Strawberry picking was a major summer activity growing up in rural Iowa. Although strawberries are my least favorite of the berry family, there is something about the first sweet strawberries of the season. The strawberry shortcakes of my youth relied on the adequate but nothing special Bisquik shortcakes. Now as a big girl in the big city, I don’t pick my own strawberries…I walk to the nearest farmer’s market. And I don’t use Bisquik….because shortcakes are SO easy to make from scratch, and I find mine way more flavorful with the addition of cornmeal (doesn’t everything taste better with a bit of cornmeal????).
I added some sugar and a bit of kirsch (cherry brandy) to the hulled and sliced berries. This can be done earlier in the day (as well as baking the shortcakes), leaving just a quick whisking of the cream prior to assembly. On a hot July day, nothing could be simpler….except maybe ordering in.
Strawberry Cornmeal Shortcakes
Serves 8-12, depending upon shortcake size
For the strawberries:
1 and 1/2 quarts strawberries, cleaned and sliced
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon kirsch (optional, but it makes the strawberries really special)
Combine in bowl and let rest, stirring occasionally for at least 1 hour and up to 6 hours.
As the strawberries sit with the sugar and kirsch, they make a lovely strawberry syrup to soak the shortcakes with. Kirsch lasts forever, so pick up a good quality bottle, even if you only need a tablespoon or two for this recipe. I’ve had this bottle for several years, and it is still going strong….
For the Cornmeal Shortcakes:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup fine ground cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter, cold and cut into 1 inch pieces
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk
demara sugar and whole milk or heavy cream for glazing
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
In bowl of food processor add flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and sugar. Pulse 2-4 times to blend. Add butter and pulse until chick pea sized clumps of butter remain (4-8 pulses). Add egg and buttermilk, and pulse another 4-8 pulses, until it is starting to come together. On floured surface, pat to 1 inch thick rectangle (flouring your hands helps too).
Using 2-3 inch round cookie cutter, cut shortbreads and transfer to parchment lined baking sheet.
Gather scraps and repeat with remaining dough. Makes 8 – 12 shortcakes.
Brush shortcakes with heavy cream and sprinkle with demara sugar (granulated sugar can be substituted).
Bake in 450 degree oven for 12-15 minutes (12 for 2 inch rounds, 15 for 3 inch rounds). Transfer to wire rack to cool. Use same day, but can be made several hours in advance.
1 and 1/2 cups heavy cream whisked with 1/4 cup confectioners sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla until stiff peaks form. (you’ll need elbow grease for this, but it really only takes a few minutes!) Make sure you whip the cream right before assembly/serving.
Gently slice shortcakes with serrated knife. Place bottom of shortcake on dessert dish, spoon on strawberries and juice from berries. Add a generous dollop of whipped cream. Add top of shortcake, and then a small dollop of whipped cream and a few of the sliced strawberries for garnish. Serve immediately.