I can clearly remember the first time my brain registered the juiciness of a nectarine and its heavenly scent. It was summer and unusually hot. I was about 3 or 4 years old and me and my mother, the lady next door and her son Sam who had the same age, had walked quite a distance to a park where we could play. After we had played a while, Sam and I were each given an unusually large nectarine – mostly because our hands were very small. They came out of a brown paper bag, and I can still recall the sound of the bag, and the scent that came next when it was presented to me to pick my fruit. I remember that I smelled the skin of the fruit, looked at it, turned it around and was then handed a piece of white kitchen paper to catch the juice that was about to drip from my chin and hands. I investigated the skin between my fingers, the texture of the fruit. I recall the bitterness of the magenta red stone as I was trying to get the last of the flesh from it….
A Strawberry shortcake can take on many forms, it can be a scone-like cake, a sponge or a thin biscuit but two things remain the same throughout any recipe: fresh strawberries and lots of pretty whipped cream. Strawberries were first cultivated by the Romans in 200 BC but what about the origin of a Strawberry Shortcake?
In Medieval times newly-weds would be presented with a soup made of strawberries and sour cream topped with borage and sugar. They believed strawberries to be an aphrodisiac, yet no biscuit or cake of any kind accompanied the dish.
Short meaning crumbly from the Old English ‘cruma’ is a term that came to be in the 15th century, adding a large amount of fat or ‘shortening’ to flour results in a crumbly or ‘short’ texture.
In the Elizabethan cookbook The good Huswifes Handmaide
for the Kitchin. (1594 -1597) one can find the earliest record of the term ‘short cake’. Unfortunately none of the manuscripts that survived of this book are complete.
Take wheate flower, of the fayrest ye can get, and put it in an earthern pot, and stop it close, and set it in an Ouen and bake it, and when it is baken, it will be full of clods, and therefore ye must searse it through a search: the flower will haue as long baking as a pastie of Uenison. When you haue done this, take clowted Creame, or els sweet Butter, but Creame is better, then take Sugar, Cloues, Mace, and Saffron, and the yolke of an Egge for one doozen of Cakes one yolke is ynough: then put all these foresaid things together into the cream, & temper them al together, then put them to your flower and so make your Cakes, your paste wil be very short, therefore yee must make your Cakes very litle: when yee bake your cakes, yee must bake them vpon papers, after the drawing of a batch of bread.
A mention of a shortcake appears in one of Shakespeare’s plays ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’ in 1602:
“Book of Riddles! why, did you not lend it to Alice Shortcake upon All-hallowmas last, a fortnight afore Michaelmas?”
After some research into these words and the help of some people who studied Shakespeare I found out that Alice was possibly the Countess of Derby who lived at that time and would have dispensed lard cakes referred to as short cakes to the poor. It is very possible that Shakespeare used Alice Shortcake as a nickname for Alice spencer the Countess of Derby but of course we are not entirely sure to say it is a fact.
fact is that the British have been enjoying Strawberry short cakes with
great pleasure for as long as anyone can remember and everyone seems to
have his or her own version of the dish. So here I shall bring you
mine, a ‘short’ thin wholemeal spelt biscuit that really lets the
strawberries and cream be the queen of the pudding.
This dish brings a bit of sunshine to your table, and dear oh dear do we need some sunshine is this dullest and coldest of springs.
I’m getting ready to travel to London for Food Blogger Connect, a conference where I will be one of the speakers this year. To those I will meet there, see you soon and to all the other lovely people, next time there will be yet another book from a friend on the blog!
|from bloom to fruit|
|My local strawberry farm|
Strawberry spelt shortcake
What do you need
- 225 g cold butter
- 225 g wholemeal spelt flour
- 1 organic egg, beaten
- 100 g raw cane sugar
- vanilla, half a teaspoon
- salt, a pinch
For the filling and topping
- 300 – 500 g of strawberries, halved or quartered
- whipping cream 250 g
- 1 teaspoon of sugar to sweeten the cream
- Place the butter and the flour in a bowl rub together until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
- Add sugar, salt and vanilla and work the dough until it comes together as a smooth pastry
- Roll out the dough until it is half a centimeter thick on a clean floured work surface
- Cut out circles of about 9 cm or two larger if you like to bake a large short cake
- Transfer the pastry circles onto greaseproof paper and chill for 30-50 minutes.
- Preheat your oven to 170° C
- Arrange the shortcakes on a baking tray – using the greaseproof paper to bake them on
- Put in the middle of the oven an bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden
- The mixture will spread while baking, don’t be alarmed by this, you can neaten the edges while warm.
- Transfer the cakes carefully to a wire rack to cool
- Cut your strawberries but leave some whole for decoration. Whip your cream.
- When the short cakes are completely cooled, arrange one shortcake on a plate or cake stand and cover it with the sliced strawberries, place another shortcake on top and top it with the whipped cream and the whole strawberries you saved for decoration.
- Serve straight away!
Note that some recipes require you to cut the strawberries, arrange them over your shortcake and let it sit for an hour before adding the top short cake and cream, I do not prefer to do so as the shortcake will get soggy and we won’t want a soggy bottom won’t we!
I started my second year in Culinary school this week. It’s going to be tough again combining this with my day job as a graphic designer. It always seems that the one day I can’t seem to get away from the office in time is the evening I have Culinary school to rush over to. I love the experience, the knowledge passed on to us by the chefs. I’m the student with the questions, the never ending enthusiasm, with the jokes and the loud giggles. Lessons always end with dinner, bottles of wine are opened and if we’re lucky a fellow student Jean, otherwise known as ‘the butcher’ has brought some of his home made port. We have a good time, have a laugh, a taste and a discussion about food. Our class is always the last to remain in the building and we leave the school grounds with rosy cheeks and a little bit pie-eyed.
A lot of modern recipes for Fruit Fools state the dish dates back as far as the 16th century. There is a recipe for Trifle in ‘The Good Huswifes Jewel’ by Thomas Dawson written in 1596. The recipe goes as follows:
Take a pint of thick cream, and season it with sugar and ginger, and
rose water. So stir it as you would then have it make it luke warm in a
dish on a chafing dish and coals. And after put it into a silver piece
or a bowl, and so serve it to the board.
Many historians including me have the theory that this early trifle recipe might have been where the Fool was born. However, this recipe does not contain any kind of fruit so maybe the first fool, wasn’t with fruit at all.
I have found a recipe for a ‘Gooseberry foole’ in ‘The Compleat Cook‘ by WM from 1658
Take your Gooseberries, and put them in a Silver or Earthen Pot, and set it in a Skillet of boyling Water, and when they are coddled enough strain them, then make them hot again, when they are scalding hot, beat them very well with a good piece of fresh butter, Rose-water and Sugar, and put in the yolke of two or three Eggs; you may put Rose-water into them, and so stir it altogether, and serve it to the Table when it is cold.
In this later recipe where indeed is spoken of a Fool there is no mention of cream, in fact many early Fool recipes use an egg mixture rather than just cream.
Gervase Markham as well as Robert May, have recipes for Norfolk Fools, they all have an egg mixture rather than cream. Does this mean Thomas Dawson’s recipe was actually an early Trifle after all?
Then I came across a recipe for a Strawberry or Raspberry Fool in ‘The Compleat Housewife: or Accomplished Gentlewoman’s Companion’ by Eliza Smith written in 1739. This appears to be one of the first recipes of a fool like we know it today. The fruit is squeezed and orange flower water is added, then cream.
Why the word ‘Fool’ is used is not entirely clear, some claim it’s derived from the French verb fouler which is used in the context of pressing grapes for wine with one’s feet.
For this Raspberry and Strawberry Fool I started out from a recipe dated 1823, I found in ‘Good things in England’ by Florence White. This is one of the recipes sent to White when she had called upon the people to send in their British family recipes.
The original recipes states you should pass the fruit trough a hair sieve but I didn’t as I think the interplay of textures is quite lovely.
You can use any fruit for this dessert but it works best with tart fruit, the most popular being gooseberries, however these should be stewed until they are soft enough.
What do you need (for 2)
a punnet of raspberries
a punnet of strawberries
(or another tart fruit like gooseberries which you stew first and then let cool)
500 ml double cream
1 teaspoon orange flower water (optional, used in traditional recipe)
1 teaspoon sugar (optional, used in traditional recipe)
Divide your cream into two equal parts
Bruise 2/3 of the raspberries and all the strawberries with a fork, leave some bits in for texture, you can even add some whole raspberries at the end
Mix them with the orange flower water and sugar (optional, used in traditional recipe)
Stir one part of the cream in the fruit so you get a nice pink color
Now layer the plain cream with the fruit cream you created into the jars or glasses of your choice)
Decorate with some leftover fruits.
* Why not substitute half of the cream with thick yoghurt for a lighter version of this dish!
Join me next time for some home made Raspberry Vinegar!
It surely looked that way the last two days. This might have been the wettest and most gloomy june in years. I started my two weeks at home sitting by the window, watching the rain pour down and reading my new cook book.
At times it almost felt like christmas break, when temperatures dropped and I tucked myself in a blanket to keep warm, drinking my Earl grey… warming my hands on the teacup.
In the kitchen, I craved for succulent roast beef, rich chocolate cake and full bodied red wine.
Then summer came on wednesday…
The menu in the kitchen changed again, the blanket became the cats territory and my Oxford Uni jumper gave way to summer dresses.
All I needed was a drink to enjoy in my garden… which looks a lot more like a meadow as I haven’t mowed the lawn in months.
As Pimm’s is my favourite cocktail as a true Britain lover, my choice was made!
Time is precious.
Enjoy every minute…
why not enjoy it with this Stawberry and Pimm’s Granita in your hand!
*This is not a sponsored post, I just love Pimm’s
what do you need (for 4 servings)
1 kg strawberries
4 shot glasses Pimm’s (or more if you want it stronger!)
2 teaspoons of Pimm’s
2 teaspoons of sugar
a few sprigs of mint
– slice the strawberries and cover with the sugar and the 2 teaspoons of Pimm’s
– crush the strawberries, cover and leave to rest for 30 minutes
– liquidize the fruit
– pour the strawberry juice in a wide shallow container
– put into the freezer and leave for 60 minutes
– scrape the now almost frozen juice loose and mix with the unfrozen parts
– put back into the freezer for 30 minutes and repeat until the granita is frozen and fluffy.
– serve in a wide glass
– scoop granita into the glasses
– add the Pimm’s
– decorate with fresh mint
It’s Pimm’s O’ clock!
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Please leave a comment, they make me smile x