So I’m still on Episode 7, Season 1: “The Dough Also Rises”… but this time, we’re making shortcake!
I’ll tell you something — I’m not crazy about shortcake. I grew up knowing full-well what shortcake was because my dad is in love with it. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it is one of his favorite desserts. But to me, shortcake was a not-so-good cake (I’m not a cake fan anyway so I’m probably harder to please) topped with strawberries and whipped cream. Now, strawberries are one of my favorite fruits… and well, whipped cream is delicious to a fault… but once you mix those two with shortcake, you get an ewey-goey, smushy mess. It’s disgusting. I hate smushy, mealey foods so when I eat shortcake, that’s all I felt it is — sopping strawberry juice cake. Nasty. …But with judgement’s aside… and with Alton’s help, I was hoping his application would open the door to shortcake acceptance.
Alton’s shortcake is basically the same as the Southern Biscuits… with two exceptions — one, replacing an ingredient with half-and-half; and two, adding sugar… which Alton says tenderizes the dough. Interesting.
After that, the dry ingredients are mixed the same way as the biscuits (which I was excited about because I love getting my fingers in food… so much so that I still eat food at the dinner table with my fingers… and no, the food is not finger food… but that’s another story…). Then the batter is dropped in spoonfuls, placed onto a pan, and cooked until GBD.
Now Alton’s application calls for his Macerated Strawberries… which was pretty exciting because we got to skip ahead to page 328! (And just for those that don’t have the book, we’re on page 44 so skipping ahead felt like a big achievement of sorts). I will mention here though, we made his strawberries to the best of our ability… because we couldn’t find the Orange Blossom Honey — which the application calls for. Now here’s the thing — James and I went to at least three or four grocery stores, searching for Orange Blossom Honey… and we never found it. In the end, we had to use the generic brand every single person buys every single time they want honey — Clover Honey. Boo. Boring. (PS-For anyone curious, if you live in San Francisco, you’ll have no trouble getting Orange Blossom Honey. That city has a beyond-amazing farmer’s market. James and I went in October and have never seen anything like that before. Yes, Virginians — I am well aware our state has farmer’s markets too… but not until you’ve been to SF will you have been to a real farmer’s market. …I can see James now taking a deep breath and rolling his eyes… but I know he admits to himself that was one danged impressive farmer’s market…)
Anyway, we stuck to the Macerated Strawberries application beyond that. First things first, we sliced one pint of strawberries…
Then James and I macerated the strawberries for a couple hours in red wine, lemon zest, honey and other ingredents. (By the way, many people think the difference between macerating and marinating are the amount of hours it is done; this is wrong. I learned macerating means to soak fruit in a flavorful liquid; but marinating means to soak meatin a flavorful liquid. So, which m-ating you’re using just depends on the ingredient you’re cooking!) The result for our strawberry-mixture was… good… but very potent. I have nothing against wine, but this application made the strawberries feel like the sidenote… when I imagined (and wanted) them to be front and center. Truth be told, I’d suggest either halfing the wine amount and filling the other half with water… or just doing it the old-fashioned, no-fuss way my mom does: Macerate strawberries in sugar water… which is a lot easier and the strawberries are guaranteed in the spotlight.
In the end, James and I piled our shortcakes high with the strawberry mixture and whipped cream. And of course, vanilla ice cream on the side. Everything is better with ice cream on the side… well, everything (sadly) except this shortcake. I have to be completely honest here. This is the first application I just did not like. In fact, I didn’t like it so much, I’ve put off blogging about it for months. …But hold on one minute; it’s not that Alton let me down. It’s just that I was expecting something else. The strawberries were more wine-berries… and the shortcake… well, I was expecting *cake*… like those Hostess shortcake cups — those small, hallowed-out *cake* rounds that my dad eats when he wants shortcake. What I wasn’t expecting was *biscuits*. But according to Wikipedia, shortcake is a sweet *biscuit* or crumbly bread. A biscuit!? Crumbly bread?! I had no idea! Looking back at Alton’s application, I feel like I didn’t pay attention because the first sentence says, “Although there are many variations on the biscuit theme…” I mean, GEEZ! THE BISCUIT THEME!!! I could have saved myself the disappointment. *Sigh* Still, Alton allowed me to make true, honest-to-goodness shortcakes… which I cannot be sad about… even if I thought I was making something else.
The good news is I learned so many things about strawberries! Did you know the “seeds” on strawberries are actually called the “fruits” of the berry?! So strange! Annnd did you know strawberry leaves can be brewed like tea? Alton says it’s not too tasty, but it’s a good laxative. Again, so interesting! The saying goes, “You learn something new every day.” Now that I’m cooking with Alton, it feels like I learn something new each minute. I told James, “James, I think I want to make a new category on my blog about what I learn new each day”… because there’s a certain thrill in live when one can learning new things even though all schooling is over.