Strawberry Clementine Shortcakes with Vanilla Custard

Strawberries have a special place in my heart.  My grandparents always had a patch when I was a kid and some of my favorite summer memories are picking and eating my way through the patch, shooing away the box turtles that would come to eat, too, and helping to make strawberry jam.  Most importantly, since my birthday is in early June, my Pop would often make homemade strawberry ice cream for me.

Having said that, there is not a food that is more illustrative of the importance of eating seasonal than the strawberry.  Strawberries are pretty much the perfect food from mid-May to early June only.  You may be able to get some mediocre ones in April and July, but outside of that, they are all overgrown, watery, sour garbage.  (I have a lot of opinions about strawberries).

When strawberries are at their prime, they shouldn’t be overcomplicated.  A basic shortcake or angel food cake, strawberries with the tiniest bit of sugar just to macerate, and some fresh cream is all you need.  Hell, you can lose the cake all together and just give me a bowl of berries and cream at that point.

This recipe is not for those berries.

This recipe is for those shoulder-season berries – decent, but they still need a little help along.  A little flavor boost.  First, I add some clementine juice and zest to the macerated strawberries to give it a little extra sweetness and tartness.  Then I swap out the light whipped cream for a heavier, more decadent vanilla custard. 

The shortcake recipe is made with White Lily flour, which I recommend for anything in the biscuit family.  It is made with soft winter wheat so it is more delicate and has less gluten and protein. In fact, I adapted this shortcake recipe from a few others, including the one on their website. The flour is hard to find if you don’t live in the south, so if you don’t have it, just use a scant 2 cups of flour instead. 

The custard is my mom’s recipe that she uses as a base for cream pies like banana or coconut. It adds more vanilla flavor than just whipped cream, leaving hints of strawberry ice cream and orange dreamsicle.

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Strawberry Clementine Shortcakes with Vanilla Custard

An amped-up strawberry shortcake that is great for slightly out of season strawberries that need a little help. 

  • Author: Beth Gannon
  • Prep Time: 30 mins
  • Cook Time: 40 mins
  • Total Time: 70 mins
  • Yield: 8 shortcakes 1x
  • Category: Dessert
Scale

Ingredients

Shortcakes

  • 2 cups White Lily all purpose flour (or a scant 2 cups all purpose flour if using other brands)
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ cup (one stick) cold butter, cut into pieces
  • ¾ cup whole milk

Strawberries

  • 2 lbs strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • Zest of 1 clementine
  • Juice of 1 clementine
  • ¼ cup sugar

Vanilla Custard

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 Tbs cornstarch
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 ½ cups whole milk
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 egg whites
  • ¼ cup sugar

Instructions

For the shortcakes: 

Preheat oven to 425F. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and 6 tbsp sugar in a medium mixing bowl.  Cut in the butter until it is the size of peas by criss-crossing two knives or using a pastry blender.  Gradually add the milk and toss with a fork until the dough comes together.  You may not need all of the milk.  Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and continue to knead 4-5 times until the dough comes together.  Roll the dough out to ¾ inch thick and cut with a biscuit cutter.  Re-roll the scraps and cut until the dough is gone.   Place the shortcakes on a cookie sheet covered with parchment. Brush with milk or cream and sprinkle with demerara or regular white sugar.  Bake for 10 minutes, until golden.  Remove from the pan and cool on a rack until room temperature.

For the strawberries:

In a bowl, sprinkle sliced strawberries with ¼ cup sugar.  Add the orange zest and juice and toss to coat.  You can add more sugar here if needed but remember it will get sweeter and juicier as it sits. Chill until ready to assemble.  

For the custard: 

Whisk together the 1/3 cup sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan.  Add the milk and beaten egg yolks, and cook over medium to medium-high heat, stirring constantly until thick and bubbly, 25-30 minutes. Once the mixture thickens and boils, remove from heat and add the butter and vanilla.  In the meantime, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks.  Add the ¼ cup of sugar and whip until they form firm peaks. While the yolk mixture is still hot, very slowly begin to drizzle it into the egg whites, stirring as you add it to avoid scrambling the egg whites as you mix. Chill mixture in the refrigerator for 2 hours before serving.

To assemble:  Slice a shortcake in half.  Spoon strawberry mixture and juice over the shortcake.  Add pudding and put the other half of the shortcake on top.  You can add more strawberry and pudding mixture to the top if you want (you do, trust me). 

Notes

  •  Alternatively, if you don’t care about the round shape, you can roll the dough into a rectangle and cut into 8 squares.  This way, you can avoid re-rolling the scraps which will make the subsequent biscuits tougher.
  • Eggs are safe to be eaten at 140 degrees.  The yolk mix stays very hot so unless you let it cool too much before adding the egg whites, they should cook thoroughly.  You can put the pot back on the burner for a minute to bring it to temperature if it gets too cool, or use pasteurized egg whites if you prefer.

Keywords: strawberry, shortcake, custard

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