...in my opinion
has to be the fresh berries we get to eat.
The the local farm stands have been featuring local strawberries for a couple of weeks now...and Lucy's post has my mouth watering with her scrumptious photographs and words.
This little fruit pictured here is a so-called Alpine strawberry from my garden a couple of seasons ago. They were tiny but so intensely flavored i planted dozens of plants in order to harvest a bowl full every few days. When i suggested them to a friend for his kitchen garden, he scoffed at the fruits...and i'm afraid he was right. Though they were labeled with the moniker Alpine strawberry and the fruits looked like they were the same, they have never lived up to the flavor of the fruits my plants produced. And sadly...most of my plants succumbed to some sort of fungus...which everyone claims these little wildlings are not supposed to do.
'tis a puzzlement.
Since a strawberry farm is just down the road from me, and since they grow fabulous varieties and i can go pick my own or just stop by to buy a quart they have picked for us, i no longer bother growing enough strawberries to fill my need. i simply wait for the right hour (at least 36 hours after the last significant rain storm...strawberries, being made mostly of water, will be "watered down" in flavor right after a good rain) and show up first thing in the morning before the heat of the sun brings out the bugs who like to dine on me.
the fabulous thing about picking your own is that you are expected to eat your fill as you go. The bad thing is the bugs.
Second to out-of-hand, my favorite way to eat strawberries is my version of strawberry shortcake. When the berries are the ultimate of perfection, i mash several into a juicy paste in a bowl. i do not add any sugar unless the berris are less than perfectly sweet.
For the shortcake, i prefer a freshly homemade, baking powder biscuit to poundcake or sponge. For my Australian and UK friends: you would probably call these biscuits a plain, not-very-sweet version of your scones (your biscuits are what we call cookies).
My standard recipe for the last decade + came from the Silver Palate girl's The New Basics Cookbook (see below). i cut the biscuit in half, top with the mashed berry juice then a large mound of whole or sliced berries. i then do what my dear friend Bruno used to do; i pour in a bit of milk in the bottom of the bowl to soak into the biscuit. Then, of course, i top it all of with whipped cream.
New Basic Biscuits
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder (important note: Store bought baking powder can lend an unpleasant metallic taste to biscuits and other breads. i learned several years ago, from a radio cooking show, to make my own baking powder using 1 part soda to 2 parts cream of tartar...i've never had the metallic taste since making my own fresh baking powder...click here to read my answer to Juls about storing it, etc)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
3/4 cup half and half (i use milk)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F
In a large bowl, toss together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Cut the butter into small pieces, and cut it into the flour using two knives, a pastry blender, or your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Add the half and half, and stir gently until the mixture forms a mass. Gather it into a ball.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Knead it for about 30 seconds, and then pat it out to form a 3/4-inch-thick rectangle. Using a 2-3/4 inch cookie cutter, cut out 8 circles; use up all the dough. (i will often simply cut the dough into equal squares...though i do enjoy eating the baked to a crisp remnants that result from cutting rounds)
Arrange the biscuits about 1-inch apart on a baking sheet. Bake until puffed and golden, 14 minutes. Transfer the biscuits to a wire rack and allow them to cool.