Monday, April 2, 2012

Strawberry shortcake stampede

I spent my mornings last week teaching a week-long "Intersession" cooking class to a dozen 9th graders at E.L. Haynes Public Charter School. Were it not for the amazing staff and students, I would not have been able to haul myself and an average of about 50 lbs of ingredients and equipment uphill to Petworth for a 9am class each day, let me tell you. Wooh! (Just like the old days on the bike tour. Actually, I think on the days I dragged along the food processor, Ollie weighed about the same as she did as we huffed our way down the Pacific Highway. In short: too much.) As a group, we made a whole bunch of soups and salads and spreads that week. Pickles and kim chi and bagel chips and garlic bread, too. Even a few desserts. And some fried  food.

Wait... what?? Yes.

See? I'm not a purist. I encourage mostly healthy, mostly fruit and veggie-based diets. To be completely fair, though, the frying came in only during the "Feed a Family of 4 for $15: The Great Grocery Store Challenge" activity on Thursday. I was so proud of my student chefs, as they worked in teams to plan a menu, shop at the local Safeway, and prepare delectable meals that included a minimum of 1 protein, 1 starch, and at least 1 fruit or vegetable. Dishes like chicken fried rice with carrots and shallots, egg and turkey bacon breakfast sandwiches with a side of pineapple, and porkchops and strawberry shortcake graced our classroom that day. Speaking of strawberry shortcake...

There was something of a stampede during the final day of Intersession, as we invited the various students and staff to join us for fresh herbal lemonade and just-baked strawberry shortcake following the whole-group presentation. Those who tasted our class offerings – as well as those who were not quick enough to try the many dozens of samples – asked for the recipe so they could make their own at home.

Strawberry Shortcake

This shortbread recipe is adapted from a fluffy biscuit recipe in my old, falling apart paperback copy of The Joy of Cooking. It makes about 6 large (or 12 small) servings.


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 2 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 TBSP sugar
  • ¾ cream or milk (we made ours with ¼ cup whipping cream + ½ cup whole milk)
  • 1/8 cup chilled butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 pints of fresh strawberries
  • 1 pint whipping cream (get that Cool Whip away from me, I mean real cream!)
  • 1-2 tsp sugar
  • vanilla extract (the real stuff, if you can get it)

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Wash and chop strawberries. Toss in a bowl with 1 tsp sugar.

In another bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar together. Mix in butter with your fingers. Stir in the milk/cream until combined. Knead slightly on a floured surface (or in the bowl, if you want a bit less of a mess), then press into a lightly floured baking pan to a thickness of about ¼ inch. (We used a toaster oven pan.) Bake for about 12 minutes, until just lightly browned. Cool slightly, then cut into squares or rectangles.

Beat the pint of whipping cream with a spoonful of sugar and a splash of vanilla until fluffy. (This might take as little as 3 minutes or as many as 15 minutes, depending on if you are using a hand mixer like I do, or a fork like DeMarco did.)

Top shortbread pieces with freshly whipped cream and a few spoonfuls of chopped fresh strawberries. *Beware of adding too much sugar to your whipping cream. You can always add more, but you can't take it away. Just ask the morning cooking crew from March Intersession….

What's that? You're wondering why there is no picture of a finished shortbread, eh? Did I mention the stampede? I was lucky to escape with my body and camera intact! Yes, the shortbread is that good. And the students made it that well. Hope I get to work with them again some day.

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