Sunday, June 29, 2008

Secret Strawberry Society, Plus Shortcake

(Still no camera, so taking pictures with my computer when I can.)

Please scroll down for recipe!

Yesterday I went to Thompson Finch Farm in Ancram, NY, for the second time this strawberry season. One of the best things about living in the Berkshires is being able to enjoy the great of variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables all grown within the area. At the top of my most-enjoyable list are strawberries, peas (sugar snap and snow), and tomatoes (especially heirloom, but let's hold off on praising them until they're actually available). I get most of my vegetables from my favorite farm share at CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Farm Girl Farm, located in Egremont, MA. In our first share of the season we always get a few stalks of rhubarb, hence my first venturing into strawberry-picking.

I love sit out in the open fields and pick strawberries. The first time I picked at least 10 lbs. While I was there, the weather became slightly gray and breezy but lovely in mind, the cloud cover and light drizzle giving relief from the hot sun. The second time I picked over 13 lbs of strawberries, perhaps just because I could, not to mention the price and flavor can't be beat by store-bought varieties. The picking went much more quickly the second time around as the larger varieties are now in season, though I prefer the smaller ones.

Why so many strawberries? Well, asides from the facts that I love strawberries, I love to bake, and I love eating fruits and vegetables when they're available fresh from the vine, there's something magical and mystifying about walking on forever through fields of one kind of small thing. There's a whole little world down there beneath all the fringed-leaves resting on clusters of thin stems. It's a sad story when one comes upon a great King Strawberry, a single-bruise past his prime. In search of trivia I asked one of the girls working at the farm if there were any little-known facts about strawberries. She just replied, "You mean what kind of varieties there are?" Personally I think she was bluffing, staying true to the strict codes of the Secret Strawberry Society. So I moved on out into the rest of the world, wondering if I'd have another chance to return before this season's Strawberry Kingdom fades into the mist.


Here's the recipe I came up with yesterday after picking strawberries and hopping over Bash Bish Falls on my way home to cool off:

I used two 9" pans, and poured a little extra batter into three heart-shaped ones to give away, but the batter could have easily fit into both.

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup yogurt
5 cups pastry flour
3 tbs. baking powder
1 cup fresh orange juice
orange zest (a tablespoon?)

425˚F about 25 min., or until golden brown. Rotate pans if necessary.

WHIPPED CREAM (Make on day two, or right before assembling):
1 pint heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla (or splash)

I assembled the cake on the second day, layering left-over strawberry sauce from the below chocolate cake recipe with lots of fresh sliced strawberries mixed in and a little extra sugar.

Sara and Jessica prepare to eat cake with pistachio ice cream.

If you bake a white cake versus a chocolate cake, it's much more obvious if you don't center pans or rotate them in the oven, especially if you're using a poor old electric ovem. You can really tell if a flourless chocolate cake is not perfectly baked all the way round, but a white one will show inconsistent coloration and the texture is more or less wet or dry.

If you want to make chocolate curls by using a vegetable peeler and a bar of chocolate, it works best on a hot summer day. You don't even need to try and soften the chocolate by sticking it on top of the fridge or what ave you. Using a bar that has greater indentations gives a cool scalloped-edge look. I only had a bar of toffee chocolate, so although my curls broke up easily because of the small bits of toffee, it added a cool flecked-effect.


katie said...

Gorgeous cake!

Barbara said...

Oh, that looks so good. I want some cake. Can you freeze a piece for me please? love, mammer

Patricia said...

Hi Sara,
What a great looking cake, I could do with a slice right now! I found your blog because I was trolling around looking at other artist/designers and I really enjoyed seeing all the fun and wonderful things you do! Would you like to post a recipe for some fabulous cake on my blog?

Patricia said...

Hi Sara,
It would be great to get the recipe for your next spontaneous cake, anyway you could get a photo of it via one of your friends? You can e-mail me through the link on my profile. Thanks also for the compliments and may I put a link to your blog on mine?
Happy baking,
PS My boyfriend desperately wants to learn the accordion but the idea frightens me!