Strawberry shortcake, the quintessential summertime dessert has always been one of my favorites. Every year for my birthday, while everyone else wanted layer cakes, I always asked for shortcake. I love the sweetened fruit and it juices as they soak into the cake and blend with the luscious whipped cream.
This year I discovered the joy of a white chocolate mousse and thought I would take that concept and simplify it. When you combine melted white chocolate with whipped cream and add it to the fresh fruit, it becomes truly decadent and perfect for a Chocolate Monday treat for all of you!
With the Fourth of July right around the corner my mind is spinning with patriotic desserts. Throw in a few blueberries and Old Glory comes to life on the dessert buffet. The traditional way to serve strawberry shortcake is with a split biscuit topped with berries, but if you are going to a picnic, I thought it would be fun (an a whole lot easier to transport) if I turned it into parfaits. I have to admit it is easier to eat and may become my preferred way of serving it.
Like most of you, I grew up eating premade whipped toppings on desserts unless my grandmother was in town. She always made whipped cream by hand. I learned early how much better it tastes and it is actually cheaper than buying the pre-whipped versions. As a proponent of the Slow Food movement, I also appreciate the lack of artificial and potentially harmful ingredients. Besides all that, it is incredibly easy to make from scratch – try it and you won’t go back to the fake stuff.
In the San Francisco Bay Area we are incredibly fortunate to have a huge number of small local producers of just about any ingredient we want or need. When it comes to cream, try to buy from a dairy that believes in organic farming and humane treatment of their cows. It makes all the difference in the quality and flavor. My personal favorite is Straus Family Creamery out of Marshall, CA. I highly recommend all of their products, especially their heavy cream for whipping.
Parfait (par-fay) usually refers to a layered dessert, often a combination of fruits and whipped cream, but can also be used to describe any number of layered concoctions, even savory ones. This is one dessert that really benefits from being served in a glass container to show off the beautiful ingredients. When buying the fruits for your parfaits, look for bright colors that will contrast with the white whipped cream. Parfaits are always a crowd-pleasing dessert.
If you are going to make these ahead for a picnic or potluck, you can prepare all the ingredients and store them separately several hours ahead, and the scones can be baked the day before. Even whipped cream can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator. You can combine the crumbled scones and drained fruit in clear plastic cups (get the ones with lids). When ready to serve, pour a little of the accumulated juices from the sugared fruits over the top and spoon on some of the whipped cream. Easy and popular with everyone!
You also do not have to limit yourself to just using strawberries. This time I added red raspberries, blueberries, and fresh cherries to the strawberries. The combination was delightful and packed with healthy vitamins and antioxidants, a real powerhouse of a dessert that I would happily eat every day.
I hope you enjoy my improvised version of strawberry shortcake as much as The Artist and I did. The only thing we were missing was the sound of fireworks in the background. Happy Chocolate Monday!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
The white chocolate whipped cream is also great served with slices of chocolate cake, brownies, swirled on pancakes, or just eaten with a spoon. Beware, it is addicting!
- 3 cups strawberries, tops discarded, and sliced or chopped
- 4 tbsp vanilla sugar or regular granulated sugar
- 1 cup cold heavy cream
- 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp vanilla sugar
- 4 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
- 2 tbsp coarse sugar crystals, optional
- White Chocolate Whipped Cream
- 4 oz white chocolate, chopped
- 1 cup heavy cream, divided
- 1 tbsp sugar, optional
- Fresh sprigs of mint, rinsed and patted dry, optional
- Prepare Berries: In a medium bowl, toss the strawberries with the vanilla sugar; cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve. Toss occasionally to evenly distribute the sugar and promote creation of juices.
- Preheat the oven to 400° F.
- Make the Shortcakes: In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cold cream to soft peaks. Transfer to another bowl.
- Place flour, salt, sugar, baking powder and zest in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix to blend. Add the softly whipped cream and beat until the mixture just forms a ball. Do not overbeat. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead briefly by hand to finish mixing it and forming into a dough.
- Roll the dough out to a rectangle about 1-inch thick. Cut rectangle in thirds. Cut each piece in half creating squares of dough. Transfer squares to a parchment covered baking sheet and sprinkle with coarse sugar.
- Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Leave on baking sheet for 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling
- Make the White Chocolate Whipped Cream: Melt the white chocolate with 1/4 cup of the cream in a double boiler over simmering water. When the chocolate is nearly all melted, remove from the heat and whisk until smooth. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.
- In a separate bowl beat the remaining 3/4 cup cream with the sugar until firm peaks form. When you lift the beater blade, the cream will hold a peak but the tip will fall over. Do not overbeat. You can also leave out the sugar if you like. The white chocolate is quite sweet and may be enough for your taste.
- Fold the whipped cream into the white chocolate mixture until no streaks remain. Be sure not to over mix or you will deflate the cream. Refrigerate until ready to assemble parfaits.
- To Assemble: When ready to serve, break the shortcakes into bite-sized pieces. Place a couple of piece in the bottom of each of your serving dishes. Top with a spoonful of berries and their juices, a few more pieces of cake, and a dollop of the white chocolate whipped cream. Add more pieces of cake, berries and finish with the whipped cream. Garnish with a fresh sprig of mint. Serve immediately.
- Yield: 4 to 6 servings
- Simplified Version: Use scones you buy from a bakery or quality store, use sweetened whipped cream without the melted white chocolate, or substitute softened vanilla ice cream. You can even use frozen and thawed fruits in a pinch. Any version will be delicious and the perfect ending to your meal.