Say that five times fast… Sourdough Strawberry Shortcake! And before you click away, stick with me here. I know it sounds like a strange combination, but trust me when I say, this is by far the best strawberry shortcake recipe I’ve ever had. I think it’s a sin to use angelfood cake or – god forbid – those little sponge cake cups from the grocery store for strawberry shortcake.
Now, that may have something to do with my strong aversion to angelfood cake, which started wayyyyy back in my childhood visiting my great grandmother, Great Grandma Deal, in Drexel, NC. Grandma was a spitfire who lived well into her nineties, who would tell you exactly what she thought, no matter the etiquette she was breaking. She was a quintessential grandma who had an entire room filled with her electric organ, upright piano, and DOZENS of crocheted dolls. I mean, the crocheted dolls that come in a kit… with just the plastic head and hands, and you can crochet their little scary bodies. When we stayed with her, we weren’t allowed to play with most of them, but I think she was outnumbered by her great grandchildren, so we ended up playing with the creepy dolls anyway.
Anyway, all this to say, she was a firey little lady, who loved her family and Skip-bo, and her “famous” angelfood cake. Let’s just say Grandma Deal was not the best cook… and on threat of death from my father, I was forced as a child to play Skip-bo and eat chocolate angelfood cake at the card table in the doll room. If you have not eaten bad chocolate cake and played the world’s longest card game in a room full of crocheted dolls with glass eyes staring at you, let me tell you, it’ll send ya straight to therapy.
That little anecdote is all just back story… my Mawmaw, Grandma Deal’s daughter-in-law, was an incredible cook in her prime. Out of nowhere, she would produce perfectly baked bread, chicken noodle soup, and an entire Thanksgiving feast and somehow… everything was always perfectly seasoned, perfectly cooked, perfectly baked. She doesn’t cook anymore, and is currently living in hospice and struggling with Alzheimer’s, so I try as best I can to emulate her and her recipes. This recipe is made using her buttermilk sourdough rolls, which are hearty and just slightly sweet and balance the sugar of the strawberries and ice cream perfectly.
This strawberry shortcake recipe is made using a sourdough starter. You’ll need a healthy starter for this recipe (and for lots of my recipes) so I suggest starting by getting some from a friend, or ordering this one from King Arthur Flour (which may be my favorite flour company).
Start by washing and cutting the strawberries. Cut the tops off, and then cut longwise. Put them all into a large bowl. It’s best if they’re at room temperature, because they’ll react with the sugar better. It’s also best if you can get them as ripe and fresh as possible–we’ve passed strawberry season here in TN, but further north you can still find good local strawberries (Although they’re probably not as amazing as Tennessee strawberries…).
Next, start mascerating the strawberries. I don’t usually measure the sugar or strawberries exactly, but I like A LOT of strawberries, and like to keep them flavorful and not let the sugar overpower them. Start by adding two tablespoons for every pound of strawberries. Sprinkle the sugar over the strawberries and mix with a large spoon. Set aside to mascerate. At this point, if I need them to be ready sooner, I like to get a fork or potato masher and gently mash the strawberries and sugar. If you have super ripe strawberries, you can usually skip this step. But if you’ve got store bought or out of season strawberries, this will help them get the right texture. Take a taste and add more sugar if you’d like. Keep in mind that if you add too much sugar, it will overpower the fruit and can even become grainy.
Set the mascerating strawberries aside, either on your counter if you’re going to serve soon, or in the fridge for a few hours.
Preheat the oven to 425° F. In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Yep, NO sugar in these biscuits. The sugars in the starter do the trick to make these just slightly sweet and perfect for adding sweetened strawberries and ice cream.
Mawmaw’s recipe says here to “cut in the butter” with a pastry blender. I use this pastry blender to do this, and I think this is a tool that everyone should have in their kitchens. If you don’t have one handy, you can use a fork.
This is the part where the sourdough starter comes in… wait for it… your starter acts as a leavening agent and adds sweetness. It’s like magic.
In a separate smaller bowl, mix the starter with buttermilk (use oat or cashew milk for vegan/dairy free alternative). Stir this mixture into the dry mixture until just combined with a wooden or silicone spoon. This is important–whenever you’re using sourdough or other fermented foods, you should never use metal bowls or utensils.
Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead some of the knots out–just a couple times. cut dough into twelve equal pieces. Grease muffin tin (Crisco works best for this–aerosol spray oils dry your baked goods out). Put pieces in muffin tin. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until tops are just golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.
Let the biscuits cool to room temperature, then slice in half and serve with a scoop of ice cream and a healthy spoonful of the strawberries.
I hope you enjoy these–they’re a perfect treat for a hot summer day. Best enjoyed with a cup of strong black coffee and friends.
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