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Make the most of summer’s strawberries

  • NEW YORK TIMES
                                Strawberry spoon cake is best served warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

    NEW YORK TIMES

    Strawberry spoon cake is best served warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

  • NEW YORK TIMES
                                Make a summery “shortcake” with crunchy cookies instead of soft biscuits.

    NEW YORK TIMES

    Make a summery “shortcake” with crunchy cookies instead of soft biscuits.

  • NEW YORK TIMES
                                A crunchy shortbread crust and a cloud of freshly whipped cream makes this delightfully fresh pie reminiscent of strawberry shortcake.

    NEW YORK TIMES

    A crunchy shortbread crust and a cloud of freshly whipped cream makes this delightfully fresh pie reminiscent of strawberry shortcake.

STRAWBERRY SHORTBREAD AND CREAM

This might be a controversial position in the world of desserts, but I think berries and whipped cream go better with a nice, crisp cookie than with the soft biscuits of a classic strawberry shortcake.

I adore biscuits, but, to my mind, they’re bread, not cake, and best eaten for breakfast, not dessert.

Cookies are sweet and crunchy, offering textural contrast to all that syrupy fruit and fluffy cream. They are also more convenient. You can make the cookies a few days in advance while biscuits need to be eaten within a few hours of baking.

I like to use a cookie as my spoon, scooping up berries and cream and nibbling as I go. Just try that with a biscuit.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar

1 egg yolk

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt (reduce to 1/4 teaspoon if using salted butter)

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeded, or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water or grated orange zest (optional)

2 cups (255 grams) all-purpose flour

>> For serving:

1 pint strawberries, sliced

Sugar, to taste

1 cup heavy cream

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in egg yolk, salt, vanilla seeds and orange blossom water, if using. Beat in flour until smooth, scraping sides of bowl with a spatula.

Scrape dough onto a 12-inch-long piece of plastic wrap and form it into a log, 1-1/2 inches in diameter. It will be very sticky, so use plastic wrap to help form the log (make 2 shorter logs if that’s easier). Wrap up dough and chill until thoroughly cold, 3 hours to 5 days.

When ready to bake, heat oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment.

Unwrap dough log and slice into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Arrange them on prepared baking sheets and bake until cookies are golden at edges, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer baking sheets to a wire rack to cool completely. Cookies can be baked up to 4 days ahead and stored in an airtight container at room temperature.

To serve, sprinkle strawberries with a little sugar and let them sit 15 minutes to release their juices.

Using an electric mixer fitted with a whisk, or a whisk and elbow grease, whip cream, adding 1 to 2 teaspoons sugar, if you like. Note that cookies are very sweet so you may not need sugar at all.

Spoon strawberries into serving bowls and top with whipped cream. Drizzle with juices from strawberry bowl. Tuck a cookie or 2 in each bowl and serve with spoons. Serves 4, with extra shortbread.

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Melissa Clark, New York Times

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FRESH STRAWBERRY PIE

Strawberries grace the supermarket produce aisle all year round, but the juicy, brightly colored varieties available now are almost a different species, altogether soft and delicate and needing to be devoured as quickly as possible. You can smell their floral, candylike aroma even laying eyes on them.

When strawberries are at their peak, it’s time to make a fresh strawberry pie.

This one starts with an easy, press-in cookie crust. Graham crackers or chocolate wafers are nice, too.

Finished with a cloud of freshly whipped cream, this pie is a sight to behold. All in all, its simplicity makes it special. The fruit has been gussied up, but only enough to allow it to shine.

>> Crust:

10-2/3 ounces (300 grams) shortbread cookies (two 5-ounce packages)

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup (55 grams) unsalted butter, melted

>> Filling:

2-1/2 pounds strawberries (about 8 to 10 cups), hulled

1/3 cup (65 grams) granulated sugar

3 tablespoons strawberry preserves

1/4 cup (30 grams) cornstarch

1 tablespoon water

Pinch kosher salt

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

>> Topping:

1 cup cold heavy cream

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

Prepare crust: Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, combine cookies, sugar, flour and salt; blend until you have fine crumbs. Transfer crumbs to a medium mixing bowl.

Add butter and mix with a fork until crumbs are evenly moistened. Press crumbs into a standard 9-inch pie plate, in an even layer on the bottom and up sides. Bake until golden brown and set, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Prepare filling: Cut strawberries in quarters or eighths. Transfer 2 cups to a small saucepan and crush completely with a potato masher. Set aside remaining berries in a large bowl.

Add sugar, preserves, cornstarch, water and salt to crushed berries. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add to strawberries in the bowl with lemon juice; stir to combine. Transfer to prepared crust and gently tap pie plate on counter to settle filling into an even layer. Chill at least 4 hours.

Just before serving, whip cream, powdered sugar and vanilla, if using, to soft peaks. Top pie with whipped cream. Serves 8 to 10.

———

Samantha Seneviratne, New York Times

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Strawberry Spoon Cake

There’s something so homey about a warm dessert so tender you must serve it with a big spoon and a deep bowl.

One such dish is spoonbread, the usually savory, sometimes sweet Southern specialty. Fully or par-cooked cornmeal is stirred into a custardy batter, then lightened with whipped egg whites. You’d get something gritty and coarse, like cornbread, but still supple enough to scoop, like pudding. Save this idea for a holiday potluck.

Then there’s pudding cake, often made by pouring boiling-hot liquid over a batter right before pushing it into the oven. This would create a miraculously fluffy cake on top and a silky custard on the bottom. It’s the perfect weekend project.

Finally comes this spoon cake. As formless as its cousins, it’s aptly named for the way it’s served: spooned to catch the crusted edges and barely set center in one bite.

The batter comes together quickly and will assume the shape of whatever dish you bake it in. If you prefer attractive, smaller portions, the recipe works well divided across two, shallow 15-ounce ceramic dishes.

The surface is covered in freshly mashed strawberries, which gives the batter its vibrant color and flavor but creates enough liquid to keep the cake steaming as it bakes. The cake is wonderful when served simply, like this, but it can also take on a warmer tone with a dusting of ginger or cardamom, or even veer slightly savory with the addition of ribboned basil and balsamic syrup.

It’s meant to be served hot, nestled beside a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream. Once the warm cake and creamy ice cream are jumbled together, your night is made.

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing pan

5 ounces fresh, hulled strawberries (about 1 cup)

2/3 cup (150 grams) packed light brown sugar, divided

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature

1 cup (130 grams) all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Vanilla ice cream, for serving

Heat oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8-inch (square or round) baking dish with butter. Set aside.

Using your hands or the back of a fork, mash berries to release all their juices; stir in 1/3 cup of the brown sugar. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together melted butter, remaining 1/3 cup brown sugar, salt and milk, then add flour and baking powder and continue whisking just until batter is smooth. Transfer batter (it won’t be much) to greased baking dish and spread evenly into corners.

Spoon strawberries and all their juices over top of cake batter. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or just until a toothpick comes out clean in the center. Let cool 3 to 5 minutes, then spoon into bowls. Serve warm with ice cream. Serves 4.

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Jerrelle Guy, New York Times

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