Strawberry shortcake is like potato salad: Everyone has their own version.
It comes down to one of two camps, says Chapel Hill cookbook author Sheri Castle, Biscuit people or cake people.
With strawberry season upon us, we set out to explore this divide among strawberry shortcake lovers.
The biscuit folks, who tend to be Southern, will serve either individual biscuits topped with berries and sweetened whipped cream or make one large biscuit with the same toppings but cut like a cake. (Castle prefers this version and adds one more treat to the mix: chocolate gravy. Her recipe appears on page 4D.)
The cake camp is more fractured. They will serve sliced strawberries and whipped cream with a slice of pound cake, angel food cake, shortbread or sponge cake, including those sold in groups of six, wrapped in plastic and stacked next to theberries at the grocery store.
Southern food writer and television cooking personality Nathalie Dupree considers a biscuit traditional for shortcake, where the dough is made short, or crisp with a high ratio of fat to flour. But Dupree says, I dont think it really matters as long as it doesnt decompose and is sturdy enough to be broken easily with a fork.
Breaking from tradition, Dupree sometimes serves her strawberry shortcake splashed with a bit of sweet balsamic vinegar or replaces the whipped cream with Greek yogurt flavored with vanilla and powdered sugar.
No matter whether you use cake or biscuits, the one drawback of strawberry shortcake is that it typically has to be assembled at the last minute so the biscuit or cake doesnt disintegrate from too much berry juice and whipped cream.
But cookbook author Sara Foster serves up a buttermilk layer cake at her Fosters Market in Durham that takes advantage of that very problem. Her four-layer cake has berries and cream between each layer and can be made up to a day ahead.
You want everything to mush together, she said. The cake soaks up the flavors of the whipped cream and the strawberries.
Regardless of where you fall on the strawberry shortcake divide, Foster said, If strawberries are good and in season, you really cant go wrong.
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