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Wednesday, May 30, 2007 12:31 am

Strawberries now!

Stop eating those anemically pale pink, rock-hard buttons

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Untitled Document Now is the time for all good men, women, and children to have strawberries. Not in February to woo your valentine (there are plenty of other ways to say “I love you”) and not even in September, when we might still be in the mood for a daiquiri. Now, now, now. Did I say now? The reason I can’t emphasize the urgency enough is that as a nation we’ve become accustomed to the 24/7/365 anemically pale pink, rock-hard buttons on display in the produce aisle and as a result wouldn’t recognize a local in-season strawberry if it were placed under our nostrils. Some of us older folks have got a bit of fruit amnesia; we just don’t remember the seductively sweet perfume of a quart box of real strawberries and the nearly neon-red flesh that is so bright it practically pulses. The rest of you youngsters may not even know what I’m talking about, which is a far worse tragedy. A few introductions are in order. Kids, this is the strawberry. It is beautiful and smells really good. Go on, take a bite. Sweet, huh? So sweet you can’t believe it, I know. The strawberry visits just once a year, usually in mid-May, and sticks around until early June. While she’s here, we need to make pie, tarts, shortcake, ice cream, and jam as often as possible, because when she goes, she’s gone.  

Culinary questions? Contact Kim O’Donnel at kim.odonnel@creativeloafing.com.
Chocolate Strawberry Shortcakes
Adapted from the June 2007 issue of Bon Appétit

Biscuits
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 1/2 cup sugar 1 tablespoon baking powder 1/8 teaspoon salt 1 cup heavy cream, chilled 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Strawberries
2 pounds (1 quart) strawberries, hulled and quartered 4 to 8 tablespoons powdered sugar, depending on sweetness    of strawberries 1/4 cup fresh orange juice 1/2 teaspoon orange zest, grated 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur Pinch of salt
Garnish
1/2 cup heavy cream, chilled 1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt, chilled
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, and salt, using a wooden spoon. Using electric mixer, beat cream and vanilla in a separate bowl until firm peaks form. Stir cream into flour mixture until moist clumps form. Dump mixture onto lightly floured work surface and gently knead dough until it forms a ball and turns moist and dark. Pat dough into a square about 3/4 inch thick. Using a 3-inch cutter, cut out biscuits and place on prepared baking sheet. Gather dough scraps and repeat process. You will get 15 to 18 biscuits.
Bake biscuits until dry on top, about 15 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool. Can be made up to six hours in advance and kept at room temperature.
Stir berries, 6 tablespoons powdered sugar (taste with each tablespoon for sweetness and adjust accordingly), and orange juice, liqueur, zest, and salt. Stir and cover bowl; chill for at least one hour. Beat cream and sour cream or yogurt, with 2 tablespoons powdered sugar, until soft peaks form. Place one or two biscuits on serving plate. Top with spoonful of berries and juice, followed by whipped cream.
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