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Joanne Chang’s Balsamic Strawberry Shortcakes from Boston’s Flour Bakery

Joanne Chang’s Balsamic Strawberry Shortcakes from Boston’s Flour Bakery
It’s strawberry season in the Hamptons and they’re truly flawless this year.  Nothing could be more welcome after our rainy, cold spring than these beautiful, bountiful berries.   And nothing says June like their arrival.  But time isn’t on our side.  The season is fleeting and the chance to put fresh local strawberries on the table is right now.  Out here, there are any number of roadside strawberry fields where you can pick your own, a fun way to spend an afternoon with the children in your life.  We opted to go the lazy man’s route and bought our strawberries at our local farm stand down the road. We brought the brilliant red berries home and out came Joanne Chang’s “Flour” Cookbook, one of Andrew’s go-to sources for truly unbeatable baking recipes.  Use the search function on the left side of this page and you’ll come up with no less than 6 recipes from Ms. Chang, every single one of them a winner in our kitchen and with our friends.  This is no exception.
The garden strawberry has a rich and quite recent history.  The French started moving wild strawberry plants from the woodlands into their gardens in the 1300s.  It wasn’t until the 1750s that two cultivars from the new world, the Fragaria Virginia from Eastern North America was crossed by the French with a variety from Chile called Fragaria chiloensis to create the strawberry as we now know it. This “new” variety has almost completely replaced the woodland strawberry in commercial strawberry growing.  The United States’ production of strawberries outstrips any other country in the world.  In fact about ¼ of the strawberries grown worldwide are grown here—a whopping 1.3 million tons of them in 2011 alone.  But wherever they are grown, they are highly prized worldwide—everywhere from the Philippines to Morocco.      
Published in 1843,
Miss Leslie’s Receipt Book
contained the first
known US recipe for
Strawberry Shortcake

The shortcake is a British invention. It gets its name

from the adding of shortening or butter to a dough which makes it tender.  Calling lard or fat “shortening” comes from the 15th-century term “to shorten”  which meant, “easily crumbled”.  Although shortcakes can be used with all manner of fruits, they have been linked to the strawberry in this country since 1850.  The arrival of the transcontinental trains meant that strawberries could be shipped coast to coast surrounded by ice to keep them fresh.  Strawberries and shortcake signaled the arrival of summer across the country.  And they still do today.   Joanne Chang’s recipe gives you a traditional scone-like shortcake.  But the real difference is the way she treats the strawberries.  The balsamic vinegar and the grated lemon zest are a perfect counterpoint to the sweetness of the berries and the lushness of the whipped cream.   It’s a wonderful treat on an early summer day or night.  Don’t let the strawberry season pass by without tasting these.  Here is the recipe:

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