry ingredients with your fingers to get a texture like a rough meal. stir in milk and mix until you have a soft dough that is pulling away from the sides of the bowl. (i tried not to overmix since i've heard that's the easiest way to get rock-hard biscuits. i don't bake, so i don't really know, but these turned out great.)
spoon the dough in 6 portions on a greased baking sheet. brush the tops with cream, if using. bake 10-15 minutes until golden. cool on a rack.
for the whipped cream:
2 cups heavy cream, well chilled
2 Tbsp sugar (or to taste)
whip the sugar and cream together using a wire whisk or electric mixer until soft peaks form.
slice a biscuit in half and top the bottom half with berries and juice, then a spoonful of cream. cover with the top half of the biscuit and add berries/juice and more cream.
enjoy, and whimper.
rainier strawberries-- schuh farms
cream-- golden glen creamery