by Nikki Terpilowski
When flowers begin to blossom and the temperatures rise, we know strawberry season is not far behind. There are so many delicious ways to eat strawberries, and one of my family’s favorites is paired with cake and topped with whipped cream.
In the South, pretty much anything can be made better with biscuits including dessert. Whether it’s a cobbler or a bread pudding, the buttery fluffy bread can elevate the taste of special treats that are already delicious. So don’t be surprised when a Southern cook substitutes an element in a recipe for a biscuit.
This happens frequently with strawberry shortcake. Traditionally, this springtime treat is made with… well, shortcake hence the name. There are only subtle differences in shortcake and biscuit recipes, but I prefer biscuits in this berry dessert because the bread is lighter, fluffier and not as sweet. I want the strawberries in all their natural goodness to be the highlight of this dish and not competing for sweetness with the cake.
With that being said, this recipe is also wonderful with a sweet or buttermilk biscuit recipe. Try them all and see which one you and your family love the best.
If you’re lucky, you can find fresh, naturally super-sweet strawberries that only need a sprinkling of sugar, but feel free to add sugar to taste. When strawberries are in season – that’s April in North Carolina, I prefer to buy the red berries at the numerous roadside farmstands dotting our landscape. But farmer’s markets are also wonderful places to buy fresh fruit when they open for the warmer weather.
In a pinch, I will buy organic strawberries from the grocery store. This can be hit or miss, and I always go with my nose. Sometimes grocery store fruit can look beautiful but taste like Styrofoam. I usually purchase Driscoll’s brand strawberries from my local Harris Teeter. Today’s bunch was particularly fragrant – and that’s what I mean by following my nose.
I sniff the carton of strawberries. If they smell good – fresh, sweet and bursting with flavor – that’s a good indication that they probably taste good as well. These strawberries are big, beautiful, bright red and sweet-smelling. I could hardly wait to get home and start cooking with these darlings.
The easiest part of making strawberry shortcake is the strawberries. It’s just strawberries and sugar. Strawberries, are of course, delicious by themselves but for dessert purposes, a light sprinkling of sugar really brings out the flavor. In general, our family doesn’t use sugar, so if I add it to a recipe it’s with a light hand. The nice thing about not consuming a lot of sugar is that when you do use it, it doesn’t take much.
Even easier than mascerating strawberries is making the whipped cream. For the longest time, I would run to the grocery store and buy a tub of whipped cream. And then I took the time to read a recipe for the dessert topping and discovered its only 2-3 ingredients and a few minutes to have the satisfaction of creating something delicious and satisfying.
After I sweeten the strawberries and whip the cream, I begin making the biscuits. But not just any biscuits. They have to be light and fluffy and buttery… and salty. (I especially like salty biscuits paired with molasses or preserves but I digress). The biscuit recipe I use is the one my aunt has used for as long as I have known her. She brings huge pans of them for every Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner and they are always the first to be snapped up.
They are soft and pillowy and flaky… The perfect foundation for sweetened strawberries and whipped cream.
Speaking of biscuits. I like to bake my biscuits in a cast iron pan. I think it just tastes better. Of course, there’s the additional bonus of the iron leeching into your food, but it’s a healthy pan if such a thing exist.
After the biscuits are baked, I immediately brush them with liberal doses of butter and lightly sprinkle with salt. Plate the dessert and save immediately or wrap the biscuits in a towel to keep them warm and soft. You can also completely assemble the shortcake, cover with aluminum foil and store in the refrigerator for a day or two. I prefer to serve this dish fresh, but my kids love to eat this refrigerated and a day old too. Though you might want to add a dollop of freshly whipped cream.
Strawberry Shortcake With Southern Biscuits
- 4 cups organic strawberries
- 5 tbsp organic sugar (or low-carb alternatives like Swerve or Stevia if applicable)
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tbsp organic sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
- 3/4 cup butter (make sure the butter is cold)
- 1 organic egg
- 1 cup organic milk
Fresh Whipped Cream
- 2 tbsp organic sugar
- 1 tsp organic vanilla
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Thoroughly clean the strawberries. Remove the stems and slice. Place in a bowl and cover with sugar, stirring completely. Set the strawberry mixture aside while you prepare your whipping cream and biscuits. During this time, the strawberries will macerate - in other words, the sugar will draw the juice of the berries out. Cover and let sit for at least 30 minutes at room temperature.
- Place the sugar in a second medium mixing bowl. Add the whipping cream and vanilla. Whisk just before the cream reaches stiff peaks. Store any unused portion in an airtight container for up to 10 hours. When ready to use, whisk for 10 to 15 seconds. Allow to chill in the refrigerator while you prepare the biscuits.
- Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
- Remove the butter from the refrigerator, slice and dice into small pieces. Cut the butter into the flour mixture.
- Add the milk and egg. Mix gently. You should still be able to see small pieces of butter.
- Place the dough onto a generously floured surface. Sprinkle flour on the top of the dough so it won't stick to your fingers and knead 10-12 times. If the dough is super sticky just sprinkle on some additional flour.
- Pat the dough out to 3/4 to 1-inch thickness and cut with a biscuit cutter.
- Place the biscuits on a lightly greased baking sheet lined baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown on top.
- When the biscuits are done, brush each top generously with butter. Sprinkle lightly with salt.
- Place one biscuit on a plate, slice in half and spoon the strawberry filling onto the first half. Top with whipped cream and place the other half of the biscuit on the strawberries and cream. If you like, place more strawberries and cream on top of the biscuit or leave it bare.