Plant City, Florida is the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World. Over five thousand acres of strawberry crops are planted there annually. It is also the home of the Florida Strawberry Festival. The festival dates all the way back to the early 1930s, when members of the Plant City Lions Club envisioned an event to celebrate the bountiful harvest of Florida strawberries. This festival features agricultural and horticultural exhibits, crafts, social events, contests, parades, top-name entertainment and of course, lots and lots of strawberries! The 2010 Florida Strawberry Festival starts today and runs through March 14. If you get the chance, you should check it out. It represents Florida history and culture at its finest.
Strawberry Shortcake is a quintessential Southern dessert that showcases the strawberry in its purest form. And, there are more different strawberry shortcake recipes out there than I can possibly count. Google alone lists almost 60,000 of them! The major difference you'll find among them is the type of cake used in the dish. Some call for an angel food, pound or sponge cake for the base. I prefer the traditional biscuit shortcake. It is firmer, so it doesnt fall apart when you put the juicy berries inside. Also, it isnt as sweet as a regular cake, allowing the strawberries to be the star of the show. I like to top my shortcakes with nothing but pure and rich, freshly whipped cream. This is the kind of shortcake that I grew up on, and Im sticking with it!
The key to a great shortcake is a light, flaky biscuit base. The key to that, is a recipe that incorporates a substantial amount of butter into the dough. Its those tiny bits of butter that melt down during baking and give the shortcake its melt-in-your-mouth quality. What elevates a mere strawberry shortcake into a higher realm of greatness is using the freshest, sweetest strawberries that you can get your hands on. Although, they usually don't need it, you can also add a few teaspoons of orange liqueur to your berries to give them a little zing.
I like to use White Lily brand flour whenever I make biscuits or shortcakes. It is a soft flour that has a lower protein and gluten content, which makes it ideal for this kind of baking. I must tell you though, I often use Bisquick for making shortcake too. It's fast, easy and produces a really nice result. I know that its a shortcut, but sometimes we all need shortcuts. Don't judge me, Y'all!
Florida Strawberry Shortcake
4 cups sliced strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons orange liqueur
2 cups White Lily Self-Rising Flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, cut into small cubes
1/3 cup half and half plus a little more for brushing tops of shortcakes
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup whipping cream, whipped with 2 tablespoons sugar
1. In a medium-sized bowl, combine strawberries with the 1/2 cup of sugar and orange liqueur. Let it sit while you make the shortcakes.
2. Heat oven to 425 degrees.
3. Combine flour and sugar. Cut butter or margarine in until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Whisk half and half and egg together until well blended. Stir egg mixture into flour mixture to make a stiff dough.
4. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead with the heel of your hand about 8 to 10 strokes. Roll or pat dough to 1/2- to 3/4-inch thickness. Cut into rounds with a biscuit or cookie cutter. Place shortcakes 2 to 3 inches apart on ungreased baking sheet. Brush tops lightly with more half and half. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.
5. Place shortcakes on individual serving plates. Split shortcakes in half and spoon strawberries between layers. Replace top layer and spoon on additional strawberries.
6. Top with copious amounts of whipped cream. Garnish with fresh whole strawberries, if desired.
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