Friday, August 28, 2009

My favorite dessert. Maybe.

Since Tuesday, I've been thinking about how I would feel if my 13-year-old daughter was leaving to go to school in Paris for a year. It has been hard to let my 16, almost 17-year-old daughter board a plane by herself to go visit colleges with her grandfather. I don't think I could handle it. But supposedly, life never gives you more than you can handle (a saying I have not really believed since, oh, about August 2004). But what an amazing adventure for Julia. An amazing opportunity, an amazing child, an amazing family.
In addition to all this introspection, it has been a VERY busy week for me. Although I was super busy at work on Wednesday, all could think about in my off moments was how much I was looking forward to Strawberry Shortcake for dessert. Strawberry Shortcake is my very favorite dessert of all time. Everything about it is perfect. I love strawberries. I loved freshly whipped, lightly sweetened, cream. And I love biscuits. The only thing that comes close to Strawberry Shortcake is a really amazing fruit cobbler -- in my book. When I think of Strawberry Shortcake, I think of the Poky Little Puppy's brothers spying a strawberry growing, realizing that they are going to have Strawberry Shortcake for dessert, and running, roly, poly, pell mell, tumble bumble, home -- where they are sent to bed without dessert. I would be the brothers -- not the Poky Little Puppy who actually gets the dessert - because I love Strawberry Shortcake so much.
But life, as always, gets in the way. Ran home from work. Started dinner -- some weird spaghetti "pie" thing I was trying (which turned out pretty good). While waiting for the water to boil, I figured I had time to start the shortcake. I realized, immediately, that I had only bought 2 pints of strawberries, and not the 3 the recipe called for (because I apparently don't know what a "pint" of strawberries is). Got the strawberries washed and hulled and chilling in the fridge. While working on a couple other things having to do with dinner, I mixed together the shortcake ingredients. In an effort to conserve dishwashing, I measured the milk lazily into a huge measuring cup. This was a big mistake. My shortcake dough was wet and sticky and impossible to manage -- but I didn't have time or energy to fix it because I realized IT WAS TIME TO PICK UP SAM. So I just took my wet, stick, impossible lump of messy dough and threw it into the pans -- spreading it out the best I could and ending up with seemingly more dough on my hands then in the pans. Washed my hands, threw the shortcakes into the oven, barked a bunch of incomprehensible instructions at Natalie, and ran out the door.
When I got home, I found that Natalie had finished making dinner, and had pulled the shortcakes out of the oven as instructed. Unfortunately, the recipe directions state that you are supposed to be doing a whole bunch of things while the shortbread is baking, because you are supposed to attack the shortcake as soon as it comes out of the oven. I had no such luxury. I had a kitchen which was swamped with dirty dishes (this recipe makes more dirty dishes than any we have made so far + I had dirty dishes from my dinner recipe). I had hungry kids. I was hungry. So I threw the garlic bread in the oven and considered the next step.
According to Maida, the second the shortcake comes out of the oven you are supposed to take it out of the pans and butter it so it has a nice, buttery sheen all of the tops. Instead, I threw ice cold butter on top of the shortcakes and put them in the oven with the garlic bread. A few minutes later, the butter was melted and I brushed it all over the top of the warmish cake. While I was doing this, I rapidly sliced the strawberries, which were all over the maps as far as size goes because I didn't have time to worry about uniformity. Forgetting completely that I only had 2 rather than 3 pints of berries, I poured in the entire 12 ounces of strawberry jam, so the berries were a nice gloppy mess. It looked more like strawberry compote than the berries traditionally adorning a Strawberry Shortcake. I didn't even have time to think about the cream -- just stuck the beaters in the freezer for later. I assembled the shortcake per Maida's instructions, and left it sitting on a plate.

Now we had a little time. Ate dinner, washed the mountains of dishes. Attacked the whipped cream. Like Maria, there was no way I was going to whip 2 cups of cream. I whipped 1 cup. But I had not frozen the bowl, it was about 100 degrees in the kitchen, and the cream did not want to set AT ALL. I finally got it to extremely soft peaks. And we were finally ready to dig in.

I was in too big of a hurry to pose the pictures or make sure that Natalie got the most artistic shots. But it looked so yummy.
And it really was yummy. Natalie, Cassandra and I all had pieces. Sam apparently doesn't like Strawberry Shortcake. I can't believe that. How can you not like Strawberry Shortcake? And Pete has to "be in the mood" for dessert. He is almost never "in the mood" for dessert. But the three of us devoured ours. And guess what? It was really good! The shortcake was super light and fluffy and I didn't notice any bitter flavor from the 4 teaspoons of baking powder. I'm thinking my messy dough was probably a good thing because it was so messy I couldn't even think about over mixing or over handling it -- I just had to deal with it. The cream was perfectly sweet and soft enough that you could mix it into each bite. My only complaint was the berries. I think the best berries for Shortcake are when you slice the berries, sprinkle a little sugar over them, and let that macerate for a little while so the flavor of the berries shines through. These berries were quite sweet and tasted like what they looked like -- strawberry compote. I don't have anything against strawberry compote, but I don't want it on Strawberry Shortcake. The whole point is to showcase the berries!
Natalie, Cassandra and I devoured 3 more pieces for breakfast. Fruit and biscuits -- perfect for breakfast. And I brought the other two pieces to work to share with Ben and Deb, who both declared the Shortcake super yummy.
Strawberry Shortcake. Still my favorite dessert. But maybe not Maida's recipe. I'm feeling very blasphemous by saying that.
Bonjour Julia. Tell your mom to ship you goodies. I'm sure it doesn't cost THAT much to ship slices of cheesecake, packed in dry ice, to France . . .


  1. Nice one, Alicia. Maddy's doing well -- good visit to Davis today. I'm sure she misses all of you but we're having fun; watched MiB tonight. Tomorrow: East Bay and SF.

  2. The reality of a busy person squeezing in a yummy dessert - and it does sound yummy! I choked up pretty hard at the August 2004 reference. Hard.