As far as I know there are only two ways to pick strawberries. You can stand, bend from the waist and do multiple variations of toe-touches. Or you can squat, twist and reach. It's a bit of a workout, complete with a few aches and invariably a kink in the back. As I try to straighten up afterwards I often think of those who pick for commercial growers. My patch takes me about 20 minutes and I'm always glad when I'm finished. I can't imagine picking all day. Or getting up the next day and doing it again.
The reward for picking strawberries is in the eating. One of our favorite ways to enjoy them is Strawberry Shortcake. It's a just right combo of a not-too-sweet crispy shortcake, cool, creamy sweet whipped topping and the star of the dessert, the juicy strawberries. There's no need to wait for a special occasion to make this simple dessert. (Unless you consider strawberry season a special occasion, which it is, isn't it?) And there's no need to wait for a crowd. With Quick Mix in the refrigerator or freezer, you can make shortcakes for two in just minutes.
Quick Mix is a baking mix that basically mixes together flour, baking powder and salt with butter to get you a step ahead in the baking process. (You can find the recipe here or here or at the end of this post.) Counterintuitively making a big batch of Quick Mix makes it easier to make a small batch of shortcakes since there are fewer ingredients and steps to do each time. You don't have to use all that Quick Mix on shortcakes, you can also make muffins and biscuits (recipes here and here). You can easily double or triple this recipe if you need shortcakes for more than two.
Quick Mix Strawberry Shortcakes for Two
3/4 cup Quick Mix
2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/4 cup milk (scant)
2/3 cups washed, hulled and sliced strawberries
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup prepared whipped topping or whipped cream
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
In a bowl mix together Quick Mix and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Add milk and stir just until mix is wet and dough holds together. I usually start with a spoon and end up with my fingers. Knead lightly a few times and pat into a oblong shape.
Using a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter, cut two shortcakes. Gather the scraps together and form into a small shortcake. Or, you could just divide the dough in half and form into two rustic shaped shortcakes. That way you won't feel deprived when someone loads that extra shortcake onto their plate.
Place remaining tablespoon of sugar in a shallow bowl and dip each side of shortcake in sugar and place on baking pan or stone.
Bake for 10 minutes or until very lightly browned. Allow shortcakes to cool to barely warm before serving.
Directions for Strawberries:
To prepare strawberries, wash, hull and halve large berries. Add a few tablespoons of sugar. I like to mush the berries just a little with a potato masher to release some of those amazing juices, but still leave the berries in chunks. I also prefer to serve the strawberries at room temperature.
To serve top shortcake with whipped topping and slightly sweetened strawberries. I often split the shortcakes and add additional whipped topping and strawberries.
Homemade Quick Mix
6 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup butter
Place 3 cups of flour in a bowl. Add baking powder and salt. Using a mixer or pastry blend, cut butter into flour mixture. Add remaining flour. Mix well. Store in a plastic container or bag in the refrigerator or freezer. Use within two months (refrigerator) to four months (freezer).