To celebrate DNA Day last Friday (April 25), my Biotechnology teacher planned a Strawberry DNA Extraction Lab. Each group was also told to bring in small portions of strawberry shortcake, purchased or home-baked, to distribute to other teachers and compete to see who brought in the best strawberry shortcake. I was confident in my shortcake and rather pleased with my teacher’s response, as it proved that my experience in baking and has not failed me. “Great Strawberry Shortcake,” he wrote in my lab notebook, “The Best!”
The recipe I followed was, once again, taken from Essentials of Baking.
2 cups cake flour
1/4 cup and 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold, unsalted butter
1 large egg
1/2 cup heavy cream and more for brushing
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
(which I replaced with brown sugar)
4 cups strawberries, hulled and slice
1 can of whipped cream
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Mix together the flour, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter and mix only until the mixture forms tiny, coarse crumbs. In a bowl, whisk together the egg and the heavy cream. Pour over dry ingredients and mix until the mixture is moistened. Spoon out the dough onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper or foil. The mounds should be 3 inches wide and 3/4 inch high. Brush the top of the shortcakes with heavy cream and sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake until the shortcakes are a light gold brown. While the shortcakes are baking, brush 1 cup of strawberres with a fork in a bowl. Add the remaining 3 cups of berries and 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar. Mix well and refrigerate. When the shortcakes have baked, transfer them to a wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Carefully slice the shortcakes horizontally in half and spoon berries onto the bottom half. Top with whipped cream and cover with the shortcake tops.
Due to the success achieved through these strawberry shortcakes, I will continue to use this Williams Sonoma recipe. Not only do the shortcakes taste good even without strawberries and whipped cream, but the brown sugar also adds a wonderful, crispy texture.
As I realized I ran out of eggs and could not bake another batch of shortcakes, I itched to find a recipe for anything that did not require eggs. Ah, MEXICAN WEDDING COOKIES! I had forgetten which recipe I used a couple of months ago that resulted in a soft batch of cookies that melted immediately in my mouth, I took a chance and used the recipe in the same Williams-Sonoma book from which I took the shortcake recipe from.
Mexican Wedding Cookies
also called Russian Tea Cakes
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup toasted and ground hazlenuts
(which I replaced with walnuts)
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Sift together the flour and salt. In a mixing bowl, combine the butter, granulated sugar, and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until smooth. Add the ground walnuts and blend. Add the dry ingredients and beat until the dough creates large clumps. Roll a level tablespoon of dough between your palms into a 1 inch ball. Place the balls 1 inch apart on the baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil. Bake the cookies until the bottoms are light brown and the tops are lightly colored. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rach to cool completely. Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a bowl. Roll the cookies in the sugar and coat them evenly.
Although the cookies were beautiful in appearance and great in taste, they lacked the irresistible “melt-in-your-mouth” texture of traditional Mexican Wedding Cookies and only melted after a few long seconds, most likely a result of the granulated sugar (rather than confectioners’ sugar) used in the recipe. Now… I’ve finally remembered which recipe I used before, and I’ll be trying it out again sometime soon.
Happy belated DNA Day, all!