Two-bite strawberry shortcakes

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The road to these stupidly easy strawberry shortcakes was long and winding.

I started obsessing about scones right around the royal wedding and thought, these would make a great base for a shortcake. Upon further research, I learned that "short" cake just means a cake with a high fat-to-flour ratio, like scones or biscuits. But I wondered, what's the difference between the two?

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Martha Stewart thinks they're basically the same, but many commenters found that suggestion insulting to both Brits and southerners. Food52 had a much more detailed description of the differences, but after reading I felt less inclined to use either traditional scones (too much butter) or traditional biscuits (too much technique) as my shortcake base. The only specific shortcake recipe I found that appealed to me was the classic from Bon Appetite, but it calls for two hard-boiled egg yolks and I'm generally too lazy for that.

See the tiny flecks of black? Those are the vanilla beans dispersed in the cream.

See the tiny flecks of black? Those are the vanilla beans dispersed in the cream.

Enter, the Never-fail Biscuit from King Arthur. These use no butter, so if you're looking for a butter-y flavor, these may not be your biscuits. However, they are so so easy and come together so fast. There's no resting or freezing or rolling or cutting, but you end up with a flaky, risen biscuit that is easily adapted into a sweet shortcake. 

And! These are tiny, two-bite shortcakes, so you get the taste of sweet summer fruit, without eating a huge dessert. I didn't healthify these thanks to the tiny portion size, but you could surely swap in gluten-free flour, full-fat coconut milk, and coconut sugar in this recipe with good results.

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A couple of notes:
- I made lots of changes because I wanted sweet biscuits and I didn't have self-rising flour, so I had to fiddle with the ratios of salt, flour, and baking powder a bit. In the end, I used less salt and less baking powder than the original recipe.
- I also added more sugar, a little more cream, and half of a vanilla bean instead of using an extract (though you could add 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract instead. KA suggests using 1 tablespoon, but I felt like I could taste the alcohol of the extract a bit). 
- You want to really make sure these shortcakes are cooked. I don't know why, but I felt like I could taste raw flour before I cooked them for an extra minute or two. See notes in the recipe for some tricks to tell if they're really done.

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Two-bite strawberry shortcakes
 

1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
Scant ¼ tsp fine kosher salt
3 Tbsp sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
¾ cup + 1 Tbsp heavy cream
½ vanilla bean, scraped and seeds added
1 Tbsp demarara or other coarse sugar for sprinkling on top
24 medium strawberries
1 cup whipped cream

Preheat the oven to 450.

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk to combine.

Measure the heavy cream in a large measuring cup and add one extra tablespoon. Using a small sharp knife, cut the vanilla bean pod in half lengthwise. Scrape out the inside of the pod and add the brown seeds to the liquid. Whisk vigorously to disperse the vanilla beans.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, making sure to scoop out any vanilla beans on the bottom of the cream mixture. Mix just until the wet and dry ingredients come together and begin to look like a flaky dough. This is a dry-ish dough, but you should be able to form the mixture into a ball easily with your hands. If the dough is falling apart, add ½ of tablespoon of cream at a time and mix again with your hands. You want the dough just coming together without falling apart, but without becoming too wet.

When the dough is together, scoop off a small amount (about 1 tablespoon) and lightly roll into a ball with your hands. Place the balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle the tops of each ball with demarara or other coarse sugar.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating the tray once during baking. My best indication that the shortcakes are done was that the extra sugar on the tray (not on the shortcakes) had burned ever-so-slightly and the bottoms of the shortcakes were a dark caramel brown.

Yield: 24 mini shortcakes

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Strawberry rhubarb gummies

Man, oh man. It's been a while since I blogged...AGAIN. My excuse this time is that M needed some stitches in his face last week and it was horrible. When he got hurt, I immediately felt afraid and guilty about how vulnerable he is and how I can't protect him from danger. I think it's human nature to do whatever helps us pretend that we have control: No one would get out of bed if they thought too hard about the horrible accidents that could befall them at any minute. In our case, we try to be proactive parents by reading books and tuning into our kid and then making choices based on the information we glean. Do we always make the right choices? Absolutely not. But it's the act of TRYING that feels the most valuable to me. But that's the rub: Trying to be "proactive" is what I do to strengthen the illusion of control. And when injury happens, I'm reminded that my control is, in fact, just an illusion and that much of parenting--hell, much of life--is about reacting to the unforeseen. It's terrifying.

But in addition to feeling shocked, I also felt a little bit of awe. They had to strap M down so that he didn't move or grab the instruments and he was so scared and sweaty and confused. But just a few minutes later, he was sitting up in his stroller extolling the virtues of his blue lollipop. He also told us the next day, unprompted, that he had felt "scared" in the doctor's office. I was pretty floored by this tidbit of emotional maturity in my two-year-old.

Obviously, I've cried a couple of times this week. But what really puts me over the edge is thinking about his courage and sweetness despite all the other stuff. He is showing us that it's possible to feel fear and pain without turning it against others or being ashamed. He isn't trying to blame anyone for what happened. He just wants a blue lolly. Never change, kiddo. 

Also obvious: ALL I WANT TO DO IS GIVE HIM BLUE LOLLIES AND KISSES AND MY PHONE AND ANYTHING ELSE HIS LITTLE HEART WANTS. But that's a bit dramatic. Instead, we're going back to normal and trying to eat some healthy things. These strawberry rhubarb gummies are delicious and portable and sweet without being sugary. I use this brand of gelatin that feels a little more wholesome than other types, but it's expensive, so use what feels good for you. If working with this gelatin or something similar, try to keep these gummies cold-ish as the gelatin un-gels when warm.

A note on making a puree instead of the gummies: Without any sweetener, this puree is TART. I love it, but I'm sure a developing palette would be a bit shocked. If trying this out with a kiddo under 1, add 1 Tbsp of maple syrup at a time to taste. Or, throw in a roasted banana or 1 cup of mango cubes to cut the tartness with fruit rather than added sugar. You can also reduce the rhubarb to 1 cup chopped. It's also a watery puree, so add it to some greek yogurt or coconut cream to thicken it up.

 

Strawberry rhubarb puree and gummies

4 large pieces of rhubarb, chopped (about 2 cups)
1 pint strawberries (about 3 cups of whole berries with stems removed)
¼ cup water
4 Tbsp maple syrup or honey
5 Tbsp gelatin

Grease a baking pan with coconut oil or your oil of choice. Set aside.

Chop rhubarb into 1-inch pieces after removing the leaves and the root ends. Place in a sauce pan with ¼ cup of water and turn heat to medium/medium-low. Cook, stirring frequently, until the rhubarb starts to get mushy, about 6-8 minutes. Add the whole strawberries and continue cooking until the berries begin to soften and all of the rhubarb has lost its shape, about 10 minutes more. Puree in a blender or food processor.

This will yield about 3 cups of puree. This mixture is fairly watery, so if you don’t plan to turn it into gummies, I would mix it with greek yogurt or coconut cream. It’s also fairly tart, so I recommend adding some honey (for kids older than 1), maple syrup, or another fruit such as 1 large roasted banana or 1 cup of chopped mango.  

For the gummies: Return the puree to the pot and turn the heat to low. Let the mixture heat up slightly, but don’t let it boil. Add the sweetener and mix well. Sprinkle the gelatin into the mixture very very slowly in 1 tsp increments and whisk continually to avoid lumps. Once the powder has dissolved, turn off heat. Pour into your greased pan and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Cut into squares and serve.

Yield: 64 1” by 1” squares

Roasted strawberry yogurt

M hates yogurt. I don't know why I care, really. It's just yogurt. Except that I keep getting duped into buying these appealing mini yogurts that are both expensive and loaded with sugar and he NEVER eats them. ("But they're European, and Europeans aren't sugar addled like we are!", says my, admittedly sugar-addled grocery store self.)

The offending yogurts. #meandthemoose #roastedstrawberryyogurt #yogurt #strawberries

So, I made my own. The process is simple: Dump frozen berries (it's February, after all) onto a parchment or foil-covered roasting pan and pop in a 350 degree oven until your kitchen smells like summer. You want the berries to be mushy, but not burned. They'll release their juices (I hate that phrase, but that's exactly what happens), so keep an eye out to prevent scorching. Bitter berries are not delicious. They should look like this:

Roasting strawberries brings out their sweetness and juices. #meandthemoose #roastedstrawberryyogurt #yogurt #strawberries

Let these cool for a minute and then puree in a blender or food processor. We have some variety of Ninja blender and are a little bit obsessed. Food gets so smooth! Mix with plain, full fat yogurt (Greek or non, you pick). 

Roasted strawberry puree with yogurt. #meandthemoose #roastedstrawberryyogurt #yogurt #strawberries

The density of the yogurt made a pretty parfait shot almost impossible, but you know what? HE ATE IT. I guess M doesn't hate yogurt.

Finished! This roasted strawberry yogurt is free of refined sugar and super delicious. #meandthemoose #roastedstrawberryyogurt #yogurt #strawberries

 

Roasted strawberry yogurt

1 bag frozen strawberries
Plain, full-fat yogurt

Heat the oven to 350°. Spread the frozen berries on a parchment or foil-lined baking sheet. Bake until the berries are soft and have released their juices (that expression again, *shudder*) but are not browning, about 20-25 minutes depending on the intensity of your oven and the size of your berries. Let cool slightly. Carefully transfer the berries and juices to a blender or food processor and blend. You shouldn’t need to add extra liquid, but if necessary, add 1/8 cup of water to start and keep adding liquid in 1/8 cup increments until you’ve reached your desired consistency. Combine with plain yogurt in whatever proportions you and your little prefer.