Thursday, April 26, 2012

My Grandma's Shortcake

I have funny memories of my Grandma's Wisconsin kitchen. Once the leg fell off my gingerbread man when it was time to pose for the picture; I pouted. My grandma's refusal to wash dishes during summer thunder storms. Seven layer salad was a genuine foreign food to a Californian, vegetarian, hippy child. I'm not sure if I liked it, but I know I loved the bacon. Much to the chagrin of my parents. Her kitchen was long and narrow, meticulously clean, with a window looking out on the back yard, the garden, and the strawberry bed.

After my grandma died there were years I didn't eat shortcake, at least not the way she made it. Then one day I found the recipe hiding in my mom's recipe box. I copied it out on an index card. Now my grandma's shortcake is standard summer fare. Or April fare, if you live in the South where summer hustles in and sticks around with a vengeance.

I warn you, this is not a sweet shortcake. It's more like a biscuit. The berries and ice cream piled on high add all the sweetness (no skimping, make a lot of berries). I once made this for an older friend and with a voice full of the past, she said, "This is the way my mother used to make shortcake." I love the food of memories, cherishing our families, the good and the bad, no perfect people, but looking for love. And sometimes you do have to look for the love, overlook the bitterness, add the sweet to the salty and come out with something good.

All of which is a long aside...the recipe for Shortcake:

2 c. flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt (a little less if you use salted butter)
3 TB sugar
1/2 c. shortening (I use butter)
2/3 c. milk

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Sift together the flour, powder, salt, and sugar. Cut in the shortening until the mixture is like oatmeal. If you don't have a pastry blender an easy way to do this is to hand-grate the butter into the flour, using a cheese grater, then crumble it into the dry ingredients with your fingers. (I use the food processor: pulse the dry ingredients a couple times. Cut the butter in one inch pieces, then add it to the dry ingredients and run the processor for a minute.) With a fork (or a quick whir of the machine) add the milk. Mix just until blended. Knead lightly, about 20 seconds. Turn out onto a floured board. Roll to a half inch thick circle. Bake on a greased cookie sheet (or parchment paper) for 20 minutes.

And as for the strawberries, I hope you already know, but just in case...
Slice or mash a bunch of berries. Add a heap of sugar. Taste. Add more sugar if it doesn't taste sickly sweet. Refrigerate for a couple hours, until the berries have released their juices. The juice is critical, if for some reason your berries don't make much, add a small amount of water. Stir it in and let the mixture sit a few more minutes.

Last year's post on freezer jam.

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