Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake

Shortcake Recipe

All Purpose Flour                           240g           2C
Fine Cornmeal                                 40g          ⅓C
Sugar                                               50g          ¼C
Baking Powder                                15g            1T

Cold Butter*                                     60g            4T

Cold Milk*                                      250g            1C
Vanilla                                                5g             1t
Salt                                                    3g             1t

Bloomy Rind Cheese                         half wheel


*These items do not necessarily need to be dairy based

Strawberries Recipe

Strawberries 2 C
Sugar ½ to ¾ C
Balsamic Vinegar 1 t to 1 T
Salt 1 pinch

 

 

 

Step1) Prepare a vessel

Grease a “standard” (8.5x4.5x2.5) loaf pan with butter, coconut oil, or whatever you like to grease your pans with, being careful to get down in the corners and crevices.  Add a big spoonful of flour to the pan and shake it around so the flour sticks to the grease and dump the rest, leaving a light coating of nonstick-i-ness. 


Step 1.5) Prepare the cheese

Leaving the rind on all the way around, cut the wheel in half right down the middle and save half for another endeavor.  Cut the remaining half into three long, fat strips that will fit in your loaf pan and stash them in the fridge.  Also preheat your oven to 350℉ if you work fast.




Step 2) Sift the dry ingredients

That’s right, dig out grandma’s antique doohickey from the cabinet above the fridge or a mesh strainer from under the sink and sift the first four ingredients to blend them together.  


This process not only mixes the ingredients and breaks up any clumps, it adds a secret fifth ingredient that separates a cake from a cookie: air.  By sifting the ingredients together we increase their volume, giving us a basic bubble structure on which to build our cake and insulation that will keep it from getting crisp.  If you don’t have a sifting device you’ll just have to use a whisk but don’t blame us when your cake is flat.

Step 3) Grate the cold butter on a cheese grater

It can be helpful to put the butter in the freezer for up to 20 minutes before grating but don’t freeze it solid unless you want a little bit of your knuckle skin in the mix.  If you don’t have a cheese grater you can either grab a dough cutter from that cabinet of grandma’s culinary antiques or spend a lot more time on the next step.


Step 4) Work the butter into the dry ingredients

Using your fingertips to avoid melting the butter, gently toss the flour and butter together, separating clumps and squishing large pieces until everything is incorporated and the mixture resembles wet sand with grated butter in it.  This process is called “shortening” because the fat interrupts gluten formation, shortening the elastic strands that hold a flour-based dough together.


Step 5) Add the wet ingredients

Make a well in the center of the buttered flour and add your milk, vanilla, and salt.  Gently stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture is combined but not smooth.  Overmixing at this stage can produce too much gluten and make a cake chewy despite all our hard work shortening and inflating.


Step 6) Assemble the team

Pour about half of your shortcake batter into the floured pan from step 1.  Grab the cheese from the fridge and lay the strips on top of the batter and give it a goodnight kiss (optional, I guess) before pouring the other half of the batter on top.  





Step 7) Bake the thing

If you preheated your oven to 350°F then go ahead and bake for approximately 40 minutes total, turning halfway through.  If you didn’t you’ll have time to read the cake a bedtime story while the oven heats up.  Either way bake the thing for 20 minutes, turn it around, and give it another 20 minutes.  As long as a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean (excluding a little melted cheese) the cake is done.





Step 8) Strawberries!

While the cake is baking combine the strawberries with sugar, vinegar, and salt and gently heat until the sugar melts but not the berries.  Strawberries sweeten throughout the growing season so the first ones in June will need more sugar and less vinegar and later berries closer to August will need less sugar and more vinegar to achieve a nicely balanced flavor.


Step 9) Make it look like this

After the cake has rested for at least 30 minutes, cut a slice about an inch thick.  Spoon the strawberries and syrup over and top with our flowers and marigold leaf before devouring voraciously.











The ancient technology of shortening dough with fat for tenderness can be traced back to North African civilizations nearly 2,000 years ago.  Originally a luxurious cookie made from flour, sugar, ghee, and spices, shortbread would eventually become a staple food for impoverished workers across the entire British empire including the United States.  Fresh foods like meat and vegetables were relegated to the land-owning class or “gentry” while workers, indentured servants, and enslaved people needed to create energy dense foods out of scraps and cheap grains.  These shortbreads–sometimes called hardtack or a variety of less polite names–were found all over the 17th-19th century working world, from military rations to tobacco plantations.  


The first official mention of “strawberry shortcake” as anyone today would recognize it is credited to a recipe published in The Ohio Cultivator in 1845.  Just two years later the famed Eliza Leslie–something of a 19th century Julia Child or real-life Betty Crocker–published The Lady’s Receipt Book: A Useful Companion for Large or Small Families, which featured a crumbly, unleavened shortbread that was cut open, stuffed with strawberries, and topped with a meringue-like frosting.  


The concept of chemical leavening, though poorly understood, was common by the 1800s. Baking soda combined with sour milk, vinegar, or anything sufficiently acidic would provide a good amount of lift, but in 1856 when chemist Eben Norton Horsford patented double-acting baking powder the entire baking industry was altered.  With the extra lift of heat-released carbon dioxide cakes could carry more sugar without flattening in the oven and they could be shaped bigger and blockier with a rich and fluffy  interior as opposed to the crumbly, flat shortbread biscuits of Eurasia.  [something] .  Out of oppression and struggle, the American biscuit would rise. 


Armed with Miss Leslie’s general concept of strawberries and shortbread with a fluffy icing, access to affordable chemical leavening, and the US Dairy lobby, it took less than a decade for the modern strawberry shortcake to arrive.  Malinda Russel–the first Black woman in America to publish a cookbook–put a recipe for a biscuit with sweetened berries and whipped cream titled “Strawberry Short Cake” in her 1866 A Domestic Cookbook.

In the modern world strawberry shortcake can mean almost any shortened pastry with a strawberry and dairy topping.  Our recipe below combines all the schools of shortcake into a biscuit-style loaf rich in both cheese and history, which can be sliced and shared among approximately 8 people.  Any dessert berry (did you know eggplants are berries?  Please don’t make eggplant shortcake) can be substituted for the strawberries, and jam can even be used outside of berry season as long as the extra sugar is taken into account.

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