Berry Berry Good: Strawberry Desserts Monday, May 5 2014 

Strawberry Semifreddo on https://virginiawillis.wordpress.com

Strawberries are the most popular berry fruit in the world, and while they are available in grocery stores every week of the year, spring is their true season. (Technically, strawberries aren’t actually a fruit or a berry; they are instead the “enlarged receptacle of the strawberry flower.”) Regardless of the correct botanical terminology, strawberries are a most welcome salute to spring! Their bright red bursts of color and flavor are refreshing after the winter months of apples, pears, and citrus. Although you can get seasonal strawberries grown in Florida and California, there’s nothing better than picking your own fully ripe berries or picking up farm fresh berries at your local farmer’s market.

Choose strawberries that have a good aroma and sweet fragrance. When ripe, the color of strawberry varieties can vary from a more medium red to deep red, so color is not always the best indicator. However, since they do not ripen after being picked, only choose strawberries that are fully red without any creamy white or pale green, with fresh-looking caps and perky green leaves. Health-wise, strawberries are fantastic with a good amount of fiber and more vitamin C than any other berry.

Topped with a spoonful of plain yogurt, they are a sweet-tart, wonderful, and delicious way to start your day. I’m not a fan of cooked strawberries (except in jam) so I prefer them as bright and clean bursts of flavor in salads or tossed in vinegar as a fruity salsa.

However, we all have destiny, I believe. And, to me there’s no doubt that strawberries shine their brightest in dessert. This Strawberry Semi-freddo was created by my dear friend and colleague Tamie Cook. It’s a creamy, indulgent, and awesome spring fling.

Strawberries and cream are classic decadence. For some Down-Home Comfort, please also take a look at FoodNetwork.com for my golden brown and incredibly tender Brown Sugar Strawberry Shortcakes. Absolutely nothing beats the taste of real whipped cream so just leave the non-dairy topping in the fridge for both desserts.  You know, yogurt is virtuous and yes, even delicious, but fresh strawberries and cream are simply divine.

Brown Sugar Strawberry Shortcake on Down-Home Comfort

When I was 18 I spent the summer in London. That summer I thought I was especially grown up, living abroad and galavanting all over London. I had heard about the beauty of Kew, the Royal Botanic Gardens, and planned a visit. It was a few train rides away and off the normal metro line, but I managed to find my way there — all by myself. (I only want to add London England is a long, long ways from the red dirt roads of South Georgia.) Just before entering the majestic splendor, I popped into a grocer and purchased a pint of strawberries and a small glass bottle of clotted cream. It was a Anglophile’s dream date and I wanted a special private picnic for my solo garden tour. I was grinning like a Cheshire cat at the combination of my sophisticated sojourn and the very British bites I had in store. Yet, after the shop, I found myself at the gate without enough money to enter the gardens. I was scared I wouldn’t have enough money to get back home. So, I sat down on the bench by the gate and gazed through at the amazing beauty within the ornate iron gates. I remember thinking to myself what a silly little girl I had been, but I loved every mouthful of strawberries and cream none-the-less.

When whipping cream it is very important the cream be well chilled as well as the bowl and the beaters. (Cream simply will not whip if it is warm.) For best results, make sure to use cream that has either a 36 to 40 percent milk-fat content (heavy cream) or 30 to 36 percent (light whipping cream). Lastly, don’t over-whip the cream – it turns to butter. On that note, you won’t find either dessert in my next cookbook, Lighten Up, Y’all (spring 2015), but this book is all about saying YES! not saying no. You can have enjoy indulgent desserts – just not every day, not without moderation, and not without putting in an extra bit of exercise. So, enjoy!

Along with strawberries, spring has brought about a bit of spring cleaning. Please check out my new website, www.virginiawillis.com. I’m thrilled with the design and technology. It’s responsive to smart phone, tablet, or computer screen. Pretty cool stuff and great job by IdeaLand and Pixie Wizard Graphixs. I am so thankful to work with such a great team. Stay posted for big changes on my blog, too. Lots of new comings and goings on the horizon. Thanks so much for reading!

Bon Appétit Y’all!
Virginia Willis

Strawberry Semifreddo on www.virginiawillis.com

Simple Strawberry Semifreddo 

Makes 8 3-ounce

2 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup strawberry puree
1 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled
Fresh strawberries, for serving

Place a large saucepan with 2-inches of water over high heat. Bring the water to a boil then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Whisk the eggs, sugar and salt together in a medium mixing bowl. Set the bowl atop the simmering saucepan, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.Whisk constantly, over the heat, until the mixture reaches 170° degrees F and has thickened slightly, about 5 minutes.

Remove the bowl from the heat, add the strawberry puree and whisk until combined. If necessary, refrigerate until cooled to room temperature. Whip the cream in a large mixing bowl until medium peaks form.Fold whipped cream into strawberry mixture until well combined. Transfer to molds and freeze until firm, at least 6 hours. Unmold and serve with fresh strawberries.

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, virginiawillis.com. Thanks so much.

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Copyright © 2014 Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc.

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Sugah Bear, How ‘Bout Some Brown Sugar Shortcakes? Monday, Jun 1 2009 

 

Brown Sugah Shortcakes

Brown Sugah Shortcakes Photo Credit: Kim Jameson

The word “sugar” often becomes “sugah” in the South. The dropping of the r, really pretty unnecessary letter it seems to many. Sugah isn’t just sugar, it’s “Sugah Bear” to a loved one. I recently called my sister that and she questioned my sanity. “Sugah, how ’bout some more coffee” from the waitress with the closer the hair the closer to G*d hairdo. “Come give me some Sugah” meaning a not so favorite smoochy kiss from and aunt or uncle. “Sugah Bowl” is the SEC football game held at the Superdome, and of course, as a graduate from the University of Georgia, aka UGA, “You can’t spell Sugah without UGA” is still a popular bumpersticker.

Sugah and the Southern sweet tooth is a powerful force. It is more than an ingredient in the South. It falls somewhere between condiment and food group. We have desserts at birthday parties, holidays, and special occasions. Mamas calm crying babies with sugar. (Mama dipped my sister’s pacifier in yes, Karo syrup; she finally put a stop to it when Jona was old enough to reach the bottle on the dresser herself.) We drink tea so sweet it will make your teeth hurt, slather jam and jelly on biscuits, eat ham cured in sugar and salt, often put a pinch of sugar in slow-cooked greens, and finish up the meal with a sweet wedge of pie.

Some food historians claim that the Southern fascination with sugar is a practical one. In the hot, humid South, sugar was originally a means of preservation. That’s why we have sugar-cured ham and bacon, sweet pickles, and boiled icing to protect cakes.

Another reason for sugar’s importance is that the crop was tied to slavery. Sugar production is undeniably backbreaking work and very labor intensive. Sugar cane followed the movement of African slaves through the islands of Caribbean and into the plantations of the South where it was grown. The mothers and sisters of the men working hard in the fields were in the kitchen, making the food that eventually evolved into Southern cuisine.

When transportation of goods depended upon horses and wagons on iffy roads, it could take months for sugar to travel from the sugar growing state of Louisiana to hill and mountain country. Sugar was a precious commodity then, kept under lock and key, and Southern craftsmen created a specialized piece of furniture known as the “sugar chest”. These strong and decorative boxes were built throughout the South, most notably in Kentucky and Tennessee. Finally, with the advent of steamboats and improved shipping, sugar prices fell in the 19th century and sugar became more widely available throughout the region.

Forget fancy gènoise or sponge cake; in the South, a shortcake is really just a sweet biscuit. Granted, this recipe is a step above, flavored with orange zest and sprinkled with raw sugar that sparkles like amber on the golden tops. At Martha Stewart Living Television, we served miniature versions of these buttery brown sugar shortcakes filled with peaches, strawberries, and blueberries at a luncheon attended by President Clinton.

In the past, brown sugar was semirefined white sugar with some of the molasses left in. Two popular types of raw sugar are the coarse-textured dry Demerara sugar from the Demerara area of Guyana, and the moist, fine-textured Barbados sugar. Turbinado sugar is raw sugar that has been steam-cleaned. The coarse turbinado crystals are blond colored and have a delicate molasses flavor. Now, for the most part, regular brown sugar is white sugar to which molasses has been added. The color, light or dark, depends on the amount of molasses added. Dark brown is slightly stronger in flavor than light brown, but otherwise interchangeable. When brown sugar comes into contact with air, the moisture evaporates and causes the sugar to lump together and become hard. Prevent this by storing brown sugar in a sealable plastic bag or in an airtight container. Also, storing brown sugar in the refrigerator will help keep it fresh and soft.

Sugah, hope you enjoy these shortcakes!
Bon Appétit, Y’all!
VA

Brown Sugar Shortcakes
Makes 8 to 10

31/2 cups  all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/3 cup granulated sugar
4 teaspoons  baking powder
1 teaspoon  fine sea salt
3/4 cup (11/2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
Grated zest of 1 orange, or 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
1 cup  heavy cream, plus more for brushing
1/2 cup  whole milk
Turbinado, Demerara, or raw brown sugar, for sprinkling
Berries and Garnish
2 pints  strawberries, hulled and quartered lengthwise
Juice of 1 orange
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Whipped cream, for accompaniment

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking sheet or parchment paper.

To prepare the shortcakes, in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle, combine the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt on low speed. Add the butter and zest, and mix on low until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 2 minutes. Add the cream and milk and increase the speed to medium; mix until the dough comes together. Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface, lightly knead a few times, and shape into a rectangle about 3/4 inch thick.

Cut out dough circles using a 3-inch round cutter. Place the circles on the prepared baking sheet. Brush the tops lightly with cream and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar. Bake until the shortcakes are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Meanwhile, to prepare the berries, place the strawberries in a bowl. Add the orange juice and granulated sugar. Set aside.

To serve, halve the shortcakes horizontally with a serrated knife. Place the bottom halves on individual serving plates, top each with a dollop of whipped cream, then some berries, and another dollop of whipped cream. Cover with the tops of the shortcakes and serve.

The shortcakes can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

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