William Dickey / Styling Buffy Hargett / Food Styling Marian Cooper Cairns
One of the South's favorites, strawberry shortcake is shorthand for a great spring dessert. Though you've likely had those spongy little cups from the grocery store or angel food cake as a base, true shortcake is basically a big, sweet biscuit. Don't let the thought of making biscuits scare you. We've streamlined our version so there's no rolling or cutting involved--just a tender dough that you drop onto a baking sheet.
You can bake the biscuits ahead and freeze them, wrapped in foil and stored in a zip-top plastic bag. Defrost them the morning of the day you plan to serve them. Cut and sugar the berries in the morning as well, and store them in the fridge until you're ready for them. Whip the cream up to two hours before serving. (If you prefer your shortcake warm, reheat the biscuits in a 350° oven for 5 to 7 minutes.) Assemble everything at the table for a dazzling presentation.
Cut cold butter into the flour mixture with a pastry blender. When the butter melts, it creates steam that makes the pastry light and flaky. Tip: If you don't have a pastry blender, use two forks.
The mixture is the right consistency when the flour and butter form clumps the size of small peas.
"Taste of the South: Strawberry Shortcake" is from the May 2006 issue of Southern Living.