Strawberry-Hazelnut Shortcakes with Strawberry Puree
If you’ve managed to grow a fine crop of strawberries with the sun shining and the rain holding off, then the last thing you’ll need is a recipe. With that wonderful fullness of flavour, fragrance and ripeness, all you will need is a sprinkling of fine sugar and some untreated Jersey cream, a luscious dollop of crème fraîche or the same of mascarpone. The vagaries of the English summer being what they are, don’t forget that under-ripe and even rain-soaked strawberries will make a fine preserve that will brighten up the dullest winter days. As far as recipes go, strawberry shortcakes have long been my favourite, adding a bit of sweet crunch and texture to complement the acidity of the fruit. Any nuts can be used in the shortcakes, but hazelnuts are particularly good.
|For the hazelnut shortcake:|
|4 oz (110 g) hazelnuts|
|5 oz (150 g) softened butter|
|2½ oz (60 g) unrefined golden icing sugar, plus extra to serve|
|2½ oz (60 g) ground rice or rice flour, sifted|
|5 oz (150 g) plain flour, sifted, plus a little extra for rolling out|
|For the strawberry filling:|
|1 lb (450 g) fresh strawberries, hulled, reserving 8 small ones with leaves and stalks intact to decorate|
|7 fl oz (200 ml) crème fraîche|
|5 fl oz (150 ml) fresh custard|
|2 drops vanilla extract|
|For the strawberry purée:|
|8 oz (225 g) fresh strawberries, hulled|
|1 level tablespoon golden caster sugar|
|Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4, 350°F (180°C).|
|Need help with conversions?|
You will also need two large baking sheets, and a 3 ½ inch (9 cm) round pastry cutter.
This recipe is taken from Delia’s Vegetarian Collection. It has also appeared in Sainsbury's Magazine (June 2002).
To begin, you’ll need to toast the hazelnuts by spreading them out on a baking tray and popping them in the oven for 5 minutes. It’s important to use a timer here as they burn very easily. After that, allow them to cool and then grind in a food processor until they look rather like ground almonds.
Now, in a mixing bowl, cream the butter and icing sugar together until light and fluffy, then gradually work in the sifted flours, followed by the ground hazelnuts, bringing the mixture together into a stiff ball. Then, place the dough in a polythene food bag and leave it in the fridge to rest for about 30 minutes. After that, roll it out on a lightly floured board to a thickness of about 5 mm (¼ inch), then stamp out 16 rounds by placing the cutter on the pastry and giving it a sharp tap, then simply lift the cutter and the piece will drop out.
Now arrange the biscuits on the baking trays and lightly prick each one with a fork. Bake them for 10-12 minutes, then leave them on the baking trays for about 10 minutes, before removing them to a wire rack to cool completely. While the shortcakes are cooling, place the strawberries for the purée in a bowl, sprinkle them with the sugar and leave for 30 minutes. After that, purée them in the food processor, then press them through a nylon sieve to remove the seeds. Cover with clingfilm until needed.
For the strawberry filling, whisk the crème fraîche in a mixing bowl with an electric hand whisk until it becomes really stiff, then add the custard and vanilla extract and whisk again, also until thick. Then this mixture also needs to be covered and chilled until you are ready to serve.
Slice or roughly chop the strawberries, not forgetting to reserve 8. Spread equal quantities of the cream mixture over 8 of the biscuits, then arrange the strawberry pieces on top. Spoon some purée over, then sandwich with the remaining shortcakes. Now place a reserved strawberry on top of each one, halved if you like, and finish off with a light dusting of icing sugar.
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Instead of making a classic crème pâtissière why not cheat and use a mixture of bought fresh custard and crème fraîche? Then make your shortbreads, add some fruit and puree and you have one of the most impressive-looking desserts imaginable!
These light, crumbly little biscuits are just the thing to serve with home-made ice creams. They could also be packed into boxes or jars for a home-made Christmas gift. Walnut Shortbread can also be made in advance and then frozen.
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