In my O.C. neighborhood over the last few days, strawberry stands have started selling their bounty. Berries by the basket, and berries by the box. Ready for hungry mouths.
One is a Thacker stand. A vendor told me that Thacker opened a strawberry farm 15 years ago in Irvine, now has farms in Oxnard, Santa Maria, and Watsonville.
I couldn’t help thinking about those plump red jewels last night when I was trying to go to sleep. Yes, some people count sheep.
Me? I think about food.
Of course, I love strawberry shortcake, and I think the recipe I use makes some of the best biscuit-like “cake” around. Years ago we taped a video of me making the tasty stuff and by the end of the taping I was covered in AP flour. Too bad it was shot using early Web-video technology – a tiny screen with vocals that sounded like Daffy Duck.
Another favorite is this scrumptious goat cheese-based tart. I love the perkiness that the log-style soft cheese brings to the mix. And, of course, strawberries are the perfect topper.
The beauty in the photo below had a bumpy-rough ride in the car before the glam shot.
It cracked, but every bit was eaten with gusto after the shoot.
Bon Appetit, berry lovers.
Old-Fashioned Strawberry Shortcakes
Yield: 6 servings
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg
1/4 cup whole milk
5 tablespoons heavy whipping cream, plus about 1 tablespoon for brushing shortcakes
2 quarts fresh, ripe strawberries, hulled
3-4 tablespoons sugar, depending on sweetness of berries
Chantilly Cream (see cook’s note):
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cook’s note: Chantilly Cream is a lightly whipped cream with sugar and vanilla.
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a small, heavy baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
2. Prepare shortcakes: In medium bowl, sift flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir with fork to blend. Using pastry cutter or two knives, cut butter into dry ingredients until largest pieces are no larger than fat peas. If butter seems to be getting warm, pop bowl into refrigerator a few minutes to firm up butter.
3. In small bowl, lightly beat egg; stir in milk and 5 tablespoons cream (sometimes I add a smidge of minced lemon zest). Add (all at once) to flour mixture. Use fingers to incorporate wet ingredients into dry. Dough will be very sticky, but don’t overwork it. Once dry ingredients are evenly moistened, turn dough out onto lightly floured board. Gently pat into a rough, 7-inch square about 3/4 inch thick. (This is where the expression “Pat-a- cake, Pat-a-cake” came from). Use 3-inch biscuit cutter or cookie cutter or overturned glass to cut 4 rounds, dipping cutter or glass rim into flour before each cut. Transfer rounds to baking sheet, spacing them 2 inches apart. Repat scraps together. Cut 1 or 2 more rounds and repeat this if necessary. You should end up with 6 rounds.
4. Brush tops with reserved cream and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar. Bake in middle of oven 14-18 minutes, or until tops are golden brown and crisp. Cool on baking sheet on wire rack at least 10 minutes before splitting and filling. They’re best eaten as soon after baking as possible, but may be made several hours ahead of time and re-warmed in a 325-degree oven for a few minutes before assembling.
5. While shortcakes bake, prepare strawberries. Halve 1 quart of strawberries; set aside. Cut remaining quart of strawberries into rough pieces and sprinkle with 3-4 tablespoons sugar, stirring to coat. Let fruit sit at least 20 minutes or as long as 1 hour, at room temperature. Just before serving, use fork or an old-fashioned potato masher to lightly crush the chopped berries (with sugar), leaving some chunky pieces, but creating a rough berry sauce.
6. Prepare Chantilly Cream: In large bowl of electric mixer, combine whipping cream and 2 tablespoons sugar; beat until soft peaks form. Add vanilla and beat until cream is in billowy mounds. Refrigerate until needed, as long as 1 hour (cream may be prepared several hours ahead, but may need to be re-whipped before serving).
7. Assemble shortcakes: Split shortcakes in half horizontally and place a bottom portion on each of 6 dessert plates. Spoon some crushed berries over top, including runny juices. Scoop generous portion of Chantilly Cream over crushed berries and top with handful of halved strawberries. Place shortcake top over whole gorgeous pile and serve. Adapted from the wonderful baking book “In the Sweet Kitchen,” by Regan Daley
Goat Cheese Cheesecake Tart
Yield: 12 to 14 servings
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) melted butter, plus butter for greasing pan
2 cups gingersnap cookie crumbs, see cook’s notes
1/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
7 ounces soft, log-style goat cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup red seedless jelly, such as strawberry, raspberry or currant
1 teaspoon water
1/2 pint halved strawberries or 1 pint fresh blueberries
Cook’s notes: To make gingersnap cookie crumbs, place cookies in a food processor and pulse until ground.
1. Grease an 11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom (at least 1 1/4-inch deep) with butter. Adjust oven rack to middle position. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In food processor fitted with metal blade combine gingersnap crumbs, sugar and salt; pulse 2 or 3 times to combine. Add melted butter; process until well combined. Press mixture into greased tart pan covering the bottom and sides and pressing it to form a shell.
3. In an electric mixer fitter with the paddle attachment, combine cream cheese and goat cheese; mix on medium speed until thoroughly combined. Add sour cream and mix on medium speed until thoroughly combined. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing on medium speed to combine between additions. Add sugar and vanilla; mix on medium speed to combine. Place tart pan on rimmed baking sheet. Pour cheese mixture into crust.
4. Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes. Cool for 1 hour on wire rack. Remove rim. Place on serving platter and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate.
5. Melt jelly with 1 teaspoon water in small saucepan on medium heat, stirring to break up the jelly. Only heat it enough to melt the jelly; remove from heat. Arrange fruit on top of tart. Brush with melted jelly to glaze the fruit.