The Strawberry Shortcake that I grew up with, I am sad to say, was the commercial stuff. You know those spongey twinkie like cakes shaped like cups filled with strawberries and whipped cream. But no. Strawberry Shortcake, the real Strawberry Shortcake, is a sweet buiscut cut in half with a layer of sweetened strawberries and cream, either heavy or whipped, in the middle, served with another helping of cream and berries on top.
Strawberry Shortcake gets its name from the shortening used in the biscuit dough. The biscuits are crumbly cakes, not spongey. This dessert actually dates back to the 1500′s but the practice of putting berries on top did not come into practice until 1850′s America, when the berries became popular. The popularity of said berries was due to the ability to transport them, making strawberries accessible in all states.
Prepare the strawberries by washing and hulling them. Cut into desired size. If they are a very deep red, the berries are at the height of their sweetness. You will not need much if any sugar on them. Do not hull the berries more than a day in advance as they begin to break down as soon as you have done htis.
Preheat your grill to 425°F
Sift together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Pour the cream over the dry ingredients and, using a pastery blender, mix the ingredients together. You may feel more comfortable using a spoon until the dough starts to stick to itself, then use your fingers to get it to become a dough ball. If it seems too dry, add more cream one tablespoon at a time.
On a floured surface, roll out the dough until it is about half an inch thick. Then, using a 2-inch diameter cookie cutter or just a regular drinking glass, cut out as many as possible from your rolled dough. You want to handle this dough as little as possible. When you have cut as many biscuits as possible out of the rolled dough and placed them onto a prepared baking sheet, re-roll the dough and repeat the process.
When you have gotten as many biscuits as you can out of the dough onto the baking sheet, bake them for 14 to 18 minutes. Or, if you’re making these ahead of time, you can freeze them. I recommend freezing them on the sheet, then transferring them to an airtight container. Bake from frozen, adding a few additional minutes to the time.
In a mixing bowl, beat the heavy cream, vanilla and confectioner’s sugar until peaks form. This is a preference thing, so if you like something a little more custard-y go for it, if you prefer your whipped cream nice and thick, keep whipping until stiff peaks form. Use right away or refrigerate until ready to use.
Slice biscuits in half. Top the bottom half of the biscuit with a healthy heap of strawberries, followed by a huge dollop of whipped cream. Place the other half of the biscuit on top of the whipped cream. Add more berries and then more whipped cream.