It’s strawberry season in the Hamptons and they’re truly flawless this year. Nothing could be more welcome after our rainy, cold spring than these beautiful, bountiful berries. And nothing says June like their arrival. But time isn’t on our side. The season is fleeting and the chance to put fresh local strawberries on the table is right now. Out here, there are any number of road side strawberry fields where you can pick your own, a fun way to spend an afternoon with the children in your life. We opted to go the lazy man’s route and bought our strawberries at our local farm stand down the road. We brought the brilliant red berries home and out came Joanne Chang’s “Flour” Cookbook, one of Andrew’s go-to sources for truly unbeatable baking recipes. Use the search function on the left side of this page and you’ll come up with no less than 6 recipes from Ms. Chang, every single one of them a winner in our kitchen and with our friends. This is no exception.
The garden strawberry has a rich and quite recent history. The French started moving wild strawberry plants from the woodlands into their gardens in the 1300s. It wasn’t until the 1750s that two cultivars from the new world, the fragaria Virginia from the Eastern North America was crossed by the French with a variety from Chile called fragaria chiloensis to create the strawberry as we now know it. This “new” variety has almost completely replaced the woodland strawberry in commercial strawberry growing. The United States production of strawberries outstrips any other country in the world. In fact about ¼ of the strawberries grown worldwide are grown here—a whopping 1.3 million tons of them in 2011 alone. But wherever they are grown, they are highly prized worldwide—everywhere from the Philippines to Morocco.
Joanne Chang’s Balsamic Strawberry Shortcakes from “Flour”
Makes 8 individual Strawberry Shortcakes. Active time 20 minutes. Total Time 50 – 60 minutes.
For the Shortcakes:
2 1/2 cups (350 grams) unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup (100 grams) plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1-teaspoon kosher salt
3/4-cup (1-1/2 sticks/170 grams) cold unsalted butter
cut into 12-14 pieces
1/2-cup (120 grams) heavy cream
For the Strawberries:
2 pints (600 grams) strawberries
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (about 2/3 lemon)
6 tablespoons (75 grams) plus 1-tablespoon sugar
1-1/4 cups (300 grams) heavy cream
1-teaspoon vanilla extract
To make the shortcakes: Position the rack in the center of the oven, heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, and alt on low speed for 10-15 seconds or until combined. Scatter the butter over the top and beat on medium low speed for a bout 30 seconds or until the butter is brown down the mixture get sort of mealy.
In a small bowl, whisk together 2 of the eggs and the cream until thoroughly mixed. On low speed, pour in the egg mixture all at once and beat for 10 to 15 seconds, or until the dough comes together.
Dump the dough out onto a floured work surface and press it out into a circle about 8 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick. Using a 3-inch biscuit cutter, cut out circles, rerolling scraps as necessary to get 8 circles total. Place them on an ungreased baking sheet several inches apart.
In a small bowl, whisk the remaining egg until blended. Brush the tops of the dough circles with the egg. Sprinkle evenly with the 1-tablespoon of sugar.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until light golden brown. Let cool on pan or on wire rack until cool enough to handle, then transfer to a rack to cool until warm.
Meanwhile, stem the strawberries, and cut each berry lengthwise into four or five slices. In a medium bowl, toss the strawberries with the vinegar, lemon zest, and the 6 tablespoons of sugar and let macerate for about 30 minutes.
Using a handheld mixer or whisk, whip the cream wit the 1-tablespoon sugar and the vanilla just until it hold soft peaks.
Split each shortcake in half horizontally. Set the bottom haves, cut sides up, on individual services plates. Divide the strawberries and their syrup evenly among the bottom halves, then top the strawberries wit the whipped cream, again dividing evenly. Balance the top halves on the whipped cream and serve immediately.