February 5, 2009
Shortcakes with Berries and Whipped Cream
So many birthdays early in February. My friend Leslie just turned 37. She is really fun and silly and isn't afraid to pursue her dreams (lessons I'm learning). Leslie doesn't really eat sugar either -so baking for her is somewhat of a challenge. I have big ambitions of creating the perfect dessert with some kind of natural sugar but this requires trian and error and I am not a big fan of this method as it usually means you waste a good dessert! Anyways, rather than using splenda as a substitute like I tried last year (Elvis Cake) I chose something she loves, Fruit. I think Leslie is part monkey as she could probably sustain herself on bananas for quite a while, but she seems to love all fruits and berries. I chose a shortcake with a teensie bit of sugar (I know I'm bad) and served it with fresh berries and whipped cream. The recipe I used is from my cookbook, Baking From My Home to Yours, and it seemed perfect. We (Joey, Alberto, and myself) celebrated Leslie's day of birth with a lunch pot luck on the roof garden at our office. It was blazing hot (strange for this time of year in SF) but refreshing. Alberto made spectacular enchiladas, Joey made a tasty bay shrimp salad and I finished off with the dessert. I can not say that I ever made the type of shortcake the cookbook called for - which is more like a biscuit but I really liked the idea of individual portions, especially since it had to travel. The recipe is also glorious because you can freeze the dough in little blobs and toss them into the oven whenever (this will come in handy in the summer). The dough resembled a sweet biscuit dough with a crumbly texture. I believe they are best served warm with a gigantic pile of fruit and mound of whipped cream. While we are on the topic of whipped cream, please please please never buy cool whip or any other fake whipped processed goop. True whipped cream is lovely. You have the ability to control the sweetness and weight of the cream - for the shortbread I let the cream form soft peaks - and added vanilla at the end with a whisk. We had this discussion during our lunch and Alberto confessed to loving whipped cream from a box of some sort and Joey said she would never eat cool whip again after reading the ingredients on the carton. I am truly disgusted by the fake stuff and sometimes refuse to make things from boxes.... anyways, please no more fake whipped cream people. I don't have a secret recipe here to share with you for whipped cream, but I can tell you my method. I don't measure - I use the rule that the cream will double in volume when whipped so I put a little into the mixer and mix on slow speed for a minute or two, then crank it up to med-high until it begins to hold soft peaks. At this point I add one teaspoon of powdered sugar at a time until I think it is sweet enough (test using the finger dip method) and finish beating to the desired consistency. When it is done in the mixer I whisk in about a 1/4 tsp or so of vanilla. It comes out perfect every time and I really appreciate not having to measure sometimes. To make the berry filling, I just sliced up some of my favorites and sprinkled sugar over the top so the berries would release their juice and set aside for at least 10 minutes. I cut the biscuits in half and top with as many berries as fit followed by a dollop of cream. The top of the biscuit fits snugly off to the side of the whipped cream dollop. It is beautiful and tasty and a great way to finish a birthday lunch.