I am sure the strawberries are early this year. It has been a delightfully warm spring with just enough rain to plump them up perfectly. I am quite pleased with my strawberry patch after moving and replanting it, it is flourishing and happy under the limbs of the greengage.
To make the most of the patch, I have planted Tom Thumb dwarf peas between the strawberry plants, with a row of onions along the south border. This was quite an ingenious plan (unbeknown to me at the time), as these taller plants are now holding the bird netting above the strawberry plants, so no more bird beaks getting the first bite.
Today’s recipe is the kind of baking that reminds me of days gone by. I daydream of a farm kitchen bench with a bowl of fresh picked strawberries, a vase of elderflowers, farm fresh eggs, and jug of cream from the house cow. Oh, how simple life would be.
STRAWBERRY & ELDERFLOWER SHORTCAKE
- 125 g room temperature butter
- 3 tablespoons mild honey or ¼ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract directions for homemade extract below
- 1 egg
- 1 cup standard flour or white spelt flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 4 tablespoons milk
- 100 g cream
- 3 tablespoons natural yoghurt
- Small bowl or punnet of fresh strawberries sliced
- elderflowers to decorate
- Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Line a 20 x 22cm tin or dish with baking paper.
- Place the butter into a mixing bowl and use a fork to mash against the side of the bowl until smooth. Add the honey (or sugar) and mix until creamy. Add the vanilla and egg and whisk together – it will be lumpy so ensure the ingredients are combined well.
- Scatter over the flour and baking powder and fold together. Add a tablespoon of milk at a time to loosen the mixture. Spoon into the prepared tin and spread out to the sides. Bake for 20-22 minutes until the shortcake springs bake when lightly pressed.
- Cool in the tin for 10 minutes then lift on to a cake rack to cool completely.
- To prepare the shortcake: Using a long-bladed knife, cut the shortcake though the middle to create two layers.
- Whip the cream until soft peaks form, then fold through the yoghurt. Spread half of the cream on the bottom layer of the shortcake. Arrange strawberry slices on top. Carefully position the top layer of shortcake and repeat with the remaining cream and strawberries. Decorate with elderflowers (if available) to add a heady aroma to the cake. Slice and serve immediately.
This simple pantry staple is easy to prepare and can last for years by simply topping up with alcohol and extra vanilla pods as needed. It would make a lovely handmade Christmas gift with plenty of time for it to infuse.
To make, split four to five vanilla pods lengthways (pre-scraped pods can be used) and slide into a tall 200-250ml bottle. Fill with vodka or white rum, pressing the pods into the bottle so they are completely submerged, and screw on the lid.
Stash away on a high shelf for four to six weeks to infuse. After this time the extract is ready and can be used in cooking.