Lemon & Black Pepper Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake with a twist! The perfect recipe for the month of June, when strawberries are at their peak here in the Midwest.

This recipe came to me as I was meditating on how to create a better than “plain Jane” version of strawberry shortcake.  My love of the combination of lemon and black pepper inspired me!  I went straight to the kitchen to try this out, and sure enough, it was amazing, with samplers concurring!  The lemony shortcake livens up a usually bland element to this dessert, while the lemon-infused simple syrup lends flavor and extra juiciness to the berries.  Adding the black pepper gives it just a hint of warmth at the end.  So good!  Serves 6

Shortcake:

2 cups flour

¼ cup sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon baking powder

2 teaspoons lemon zest

12 Tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes

2 cold large eggs

½ cup cold heavy cream

¼ teaspoon each vanilla and lemon extract

1 egg

1 Tablespoon half and half

Sugar, for sprinkling

Strawberry Mixture

2 pounds ripe strawberries

¾ cup sugar

½ cup water

2 Tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper, medium grind

Topping

1 cup cold heavy cream

2 Tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

 

To make shortcake:

Preheat oven to 400-degrees

Combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and zest in a food processor and pulse to combine.  Add butter and pulse until mixture just starts to look crumbly.  (Don’t over-process, the small bits of butter make the shortcake tender!)

Transfer to a large bowl.  Beat eggs in a small bowl until no streaks remain, then beat in the cream and extracts.  Pour over the flour mixture and mix gently with a rubber spatula until the wet and dry ingredients just come together.  Dump out onto a floured board.  With floured hands, pat the dough into a rectangle, approximately 6 x 9-inches.  Cut into 6 equal square pieces.

Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Beat together the remaining egg and half and half together until light and well-combined to create and “egg wash”.  With a pastry brush, brush over the tops of the shortcakes, and sprinkle generously with sugar to cover the tops.

Bake for 8 minutes, rotate baking sheet, then bake another 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and transfer to a cooling rack.

Prepare strawberries:

Simple syrup: Combine sugar, water, and lemon juice in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil over high heat and boil for 30 seconds.  Remove from heat and cool completely.  Strain mixture into a small bowl and set aside while preparing strawberries.

Wash, dry and stem strawberries.  Cut into halves or quarters, depending on size of berries and place in a large mixing bowl.  Using a potato masher, smash the strawberries until half are well mashed and half are still intact.  Add enough of the simple syrup to thoroughly moisten all of the berries, 1/2 to ¾ cup.  Stir in black pepper.

Prepare whipped cream:

Place heavy cream and sugar in a chilled bowl.  Beat with mixer until firm peaks form.

Assemble:

Split shortcakes.  Place bottom half in serving dish.  Top with strawberries and a dollop of whipped cream.  Top with shortcake “lid” then more strawberries (and juice) and finish with a generous dollop of whipped cream.  Serve!

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