Nothing low fat about it: Making southern fried strawberry shortcake

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 5, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Knowing how to make truly delicious Southern fried strawberry shortcake is not something learned from a cookbook. It is knowledge passed down through generations and it doesn’t hurt if your great grandmother was a good ol’ Southern Belle who knew her way around a &uot;Queen&uot; stove.

Cooking nowadays has given way to five minute microwave meals and most of today’s chef’s don’t even own a cookbook. However, if you are lucky enough to have a &uot;cookin’ grandma,&uot; then you’re all set to enjoy some good recipes.

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According to Great Grandmother Mamie Augusta Strother West, there are a couple of secrets to making strawberry shortcake, including the knack of knowing precisely when to stop beating the cream, and you must know what 10 X sugar means to a red ripe berry.

You begin your culinary creation by picking your own berries, and they cannot be just any strawberries. They must be scrutinized for plumpness, ripeness and taste tested in the field.

The berries should be washed and inspected for bad spots, and then their little green caps should be pulled off. Look at the center of the berry and if there is any of the stem left there, use the end of a potato peeler to remove it. Then, slice the berries into a container, layering berries with 10 X sugar. Granulated sugar will work, but it takes more to sweeten the berries and it’s not as smooth as the 10 X. For new cooks, 10 X is plain old confectioner’s sugar just like you’d use to make cake frosting.

Once you have a quart or two of berries, depending on the appetites of those you plan to treat, the next item to prepare is pure, sweet cream. Start with cream, not half and half, that has been chilled to the point where it begins to form a crust around the sides of a metal pan. The metal pan is essential to creating an air filled whipped topping that stands up when you dip a spoon into it.

The pan of cream should be covered in the freezer with a plastic wrap to keep ice crystals from forming. While washing and sorting the berries, check the pan about every 15 minutes once it gets good and cold. If ice forms in the cream, it will spoil the whip.

While the berries rest comfortably in their sugar, and the cream is chilling, take a pound cake that you have either made from scratch or purchased, and begin slicing enough to serve the number of people you expect. Allow for seconds for those who are not daunted by calories and fat.

Fat? In strawberry shortcake? That’s right, and it comes from the pound cake. After slicing it, brush both sides of the slices into melted butter – not margarine – but real butter. Margarine just doesn’t give it the color or the incredibly wonderful toasted taste that butter creates.

As for the cream, put the beaters into it and begin on slow speed and whip for about two minutes. Change to a high speed and begin adding regular granulated sugar a few tablespoons at a time. The cream will begin forming whorls and the cream will stand when you dip a spoon into it. When it stands up when the beaters are lifted out, it’s ready to wrap the strawberries in a sweet blanket of white. One caution – do not over beat or you will end up with cream again.

Take the slices of cake and lay them into a pan on top of the kitchen range. Toast them to a golden brown. Lift them out, lay them on a desert tray and dust them with 10 X sugar.

To serve, place one cake on a desert plate, ladle the strawberries and a little syrup over top. Spoon a dollop of whipped cream over the berries and take a teaspoon of the syrup and let it run down the sides of the frothy cream. The crowning touch, place a single large red berry on top of the whipped cream and watch faces light up.

Your great grandmother would be proud…