The link between taste, smell and memory is a fascinating subject, and one that scientists have been studying for decades. Our sense of smell works closely with the parts of the brain associated with processing emotions and memory development. However, because humans rely mostly on vision and words to form concrete memories, the thoughts conjured by a whiff of lilacs or the smell of malt vinegar on salty french fries are a bit fuzzier. Usually smells bring a wave of nostalgia and emotion, as opposed to a complete scene, and often it’s difficult to remember exactly where you encountered the odor first.
With summer finally on its way in, I’d like to share with you the definitive taste and smell of my childhood summertime: Fresh Strawberry Shortcake.
I highly recommend buying the berries from your local farmers market (find one near you at LocalHarvest.org) because in this dessert the fruit is the star, and the flavors of a locally-grown strawberry are usually brighter, sweeter and ever more delicious. By contrast, the berries found at a big-box super market have most likely been sprayed with pesticides and fungicides and trucked halfway across the country, resulting in under-ripened, starchy, sour fruits. When you buy from a local farmer, you not only get better fruit, but you are also helping out your local economy — everyone wins!
– Chef Bret Andreasen
Fresh Strawberry Shortcake with homemade whipped cream
- 2 Quarts of strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced
- ½ Cup of sugar
For the shortcake:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 8 tbsp (1 stick) butter, frozen
- 2/3 to 3/4 cup half-and-half or whole milk
For the whipped cream:
- 1 Pint of heavy whipping cream
- Sugar or vanilla extract to taste (optional)
- Stir sugar into strawberries and let sit at room temperature for 45-60 minutes. Chill a bowl (metal or glass works best) for whipping the cream.
- Heat oven to 425º with a rack right in the middle
- Add sugar or vanilla, if either are desired, to whipping cream in a chilled bowl. Whip cream with a mixer until stiff peaks form.
- Using a food processor, a pastry blender, or your fingers, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Cut the butter into small cubes, and blend into dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs (a few larger pieces of butter are just fine.)
- Stir in the half-and-half or milk until just combined. Do not overwork the dough or your cakes will be tough. Let the dough stand for a couple minutes, stir a couple more times, then drop by rounded ¼ cup onto a buttered cookie sheet. If you’d like, you can brush the cakes with a little melted butter and sprinkle with sugar just before they go into the oven — it adds a nice bit of crunch.
- Bake cakes until golden brown, between 12 and 15 minutes. In the meantime, stir your strawberries and sugar very well, enough to smash up the berries a bit. Let the cakes rest until just cool enough to handle, then split each one horizontally and layer on a plate or bowl with berries and top with a large dollop of whipped cream.
Best enjoyed on a patio, with good friends and/or a Sauvignon Blanc and a toast to summer!