Wednesday, April 28, 2010

MIXED BERRY PIE WITH SWEET PASTRY LATTICE CRUST

DAY 2: IN THE MOUNTAINS


ISN’T IT A LOVELY DAY…


He calls me a princess, accustomed only to the best, demanding the glitter and comfort of luxury, the subtle hint of privilege. This reputation trails after me, wraps its gilded arms around me, drawing me into her soft embrace, leaving her tarnished stain all over my innocent face. Yet one wonders how I fell headlong into this princess status, how it clings to me like mud and won’t let me go. Nothing, absolutely nothing in my past can account for this, nothing at all. A humble childhood spent in cheap catalogue clothing running barefoot on hard, scorching cement and tip-toeing through sticker-laden yards, a box full of hand-me-down Barbies and one single bagful of Lego’s, tossing hoops in the driveway or playing board games with my brothers for entertainment. No horseback riding lessons, expensive designer labels, no days spent hanging out at the Clubhouse or maids cleaning up after me. Just a simple childhood full of laughter and sun, fresh air and books.

He maligns me with his accusations. After all, it is he who has spoiled me. Yes, we have had our fair share of gîtes ruraux, country rentals, and not the top-of-the-line either. Ramshackle, run-down country cottages, rooms on farms closer to the cows than the family, apartments with sunken fold-out sofas and sandy floors that no amount of sweeping can rid, even an old Tuscan tower, cold and damp, fitted up with kitchenette and bathroom. But I went along for the ride, barely complaining, suffered along as if I was back at Girl Scout Camp, nary a sidelong recriminatory glance. We’ve roughed it far and wide, I’ve slept in a puddle on a too-small-for-four penichette (houseboat) on the Maine and the Oudon, we’ve slogged through knee-deep mud and waist-high reeds and brambles all in the name of adventure, we squish into economy seats on airplanes and, well, been there done that. But he has taken me to enough Michelin-starred restaurants, pampered me in Palace hotels, treated me to better and better vacations bordering on luxury that I now shake my head in scorn when he even suggests something that hints at thin walls or questionable quality. “Spoiled you are!” he wails. Well, maybe I am. Now. Thanks to him.

Snuggled up in our cozy mountain inn with the promise of yet another luxurious, gourmet meal that evening, he pokes me awake as the sun streams through the crack in the curtains and it looks like another beautiful day, sunny and warm, perfect for another hike. Much to his joy, I slide into my jeans and hop into my big shoes, I grab my camera and we decide to head in another direction, not up into the mountain towards the distant peaks of snow but rather circle around the farms into the trees then around through another village or two. A mere 2-hour trek. Okay, I’m game. After all, he gave me the beautiful country inn and gastronomic delights, I’ll offer this to him in return.


While yesterday’s walk was up mountain paths bordered on each side by open fields and pastures, the bright sun highlighting the shades of greens and browns of the flora and bouncing off the backs of beasties large and small, this morning we suddenly find ourselves in shaded forest lanes, cool and eerily quiet, the romantic rustle of leaves and the sun shimmering through the thick filter above. Up and down, weaving in and out of the trees, stepping over branches, it is calm and relaxing, pure forest tranquility. The greens are richer, the browns deeper, birds flit through the leaves and we can peak down over the path edge and see quiet streams and rustic wells in all of their picturesque beauty below. We eventually wend our way out of this lush haven and find ourselves once again on the road leading back to the hotel. But the tiny pamphlet we had picked up at the local Tourist Office before heading off for adventure instructed us to cross the road and pick up the trail on the other side. We glance across the street and se a farmhouse and cows contentedly ruminating, calm and gentle. Inviting. Off we go.


And then we began our ascent. Blacktop road now but still bordering green forest broken only by the occasional glare from a curious, insolent cow or two. And up and up. “Just remember,” he cajoled, “if it goes up, it eventually comes back down so just keeping walking and be patient.” And walk we did, chatting happily about this and that. And walking. Up. And up. Finally when I thought that I could go no further, feared that my lungs would burst, biting back the complaints that threatened to tumble from my lips and upset him, we stumbled upon an old buron, a cow shed, and I decided that it was time for a sit, a rest and a cookie or two.


Onward and upward! It’s not much further, but we must get back to the hotel if you want lunch.” Now, as cruel fate would have it, the road only continued to climb, steeper and steeper with less and less trees offering us shade. How much time had passed? Am I really this out of shape? Slip off the coat. Soon followed by the sweater. Bare armed and chest pounding I trudge along too many steps behind him. He stops every now and then to wait for me to catch up, making a joke, pointing out anything even remotely interesting to take my mind off of my suffering, teasing and making me laugh when he can. We pass one sorry excuse for a village, merely a house or two, a tractor inches its way up the path and eventually overtakes us and continues on the farmer’s merry way never thinking to stop and offer us bedraggled city folk a lift. Occasionally JP glances down at the map and stabs at the page. “See? We’re just here. Not much further. Come on, you can do it! This is real exercise, not a DVD in the living room!


Well, all’s well that ends well and no need to drag it out any longer than it was. How we managed to only climb up, never down, like caught in some bizarre Escher drawing always winding up and up and up I’ll never understand, but we finally were welcomed back into the cool darkness of the hotel lobby and, strangely enough, we decided to climb in the car and drive down to the nearest city and treat ourselves to a MacDonald’s lunch. Yes, I am embarrassed to admit it, but once in a while, every far and between blue moon, one needs the comfort of a fattening, greasy fast food meal, popping fries in one’s mouth and sucking soda through a bendy straw. Happy, sated and ready for more.


That evening, our last in Pailherols, we were treated to Le Menu Découverte, The Discovery Menu; foie gras and scallops, fish and lamb all perfectly cooked, all delightfully flavored.

… AND AS LONG AS I’M WITH YOU IT’S A LOVELY DAY
… AND EVERYTHING’S OKAY!

Using your favorite mix of either fresh or frozen berries, this is the perfect pie for anytime of the year, sweet and tart, light and refreshing, bursting with flavor. I use my all-time favorite Sweet Pastry Pie Crust, but you can use whatever recipe you like. The pie is absolutely gorgeous, its deep, rich, jewel-like color of fruit filling oozing out between the flaky, pale golden lattice crust; the filling was perfectly set, no sticky, cloying texture and all of the fruit, the frozen and the fresh, were wonderfully cooked, each tender and juicy, without any being either too hard and undercooked or overcooked and mushy. This may be the best fruit tart to come out of my kitchen yet!


MIXED BERRY PIE WITH SWEET PASTRY LATTICE CRUST

One Double-Crust Sweet Pastry Pie Crust
5 cups (I filled glass measuring cups) mixed berries, fresh or frozen *
½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (40 g) flour
¼ to ½ tsp ground cinnamon
Grated zest of 1 lemon (optional)

* Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, currents or strawberries, for example. I used 2 cups fresh, seasonal strawberries, 2 cups frozen blueberries and 1 cup frozen raspberries


Toss the sugar, flour, cinnamon and zest together in a small bowl and stir to combine. Place all of the fruit in a large bowl and, using your hands, toss with the flour/sugar mixture until all of the fruit is coated with the dry ingredients.


Prepare the Sweet Pastry Pie Crust:

2 ½ cups (315 g) cake flour
½ cup (or slightly less) (100 g) granulated sugar
14 Tbs (200 g) unsalted butter slightly softened and cubed **
2 large eggs, beaten


** most pie crust recipes call for the butter to be chilled. I have found that butter at room temperature is easier and quicker to work into the flour and the dough seems to be fluffier. If the dough is too sticky to roll out right away, several minutes in the fridge should do the trick.

Combine flour and sugar in a mixing bowl or on a work surface. Using only your thumbs and fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until the consistency of sand and there are no more large chunks of butter.

With a fork, vigorously stir in the lightly beaten eggs until all the dry ingredients are moistened and a dough starts to pull together and form a ball.

Gather the dough together into a ball and place on a lightly floured surface. Using the heel of one hand, smear the dough little by little away from you in quick, hard strokes in order to make sure that all of the butter is blended in well (see here for a picture of how this is done).


Scrape up the dough together, re-flour the surface lightly and work very briefly and quickly until you have a smooth, homogenous dough. If the dough is a bit too soft or sticky for you, refrigerate it for 10 or 15 minutes until it can be easily rolled out without sticking to your rolling pin.

Lightly butter the bottom and sides of a 10-inch (25-cm) pie plate or dish (I use pyrex). Cut the dough in two pieces, one half slightly larger than the other (this larger part will be the bottom crust). On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough for the bottom crust until you have a circle about an inch (2 cm) wider all around than the bottom of the pie plate. Carefully roll up the dough around the rolling pin and lift and transfer to your pie dish, unrolling into the dish. Gently lift up the dough all around, sliding and pressing the dough down into the dish so as avoid stretching or breaking the dough. If the dough splits, no worry, it can simply be stuck and pressed together again. Using a knife or your rolling pin lying flat on top of the pie dish, cut off all excess dough hanging over the edges. Repress the sides of the dough back into the (crimped) sides of the pie dish.


Pour the prepared fruit filling into the pie dish and push the fruit around until evenly distributed and filling any gaps.

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).

On your floured work surface, roll out the remaining dough into a circle the size of your pie plate or slightly larger. Cut into even strips of any width. Form a lattice over the fruit filling:


Using every other strip from the cut circle of dough, space them evenly across the top of the pie, leaving the edges hanging loosely over the edge of the pie.


Start the latticework in the center, working your way out. Pull back every other strip and, using the longest of the remaining cut strips (the center one) lay it across the center of the pie.


Lower the upturned strips over the perpendicular (cross) strip. Lift up the alternating strips that are now underneath the cross strip. Lay a second cross strip parallel to the first center cross strip and continue lifting alternating vertical strips and laying new horizontal cross strips and so on and so forth. When finished laying the lattice from the center down towards you, rotate the pie dish and complete the second half of the pie.

Trim the edges of the dough strips and press (flour your fingers if they stick to the dough) the strips into the dough of the bottom crust. If you like, use any leftover dough to make decorative shapes for the top (I made strawberries and raspberries). “Glue” these shapes of dough onto the crust with a bit of milk. Gently and lightly brush the crust lattice with milk.


For more detailed photos of lattice-making, look here.

Bake the Mixed Berry Pie in your preheated 375°F (190°C) oven for 40 – 50 minutes, until the crust is golden and cooked. The fruit will be bubbling. If any part of the crust begins to brown too fast – the edges of mine began browning well before the center, simply cover with strips of aluminum foil.

Carefully remove from the oven and allow to cool on a cooling rack. The filling will firm up perfectly when cooled to room temperature.


Serve plain, with unsweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

QUINOA RISOTTI WITH ASPARAGUS and Parmesan Tuiles

DAY 1: THE HILLS ARE ALIVE…

Quinoa Risotto with Asparagus and Parmesan Tuiles

He’ll do whatever it takes, pay any price, to be able to savor the sight of me lacing up hiking boots, sliding into my padded, taupe-colored coat and have me tromp along beside him out in the country, in the fresh air, wind whipping my hair, bringing color to my cheeks. He has sacrificed many pleasures at the alter of his love for me, abandoned days at the beach, splashing through the waves, hikes up mountainsides in the chill summer air, camping along rivers’ edges, an ice cold dip in the sparkling waters before starting his day. This city boy born and bred who fell in love with Mother Nature, who revels in her wild beauty, has given up his first love to one raised a mere stone’s throw from the beach, one whose childhood was spent running barefoot in the hot, hot sun under clear blue skies untarnished by the glare of city buildings, a view all the way to the ocean from her back windows yet one who prefers city to country, bustling streets to tranquil Edens, one who loathes camping and water, one who failed miserably as a Girl Scout.


So he’ll promise me romantic country inns, elegantly rustic, woo me with gourmet meals, meals set out on pristine white tablecloths, candlelight flickering in crystal wine glasses. He’ll hint of luxurious desserts, sumptuous chocolate treats under a froth of Chantilly or the satin shimmer of the perfect crème brulée hidden under her crispy, fragile, pale gold wrapping. He’ll whisper of quiet strolls over meadows hand in hand, picnics rustled up in village markets, delicious spreads of local delicacies eaten among the flowers. He’ll find the perfect spot and lure me with glossy photos and romance in his eyes. And I’m taken in.

Leaving the impersonal barrenness of the highway, we wind our way up through towns once busy, passing now-crumbling hotels and boarded up bistros once offering the pre-autoroute traveler respite from the long, snowy journey, our road growing ever narrower, spotting cows here and there whenever the shady coolness and wild beauty open up to clear green pastures, cows chewing contentedly in the sunshine and warmth, and we find ourselves in a picture-postcard village boasting artisan cheeses and promising a luxurious, peaceful haven. Our hotel offers us a quiet welcome, all warm chocolate browns and cozy country atmosphere right out of the pages of a women’s magazine, “charming” and “quaint” fluttering through my brain. We settle into a room of rough-hewn wood and blood red calico, heart-shaped throw pillows edged in lace soon tossed off the bed, abandoned. The window is flung open and we breathe in the lusty mountain air.


We wake each morning to bright sunshine and clear skies and, after breakfast, lace up those hiking boots, slide into the padded coats, grab camera and notebook and step outside. Step outside to the sun on our upturned faces, soft blue skies and that heady, sour smell of cows. Breathe in and welcome it though it may bite, sting just a bit, but don’t you know that those cows produce the wonderful Salers and Cantal cheeses of the region, and when you look out over the paysage, the countryside, over the rocky terrain and the grass in muted shades of browns and greens you see how the sharp, nutty, wild taste of these cheeses is born of this, the flavors reflecting both the scents and the wildness of what you are staring at and you understand how nature works. And up we walk, pausing occasionally to take in the beauty or wander under barbed wire to visit one or another ancient, rickety buron, the sheds built in the middle of cow pastures, shelters for both cows and farmers during the cold, snowy winters of this mountainous region, a place where the cows could be milked and that milk turned into cheese. All are empty in this beautiful spring season and some seem abandoned, all rotting wood and crumbling stone. The lush grass and the dirt paths are dotted with the first signs of the coming summer, tiny crocuses in white and mauve pushing their heads up through the ground drawn to the sun and warmth and we try to tiptoe around them, fearful of crushing even one. And we walk up and up, nearly to the snow, the last spots of snow loathe to let go of winter.


And down again. Mr. Nature leads me weaving through fields and pastures, over hills and tiny rivulets running clear and cold, as he rambles on, telling tales of his time working in this region, recounting the history of the region, and we chatter on about life and travels, politics and family. We peep through cracks in the old wooden doors of the burons, stop whenever we hear a bird, and, now tired and hungry we try and wend our way back. And notice that we’ve wandered a bit off course as we shade our eyes and peer off into the distance to villages on some distant horizon. We soon stumble upon a small group of houses and see a man and a woman rebuilding a stone wall edging their property. “What’s the quickest way to get back to the village?” “Oh circle around behind the farmhouse and just walk straight across the fields. It’s all right! Go ahead! Tout droit!” So we do. Down, down, down and then we come face to face with barbed wire, a line of trees and brambles and a river. No friendly, quaint little rivulet but a river. Ok, maybe just a few yards wide but a river nonetheless. Once, twice, three times we try. Under barbed wire, over barbed wire, pushing aside brambles and breaking off branches and hopping from stone to stone yet realizing too late each time that this path will get us nowhere. Once, twice, three times and Jamie is getting hungrier and grouchier and grumbling rude remarks under her breath as she tries to put on a brave face and remain calm. Finally after one, two, three failed expeditions to cross the river, she finally blows her top, gathers herself together and decides that it is time to take charge. Her inner Girl Scouts kicks in and she, shoes sticky with mud and cow pie, she stomps back through the field and along the river, husband trailing after her, until she finds what looks to her the best solution. Pushing the barbed wire out of her way, tossing her backpack across the water ahead of her, grabbing a branch, she hurtles herself over the water and onto the other side. Sliding under another barbed fence she calls “Here! Over here! And don’t argue just follow me, dammit!” And we are over! Only one more field, one barb-wired-edged stone wall to face and we are homeward bound. Calm again, as calm as the breeze.


A quick stop at the local bar for sandwiches of thick slices of local Cantal nestling in a soft, chewy baguette, we are back at the hotel and pulling off boots and sliding into bed for an afternoon nap.

And the afternoon slides lazily into evening and another meal of local specialties like Pounti aux pruneaux and Cromesqui de cantal followed by a cloud of fromage frais under a tomato coulis served with smoked salmon, perfectly cooked fish, veal or beef and a delicious dessert. A clink of wine glasses and the calm and tranquility of our day roll over us. And off we tumble to bed happy and looking forward to the following day.


QUINOA RISOTTO WITH ASPARAGUS, Parmesan Tuiles and grilled Coppa
From mai 2010 issue of Saveurs. Translated and adapted by Jamie

A recipe to lighten the load and cleanse body and soul after a wonderful, food-filled vacation. I am sending this to Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice for Magazine Monday.

9 oz (250 g) quinoa
2 Tbs olive oil
1 onion, diced
½ cup (125 ml) dry white wine
4 cups (1 litre) chicken stock or bouillon
7 oz (200 g) asparagus tips or @17 oz (500 g) thin green asparagus *
2 – 4 Tbs (30 – 60 g) unsalted butter
¼ - ½ cup (20 – 40 g) freshly grated Parmesan or to taste, a bit extra to serve
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


1 thin slice coppa or speck person (3 or 4)
½ cup (40 g) or more freshly grated Parmesan for Tuiles


* I cooked the 500 g of asparagus, used the tips in the risotto and added the tender stalks cut into 1-inch (2 cm) pieces to a salad the following day.

Prepare the bouillon or stock and keep it warm. Pour one wineglass of wine for the risotto and one for you to sip as you cook. Peel and dice the onion.

Trim the asparagus if you have whole stalks: break off the hard bottom inch or two then, using a paring knife or vegetable peeler very carefully just trim off the tough outer skin on the bottom of the remaining stalk. Bring a large pot filled with a few inches of water to the boil, add salt and boil the asparagus for 3 minutes. Drain and rinse with cool water.

Prepare the Parmesan Tuiles:
Heat a large non-stick pan or crêpe pan over medium/medium-high heat. While it is heating up, place piles – a tablespoon or two depending on the desired diameter of the Tuiles – of grated Parmesan cheese on the pan surface leaving space between the piles for them to spread. Using the back of a soup spoon, simply press the grated cheese out into a circle keeping the cheese a little thickly layered so it doesn’t burn. Heat for just a few minutes: the cheese will melt and bubble joyously. As soon as the edges begin to brown, turn off the heat and allow the Tuiles to sit and cool in the pan. Do not allow them to turn brown or cook too long or the cheese will become bitter. The Tuiles will firm up as they cool. Once cooled and firm, very gently lift them up with a thin metal cake spatula and remove them to a plate.


Prepare the Grilled Coppa or Speck:
Simply heat up the non-stick pan or crêpe pan (wipe it down with a paper towel if you have made the Parmesan Tuiles first) and grill the coppa or slices of speck for a few minutes on each side. They should change color and show spots of golden brown where they touch the pan. Remove to a plate (they should also firm up once left to cool).

Prepare the Quinoa Risotto:

Rinse the quinoa under cold running water until the water runs clear. Allow to drain completely.


In a large skillet, heat the olive oil then add the diced onion and sautée for 5 minutes until soft and translucent and beginning to turn golden around the edges. Add the quinoa and stir until coated with the oil and the onions are blended in. Add the glass of white wine and stir. Allow to come to a low boil and simmer until the wine has all but been absorbed.

Begin adding the chicken stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring to keep the quinoa from sticking. Allow the quinoa to absorb the stock and then add a couple more ladles. Continue cooking and adding stock until the quinoa is cooked through, tender though with a little bite to it, and the stock is absorbed. This should take between 20 – 25 minutes. When the quinoa is just about but not quite cooked, after about 20 minutes of cooking, slip in the asparagus points pushing them gently under the surface of the risotto, add a generous grinding of black pepper and just a dash of salt (depending on how salty your stock is).

When the quinoa is cooked through, gently stir in the butter and grated Parmesan to taste (you don’t want to overpower the delicate flavor of the asparagus). Check and adjust the seasonings.

Serve the risotto hot with one Parmesan Tuile and one slice of grilled coppa per person.


This dish easily serves 2 hungry eaters as a main course or 4 as a starter or a side dish.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE

OFF ON VACATION


How much time has it been, how many years, since JP and I took off together on a getaway? Too long! We have had a long five years or so, spending our free time (and not so free time) taking care of others, of loved ones, parents, siblings, sons, instead of taking care of ourselves. Don’t get me wrong, it has all been worth the trouble and effort, family first, but now it is time to take a little time for us. Just the two of us. Yes, we will be flying off to family, JP, Clem and I, to Florida this summer where we will meet up with Simon at my mom’s and we will enjoy our first real family vacation together since, well, since I can remember. But this weekend and for a week, it will be just the two of us.

We are the perfect traveling companions, the Yin and the Yang of partners: he pulls me out into the fresh air, walking shoes on, binoculars or camera around his neck, for nature treks or museum visits, discovering towns and byways, recounting historical tales of wars and religion, of kings and queens and warriors and artists, I keep him calm and relaxed making sure that he understands that vacations are for rest and tranquility, more fun and less work. He leads me to markets, open-air and covered, to hidden bistros or snack bars known only to the locals or elegant restaurants enjoyed by the rich and famous; I pull him into bakeries and pastry shops, Aladdin dens of spices or elegantly-appointed boutiques heady with the scent of chocolate. Together we pack picnic lunches with fresh fruits and cheeses chosen at local market stalls, stopping off at the town’s best bakery for a fresh loaf of bread, all to be savored in some lovely open field, the grass gently waving in the breeze, lying in the warm sun and drinking wine straight from the bottle.


We love traveling together, love exploring together, wandering through cities and towns unknown, meandering up and down quiet side streets, along bustling thoroughfares, discovering wonderful food shops and local specialties, buying unusual spices or pastries or treating ourselves to an exciting kitchen utensil or two. Other than the fabulous cities we’ve lived in, we’ve explored New England from Pennsylvania up through Vermont to Montreal, Rome and Budapest among other enchanting, magical places. We’ve sat in the jewel box of an Opera House in Budapest and listened, enraptured, to Cosi Fan Tutte, and nibbled on cherry tart and Dobos Torte in glamorous, gilded, Old World tea salons; we’ve driven through the Adirondacks on our way north, both mesmerized and stunned by the beauty and grandeur of nature, climbed the blue-green mountains above Manchester, Vermont in the chilly New England summer air; we’ve strolled hand in hand through the Roman Forum, his storytelling bringing the old rocks and stone sculptures to life then followed by the most memorable meal ever at Piperno in the Old Jewish Ghetto, insalata di puntarelle, fritto misto, crostata di amarena. He’s known the best tapas bar in San Sebastian, the best restaurant in Bilbao, he bought me red rubber boots in Rome and brought me to see Grünewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece in Colmar, not once but twice. We’ve swam in clear, blue water off the coast of Cyprus, bartered in a language that wasn’t our own for coffee cups in a bar full of fishermen and local workers and eaten souvlaki, tzatziki dribbling down our chins, under grape vine entwined terraces and we’ve seen ancient mosaics and chatted with old men in small town squares, offering us sips of whatever they were drinking.


Maps and restaurant guides in hand, this time we are off to Lyon and Annecy starting with a 3-day stop in the mountains of the Salers region to rest in a mountain hotel. 3 days of fresh air and romance punctuated by elegant meals and visits to the spa. Ah, yes, how we deserve this. Bring along good walking shoes to go with the picnic lunch and a good book to get sleepy over while our feet are up, poolside. Lyon, well, Lyon is the gastronomic capital of France, isn’t it? So must you really ask what we’ll be doing there? Bouchons et chocolatiers, patisseries et restaurants. Quoi d’autre? Annecy, oh Annecy, quite possibly the most beautiful, most romantic town in France, the Venice of the Alps, a town of rivers and lake and flowers, cool mountain breezes and gorgeous monuments, architecture and red rooftops. I’ll wind through the streets, map in one hand, camera in the other and discover this jewel all on my own, popping into shops to try this pastry or that and trying very hard not to fall in love with this most wonderful, gentle of lovers.


As you read this post, I will already be there, miles away, head in the clouds, tummy filled and satisfied. So I offer you this treat, something oh-so American as I am off discovering a France that I still have yet to get to know, yet to fall in love with. Strawberry Shortcake. Yes, it is strawberry time in my region of France, gorgeous, plump and oh-so sweet Gariguette strawberries that veritably beg me to turn them into Strawberry Shortcake. A roll and a knead of the slightly sweet biscuit dough, rolled out thick, cut into circles and baked to rise up fluffy yet dense, crispy on the outside as a shortcake should be, just barely sweet to hint of dessert yet bland enough to highlight the sweetest of berries. Slather on the freshly whipped cream or compliment it with the best of vanilla ice creams and you have the perfect summer treat, a delicacy of old-time, old-fashioned America, of porch swings and lemonade afternoons, of graceful women in lovely gowns and gentlemen in hats and white suits.


And I, my friends, will be back in one week brimming with stories with which to regale you, delicacies to share and adventures to dream on.


I would like to send this to Ivonne at Cream Puffs in Venice for her Magazine Mondays.

STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE
From a 1989 (I believe) Chocolatier magazine

1 cup (125 g) cake flour (not self-rising)
1 cup (125 g) all-purpose flour (I used bread flour type 55)
2 Tbs granulated sugar
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
8 Tbs (1 stick/115 g) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
¾ cup (180 ml) half-and-half or light cream

1 - 2 pints fresh strawberries (you can easily use a combination of fresh summer berries)
Sugar to taste
Freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste

1 cup (250 ml) heavy whipping cream
Powdered/confectioner’s sugar to taste
Dash of vanilla extract


- or –

Vanilla ice cream


Rinse and pat dry the strawberries then hull and slice them. Put the slices in a bowl with sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice to taste. Set aside.

Make the Shortcakes:

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).

Stir together the flours, sugar, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt until blended. Add the cubes of butter and, using the tips of your fingers, rub the butter into the flour until there are no more chunks of butter and the mixture resembles sand. Add the cream and stir with a fork until all of the dry ingredients are moistened and it begins to gather into a ball.

Turn out on a lightly floured surface and knead quickly, adding a bit more flour if too sticky, until you have a smooth, homogenous ball of dough. Do not overhandle or overknead.

On a lightly-floured work surface, gently (do not press hard, the dough is soft and should remain fluffy) roll out the dough to a thickness of not less than ¾ inch thickness. Using a 3 or 3 1/2 –inch round cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out thick circles of dough – you should have 6 biscuits – and place them on a cookie sheet.

Bake the shortcakes for 12 to 15 minutes until the shortcakes are puffed up and golden brown both on top and underneath.

Cool the cakes on a cooling rack.

Whip the cream, adding sugar a bit at a time, until very thick and peaks hold. Beat in the vanilla. Sweeten to taste.

To serve, carefully split the shortcakes with a sharp knife and place the bottom of each on individual dessert plates. Spoon the prepared strawberries onto the bottom of the shortcakes, spoon either a large spoonful of whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream on top of the strawberries then top with the top halves of the shortcakes. Serve immediately.


LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...