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how sweet it is

27 February 2010

dj

my friend Lourdes exudes a burning passion for baseball. she gives thanks for the end of football season because it means spring training looms on the horizon. when i was small, my dad took me and my sister to watch the Red Sox play at Fenway Park; i fell asleep during the game. that feeling of being lulled into a coma lives on. but lately i’ve been thinking about being thrown a curve ball. or two. when life doesn’t unfold exactly as i’d planned. or hoped.

at these times, i have to remember to embrace the sweet things. like a handsome bulldog raising his heavy head up for a little scratch behind the ears. a sunny day in February, unseasonally warm enough to jump on the tractor and mow the lawn for the first time in months. a crisp, clear night, where Cassiopeia dangles just above the backyard tree line, twinkling like a shiny mobile. a winter run of California strawberries so red, plump and fragrant that i’m inspired to to break out—and experiment with—a new shortcake recipe. which is exactly what i did.

an integration of two different shortcake recipes, the end result offers a deep chocolate flavor and feels light while retaining a dense texture. who could go awry when fusing strawberries, chocolate and whipped cream?

for my friends and family (my mother is still a HUGE Red Sox fan; i picked her up a pink Sox cap on my last trip to Bean Town) who are baseball fanatics, go whomever! for the rest of us, enjoy whatever the fairer weather brings.

Chocolate Strawberry Shortcakes
a variation based on recipes from The Best of fine Cooking Chocolate! and from Cross Creek Cookery

INGREDIENTS

for the dough
2 1/4 cups organic white flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar, plus some for sprinkling
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder, plus three tablespoons (i used Green & Black’s organic cocoa powder)
8 tablespoons organic butter
6 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate, grated or finely chopped; more for garnish
3/4 cup heavy cream, plus 3 tablespoons for brushing
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 egg, well beaten

for the topping
4 – 5 cups strawberries, cut in 1/2-inch thick slices (around 3 pints)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

  1. line a heavy baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. in a medium bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder.
  3. cut the butter into the dry ingredients, until the largest pieces of butter are the size of peas.
  4. add the grated chocolate, and toss to combine.
  5. in a liquid measure, combine the heavy cream, vanilla and egg.
  6. make a well in the center of the flour mixture, then pour in the liquid ingredients.
  7. mix with a fork until the dough is evenly moistened and just combined; it should look shaggy and still feel a little dry.
  8. while the dough remains in the mixing bowl, gently knead by hand to pick up any dry ingredients remaining in the bottom of the bowl, then form the dough into a loose ball.
  9. turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and pat it into an 8-inch square, 3/4- to 1-inch thick.
  10. transfer dough to the parchment-lined baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and chill for 20 minutes.
  11. preheat oven to 400F.
  12. remove dough from fridge, and trim about 1/4 inch from each side to create a neat, sharp edge (i used a pastry scraper to do this).
  13. cut the dough into 9 even squares, each about 2 1/2 inches square.
  14. spread the dough squares two inches apart on the baking sheet.
  15. brush each shortcake with a thin layer of cream; sprinkle generously with sugar.
  16. bake until the shortcakes are mostly firm to the touch, about 18 minutes.
  17. pour the cream into a small, cold mixing bowl, and beat with a hand mixer until the cream begins to thicken.
  18. add the sugar and vanilla, then whisk by hand until the cream is softly whipped or until the whisk leaves distinct marks in the cream. it should be soft and billowy, but still holds its shape.
  19. while the shortcakes are still warm, split them in half horizontally with a serrated knife.
  20. for each serving, set the bottom of the shortcake on a plate, covering with 1/2 cup of strawberries; add a generous dollop of whipped cream, then cover with top of shortcake.
    some people like to sprinkle sugar on the strawberries and let it sink in to sweeten, before placing on the shortcakes; i think this recipe is sweet enough without doing so.
  21. top each shortcake with another dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkling of grated chocolate.
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