Is there anything new to be written about strawberry shortcake? It’s where the simple flavour of the tastiest fruit with its seeds1 on the outside meets a composed preparation. Eating just the tips (those are the sweetest part) and throwing the rest over your shoulder works in your garden but not for a dinner party. Strawberry cakes, tarts, and ice cream involve a lot of work but very little flavour reward.
The strawberry shortcake recipe in Earth to Table has treated me well in the past but for some variation this time I turned to the award-winning Tartine cookbook. Many of its recipes are complicated, three-day adventures (not that there’s anything wrong with that) but the Mixed-Berry Shortcakes are simple to make. In that recipe, the authors offered an insight that led to my adaptation. They write:
What I love about a “plated” dessert, rather than a fully composed dessert like a cake or tart, is that you can have a variety of temperatures and textures on one plate: here, we have the cool cream, the warm berry sauce, the soft, cool berries, and a soft biscuit with a crunchy sugar top to soak up all the juices.
What I like about strawberries and rhubarb together is that the tart rhubarb brightens the sweet-floral flavour of strawberries. While rhubarb is still at its peak–usually in mid-June–strawberries can be a little low in sugar so the usual solution is to add granulated but I’ve stumbled on another source of sugar. I keep a steady supply of bananas in the freezer (I raid the discount produce rack for ones that are already nearly at peak ripeness) for smoothies and banana bread. Because really ripe bananas are so high in sugar they don’t freeze solid and if you take one from the freezer when you start the recipe it will be soft enough to slice when you’re ready to serve.
St-ubarb Banana Shortcakes
Adapted from the Mixed-Berry Shortcakes recipe in Tartine.
Strawberry-rhubarb shortcakes are fairly well-balanced in terms of sweet and tart but the frozen banana slices add an interesting temperature contrast.
Yield: serves six
- 555 g (2 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 55 g (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon table salt
- 57 g (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, very cold
- 43 g (3 tablespoons) lard, very cold
- 1 1/4 cup heavy cream, very cold
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, for topping
- 3 stalks rhubarb, chopped
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1 pint strawberries, hulled and halved
- 2 bananas, frozen, partly thawed and sliced thickly
- Preheat your oven to 425°F. Remove bananas from the freezer and set on the counter, in a bowl, to thaw.
For the shortcakes: In a medium to large mixing bowl combine the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt and whisk together to mix evenly. Cut the butter and lard (if you want a vegetarian version, do as the original recipe does and use only butter) into small cubes and scatter these pieces over the flour mixture. Using a pastry cutter, a fork, two knives, or your fingers–having cold hands helps if you go that last route–cut the fat into the flour. The goal is to coat the fat in flour and to leave some pea-sized lumps of butter intact.
- Pour in one cup of the cream and gently mix the dough together. Here we want to avoid developing too much gluten so avoid over-mixing. The result should shaggy and somewhat moist but take care to incorporate the dry ingredients from the sides and bottom of the bowl.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and massage it into a disk. Gently a rolling pin to rule the dough out into a one-inch thick circle. Use a four-inch biscuit cutter to cut as many rounds as possible from the circle. Re-roll the scraps once, cut again, and if there any scraps left press them together to make the sixth shortcake.
- Transfer the dough rounds to a silpat-lined baking sheet. Brush the tops with cream and sprinkle with sugar. Bake in the preheated oven until golden brown. About 10 to 12 minutes. Cool for fifteen minutes.
For the filling: Put the water, sugar, and chopped rhubarb in a medium saucepan and set over medium heat. When it comes to a simmer reduce heat to low and cook for ten minutes or until the rhubarb has lost its structure and become a compote. Stir frequently to keep from burning. When the rhubarb has fallen apart, add the halved strawberries, cover and kill the heat. The strawberries should cook for a minimum amount of time so that they don’t take on that dull, stewed strawberry flavour.
- Split the shortcakes in half with a serrated knife. Serve each with a generous couple spoonfuls of the strawberry-rhubarb mixture, and a few slices of the cold banana.