I remember eating strawberry shortcake when I was a child. When we had strawberry shortcake, it was a big deal. It wasn't something we had every day. My grandfather would make sweet biscuits out of Bisquick. The strawberries were usually thawed frozen ones. The cakes were topped with Redi-Whip. I loved them. Maybe real foodies would scoff at the lack of home-made-ness about them, but they embodied what strawberry shortcake should be to me.
It took a few years before I learned some people had other ideas about what strawberry shortcake was (ice cream bars excluded from the discussion of course). I remember a friend telling me about going to a family birthday party and having strawberry shortcake for dessert as the birthday cake. Wait a minute! How can you have a strawberry shortcake birthday cake? Do you just lay the biscuits on a tray all together and put a candle in each one? My friend was perplexed. What did I mean? It was a cake, a regular plain cake, filled with strawberries and whipped cream. I went to a few parties myself where "strawberry shortcake" was just plain white cake with cream and berries in the layers. The closest thing I ever saw to my childhood treat were those little angel food cake cups they sell next to the strawberries in the supermarket.
The current foodie movement seems to be reviving these old dessert trends. A year or two ago a friend of mine was talking about the great strawberry shortcake he had in a restaurant. "It was made with a biscuit," he said, as if it were some newfangled creation he had never heard of.
"Don't you get it?" I wanted to yell. "That's the way you're supposed to make strawberry shortcake. ARRRRGGGGGHHHHH!!!!!! Blogs and cooking shows and cookbooks are showing more traditional shortcakes. In fact I was at the farmer's market this morning and one of the vendors who sold both baked goods and produce had among its baked goods sweet shortcake biscuits.
I didn't buy any biscuits from that vendor, but I did buy a ridiculous number of strawberries. I bought two quarts. Hey, the season ends before you know it. I want my fresh berries while I get still get 'em.
Shortcake was indeed the order of the day. My husband does love it dearly. I have always made it for him with biscuits. He does love his biscuits. I often made them with Bisquick, but at least I use fresh whipped cream and fresh strawberries.
Bisquick was out of the question since it contains gluten. It was time to trot out my new flours and see what I could come up with.
I made a biscuit dough of rice flour and almond flour and sweetened it with sugar. I also continued to play with the almond idea and added a little extract to the dough. I made them extra decadent by adding cream instead of buttermilk to the dough. I knew that rolled biscuits would look neater, but there is something so homey about drop biscuits (plus they're so much easier). Some sliced almonds would look good on top of them.
Well, the biscuits didn't come out very biscuit like. They were more like cake-like cookies. They spread and became very delicate. When I was processing the butter and flour, they never took on that coarse texture that you want when you make biscuits or pie crusts. They texture was very fine.
I'm wondering if there really is a way to make biscuits gluten-free so that they are really like biscuits. I would gueess gluten is part of what gives biscuits their texture. The commercially-made gluten-free breads and pizza crusts I have purchased recently have had a very sandy texture with no chewiness at all. I may have to simply suck it up that my shortcakes will always be like this.
You know what? It hardly matters. They tasted delicious. Maybe shortcakes weren't meant to be on cookies, but a big, soft, cake-like almond cookie is not a bad thing to be layered under whipped cream and strawberries.
I also macerated the berries in a touch of Grand Marnier. What can I say? Cathy's post on alcohol in foods gave me liquor on the brain. I was convinced a touch of liquer would simply bring out the flavor of the berries more. I put a splash of amaretto in the cream too.
I know you want some.
Sweet Almond Drop Biscuits/Mini Cakes (Gluten Free)
1 cup rice flour (You can also use 2 cups AP flour)
1/2 cup almond flour
1 Tbl baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, cold and cut in pieces
1 1/4 cup chilled cream
2 tsp almond extract
Optional sliced almonds
Heat oven to 425 degrees.
Mix together cream and extract. Set aside.
In a food processor, mix together the flours, salt, sugar, baking powder and sugar.
Add butter and pulse until butter is worked in well. If you are doing this gluten-free, the crumbs will be fine. They will be coarser if you are using all-puropse flour. Stir in the cream until just mixed in.
Drop big spoonfuls (you want them to be big enough to hold all of that strawberry cream goodness) on a cookie sheet. Bake 12-15 minutes or until golden.
To Make My Shortcakes...
Whip 1 cup of heavy cream with 1 Tbl sugar and 1 Tbl amaretto. Chill the bowl and the beaters beforehand for faster whipping.
Toss 1-2 cups sliced strawberries with 1 Tbl grand marnier
Top cakes with cream and berries and enjoy.