Bites and Morsels: Ginger Strawberry Shortcakes

I’m debuting Melissa Mckelvey’s regular guest column today. Called Bites and Morsels, Melissa will be sharing recipes and adventures in food with you twice a month on Mondays.

An accomplished baker, she works for an online Spanish food retailer but most of the rest of her waking hours are spent cooking and baking, reading about food, photographing her meals or writing about what she recently ate for her website, The Boastful Baker. Melissa lives in Williamsburg, Virginia, with her husband (who cannot get enough of her desserts). — xoxo jen

While I do make up a lot of my own recipes, I rely heavily on cookbooks, magazines and the web for cooking and baking inspiration. I also love finding dishes at restaurants that I love enough to recreate them at home. Sometimes my mimicry is just as good as the original but often it’s even better.

I recently had a special occasion dinner at The Fat Canary, located near my home in Williamsburg, VA. When dessert rolled around, my husband and I were a little too full from dinner to each have a dessert. After a few minutes of weighing our options for a shared dessert, we went with their ginger strawberry shortcake. It was late spring and strawberries were in season locally, so strawberry shortcake seemed like a good choice.

As it turns out, it was such a good choice that I had to imitate the restaurant and make it myself at home very shortly thereafter. The ginger part of the dessert was lots of chopped crystallized ginger baked into the shortcake. I don’t think it would have ever occurred to me to do this so I’m glad The Fat Canary thought of it first. The ginger was finely chopped but occasionally a bite would have a nice pop of ginger flavor. The gingered shortcake and fresh local strawberries were made even better with their choice of strawberry ice cream rather than the vanilla you usually see.

About a week later, I went on my annual strawberry picking expedition to a local farm and obviously needed a vehicle for the fresh berries. Recreating the ginger strawberry shortcake was an easy choice. So easy that even a fairly novice baker should be able to handle it. All you really have to do is bake the shortcake. Beyond that the only real skills you’ll need are the ability to find crystallized ginger at the grocery store and the knife skills to slice strawberries. Or if you’re really a show off, you could make your own strawberry ice cream. I did not do this, as I’m afraid to dive into the world of homemade ice cream.

Sadly strawberry season here in Virginia has now passed but if you’re one of the lucky people across the country with strawberries still in season, you might want to try this at home like I did.

Ginger Strawberry Shortcakes

Shortcakes recipe very slightly adapted from a recipe found on the vegetable shortening can in my pantry

Makes about 6 large shortcakes

Ingredients:

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped (use a little more or less depending on your ginger tolerance)
1/2 cup vegetable shortening (butter could probably be used here as well but I haven’t proven that)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 pints strawberries, washed, hulled and cut into slices
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
Strawberry ice cream
Whipped cream (optional as I didn’t use any)

Directions:

1. Mix sliced strawberries with 4 tablespoons granulated sugar in a medium bowl. Stir well until sugar is almost dissolved. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

2. Preheat oven to 425ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment or spray lightly with non-stick cooking spray (I prefer parchment).

3. In a large bowl, stir together flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt and ground ginger.

4. Cut in vegetable shortening with a pastry blender (or 2 knives if you don’t have a pastry blender) until the mixture forms small pea-sized pieces.

5. Add egg, milk, vanilla and crystallized ginger. Toss with a fork until combined and no dry bits remain.

6. Drop batter into 6 equal mounds on the parchment lined baking sheet.

7. Bake for approximately 10 minutes until lightly browned. Remove shortcakes from oven and set on a rack to cool.

8. To assemble, split each shortcake in half and place the bottoms on serving dishes. Top bottom half with a heaping scoop (or 2) of strawberry ice cream. Arrange strawberries (and their juice) around the shortcake and over the ice cream. Top with whipped cream if desired. Add the shortcake top and serve immediately.

Also, if you’re not serving 6 people, the leftover shortcakes were still just as good lightly reheated 2 days after baking.

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