This recipe is one my great-grandmother used to make. I may just be fanciful, but I feel close to her when I make these strawberry shortcakes. I know this is one of my grandpa’s favorite recipes, so I’m sure she made it often for him when he was a little boy. I work up a whole mental picture of her in her kitchen, probably void of useful appliances (given the time period). I feel like I’m cheating when I use my food processor to cut the butter into the dry ingredients. She probably used a fork or a pastry cutter. She didn’t bother with a pastry brush to apply the egg whites to the cakes, she just used her fingers. (Which really is quicker!) The rustic little cakes themselves are formed by hand. I am so lazy in the kitchen, I have never in my life whipped cream by hand!
I did add one little element to this recipe. I hope she would have approved! But after listening to Nigella Lawson go on and on about her strawberries in their ruby liquid, I just had to splash some balsamic vinegar into mine as well. And I’m glad I did, mmmmmm!
Grandma Johnson’s Strawberry Shortcakes
1 pint of strawberries, rinsed, hulled and sliced
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
2 cups flour
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
Dash of nutmeg
½ cup butter, cut into cubes and chilled
½ cup milk
2 eggs, separated (the whites will be used for an egg wash)
Additional sugar for garnish
1 cup of heavy cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar
Pop your mixer bowl and whisk into the freezer to chill.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Prepare a sheet pan with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, combine the strawberries, 2 teaspoons of sugar and balsamic vinegar.
Mix well and set aside.
In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Pulse to combine.
Add the butter to the bowl of the food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Add the milk and egg yolks and pulse until the dough forms a ball.
Turn the ball out onto a very lightly floured surface and pat it into a circle.
Divide the circle into 6 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and place it on the sheet pan.
Using your hand, flatten the ball. Then, using your fingers, brush the egg whites on to each cake.
Sprinkle the tops of each cake liberally with sugar. (This gives it a really nice, crunchy crust.)
Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the cakes are golden brown.
Remove the cakes to a cooling rack.
Meanwhile, remove the mixer bowl and whisk from the freezer.
Add the cream to the bowl of the mixer and sift the powdered sugar into the bowl.
Mix on medium until soft peaks form, about 5 minutes. Turn the speed up a bit and keep an eye on it until you get firm peaks.
With a serrated knife, carefully slice the cakes in half.
Set the bottom half on a plate and heap some of the strawberries on it. Add some whipped cream. Set the top on top (haha) and dollop another bit of cream on it. Crown with a strawberry and serve!