I love strawberries, but strawberries are my least favorite berry to pick. I'd much rather pick raspberries or blueberries. (Picking blueberries is an act of meditation.) Strawberries are just plain ol' tiring to pick. They're low to the ground, out in the sun, and if your spring/summer has resembled the Great Flood crossed with swamp-like humidity (like SE Michigan's has this year), there's a ton of mold just waiting to cause an allergy attack. But every June finds me out at Rowe's U-Pick farm, breaking my back picking strawberries because... Because there's nothing like just picked berries. Because there's nothing like cooking with your own berries in the middle of winter, picked and frozen at the height of juicy sweetness. And because I can't stand the idea of paying $3 a quart. Call me cheap.
If you're in Michigan, you can find a U-Pick farm near you at the Michigan Dept of Agriculture's U-Pick website.
Strawberry shortcake is good, but strawberry chocolate shortcake is even better...
Strawberry Chocolate Shortcakes
About 1 to 2 quarts strawberries, roughly chopped (1 quart will be scanty for six people.)
About 1/2 cup sugar (use less if using the lower amount of berries, and berries are very sweet)
2 tablespoons rum
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg
1/2 cup cold milk
1 cup heavy cream
Powdered sugar to taste
In a large bowl combine the fruit, sugar and rum. Marinate at room temperature for 1 hour.
For the whipped cream: put a mixing bowl and the mixers in the refrigerature.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. (375 if using convection)
Into a large bowl, sift the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the butter to the dry ingredients. You can either mix well with fingertips or a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, or do my method: put it all in a food processor and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Return mixture to a bowl and add the egg and milk, and mix just until it comes together to form a sticky dough.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Drop the batter onto the sheet in generous 1/4-cup dollops. Leave two inches between each shortcake. If desired, smooth using the back of a spoon. Bake until a tester inserted into the middle comes out clean, 12 to 15 minutes. (10-12 minutes if using convection)
In your chilled bowl, whip the cream to very soft peaks. Add some powder sugar and whip until desired stiffness. (I like soft peaks.) Keep cold until ready to use, or make just before serving.
Transfer the cakes to wire racks to cool. Carefully split the shortcakes horizontally and place the bottom half on each of 6 dessert plates. Top with a heaping tablespoon of berries and cream, then top with the remaining shortcake halves. Top with the remaining berries and cream. Serve immediately.
Makes six shortcakes.