Strawberry shortcake


Recognizing the fleeting yet delicious strawberry season here in west Michigan I just had to share a little something with you on June’s quintessential summer dessert - strawberry shortcake.


What a difference between the often gargantuan looking engineered strawberries that we get from California and the smaller, succulent and so tasty berries from our local growers. Oh my.

California vs. Michigan

California vs. Michigan

Whether you like yours assembled with a crumbly scone/shortcake/biscuit or a wedge of angel food or sponge cake, with lightly sweetened whipped cream or a scoop of chilly ice cream (think vanilla, strawberry or pistachio!), it’s definitely a seasonal favorite.

The spring board for this off-the-cuff post was a shortcake made recently during a teen’s summer culinary camp session at Sur La Table where I teach baking and pastry classes. The recipe is very similar to my usual scone recipe with a couple of tweaks: more cream and no egg. The result, especially warm from the oven, has just the right crispness on the surface and a dense yet light melt-in-your-mouth texture inside. Yum. Yum.

And ya wanna know the cool part? The dough is made in the food processor! I’m here to tell you that I’ve been a staunch “by-hand” scone and flaky pie dough maker for a long time without the need (or desire) for gadgets. Give me a simple dinner fork, bowl scraper, bench scraper, small offset spatula, paring knife, silicone spatula for many dough mixing and bench top projects and I’m in heaven.

Ahhh . . . . but wait. I am now on the best of terms with the food processor for those flaky doughs made with cold cubed butter - quick pulses and voilà! Think your best pâte brisée, quick puff pastry, buttery scones and biscuits - all of ‘em!


Here’s the shortcake recipe:
1. Heat the oven to 425ºF. Have a parchment lined sheet pan ready.
2. Cube 113 g (1 stick/4 ounces) cold unsalted butter and hold it in the freezer until ready to mix.
3. Have one cup of cold heavy cream standing by in the fridge.
4. Place 260 g (2 cups) all purpose flour (or 60 g whole wheat pastry flour + 200 g a.p. flour), 50 g (1/4 cup) sugar, 8 g (2.5 teaspoons) baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse it a couple of times to mix.
5. Add the cold cubed butter and pulse briefly several times to break it up - you WANT pea to pecan-half size pieces of butter left!
6. Add the cream and pulse again briefly several times just until the dough comes together.
Turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface and lightly squeeze any clumps together. Don’t overwork. Form a 4”x8” rectangle and cut 8 squares.
7. Place the squares on the prepared sheet pan, brush tops with cream and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Place the sheet in the freezer for 10-15 minutes then bake about 15 minutes until the tops are golden brown.
8. Cool or serve still slightly warm with fresh strawberries and whipped cream or ice cream of choice.

Either split your shortcake/fill it/cap it and top with berries and cream or simply leave it whole and pile on the goods, it’s up to you. You can even chunk it up in a bowl and crown it with creamy, fruity goodness. Any way you do it, it’s superb!


Here’s to lots more summer berries. Enjoy!

Easter desserts, happy spring and one more chocolate babka

Happy Easter everyone.  Steve and I are in our second spring since our move back to Grand Rapids, and this has been the first burst of color in our little garden two years in a row.  The lovely primrose - ahhhhhhh.  

Our day began misty, windy and overcast and is winding down with glorious sunshine, lovely breezes and no humidity.  We'll take it, thank you very much.

We spent the afternoon with the Galloway and TenHave clan for a delicious Easter dinner and good conversation and companionship.  Thanks Scott and Jen - you're the best!

Of course I simply had to make dessert for the gathering, and what better flavor to choose than something lusciously LEMON.  

I turned to that tried and true (and now my favorite tarte au citron) recipe from Jacques Genin, topping it with a thin layer of crème Chantilly and some fresh raspberries.

A good lemon tart is one of THE best things in the pastry world à mon avis, but I wanted to throw something else into the mix for the holiday meal.  I'd been thinking about coconut and chocolate and ended up following Alice Medrich's coconut chocolate meringue recipe in her book "Flavor Flours" (a recent and exciting discovery for me). What better way to use up some of those egg whites I had sitting in the fridge.

Make a basic meringue, taking it to stiff peaks.

Fold in a delightful mixture of chopped dark and white chocolate, coarsely chopped roasted, lightly salted almonds and coconut chips (the smaller bowl below is for sprinkling on the top of the scooped meringues).

Portion out generous tablespoons of meringue mixture onto parchment lined sheets, then sprinkle additional chocolate/nut/coconut mix on top.

Bake at 200ºF for 1.5 hours, then turn oven off and let cool completely.

Crispy, crunchy, nutty with almonds and coconut, chocolate chunks - what more does one need in a bite size treat? These are downright tasty.

I declare this a winning dessert day - yay!

But before I go, here's one final note. 

Just when you thought you'd heard the end of the whole babka thing, I'll finish up with one more experience with that oh-so-intriguing subject.  I baked one more babka the other day as part of a trial for an Easter class I was preparing to teach at the Breton Sur La Table here in Grand Rapids.  The process went well, the dough felt great, the plaits looked pretty good (in spite of a bit of messiness with the chocolate filling), and it went into the pan without much of a hitch.

It baked a bit longer than I expected but came out a deep golden brown and smelling heavenly.

The swirls were okey-dokey when sliced too.

And you know what? Delicious.

I promise that's it for this year's babka session. Enough.

Happy spring everyone and thanks for reading "Baking with The French Tarte". I appreciate it more than you'll ever know.