We’re rolling into that time of year when I like to let the farmer’s market dictate my grocery cart. I visit each vendor, foraging for the perfect produce until I’m satisfied with my choices.
I like to to get to know my local farmers, and, fortunately, as the manager for UA’s student-run farmer’s market, that’s come easily. One of the most gracious things a person can do is thank their farmers. Those people are who supply us with our sustenance – at least, ideally – and they work hard to do it.
This spring I’ve been hoarding all the gorgeous asparagus and greens I can get my hands on, but we all know who’s the star of April farmer’s markets: the illusive strawberry.
I’m a berry fiend, no shame here. I can polish off a pint in an hour and not feel guilty about it. Berries are plants, for crying out loud. Call it bingeing if you want, but at least I’m bingeing on plants.
The early gift of strawberries is a perfect glimpse of the fruit that’s yet to come. Sweet with a little tang. Juicy, but not so runny that you’ll have to change shirts afterward (I’m looking at you, watermelon). They’re versatile pancake-toppers, salad enhancers, and simple snacks.
They’re also dessert workhorses. That’s where we are.
My friend Reid, she doesn’t like strawberry desserts. I’ll forgive her if you will.
But for me, strawberry cake is #cakegoalz. Also strawberry shortcake. With vanilla mascarpone whipped cream and all the lovely springtimey basil.
To me, strawberry shortcake is appealing because of its simplicity. We’re not bringing out all the bells and whistles for this dessert; the flavors speak for themselves.
Did I mention the strawberries are macerated? Maceration makes the strawberries are even sweeter and juicier, and the fresh basil brings out the depth hidden within the mascarpone cheese, which is scented with vanilla (!!) and whipped with cream.
I sound like a food critic. I like to think that I am.
I used a new-to-me biscuit recipe for the base of these shortcakes – a Bon Apetit recipe claiming to be “the best” – and I gotta say, you win, Bon Apetit. Probably the best biscuits I’ve ever made, and they’ll now be my go-to recipe.
Biscuits are probably one of my favorite things to bake, and as Epiphany’s Head Biscuit Maker (title is totally self-proclaimed), I think I’m pretty good at baking them. I like my biscuits flaky and dense and not-too-cakelike, and these fit the bill. If you’re a fan of your own biscuit recipe, by all means, use your own.
The part of this post that isn’t optional: making strawberry shortcakes. I’m begging you, I’m urging you. Springtime is busy for all of us, and sometimes we need to take a little time to bake shortcakes. Cutting butter into flour is methodical and medicinal. Whipped cream will ease your pain and your worries. Strawberries are springtime’s jewels. Basil makes the world go ’round.
I’m raising a strawberry shortcake to you, springtime, in hopes that we can all relax and enjoy you before the sweltering summer rounds the corner. But then, I guess we’ll just sandwich ice cream in our shortcakes. You won’t hear any complaints from me.
- 1 cup fresh strawberries, sliced
- 1-2 Tablespoons sugar (I used raw sugar)
- 1 cup butter, diced
- 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup chilled buttermilk, plus more for topping
- 1 8-oz. container mascarpone cheese
- 1/2 cup cream
- 1/3 cup powdered sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I used vanilla bean paste)
- 1. Combine the strawberries and sugar and let sit at room temperature until juices run from strawberries.
- 1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Dice butter and place in a bowl. Place bowl in the freezer until ready to use.
- 2. Sift flour, sugar, salt, and leavening together into a medium bowl. Pulse flour mixture and butter in a food processor and pulse until butter is in tiny pieces. Transfer back to bowl.
- 3. Stir in buttermilk and place dough on a floured surface. Dough should be crumbly but sturdy.
- 4. With a rolling pin, roll out dough. Fold dough into thirds, then roll it out. Roll in half, then roll out. Continue this until desired flakiness is reached. Roll dough out so that cut biscuits will be 2 inches tall.
- 5. Using a floured biscuit cutter or knife, cut out biscuits and place on a greased or papered baking sheet. Top with extra buttermilk and bake 20-25 minutes or until golden on top and cooked throughout. Let biscuits sit at room temperature until cooled.
- 1. Place all ingredients in a bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer. Whip on high until soft peaks are formed.
- 1. Cut biscuits in half. Top with whipped cream, strawberries, and basil. Serve open-faced or closed.