So I know diet diner food isn’t a great sell for everybody, and frankly, I think baking takes far prettier pictures. That said, I have, for Valentine’s Day, a visual gift for all y’all. Strawberry shortcake is a beautiful thing all on its own, but for dessert for two, it can be improved upon.
Generally, in place of shortcake, I make some sweet biscuits, slice ’em open and throw some sugary strawberries and whipped topping on there. However, I’ve been reading aaalllll about different flours and decided to try out the theory that the low protein levels in cake flour makes for a more perfect crumb.
OH MY GOD, I will never go back to all-purpose flour. All-purpose flour varies from region to region and season to season, so while in theory it can make for a seasonal flair, there’s something to be said for fabulous consistency. This recipe makes a tender, delicious, and all-around omnommy shortcake biscuit.
They’re out of season, but available in most stores. Do yourself a favour and throw out any that aren’t red inside. White strawberries are blech, ugh, and above all else, yucky.
Here’s how to measure your flour perfectly. First, sift onto a flexible cutting board or, as seen here, parchment paper.
Funnel the flour into the measuring cup. Oh hey, bitch has tattoos, check that out.
Overfill the cup with flour, and DO NOT shake to level it off–this repacks the flour and undoes all your fancy sifting.
Instead, kinda slice off the top with a knife into the sink, or back into your flour bag/box if you can manage it. It’s messy, but it’s the best way.
Use a pastry blender or two knives to blend the butter into the flour until it kinda disappears in there. Then add some heavy cream, light cream, or fat free half and half. This is a batter rather than a dough, so no folding out is required, and it will be goopy.
And hey, back to the strawberries! Except this time they’re seasonally-themed.
Select the pointiest berries to create the hearts. Then remove the stem and carve out the little stem-pit there. Also, this berry was a poor example, as there was a lot of white under that stem.
Cut the strawberries in half length-wise, then carve a little V out of the top. To further carve out the heart-shape, slice from the already-sliced side and round out the edges. This takes a little bit of practice, and I really didn’t know how to show it in photos (sorry!). Really, though, the strawberries are going to be pushed into the batter anyway, so the edges really don’t have to be all that perfect. They just take better pre-baked photos that way. And that’s how to make strawberry hearts.
Scoop two heaving tablespoons of batter into each spot of your muffin pan, then press one of the strawberry hearts into each.
Then bake to perfection. And hey, don’t serve yours this way . . . you need to serve it with sugared strawberries. Really. Trust me. This just took the best picture.
Strawberry Heart Shortcake Cupcakes
makes 8 cakes
1 lb fresh strawberries.
2c sifted cake flour (if using all-purpose flour, which is not recommended, reduce to 1.75c sifted)
1 tbsp baking powder
3 tbsp sugar (1 tbsp for the shortcake, 2 for the strawberry topping)
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp cold butter
3/4 c light or heavy cream, half and half, or fat-free half and half
Whipped cream, whipped topping, or cream-in-a-can
Rinse the berries, reserving 8-10 small to medium ones with pointy tips. These will be your hearts. Heat the oven to 450.
Slice remaining strawberries into quarters and toss with 2 tbsp sugar to coat. Set aside.
Sift flour on a flexible cutting board or parchment paper. Gently pour into measuring cup, then level off with a knife. I’ll repeat it again just in case you missed it the first time: do not level off by shaking or tapping the measuring cup. You’ll get dry nasty muffins, and nobody wants that.
Sift the sifted flour AGAIN, this time with baking powder, salt and sugar. Cut up the butter, which should have been in your fridge all this time, a little bit to get the blending going. Dump into the flour, then use a pastry blender or two knives to blend together. You’re done when there are no remaining chunks of butter in there. Add in the cream or half and half all at once, then mix until all ingredients are moistened.
Let that sit a bit while you create your strawberry hearts. Pull off stems, carve out the pit with a paring knife, then slice in half. Shape each half into a heart by carving a V at the notch (where the stem used to be). Since the berries will be pushed into the dough, the edges don’t need to make a perfect heart, but the V at the top is pivotal.
Bake for 12 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool a minute or two in the pan, then transfer to wire rack to cool. Serve to your dearest love with the sugared strawberries and whipped cream.