I shaped this dinner party dessert around the strawberries I bought this week, from my favourite-ever Turkish supermarket in Tooting, south London. Normally, I wouldn’t even glance at a strawberry in March, but this very sensible resolve went out of the window when I walked past these babies and their powerfully sweet, ripe fragrance wafted past my nose.
How was this achieved, out of season? Of course, I suspect some kind of funny business. They were perfectly ripe, fragrant, juicy and sweet. Some of the nicest strawberries I’ve eaten. In March. Any insights?
I give you two options in this post for serving your strawberries, both with their own merits and both absolutely delicious – a sauce or just plain, fresh strawberries. The sauce is more forgiving, so if you only have less-than-perfect strawberries available, this may be the option to go for.
Made with my beautiful, mysterious strawberries, a tiny sprinkle of brown sugar and a good squeeze of lemon juice, this sauce was a taste sensation. Everything I loved about the sour, sugary, jelly sweets I used to eat, but with none of the grossness and gelatine. Highly concentrated flavour, super sweet and sour at the same time, and packed with intense strawberry flavour.
You can leave the strawberries in pieces in the sauce or blend it to make a smooth, strikingly coloured, satiny sauce. You may wish to sieve the sauce for a refined look and mouthfeel, but this is very much optional. Then spoon or drizzle, the choice is yours.
In case you’re wondering, the patisserie-effect strawberry arrangement I used below is very easy to achieve. Just slice the strawberries in half and trim the top ends so they are roughly equal lengths. Then stand the strawberries up on their flat ends and arrange them in a circle on the biscuit. Try to make sure they are touching at the sides so they hold the cream in. When the circle is complete, spoon in the cream (or whatever filling you fancy).
For the shortbread I used my favourite, well-tested recipe from Cook’s Illustrated. Simple and quick to come together (as long as you have a blender of some kind), it is crumbly, lightly sweet and beautifully buttery.
Using the traditional addition of powdered oats, it has a delicate flavour that is a little overpowered by the other components of this dessert – so be sure to try a biscuit by itself so you can fully appreciate it!
The shortbread is not vegan and I can’t think of any good way to make it so. The buttery flavour is so important to the overall success of the biscuit. Perhaps something like coconut fat would work – does anyone have experience using this to make biscuits?
The strawberry sauce, however, is both vegan and gluten-free. And yummy!
- 200g strawberries
- 1/2 lemon (or to taste), juiced
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- Slice the strawberries and add to a saucepan with the brown sugar and a splash of water. Heat on low heat until the strawberries have softened and the liquid is red and slightly syrupy. Add the lemon juice, a little at a time, tasting as you go. The liquid should be very highly flavoured - both sweet and tart.
- 80g rolled oats
- 190g plain flour
- 30g cornflour
- 80g icing sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 200g unsalted butter, cold
- Preheat the oven to 230c. Powder oats in a blender. Add the flour, cornflour, sugar and salt and pulse to combine. Add the butter and mix on low speed until a dough forms. Cook's Illustrated recommends using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and mixing for 5-10 minutes. I haven't tried this as I only had a high-powered blender available, but this worked perfectly and the dough came together in less than a minute.
- Lightly flour a work surface and roll out just over 1cm thick. Cut out shapes with a biscuit cutter (I used one about 6cm wide). Transfer to a baking tray - it does not need to be either greased or non-stick.
- Bake for 5 minutes, then turn the oven down to 120c. Bake for a further 10-15 minutes longer, until the edges turn lightly golden. Turn off the oven, prop open the oven door a little with a wooden spoon and leave the shortbread to dry until it is pale golden in the centre (about an hour). Cool on a wire rack.