Kick Strawberry Shortcake Up a Notch with Candied Ginger

Homemade shortcake with strawberries straight from the garden.By David Latt

Fresh fruit and vegetables reign supreme in summer. If you have a home garden and a green thumb, you are harvesting tomatoes, lettuce, zucchini and yellow squash.

We have a small garden limited by the amount of sun that reaches a back yard shaded by overhanging trees. Perfect for us human beings who want relief from summer's oppressive heat, that shade stunts the growth of sun-loving fruits and vegetables.

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Luckily, our next-door neighbors converted the ornamental garden in the front of their house into a full-fledged vegetable garden with rows of tomatoes, squash, herbs, eggplant and corn. At the back of their property, they dug up another area and planted a large strawberry bed.

Last week we were beneficiaries of their largess when they presented us with a basket of produce and, much to our delight, a large bowl of freshly picked strawberries.

RELATED: Combine plums, nectarines and blackberries in one great summer dessert.

Fat and bright red, the strawberries were deliciously sweet. My wife's favorite summer dessert is strawberry shortcake, so I decided to make that dessert for her. Making more biscuits than we needed, I gave half a dozen to our neighbors as a thank-you present.

RELATED: Celebrate summer with a Danish-style strawberry feast.

Strawberry Shortcake Biscuits with Candied Ginger

Since this is a summer dessert, I indulged in all of nature's wonderful bounty by using plenty of sweet butter and cream. If you want to hold back a bit, whole or nonfat milk can be substituted for cream.

Cutting up candied ginger takes a bit of work because the resulting bits and pieces stick to the knife. The advantage of ginger in the biscuits is it adds flavor and a bit of heat. You can achieve a different flavor without the heat by using another candied fruit such as pineapple or papaya.

To create the biscuits, you can use a biscuit cutter or a recycled tin can. I like to use a tomato paste can, washed, with the top and bottom lids removed.

Serves 10-12

Ingredients

2 cups all purpose flour

¼ cup granulated sugar for the biscuits

2 cups heavy cream

¼ teaspoon sea salt

¼ cup sweet butter, chilled, cut into small pieces

1 tablespoon finely chopped candied ginger

4 teaspoons baking powder

6 cups strawberries, washed, stems removed, quartered

1 tablespoon powdered sugar for the strawberries

½ tablespoon powdered sugar for the cream

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Place a Silpat sheet or parchment paper on a large cookie sheet or baking tray.

2. Place the quartered strawberries in a nonreactive bowl. Sprinkle on the powdered sugar and gently mix well. Set aside for 30 minutes. Cover and refrigerate if longer than 30 minutes. The sugar will macerate the fruit and produce a sweet strawberry juice in the bowl.

3. In a large bowl, use a fork to mix together the flour, granulated sugar, sea salt, candied ginger, baking powder and sweet butter. Slowly add 1 cup of cream, a quarter cup at a time. Stir well.

4. Lightly flour a work surface. Using your hands, gently flatten the dough into a rounded shape, 1-inch in height.

5. Cut out and lay the biscuits on the cookie sheet. Leave 2-inch separation between the biscuits.

6. After you make a first group of 5 to 6 biscuits, reform the remaining uncut dough into a rounded shape, 1 inch in height and cut out another batch. Reshape the dough and cut out the biscuits several times until you have used all the dough and created 10 to 12 biscuits.

7. Place the biscuits in the preheated oven and bake 10 to 15 minutes. Turn the cookie sheet every 5 minutes and check to make sure they brown evenly and do not burn.

8. Remove when they are lightly browned all over and let cool on a wire rack.

9. Using a wire whisk, whip 1 cup of heavy cream and ½ tablespoon powdered sugar in a mixer until light and fluffy. Keep covered and refrigerated until needed.

10. When the biscuits have cooled, use a serrated knife to cut them in half one at a time, by placing them on their sides and carefully cutting through each one, being careful they don't crumble. (The uncut biscuits can be made ahead several days and kept in an airtight, refrigerated container.)

11. Just before serving, place the bottom half of a biscuit on a plate with a large spoonful of strawberries. Ladle on a generous portion of whipped cream and drizzle on the strawberry juice. Top with the other half of the biscuit and serve.

Zester Daily contributor David Latt is a television writer/producer with a passion for food. His new book, "10 Delicious Holiday Recipes" is available from Amazon. In addition to writing about food for his own site, Men Who Like to Cook, he has contributed to Mark Bittman's New York Times food blog, Bitten, One for the Table and Traveling Mom. He continues to develop for television but recently has taken his passion for food on the road and is now a contributor to Peter Greenberg's travel site and the New York Daily News online.

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