Strawberry-Basil Shortcakes with Soft, Whipped Cream

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Yesterday, the farmers’ market in Golden Hill included a table laden with sweet, ruby-red, near-summer, organic strawberries. We brought some home and mixed things up with a little basil from our garden.

Read or listen:
“The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean–
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down–
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

If this poem leaves you hungry for more Mary, try this beautiful podcast from On Being with Krista Tippett.

Sip: The lovely, pale pink Pas Doux from Ponte Winery in Temecula, California, is a dry rosé with flavors of fresh fruit…enjoy some in a small, pretty glass next to your sweet, creamy, buttery, basily shortcake!

I adapted these taste-of-summer shortcakes from Fine Cooking by substituting basil for mint and whipped cream for sour cream. The recipe will serve 8 happy eaters.

Ingredients
3 tablespoons packed, finely chopped basil plus more for garnish
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, plus 1 tablespoon melted butter
2/3 cup half-and-half
1 quart strawberries, hulled and quartered lengthwise
1 pint cream for whipping
1/4 cup powdered sugar
dash vanilla

To begin, pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees and create two parchment paper templates for rolling out the shortcakes by tracing an 8-inch plate on two pieces. Turn the paper over, and you can see the circle through the paper. You’ll roll the dough out on these.

Next, in a small bowl, use the back of a spoon to press 3 tablespoons of chopped basil into 3 tablespoons of sugar until the sugar becomes moist. Set aside.
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In a large bowl, mix the flour, 2 tablespoons of sugar, the baking powder, and salt. Then, cut the 4 tablespoons of cold butter into the dry ingredients with the back of a fork or a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Gently stir in the half-and-half just until the mixture comes together.

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Divide the dough in half and form into two disks. Roll out each disk with a little flour, one on each of the parchment templates. Place one of the parchment pieces with the dough circle on a baking sheet. Brush it with half of the melted butter and then sprinkle half of the basil sugar over it. Invert the other dough circle onto the one on the baking sheet and remove the parchment paper that held it. Brush it with the other half of melted butter and sprinkle the remaining half of basil sugar on top.

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Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut the dough into quarters and then 1/8ths. Separate the triangle shortcakes about 1 inch apart from each other. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly golden-brown. Cool on a rack.

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While the shortcakes bake and cool, prepare the berries and whipping cream. Slice the berries and sprinkle with the remaining sugar, approximately 1/4 cup – or less if the berries are very sweet and dark red. The sugar will bring out the juices in the berries. Set aside. Whip the cream until beginning to thicken and add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Continue whipping until soft folds form.

To plate these beauties, split one of the shortcakes, spoon about 1/3 cup of strawberries onto the bottom piece of the shortcake, replace the top and add a dollop of whipping cream and some of the berry juice. Garnish with a basil leaf.

Voilà!

 

 

 

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