Strawberry Shortcake and I go way back. And just to clarify, I mean Ms. Strawberry Shortcake, although in my mind I think I conflate her with Rainbow Bright, since I'm pretty sure I remember her riding around on a unicorn. Anyway, we have a lot in common. Her hair looks like a fistful of puffy Cheetos, I used to love Cheetos. Her friends are all named after fruits or desserts, I also base my identity around my love for key lime pie. And I seem to remember that she gave parties for the express purpose of collecting recipes. I'm also a collector. See, lots in common.
But her namesake can be a controversial entity. Most often it seems you find strawberry short cakes presented as layers of whipped cream and macerated strawberries held together with a white sponge cake. But I'm not sure how a four layer sponge can be considered a shortcake, and, as a now classic piece of Americana herself, I imagine that Ms. Shortcake would prefer a cream biscuit. Another area where we agree (best friends always agree). So when faced with making dinner and dessert for Ragnar's Norwegian parents, I knew strawberry shortcake wouldn't let me down. I could even introduce her as a classic American dessert, one that could hold her own against any continental cake.
Picture fresh strawberries sliced and macerated in sugar and lemon, their thickening juices staining the almond flavored whipped cream and seeping into the biscuit's fine crumb. This is comfort food of the highest order.
Strawberry Shortcakes From Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook
For the Biscuits
4 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces
2 cups heavy cream
1 egg beaten, for wash
Oven preheated to 400 F. In a large bowl, whisk together the first 4 ingredients. Add the butter, and, using a pastry blender, cut it into the dry ingredients until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. There should be a few larger clumps.
Add the heavy cream and fold it into the dough with a large rubber spatula. Be sure to get the crumbs on the bottom of the bowl and mix until the dough just comes together. It will still be slightly sticky.
Put the dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat it into a 1 1/4" thick round. Be careful not to overwork the dough. Cut out the biscuits with a floured biscuit cutter and place the biscuits on an unlined baking sheet. Leave about 1 1/2" between them. Brush the tops with the egg wash and sprinkle with quite a bit of sanding sugar. Bake for 20 -25 minutes total, rotating the pan halfway through. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool.
For the Strawberries
Slice 3 pints of hulled fresh strawberries and toss with 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice and 1/3 cup sugar. Allow to macerate for 20 minutes before serving.
For the Almond Whipped Cream
Adopted from some recipe or other somewhere down the road
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons sugar
With an electric mixer beat all of the ingredients together on medium speed until soft peaks form.
Cut the biscuits in half horizontally. Layer with cream and strawberries, then cover with biscuit tops. If you're feeling generous, layer with more cream and strawberries.