The 4th of July is one of those holidays that — for me, anyway — feels almost like any other day. We don’t have a big family, so there are no large get-togethers with kids running around everywhere, adults sitting in lawn chairs enjoying cold drinks in the shade and lots of laughter and good food. Sometimes I wish we had that; it would be nice if we lived closer to my dad and my brother’s family. I’ve just got to look around, remind myself why I love it here and try to make it the best day possible, every day.
If you asked Violet, she’d tell you that today was an outstanding day. She got to shop for fireworks with Daddy, play on her swing set, watch some sparkly firecrackers (which surprisingly didn’t scare her) and eat the yummiest dessert ever!
Well, maybe not the yummiest ever, but Dave and Mom raved about it. I haven’t ever received so many compliments about a dish I’ve served. This one is definitely going into my personal cookbook! I went with the classic red, white and blue theme. I wanted to use fresh berries, because berries are one of Violet’s favorite foods. Strawberry shortcake seemed a logical choice; I haven’t had it in years and it sounded good. The recipe came from a cookbook I received from a former boss (thank you, Connie!) called The New Best Recipe. I made the whipped cream myself — it so would not have been the same otherwise. Here’s the recipe:
8 cups (about 2 ½ pounds) strawberries, hulled
6 tablespoons sugar
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface and biscuit cutter
5 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 large egg, lightly beaten
½ cup half-and-half or whole milk (I used whole milk)
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
1. FOR THE FRUIT: Place 3 cups of the hulled strawberries in a large bowl and crush with a potato masher. Slice the remaining 5 cups berries and stir into the crushed berries along with the sugar. Set the fruit aside to macerate [this is a good opportunity to dust off that old dictionary of yours!] for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.
2. FOR THE SHORTCAKES: Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees. In a food processor, pulse the flour, 3 tablespoons of the sugar, the baking powder, and salt to combine. Scatter the butter pieces over and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about fifteen 1-second pulses. Transfer to a medium bowl.
3. Mix the beaten egg with the milk in a measuring cup. Pour the egg mixture into the bowl with the flour mixture. Combine with a rubber spatula until large clumps form. Turn the mixture onto a floured work surface and lightly knead until it comes together.
4. Use your fingertips to pat the dough into a 9 by 6-inch rectangle about ¾-inch thick, being careful not to overwork the dough. Flour a 2¾-inch biscuit cutter and cut out 6 dough rounds. Place the rounds 1 inch apart on a small baking sheet, brush the tops with the beaten egg white, and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. (Dough rounds can be covered and refrigerated for up to 2 hours before baking.)
5. Bake until the shortcakes are golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes. Place the baking sheet on a wire rack and cool the cakes until warm, about 10 minutes.
6. TO ASSEMBLE: When the shortcakes have cooled slightly, split them in half. Place each cake bottom on an individual serving plate. Spoon a portion of the fruit and then a dollop of the whipped cream over each cake bottom. Cap with the cake top and serve immediately.
I obviously added the blueberries in order to fit with the red, white and blue theme. What can be better than fresh blueberries? Yum! This is definitely a dessert I am going to be making again in the not-so-distant future.
I hope everyone has a fantastic Fourth!