Carrie Nations of Elkin may only be 9 years old but she knows that fresh strawberries are just the ticket for a Mother’s Day dessert.
Carrie didn’t even need a recipe. She combined fresh berries, angel food cake, whipped cream and Smuckers strawberry topping to make a Mother’s Day dessert that tickled her Mom pink.
Bob Ward, sales rep at the Mount Airy News, has a theory that Mayberry refers to strawberries. “After all,” Bob says, “What other berry do you get in May?” Bob has a point.
Searching Google for connections between strawberries and Mayberry reveals a strain of cannabis called “Mayberry” is also called “Strawberry Cough” so it would seem that the medical marijuana industry has also made the connection.
Though the strawberry/Mayberry connection remains elusive, the origin of the word “strawberry” is also a bit mysterious. There is a legend that strawberries were named in the nineteenth-century by English children who picked the berries and strung them on grass straws, selling them as “straws of berries.”
Another theory holds that the name was derived from the nineteenth-century practice of placing straw around the plants to protect the ripening fruit. Most growers use plastic to serve this purpose nowadays.
But the most widely held view is that the name strawberry was derived from the berries that are “strewn” about on the plants, and the name “strewn berry” eventually evolved into “strawberry.”
Native American Indians called strawberries “heart-seed berries” and pounded them into their cornbread. Colonists liked this bread and created their own version, which ultimately became strawberry shortcake.
Shortcake is also a little confusing. “Short,” in baking, means that there is a high proportion of fat to flour. This definition is usually just used for non-yeast doughs. Usually these short doughs are very rich, crumbly, and tender with butter. Like a biscuit. Or shortbread cookies. So shortcake is really kind of like a sweet biscuit. Though angel food cake is often paired with strawberries, it is not really a shortcake. It’s about as “long” as cake can get. But it still tastes great with strawberries, as Carrie Nations well knows.
But whatever you call strawberries and the desserts made from them, or why they’re called that, they’re delicious and the fresh, locally grown berries are only around for a little while.
Brenda Brown, who had strawberries from Country Road Strawberries in Pinnacle at Tuesday’s Mount Airy farmer’s market, hopes the berries will hold out through the end of the month. But there is a caveat. “If it stays at 90 degrees for a week, the strawberry plants will shut down.” On the other hand, the berries could go until the first week of June if the weather co-operates.
Along with Country Roads Strawberries (610 Mount Zion Rd, Pinnacle 336-325-3331), fresh berries are also available at Bullington Farms (832 Corner Rd, Pinnacle, 336-325-2273), Cave Farms, 478 Cave Road, Dobson, 336-356-4120 and Snow Strawberries (6775 US Hwy 601, Dobson, 336-356-8598 or 336-356-4118).
The Mount Airy farmers market on Tuesday morning and at the Elkin market on Saturday morning also have berries from Country Roads as long as the berries hold out.
With an actual “short”cake
2 pints ripe, well-rinsed strawberries
½ cup sugar, or more to taste
4 cups flour
3 tbsp. sugar
¼ tsp. salt
5 tsp. baking powder
1 ¼ cups butter
3 cups whipping cream
¼ tsp. vanilla extract
Pick over and hull strawberries. Cut in half or slice, depending on size. Gently crush about a quarter of the berries with a fork to release their juices. Mix with remaining berries and the 1/2 cup of sugar, adding more sugar if necessary. Set aside, covered, for about half an hour to develop flavor. Preheat oven to 450°F.
Into a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, salt and baking powder. Add 3/4 cup of softened butter, and rub into dry ingredients as for pastry. Add 1 1/4 cups cream, and mix to a soft dough. Knead the dough for one minute on a lightly floured pastry board, then roll it out to about 1/2-inch thickness. Using a 3-inch biscuit cutter, cut an even number of rounds – 2 rounds per serving. Use a little of the butter to grease a baking sheet. Place half the rounds on it. Melt remaining butter and brush a little on the rounds; place remaining rounds on top. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven, and pull shortcakes apart. Brush the insides with some of the remaining melted butter.
Beat remaining cream until it thickens. Add vanilla. Beat again just until thick. Place a bottom half of a shortcake on each plate. Top with a generous spoonful of berries. Cover with a top half, add a few more berries, and top with whipped cream. Serve immediately.
Angel food cake
Though not at all “short,” angel food cake is well-named. It tastes divine. Along with stawberries, blueberries and whipped cream, Carrie Nations smears on a little strawberry topping to intensify the strawberry flavor.
1 cup cake flour (spooned and leveled)
1/4 tsp. salt
12 large egg whites, room temperature
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place flour and salt in a sieve set over a bowl; sift into bowl, and set aside. With a mixer, beat egg whites on medium-high until foamy, about 1 minute. Add cream of tartar; beat until soft peaks form. Continue to beat, gradually adding sugar; beat until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes. Add vanilla; beat to combine. Gently transfer egg-white mixture to a large, wide bowl. In four batches, using the sieve again, sift flour mixture over egg-white mixture. While turning the bowl, use a rubber spatula to fold in the mixture by cutting down the center and coming up the sides.
Gently spoon batter into an ungreased angel food cake pan with a removable bottom; smooth top. Cut a knife or small spatula through batter to release air bubbles. Bake until cake is golden and springs back when lightly pressed, 35 to 40 minutes. Invert pan; let cool in pan, 1 hour. Run a knife around the inside of the pan and around the tube to release cake, and unmold. Use knife to release cake from bottom of pan, and remove.
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Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.