Strawberry Shortcake from My Garden

June 9th, 2010 / Comments 1

My mother gave her mother, my Nana, daffodils three times each spring, in February on her birthday, in March for Nana’s birthday and in May for Mothers’ day. When I was ten, we were buying daffodils for Nana’s birthday when I saw bundles of strawberry plants for sale.
daffodil c egbert Strawberry Shortcake from My Garden
I convinced my mother that since Nana loved to garden, strawberry plants would be a perfect present. There were June bearing plants and everbearing varieties. Everbearing was the obvious choice. Naively I assumed that everbearing plants meant strawberries all the time, strawberries every day, long after the small, dark red strawberries in square, wooden baskets with red stains disappeared from the market at the end of June. In fact it everbearing means that there would be a berry harvest in June and a second in August. It wasn’t until years later that strawberries were flown from California to markets around the country and available year round.

Nana was delighted with both the daffodils and the strawberry plants. After lunch we went out to her garden to make a strawberry bed. When she unwrapped the bundle of plants, she said that there were enough plants for two strawberry beds, that I was old enough to have my own garden and that she would help me. I picked a sunny spot near the climbing, pink rose bush and it didn’t take long to make my garden. I watched the plants carefully and learned that each flower held the promise of one sweet red berry.
strawberries c egbert Strawberry Shortcake from My Garden I watered the plants with gentle streams from my watering can and Nana taught me how to recognize weeds. My first crop was less than the bounty I had hoped for – only one harvest and three and a half cups rather than two pails but there were enough berries to make my first ever, strawberry shortcake for Sunday dinner with Nana and my grandfather.

I wasn’t sure what traditional strawberry shortcake was. I had seen curious sponge cake cups and aerosol cans of whipped cream displayed next to the strawberries at the market, but they were not what I wanted for the strawberries I had tended for nearly two months.

pink beater c egbert Strawberry Shortcake from My Garden

I would make proper shortcake and top each dessert with real whipped real cream. When I found a recipe for shortcake at the library, I was surprised to learn that shortcake was really a biscuit and nothing like the shortbread cookies we had at Christmas time. Here’s how I made it:

Strawberry Shortcake

The scent of the warm berries perfumed the air as I harvested three cups of lovely, red strawberries. I sliced the berries into a bowl and stirred in half a cup of sugar. I covered the bowl and left it on the counter so that juice from the berries would combine with the sugar.

The shortcake was quite simple to make. I preheated the oven to 450º F/225º C degrees before I sifted 2 Cups/ 300g of flour, one tablespoon of baking powder, half a teaspoon of salt and two tablespoons of sugar into a large mixing bowl. I used a pastry blender, a set of four wires held in an arch by a green wooden handle, to cut 4 T/115g of unsalted butter into the sifted flour mixture. When there were no visible lumps of butter, I stirred in enough milk, about 3/4 c/180 g of a cup, to make the dough clump together. I spooned the batter onto a greased cookie sheet and had enough batter to make ten shortcakes.

I dipped my finger in milk and flatten the top of each shortcake before I sprinkled on a bit of sugar. I impatiently watched the shortcake bake through the glass oven door and in fourteen minutes they were golden brown and baked through. I let them cool for a couple of minutes on the pan before I used a spatula to move them to a rack to cool completely.

I was wrong to think that making the whipped cream would be the easiest part. I poured the cream into a metal bowl and found the hand operated egg-beater. My mother and sister each warned me that the cream would turn to butter if I weren’t careful. I wasn’t sure what being careful meant other than not pinching my fingers in the beater. It took longer than I thought, my arm was tired and the counter and my blouse were spotted with white dots of cream. Eventually it thickened and formed soft peaks. I stopped before it turned to butter.

With the whipped cream in the fridge, the berry slices in a bowl of sweet red juice, and the shortcakes carefully split in half, I couldn’t wait for dinner to be finished. I served dessert to Nana first. She said that the shortcake layered with berries and topped with cream was the best she had ever eaten and that I was the best gardener-baker she knew.

Download and print a recipe with an ingredients list here.

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• One Response to “Strawberry Shortcake from My Garden”

  • Drick says:

    and I just know that was the best Nana had ever had too … what a sweet story and a wonderful summertime dessert. When I first read the title, I wondered how on earth are you growing shortcakes…(just kidding with ya)….

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