Spring is strawberry season in California. Living here in the Sierra foothills, we are lucky enough to be close to the San Joaquin Valley and the small family owned strawberry stands that sell these seasonal treats. The stands are right smack-dab in the middle of the fields where the berries are grown. My favorite one is on the outskirts of Manteca and is run by a Vietnamese family. Just pull off the road, hop out of the car and you will immediately smell the amazing strawberry fragrance. Unbelievably, you can buy a whole flat for just $10 and they are sweet, juicy, oh so red and luscious. You can’t buy berries like this at the store! These berries are on a time schedule—you MUST eat them within a day or so or they will start to go bad—and I promise you, this will not be a problem. You’ll have a basket devoured in no time. Here’s a recipe for a different kind of shortcake to help get them gone.
Chocolate Chip Short Cakes 1/3 cup sugar 2 cups all-purpose flour 1/4 cup baking cocoa 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter 2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon chopped or ‘mini’ semisweet chocolate chips, divided 3/4 cup half-and-half cream 1 egg white, lightly beaten (you could brush with a bit of cream, alternately) 1 tablespoon coarse sugar
In a large bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar. Cut in butter and 2/3 cup chips until crumbly. Add half-and-half and stir until just moistened.
Dump out on to a floured board and knead a few times until smooth. Pat into a large round, about 3/4 of an inch thick. Cut with a 2” circle biscuit cutter, it should make 8-10 cakes. Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Brush with egg white; sprinkle with coarse sugar and remaining chips. Bake at 450° for 13 minutes or until toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool.
Strawberries and Cream… and Chocolate Syrup 1/2 pt heavy whipping cream 1 t vanilla 2 T powdered sugar 1 qt fresh strawberries, sliced or cut into chunks 1/3 cup sugar Hershey’s chocolate syrup, to drizzle
Mix berries and sugar and refrigerate. In a small bowl, beat whipping cream, vanilla and powdered sugar until stiff peaks form and refrigerate. To assemble, split shortcakes in half. Put the cake bottoms on dessert plates. Top with the strawberries, whipped cream and chocolate syrup. Replace shortcake tops, sprinkle with a bit more powdered sugar and a mint leaf if desired!