Happy National Strawberry Shortcake Day!

June 14, 2012 2:35 PM EDT | By Staff Writer
Strawberry Shortcake
Happy National Strawberry Shortcake Day! (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

It's June 14th, and anyone who's anyone knows that it's National Strawberry Shortcake Day. We're going to celebrate this high-society treat by exploring the ins and outs of everyone's favorite way to eat a biscuit by talking about its history, the easy basics of preparing one, and my take on the recipe-- a deep-fried strawberry shortcake covered with fresh mint and a balsamic reduction.

1. A Brief, Delicious History

Unlike other bright red fruits and vegetables that were thought to be poisonous well into the 16th century (we're looking at you, tomato!), the friendly strawberry has been consumed since Ancient Roman times, when slaves would lower them into their masters' mouths on special, servile occassions. Millenia later, the tartly, sweetly-flavored juice gushing from each bite has always made the bright, red strawberry synonymous with summertime.

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By comparison, shortcake is significantly younger. The earliest record of its use comes from an old-timey cookbook written in 1594 that recommends a triangular shape for the cake. Nowadays, we like our shortcake rounded like a biscuit, resembling the latter pastry in flakiness and sponginess. In fact, it's easiest to understand the difference between a shortcake and a biscuit as having to do with its sweetness.

And as for putting the two together to make our dessert of the day? No one knows exactly when that happened, but we do know that the beat generation upper crusts enjoyed these tasty treats as a mid-day snack, on account of how easy they were to make in big batches. 

2. Your Basic Strawberry Shortcake

Purists will tell you that you have to bake this, so this portion of the article is merely to appease them. I've taken a shortcut here by using canned biscuits, because this is the kind of food that doesn't have to be a masterpiece. It's an old-fashioned treat; we'll reserve our finesse for finer things.

If you want to take a look at how I've streamlined the process and made it even more delicious, just scroll down to the next section. If not, stay put and keep reading.

 On a stovetop, combine chopped strawberries with 1/3 cup of sugar over low heat until a syrup forms. Put it in the fridge till it's cool, about an hour or two.

Grab a can of Pillsbury breakfast biscuits and pop them in the oven, making according to package. When the biscuits come out of the oven, cut them in half and spread a thin layer of butter and a thin layer of honey on the inside.Top them with the cold strawberry syrup and a squirt of whipped cream.

Serve in your salon with a hot cup of ginger tea and a heaping portion of today's gossip.

3. Beyond the Basics: Deep-Fried Strawberry Shortcake

You heard me. And if you don't have a deep frier, you can prepare this stovetop, as long as you have a pan that can hold enough oil.

Prepare the strawberry syrup recipe as detailed above. In a separate pan, simmer three-fourths a cup of balsamic vinegar for about thirty minutes to an hour. Congratulations, you've just made a balsamic reduction! After such time as you decide it's done, add it to your strawberry syrup to taste. Something about the acidity of balsamic really brings out the sweetness of the strawberry, and rounds out the bite to create something truly perfect.

Put your strawberry-balsamic syrup in the refrigerator until it cools, about two hours or so.

Now for those biscuits. Remember that roll of Pillsbury breakfast biscuits? Separate each biscuit. Roll it in a mixture of equal parts light brown sugar and white brown sugar. Now for the fun part: heat enough oil to submerge a biscuit to 350 degrees. Add your sugared-up biscuit dough to it, and cook till golden brown. Take it out and drop it on a wire rack to dry.

Top with your strawberry-balsamic vinegar and chopped fresh mint. Add a squirt of whipped cream.

Your friends may hate you for serving up such decadence, but whatever! Olden times were decadent, and National Strawberry Shortcake Day comes but once a year. Indulge with a glass of champagne and enjoy your afternoon!


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