The other day I picked up the newest version of the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. My other one is at least 10 years old and I seem to have somehow misplaced it. Also, the newer book was on clearance and I am a total sucker for cookbooks. I collect them. I have so many I don't have space for them, but I can't help thumbing through racks of cookbooks in the stores. At the store where I work I have to avert my eyes and not even glance down book aisle at all or I will surely find a cookbook at a good price to drool over.
Anyway, so there I was in Target, innocently walking down the aisle minding my own business when I noticed an endcap full of canning products. My canner is old and rusty so I was lured over by a new canner which while underneath a clearance banner, was not on clearance. Disappointed, I thought a new canner can wait. However, canning lids and cookbooks were on clearance. I picked up the Ball Blue Book and rifled through pages of old favorites (Blueberry Lime Jam, Maple Walnut Sauce, Apple Cider Jelly) and noticed new preserving recipes not included in my old book (how to make your own jerky and fruit leathers, how to make rubs and dehydrated foods). There were also new recipes such as Savory Pocket Pie and Peach-Walnut Shortcake - recipes that looked easy to make for my girls. I had to have this book!
Now allow me to go a little tangential. You could argue that I can find all sorts of recipes for free online, but I can hardly keep a thought in my head for 10 minutes without forgetting it and there's no chance I'd remember to look up Savory Pocket Pie. And even if I do remember to search for and print recipes online, loose papers always get lost. Books, on the other hand, are beautiful. There is a certain satisfaction in feeling the pages turn in my hand, of dogearing pages that pique my interest, of underlining whatever my heart desires, of scribbling notes in the margins. Good old dogeared books are like cherished friends, re-read and thought over and passed down like treasures. They have weight, they have color, they have smell (old books smell really great!), they hold a little of the personality of their owners. They are a sensory experience. When I had time (before I had children), I used to love looking for old books at garage sales, antique stores and library book sales. I feel so strongly about books that I don't think I would ever use an e-reader.
Now back to shortcake. That recipe for Peach-Walnut Shortcake was the clincher for buying that cookbook. It was old-fashioned (not the angel food cake shells the grocery stores sell), something I remembered my mom making, something I had not made for the girls before, and I thought I could convert it in a snap. I bought the book. I made the girls shortcake for dessert. Looking at their faces, you'd think they'd just got a glimpse of heaven. Either the shortcake was that good or I need to make dessert more often.
No whipped cream? Spoon a little strawberry juice over the top, it's divine!
2 pounds fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced
3 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon or 1/4 tsp. cardamom
2 1/2 cups GF flour blend (I used this one)
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. xanthan gum
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
8 tbsp. Earth Balance Soy-Free Margarine
2/3 cup dairy-free, soy-free milk alternative (I used coconut milk)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside.
In a small bowl, stir together the sugar and cinnamon or cardamom. Pour over the strawberries and toss well. Set aside.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour through the salt. Cut in the margarine with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles small meal. Stir in the milk until the mixture holds together. You may need to add a little more milk, add one tablespoon at a time. The dough should not be too dry, but not wet and sticky either. If you touch it, it should not stick all over your hands.
Turn the dough onto a floured work surface. Knead a few times. Pat the dough into a rectangle 1/2 inch thick, adding flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface or your hands. Cut the dough into circles using a biscuit cutter or cut the dough into 3 inch squares with a knife. Place the shortcake onto the prepared baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake about 15 minutes or until the bottoms and edges are golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. To serve, split in half. Spoon strawberries over the bottom half and place top half of the shortcake over the strawberries. Spoon a few more strawberries over the top. Drizzle some of the strawberry juice that has collected in the bowl of strawberries over the shortcake. Top with whipped cream if desired, and serve.