The glory of strawberry shortcake.

Last night I made strawberry shortcake, which has, in recent years, become my favorite dessert. Or maybe in my top three. I really like creme brulee. And chocolate fondue.

Normally, when I make shortcakes, I make them with Bisquick. Because that is all I know. But then I checked out this book: The Glory of Southern Cooking. Doesn’t that sound fantastic? And it has a recipe for Real Southern Strawberry Shortcake. And it starts like this:

I suppose there are Southerners who stoop to using those small commercial sponge cakes to make strawberry shortcake, the way most people in the country foolishly do, but I don’t know any. Genuine Southern strawberry shortcake is and always has been made with only one style of bread: split and buttered baking powder biscuits. Nor do I know any respectable Southern cook who would destroy a strawberry shortcake with something so atrocious as Cool Whip instead of fresh whipped cream.

Hee. On the first point, amen, brother! And on the second . . . I will confess to using Cool Whip. But I’m not proud of it.

Anyway, I made these shortcakes last night, and they were so good! And, really, not much harder than the Bisquick, and so worth the extra effort.

2 c. all-purpose flour
3 T. sugar
1 T. baking powder [yes, a tablespoon]
1/4 t. salt
8 T. (1 stick) butter, softened
1 large egg, beaten
2/3 c. half-and-half
Butter for spreading
4 c. fresh, ripe strawberries, rinsed, hulled, sliced in half, and sugared
1 c. heavy cream, whipped to stiff peaks

Preheat the oven to 450.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt and mix well. Add the butter and, using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut the butter into the mixture until crumbly [I don’t have a pastry cutter, and since the butter was already soft, I just used my hands]. In a small bowl, combine the egg and half-and-half and beat until well blended, then add to the flour mixture and stir until thoroughly moist. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead very briefly. With your hands, pat out the dough to about a 1/2 inch thickness, then, using a floured 3-inch biscuit cutter, cut out 6 biscuits [I just did drop biscuits]. Place the biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet and bake on the upper rack of the oven until slightly brown on top, about 12 minutes.

While they’re still hot, split open the biscuits, spread lightly with butter, and arrange close together on a crystal cake plate [this is why it’s the GLORY of Southern cooking . . . I served it in bowls]. Spoon the berries and cream onto the biscuits and serve while still warm. (For attractive individual servings, prop one biscuit half at an angle on the other on small dessert plates and spoon berries and cream over the tops.)

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