Strawberry Shortcake After Dark

Hey you…you like-a the berries?  Come closer, I give you a berry.

I was not in Whole Foods today to buy strawberries, I was there to buy a pork product for this Thursday.  No, I will not specify beyond that; I’ve already said too much and will now have to reach through the internet and kill you.  But as I was walking through the produce section, the berries launched a full-on nasal assault with their sweet fragrance to which I succumbed instantly.  Because strawberries are the shit.

I knew immediately that I wanted to make a quick but grown-up strawberry shortcake: black-pepper buttermilk biscuits, strawberries macerated in balsamic vinegar and honey-sweetened mascarpone.  Can I get a hell yeah?

It’s like strawberries in heaven.  I have no idea how I managed to produce this photo.

I started in on the strawberries as soon as I got home so they would have enough time to macerate (despite not having any plans for actual dinner).  I sliced them up and tossed them with a bit of lime juice, some sugar and a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar.  If I’d planned ahead or had more time – we were in a frenzy of cleaning in preparation for a condo association meeting (exciting!) – I would have reduced the balsamic on the stove top to thicken it and deepen the sweetness.

I need not have worried about the berries having time to soften and sweeten, because the condo association took THREE HOURS.  It made me long for the days when I threw my money into the black hole of a leased apartment, because then I could call the landlord to re-point my brick instead of trying to collect a $25,000 special assessment.  What the fuck is brick re-pointing anyway? And why does it cost $25,000 dollars?  I’ve made it through 30 years of life without shelling out 25 grand to re-point my brick, and things have turned out pretty well so far.
Seriously, 25 thousand dollars?  Do they re-point them with diamond chips?

Anyway, I mostly sat there and tried not to have a heart attack because I spent all my money buying the condo.  Then I thought about strawberry shortcake, and about how badly I wanted all these people to get the hell out of my apartment so I could bake my damn biscuits already and have some shortcake.  And I like most of these people.  But I like shortcake more.*

Just so I’m clear: 25 thousand, like with 3 zeros?  Really?

The apartment finally emptied around 10:30.  Normal people would just order a pizza and call it a night, but I’m not a normal person.  I threw together some black pepper buttermilk biscuit dough – flour, butter, baking powder, salt, buttermilk and plenty of black pepper – in the food processor.  I debated sweetening them up or using different flavorings, but I thought the bite of the black pepper would be a nice foil to the sweet berries and creamy cheese.

*If you were one of the people at the meeting:  I’m not talking about YOU.  I’m talking about the other people. 

Maybe “re-point brick” is code for “buy a boat”?

While they baked, I mixed the mascarpone left over from the fava, pea and mint stuffed shells with some honey.  Honeyed mascarpone might be one of my favorite things, and I can’t really keep it in the house or I’ll eat the whole tub with a spoon.  I especially urge you to try it on some french toast.  You’re welcome.

How does the boat thing work, I wonder?  Maybe all the unit owners reserve it via sign-up sheet?

I pulled the berries out and gave them a stir to coat them with the juices that they bled during their maceration.  A taste-test revealed not as much balsamic-y punch as I’d wanted – the vinegar mixed with the exuded strawberry juice, which sweetened it up – so I added a last-minute splash of vinegar to bring the flavor more to the foreground.

Brian was making a last-minute dinner for himself – cheeseburger scrambled eggs to go along with the biscuits – but I decided to skip the formal meal and just go with the strawberries.

Maybe I can sell these to make the re-pointing money?  I’d only have to sell 10 or 12 thousand.

I split a biscuit while it was still warmed, spooned on mascarpone, heaped on the berries and drizzled extra balsamic berry juice over the whole thing.  Then I ate it, and built another one, and ate that one.*

The biscuit was flaky and multi-layered, and combined buttery sweetness and peppery crunch that created little bursts of surprise among the sweetness.  It absorbed the juice from the fruit but still held its form.  The mascarpone was rich and creamy and sweet, and just the slightest bit soft and runny where it came into contact with the hot biscuit.  The berries were richly colored and fragrant, and the balsamic emphasized both their natural sweetness and natural tang.  Every flavor made itself known in every bite, with no one predominating.

It was a sophisticated take on a strawberry shortcake, and the most time-consuming part was cleaning and slicing the berries.  In fact, some rough calculations reveal that this dessert takes about 1/15th the time of the average condo association meeting and is approximately 400% more delicious.  Best of all, you could do this with whatever fresh, ripe fruit you have on hand – omit the pepper if it doesn’t go, but ripe fruit + biscuit + sweet cream is an unbeatable combo.

*The first one was dinner, the second one was dessert. 

Balsamic Strawberries with Honeyed Mascarpone and Black-Pepper Biscuits
serves 8

For the berries:
32 oz. ripe strawberries
Juice of 1/2 lime
2 tbsp. + 1 tbsp. good balsamic vinegar
sugar to taste

Taste a berry. Core and slice each strawberry into 3 or 4 slices.  Toss with the lime juice, 2 tablespoons of the balsamic and sugar – anywhere from 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup, depending on the sweetness of the berries.

Refrigerate for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally, until the berries are soft and sweet and have given up their juice.  Just before serving, stir in the remaining tablespoon of balsamic.

For the mascarpone:
16 oz. mascarpone
1/4 c. honey

Beat the mascarpone and honey together.  Can be done in advance, refrigerate until needed.

For the biscuits:
2 c. AP flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
7 tbsp. butter, cut into cubes
3/4 c. buttermilk
1 egg

Preheat your oven to 400.

Put the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper into a food processor; pulse briefly to combine.  Add the butter and pulse to incorporate until the mix looks crumbly.  Add the buttermilk and mix just until the dough pulls together into a mass.

Flour your work surface and dump out the dough.  Knead it for a few seconds into a smooth mass, then roll it out to 1/2 inch thick.  Cut out 8 biscuits with a 4-inch cutter.

Put the biscuits on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Beat the egg and brush it over the tops.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown.

To assemble:

Split a warm biscuit.  Dollop approximately 1 tablespoon of mascarpone on each half.  Top with berries, drizzling additional juice over the plate.  Serve immediately.

42 thoughts on “Strawberry Shortcake After Dark

  1. Yep Condo associations and special assesments suck. They always hit you when you least expect it. We have the same issue going on as well as ome other serious repairs.Then everyone has to bitch and put their two cents in about it all and hold up the process even more.Welcome to home ownership. I would console myself with that lucious strawberry shortcake.

  2. Those must be some elegant-ass bricks you have if they cost so much to um…repoint. Speaking of elegant that shortcake looks intensely delicious. Unfortunately you have to take out a loan to buy mascarpone here these days and strawbs are out of season but…I’ll definitely be looking at this again sometime :)

  3. So, er, what’s for breakfast, then? ;-)

    Looks/sounds great. I can haz no strawberries for weeks yet, sadly – our UK season’s still a long way off. When it arrives, can I hire you to make these for me?

  4. i am sooo making these really soon…I have several birthdays this month and this would be such a great treat for them. Great idea and great blog!!! I have no clue what repointing brick means.

  5. I love this recipe!!! The pictures look so great. I am baffled as you are about the brick re-pointing-I think you are right, it could be code for boat buying! ‘Cause they would never really come right out and tell you that they wanted to buy a boat now would they???!!!

  6. courtney: that’s why i ate two of them.

    i have to say though, we’re pretty lucky in that we have a small association and we’re all friends with one another, so meetings are pretty amicable (but still too long…although the beer drinking may have something to do with that).

    laura: use a different fruit, and sub the mascarpone for some creme fraiche (which you can make yourself). done and done!

    forkful: yes, for only 1 pound apiece + round-trip business-class airfare.

    peter: thank you! i was starting to wonder if anyone would actually give me the “hell yeah” i explicitly requested.

    jess: let me know how you like ’em! i love that you love the blog.

    judy: thanks!

    no, they couldn’t. and if they did, i would object – i get seasick.

  7. In the interest of full disclosure, I am not only Michelle’s partner but also her condo association president. That makes her the first lady. So she really shouldn’t be complaining about the boat purchase since we’ll get first dibs on that sucker. And to be fair, the meeting only lasted about an hour and a half – we just hung out drinking and chatting for another hour or so after.

    Also, the dessert was pretty tasty even though I don’t really like strawberries OR desserts. The biscuits were fantastic and the mascarpone was killer despite the spellchecker not knowing what it is. Stupid computer.


  8. Oh yum. I just had a version of this at a restaurant recently and it was so not as good as your looks. I will try it. I am a baking freak (I do it semi-professionally but for fun) and I’ve never made biscuits with black pepper! I will try right now. Or this weekend. Anyway, thanks!

  9. brian: i still don’t understand how i ended up with someone who doesn’t like dessert. people, this is someone whose idea of a tasty snack is PLAIN MELBA TOAST. it’s enough to make me clutch my pearls.

    aran: as well they should. i pretty much eat strawberries for breakfast, lunch and dinner once they come into season.

    stephanie: thanks!

    joycooks: the biscuits take all of 2 minutes to throw together. learning to make biscuits was possibly one of the best things i could’ve done with my life. i totally mean that.

    cakewardrobe: i know, isn’t springtime great? although personally, i can’t wait for the heirloom tomatoes.

    petermarkus: exactly! except, as you said, not at all.

  10. Do they need re-pointing because they’re all pointing in the wrong direction? Seriously, think of the poor bricks for a minute, would you? All mortared in snugly only to realize you’re pointing the wrong f’n way? $25,000 is nothing compared to the pain and suffering of the bricks.

    Oh, and the shortcakes look stellar!

  11. I disagree with Elle. Bricks are lesser creatures than we and deserve, no, NEED to be re-pointed. It keeps them in their place and makes for a better society.

    Speaking of better society, it’s a good thing you didn’t serve that shortcake at your Condo meeting because they’d never leave. It’s genius and original. Love it.

  12. I know *exactly* what you mean. I went to Whole Foods yesterday to get olive oil and ended up leaving with a basket full of stuff, including some basil and tomatoes that I just couldn’t resist.

    Your shortcake looks awesome. Such beautiful berries.

  13. elle: the bricks should have spoken up in the first place

    anne: seriously. i thought about serving it for a minute, and then came to my senses.

    stacy: the basil! i know! i had to restrain myself my telling myself that i couldn’t buy more than i could comfortably fit in my messenger bag.

    susan: i willingly and openly admit that i am totally in sway to the strawberry gods.

    marc: i would have preferred a “hell yeah,” but thanks.

  14. you certainly don’t need to justify eating two helpings of your creation. i’m amazed that you were able to stop at two, it looks sensational. i was not so blessed in the self-control department. :)

  15. Great lookin’ dessert you got there. I’ve macerated strawberries in balsamic before but I’ve not tried peppered biscuits. Sounds like a yummy combo.

  16. I can’t get over you baking biscuits and making these lovely shortcakes that late at night.

    Stop it! You’re making me feel guilty. I keep saying I don’t have time to bake and here you are making homemade shortcake at 10:30. Now I have no excuse.

  17. wow. like the combo. sweetened mascarpone and that black pepper biscuits, odd as it sounds put together, i bet is quite a tasty treat!

  18. grace: believe me, i have no special self control powers. i heaped a lot of cheese on those babies.

    mike: grazie!

    recipegirl: the peppered biscuits are tasty. they also make great sandwiches; they’re nice and flaky, but still hold together well.

    rachel: no, you don’t have an excuse. get cracking. or kittens will die.

    diva: it was. i might have had the leftovers for breakfast yesterday and today. who can say?

  19. Finally, a blog by a kindred spirit in the kitchen. My husband always says he can tell when I’m cooking by the stream of profanity that greets him as he walks in the door.

    That said… oh my fucking god, those strawberry shortcakes look amazing.

    And yes, condo associations suck — ours just raised the HOA by 22 percent for reasons that, when closely examined, added up to “Because we felt like it, ha ha, SUCK IT.”

  20. ann: thanks – try ’em!

    cgretton: i don’t know if our association sucks (i actually don’t think it does) or if it’s the homeowner thing in general. probably i just need to make more money. keep loadin’ those pages, people! 65 cents a day is not paying the mortgage!

    claudia: because you’re lazy?

    mandy: yes, you do.

    mary: let me know how you like it! also, beach? color me jealous.

  21. Hmmmm….strawberries: check; balsamic vinegar: check; any kind of cheese: check; buttermilk biscuits: hell fuckin’ yeah! This goes down as my new kick ass dessert!

  22. Thanks for your comment on my blog. Hope you have a change to try the Banana Basil smoothie. I love feedback so do let me know your opinion.

    I love your humor and laughed out loud reading your posts. I’m a recent convert to raw veganismn but that’s no matter. I’ll be sure to stop by and read your blog.

  23. oh

    I made these tonight and they were just divine…I wanted to stick my face in the cheese mixture but I don’t think my guests would have loved that…just saying. LOVE your blog!

  24. for Peter Marcus – more like a crostino di fragole than a bruschetta pomodoro – I didn’t see any tomatoes in this or did I miss something?

    HELL YEAH!!!! I’m absolutely going to make this. And I never ever ever ever ever bake. IMHO dessert just takes up room that could be used pack in more dinner. I know, I know, its blaspheme. Ah, bite me.

    Pardon me, have to run out and buy biscuit cutter….

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