Strawberry Shortcakes with Tarragon Cream

May 8th, 2006

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Does anyone remember Strawberry Shortcake, that line of scented dolls all named after various fruits and berries that was so popular in the 80′s? (Yes, I grew up in the time of My Little Pony, Care Bears, and Transformers – at the risk of sounding old, I’m rather put out by the current craze for taking these beloved childhood toys and remaking them "hip" and "trendy" for the new generation – don’t they know they’re messing with sacred memories?) My favorite Strawberry Shortcake doll was , of course, Strawberry Shortcake herself, who lived in a strawberry-shaped house and baked treats all day.  Sounds ideal, no?

The dessert strawberry shortcake is, of course, just as timeless and enduring. However, just to show I’m not *completely* opposed to change, I chose to use a version from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course, which adds the interesting note of tarragon to the recipe. Not to mention that the accompanying photo in the book was just begging for me to make it.

Using fresh tarragon is a must, if only for the wonderful sensory experience of smelling licorice as you work with the leaves. It makes a sharp, clean contrast to the sweetness of the strawberries and cream. By macerating the berries with tarragon as well as using mixing the herb with cream, Fleming builds some complex layers of flavors and ties all the elements together nicely.

The recipe is fairly straightforward, although when I first made the tarragon syrup for the cream I was rather dubious- the syrup was of course a vibrant green, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about having green whipped cream in the final result. But the ratios were perfect: the cream turned out clean cloud-white with little green specks dotted throughout.  And I have to say the shortcake biscuits are exactly what they should be: light, fluffy, tender – literally melting in your mouth. I would recommend assembling the dessert as soon as possible after you bake the biscuits to capture as much of their perfection as possible – also because if you leave them around they’ll probably get scarfed up before you can do anything else with them!

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from The Last Course by Claudia Fleming

Serves 8

Shortcake Biscuits

1 2/3 cups flour

3 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

2/3 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon turbinado sugar

Tarragon Cream

1/2 cup fresh tarragon leaves

1/3 cup light corn syrup

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

Tarragon-Macerated Strawberries

6 sprigs fresh tarragon

2 pints strawberries, hulled and sliced

3 tablespoons sugar

To make the biscuits: In an electric mixer combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter and mix together until it resembles coarse meal. Add the cream and mix just until the dough comes together (it will be wet and soft). Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and shape into a 6 inch square, about 1 inch high. Wrap up the square and chill for about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the dough into 9 biscuits (you can simply cut into squares or use a round cutter – remember the biscuits will expand in the oven). Brush the tops of the biscuits lightly with cream and sprinkle the turbinado sugar over them.

Place the biscuits about 2 inches apart on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or the biscuits are golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

To make the tarragon cream: Bring a pot of water to a boil. Prepare a second bowl full of ice water. Put the tarragon leaves into the boiling water for about 30 seconds, then drain and plunge into the ice water. Drain and dry off the leaves. Put the leaves and corn syrup into a food processor and puree. Set the syrup aside while you are doing the strawberries.

To prepare the strawberries: twist the leaves or chop them roughly. Combine the strawberries, leaves, and sugar in a bowl and let macerate for about 20 minutes.  You can taste the strawberries to make sure the tarragon flavor does not become too strong. Remove the tarragon and discard.

To finish: Strain the tarragon syrup through a sieve to get rid of any solids. Whip the cream with the confectioner’s sugar until it starts to thicken, then add the syrup and continue whipping until soft peaks form.

Split 8 of the shortcake biscuits in half and place the bottoms on plates. Put some of the strawberries on top and then cover with the cream.  Cover with the tops of the shortcakes and serve immediately.

Claudia Fleming also suggests serving these with some strawberry sorbet; however, I found the shortcakes on their own a completely adequate and satisfying dessert.

Local:

Strawberries – Yerena Farms, Watsonville

Cream, Butter – Clover Farms, Marin County

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12 Comments so far ↓

  • Bea at La Tartine Gourmande #1

    I am SO much going to make those as I am a big fan of tarragon and am curious to taste it with strawberries! Funny, as I am writing, I made a somewhat similar dish, that I am testing for a diner. And I will blog about it soon. Very strange coincidence! Btw Anita, is there a diff between Heavy cream and Heavy whipping cream? I always find it so hard to understand cream in the US as it is not similar to what I know.

    Looks superb!

  • Kat #2

    Yes, I remember Strawberry Shortcake, the doll! :) OMG!! A little blast from the past…

    This treat looks out of this world!

  • Krysten #3

    ah! another “herb with dessert” idea! i just dabbled a little in this myself; opens up a whole new whole to me! alas, tarragon is one thing i DONT have in my garden…i’ll remedy that soon!

    ps – i love the green flecks in the cream!

  • Karen #4

    Long-time lurker/subscriber here. I just had to out myself after reading that blast from the past, hehehe!

    I also loved Strawberry Shortcake and always remember her when I eat her namesake pastry. Will try this soon. :)

  • Anita #5

    Hi Bea,
    Heavy cream and heavy whipping cream are the same thing here. Do you use the terms single and double cream up there? I found these definitions at wikipedia link to en.wikipedia.org
    that were pretty helpful, although I don’t know how strict the US is in enforcing these percentages!

    Kat,
    Thank you! Glad to find another Strawberry Shortcake fan!

    Krysten,
    I’m already envious of your garden – looking forward to seeing what you’ll come up with!

    Karen,
    Thanks for de-lurking!:) Glad you liked the recipe – and the dolls!

  • Julie #6

    The tarragon sounds intriguing but it’s the biscuits themselves that really tempt me. They are gorgeous! Nicely photographed also.

  • Ivonne #7

    I do! I do! I remember Strawberry Shortcake!!! I think I used to have this board game that I would play.

    Your shortcakes look so delicious. The tarragon cream is a wonderful twist. Well done!

  • sam #8

    Simply fantastic! Your shortcakes look as good as Claudia’s. I’m so going to make these this summer. Thanks Anita.

  • lori #9

    I seem to be going through a Strawberry Shortcake de ja vu since my 3-year old daughter watches the cartoon. I prefer the edible kind, and yours look terrific, Anita. I particularly like the cover shot.

  • From Our Kitchen #10

    I was (/am) a huge Strawberry Shortcake fan! I’ve seen those movies way too many times to count. I was a Care Bares and My Little Pony kid too. Those were the good days. I’ll just have to make this delicious looking strawberry shortcake, rent the old videos, and reminisce.

  • Anita #11

    Julie,
    Thank you! I liked how the shortcakes turned out as well – SO good fresh!

    Ivonne,
    I had some of the board games as well! Glad we all share some memories:)

    Sam,
    Thank you! Hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

    Lori,
    Thank you! I’m not as fond of the “new” Strawberry Shortcake dolls either!

    From Our Kitchen,
    Those Strawberry Shortcake movies were the best! They don’t make them like they used to…

  • Live. Love. Bake. #12

    Hi! I just stumbled on your blog and find myself wanting to read every single entry. It is fabulous! I am in Pastry school right now and was looking for a dessert recipe using Hoja Santa. Mexican tarragon and tarragon have a similar anise flavor, so while searching for a tarragon dessert recipe I came across your blog. I am so happy to have found it! If you have a moment and know of a specific recipe using Hoja Santa, I would love to hear from you. Thanks for sharing your passion!

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