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Individual Strawberry Shortcakes

Serves 8

When strawberries are in season, it is time to get out all of the recipes that use them, because that is when they are at their best. This shortcake recipe is one of my favorites. The biscuits can be made one day ahead, wrapped tightly and kept at room temperature. The strawberries can also be prepared a day ahead. The whipped cream can be made several hours before serving and refrigerated (the confectioners' sugar helps stabilize the cream). If you are serving this for a large group, place the biscuits in a basket, the berries and whipped cream in separate bowls. Your guests can assemble the shortcakes as they like. Leftover biscuits can be frozen for later use. Check the notes below for an even quicker version of biscuits.


   Biscuits    Berries and Whipped Cream

To prepare the biscuits, preheat the oven to 425° F. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together into a bowl. Add the 3 tablespoons of sugar and the butter bits. Blend with a pastry blender until a coarse meal forms. Add the 3/4 cup milk and stir just until the mixture forms a dough, adding the other 1/4 cup only if needed; do not overwork. On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into 8 equal portions. Working quickly, form each portion into rounds about 3/4-inch thick. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Sprinkle the tops with additional sugar, if desired. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer the biscuits to a baking rack to cool. (If you overwork the dough and it is too soft to form into rounds, drop from a large spoon and lightly press the tops flat.)

To prepare the berries, clean and hull the strawberries. If desired, slice the strawberries in half. Crush lightly with a potato masher or fork to make some juice. Add sugar to taste. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour or up to 8 hours. Stir once or twice to combine well.

To prepare the whipped cream, in a chilled bowl using chilled beaters, whip the cream, confectioners' sugar and vanilla until stiff peaks form. Cover and refrigerate.

To assemble, split the biscuits in half with a fork. Place the bottom halves on serving plates. Spoon strawberries and some liquid over the biscuits. Top with a generous dollop of whipped cream. Place the remaining biscuit halves at an angle on top so that some of the whipped cream is showing. Place one whole strawberry on top of cream for garnish.

Notes: Always wash strawberries before removing the hull so they do not get waterlogged. The amount of sugar used depends on taste and the sweetness of the berries. The amount of whipped cream in this recipe is adequate but, for whipped cream lovers (I am one) the amount can be doubled. A neat trick for keeping whipped cream longer is to place it in a strainer or round sifter that sets on top of a bowl. Cover the top with plastic wrap. As the cream weeps, the liquid will go through the strainer into the bowl and will not deflate the cream. The whipped cream can be made without the vanilla, if desired.

Easy Biscuit Variation: Make the biscuits using the shortcake recipe from your favorite boxed biscuit mix. If preferred, bake in a round pan, following the package directions, and then cut into wedges for the individual servings.