Strawberry Shortcake with Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream

STRAWBERRIES HAVE ARRIVED (in Toronto)
After patiently waiting after what seemed like everywhere had strawberries except for Toronto, I got my first local haul at the market yesterday with the first pick of the season.  I love being able to smell strawberries when you aren’t even trying, it’s a very good sign of things to come.

Now that I had my strawberries, I had to think of what to make.  I didn’t buy enough for a pie and I wanted to try something new, so I thought heck, let’s make shortcake.

To be honest, I don’t think I had ever even eaten a real strawberry shortcake before this, which I then discovered was a real tragedy.  The shortcakes are crumbly yet tender and so perfect right out of the oven.  I wanted the whipped cream to have a pure vanilla flavour, so used vanilla bean which also added the lovely specks of the bean.

One thing to note – if you make this, make sure you’ve got a crowd to feed as it makes about 12 shortcakes.  This quantity of cream and strawberries should make enough to feed 6 but you can increase/decrease as needed.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and halved/quartered depending on size
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
  • 4 cups flour
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 5 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup butter, divided
  • 2 1/4 cups whipping cream, divided
  • Seeds from half a vanilla bean

Steps

Preheat oven to 450F.

Place your prepared berries in a bowl.  Crush about 1/4 of the berries gently with a fork to release the juices and mix with remaining berries and 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp of sugar.  Cover and set aside for about a half hour to allow berries to macerate.


In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, salt and baking powder.  Add 3/4 cup of softened butter cut into 1 inch pieces and rub into the flour mixture with your hands.  Continue until almost fully incorporated, with some smaller pea sized flakes as below.


Add 1 1/4 cups of cream and mix with a wooden spoon until almost incorporated, using your hands near the end to fully incorporate.  Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for 1 minute.  The dough will be soft.  Roll out to 1/2 inch thickness and using a 3 inch pastry cutter, cut an even number of rounds (2 rounds per serving).  You can re-roll the scraps 1-2 more times.

Grease a baking sheet and place half the rounds on it.  Melt 1/4 cup of butter and lightly brush the rounds with butter, then place remaining rounds on top.  Bake for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown.

Once out of the oven, pull shortcakes apart and brush insides lightly with melted butter.

Beat 1 cup whipping cream with a sprinkle of sugar and vanilla beans until thick.

To assemble, place the bottom half of the shortcake on a plate and top with a generous spoonful of strawberries.  Top with other cake half, more strawberries and a dollop of whipped cream.  Serve immediately.


Adapted from New York Times Cooking

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