All my life, summer began when the strawberries were ripe.
Growing up in Michigan, we picked them as soon as the school year ended. Red stained fingertips and t-shirts were sure signs of strawberry season, jam was served on toast each morning, and my June birthday was always celebrated with fresh strawberry pie.
Now that I live in the south, “summer” begins a bit earlier. It’s late May, strawberry season is nearing its end, and the freezer is already full with the delightful red berries. Homemade strawberry shortcake has been our dessert for the past five nights (don’t judge), and nobody’s complaining! (If you’re not into strawberries, desserts, or total yumminess – move along, this article is not for you.)
Follow these 3 steps and wow your family with this scrumptious berry dessert!
1. Begin with the right berries
Growing your own strawberries with no harmful pesticides/fungicides takes the gold. Finding a local farm (growing berries the right way) to pick your own wins the silver. Buying pre-picked berries from a local farmer takes the bronze. Purchasing from the store comes in dead last. The stock boy won’t have any idea how or where the berries were grown, and this is important!
If you can’t grow your own, check Local Harvest or Pick Your Own to find a farm near you offering U-pick strawberries. Call ahead if possible to find out if the berries have been sprayed with anything. You have the right to ask, and most farmers are happy to answer. Keep in mind that strawberries are on the “Dirty Dozen“ list of produce typically containing the highest pesticide residues, and should be purchased organic whenever possible.
For strawberry shortcake, wash and hull a few cups of berries and put them in a bowl. You can add a few teaspoons of sweetener (I use organic cane sugar but use raw honey or maple syrup if you’d like), and begin mashing until the desired consistency is reached.
2. Choose your “shortcake”
Strawberry shortcake is traditionally made with a light, fluffy biscuit as the base. However, there are no rules about how to build your strawberry desserts, so I choose to use other cakes and pastries to mix things up. Try angel food cake, or make simple drop biscuits using homemade baking mix.
In Matt’s opinion, homemade pound cake was the biggest hit of all when used as the platform for our fresh strawberries. I cut the recipe in half for a single loaf and used the following ingredients to put a healthier spin on the recipe:
- raw milk butter from local grass fed cows
- organic cane sugar (find high quality sweeteners here)
- local eggs from free range chickens
- organic pastry flour (find organic sprouted flours here)
- homemade kefir, instead of buttermilk (find kefir starters here)
- homemade vanilla extract
I always joke I have not just one sweet tooth, but a mouthful of sweet teeth. Using “real” ingredients in baked goods makes me feel a little better about my dessert consumption. (I know, I’m always trying to justify my sweets.)
3. Top it with cream
Cool-Whip won’t cut it! Don’t disrespect your berries, body, and tastebuds like that.
Get your hands on some good heavy whipping cream and prepare to whip the heck out of it. An electric mixer works best, but a whisk and some elbow grease will do the trick in a pinch.
A few optional ingredients can be added to the cream before whipping – a bit of the natural sweetener of your choice and maybe a touch of vanilla extract. I use a couple teaspoons of cane sugar per cup of cream and usually don’t bother with the vanilla.
Use a mixer or your trusty whisk to beat the whipped cream to the desired consistency. (Just be careful not to overbeat and cross into Butterdom like I have a few times.)
4. Assemble strawberry shortcake and enjoy!
Layer the cake, berries, and cream in a delightful stack. I’m sure you don’t need instructions on how to devour. ;)