Strawberries aren’t in season en Suisse. I’d gather they won’t be for at least a month yet. But when these little red darlings started showing up in le marché, I could hardly resist. I’ve been going through strawberry withdrawl ever since…. oh wait I couldn’t resist during Valentine’s either when I made my husband sabayon with orangettes. I have absolutely zero willpower when it comes to these sweet jewels.
Especially if they are flavorful. Nothing says disappointment more than admiring a beautiful bright gem of a fruit, the juice already running into your hands and down your chin as you take a bite expecting the best of nature’s candy, only to come to the sad realization that really the fruit might as well have been red colored water in the shape of a strawberry. It’s one of the risks you always run when buying fruit out of season from far far away. And you would think after enough of those let downs that I would know to hold out and wait til the fresh fresh local ones come in. But then there are days in the market where les barquettes de fraises are all lined up just begging to be eaten – I think about how long it’s been (a mere 2 months, I know I am spoiled!) and I always give in. This past weekend was no exception to that rule, but lucky for me, these strawberries did not disappoint!
So while I normally strive for buying all my produce in season because that is truly when the best quality comes out, this week I am grateful that these strawberries were fantastic. In fact, they were so fantastic, that I went ahead and did another gluten free experim…er….recipe, trying to create a perfect strawberry shortcake.
Key word there was try. Everything was set for success – I had soaked strawberries in a little lemon/lime juice, had double crème de la Gruyère, and all I needed were the gluten free biscuits on which to savor strawberry delight. I looked up Ruhlman’s ratio for biscuits – 3 : 2 : 1 for flour : liquid : fat and did as I’ve always been doing – about 1/3 starch, and the rest of blend of whatever sounded good – in this case chestnut flour, hazelnut meal and rice flour, with a little guar gum because I wasn’t sure how these would rise. I cut the butter into the flour, added the buttermilk, cut them out and popped them in the oven, and watched the magic happen. They puffed beautifully inside the warm oven, steam pushing the dough up as they baked. And then, just like my macaron flops of late, after taking them out they promptly collapsed all the way back down to their original height. They couldn’t trap the air in enough to stay risen, and so I bring you super short strawberry shortcake:
The beautiful brown color? That’s from the chestnut flour – and if you look at the crumb it actually looks rather biscuit-like. Even cooled, they were soft and flavorful. So they weren’t a complete failure. They just let all the air escape, the air that is necessary to make those wonderful characteristic pockets of fluffy biscuit goodness. Sigh. Not everything is a success on the first try. Or the 2nd or the 3rd. It happens.
But what is a success are these strawberries – ever since I can remember my family has always prepped strawberries by chopping them up, putting them into a container with some sugar and letting them sit for a few hours until their juices flow around them in a thick red sweet syrup. There’s a verb to describe this process, which is to macerate (which technically just means to soak in liquid – though w/ fruit can soak in its own juices). However, I think if one has really great strawberries, there’s plenty of sweetness in them already – it’s just a matter of coaxing the sweetness out to intensify their flavor. So instead of macerating the fruit this way, I don’t add any sugar at all. I add a squeeze of lime or lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon for 2 barquettes or quart-ish sized containers) and then let the chopped fruit soak it up. I don’t have any scientific proof for this, but I am convinced that the acid helps pull the natural sweetness out of the strawberries – if I let them sit overnight in the fridge this way, sure enough by morning they are fire engine red (like in the photo above) and sitting in a fantastic sweet fruity syrup. The citrus adds just enough tang without taking away from the strawberry flavor, and the first taste on my tongue is now the sugar sweet of the fruit – pretty amazing how one can make something taste so much sweeter by adding the very opposite of sweetness!
So even though they are out of season, and even though my gluten free biscuits were a total flop, I’m grateful I got to enjoy these strawberries. I’m grateful for many things in life really, strawberries are just one of the simple pleasures that will always bring a smile to my face no matter what. Speaking of smiles, I have been completely in awe of the love and support by everyone for this little blog lately. As many of you know, Saveur Magazine has opened up nominations for this year’s best food blogs in a variety of categories. I just want to say thank you so much for all of the emails, tweets, and kind words from you all telling me that you’ve been nominating me for some of the awards. Over the past week I have been left speechless, honored, and so grateful for all of the amazing things you have shared, and am so flattered that one might associate my site with such caliber – really, you have brought such a joy to me this past week. You remind me of why I blog, why I cook, and why I share my creations (even if they are flops) with you – we are a community together, and that’s what makes this endeavor so rewarding. Keeping a food blog means nothing without the ability to interact and share with others, and for that I am so grateful to you, my dear readers – for contributing to this amazing experience, and for being so generous with your outpouring of love and compliments. I am honored to take part in such a great community of people who enjoy gathering around good food.