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Kitchen Witch - Strawberries NOW!

Chocolate Strawberry Shortcakes

Now, now, now. Did I say now? The reason I can't emphasize the urgency enough is that as a nation, we've become accustomed to the 24/7/365 anemically pale, pink, rock-hard buttons on display in the produce aisle, and as a result, wouldn't recognize a local, in-season strawberry if it were placed under our nostrils.

Some of us older folks have got a bit of fruit amnesia; we just don't remember the seductively sweet perfume of a quart box of real strawberries and the nearly neon-red flesh that is so bright it practically pulses. The rest of you young'uns may not even know what I'm talking about, which is a far worse tragedy.

A few introductions are in order. Kids, this is the strawberry. It is beautiful and smells really good. Go on, take a bite. Sweet, huh? So sweet you can't believe it, I know. The strawberry visits just once a year, usually in mid-May, and sticks around until early June. While she's here, we need to make pie, tarts, shortcake, ice cream and jam as often as possible, because when she goes, she's gone.

Chocolate Strawberry Shortcakes

From June 2007 issue of Bon Appetit

Biscuits:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup heavy cream, chilled

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Strawberries:

2 pounds (1 quart) strawberries, hulled and quartered

4-8 tablespoons powdered sugar, depending on sweetness of strawberries

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

1/2 teaspoon orange zest, grated

2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur

Pinch salt

Garnish:

1/2 cup heavy cream, chilled

1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt, chilled

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder and salt with a wooden spoon.

Using electric mixer, beat cream and vanilla in a separate bowl until firm peaks form. Stir cream into flour mixture until moist clumps form. Dump mixture onto lightly floured work surface and gently knead dough until it forms a ball and turns moist and dark.

Pat dough into a square about 3/4-inch thick. Using a 3-inch cutter, cut out biscuits and place on prepared baking sheet.

Gather dough scraps and repeat process. You will get 15-18 biscuits.

Bake biscuits until dry on top, about 15 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool. Can be made up to 6 hours in advance, kept at room temperature.

Stir berries, 6 tablespoons powdered sugar (taste with each tablespoon for sweetness and adjust accordingly), plus orange juice, liqueur, zest and salt. Stir and cover bowl; chill for at least 1 hour.

Beat cream and sour cream or yogurt, with 2 tablespoons powdered sugar, until soft peaks form. Place 1-2 biscuits on serving plate. Top with spoonful of berries and juice, followed by whipped cream.

Culinary questions? Contact Kim O'Donnel at kim.odonnel@creativeloafing.com.

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