Last night the pantry gremlins (which are cousin to the sock gnomes…) apparently raided my house and stole some of the ingredients that were necessary for what I’d originally planned to make. I’d had my heart set on turning a couple of giant-sized mangoes from the Asian market into pudding, but the little buggers ran off with all my unflavored gelatin, so I was forced to rethink my plan.
After all, it’s Spring down here (sorry to those still suffering from snow) and that means strawberry season has begun! I had 3lbs of berries conveniently in the fridge waiting to be used for breakfasts and decided that my morning cereal would have its toppings sacrificed in the name of dessert instead.
Then I got to thinking… which is always dangerous… why don’t more people eat things like strawberry shortcake as a breakfast food?
Not as an everyday thing, obviously, but as an alternative to a stack of pancakes or part of Sunday brunch. I mean, it’s something you can portion it easily, and make with healthy ingredients. Yet, most people consider it only a dessert.
Oh, I know this is probably because of that scary processed sponge cake stuff that they sell right next to the berries at most major markets and encourage you to buy. The stuff that tastes like sugary cardboard? Yes, that.
I can’t even begin to compare this shortcake to that fake-cake stuff properly though, because the real thing is just that much better.
Homemade shortcake is more of a biscuit, a very light biscuit that is slightly crumbly and sweet. It should be piled high with berries of your choice (or whatever is in season) and the juice/syrup from the berries should be soaked up by the cake itself. Add a smear of sweet ricotta on the bottom and top it all off with a little whipped cream!
It should not look like a pre-formed sponge that I could use to wash my dishes. Just… no.
As I wanted something healthier, as well worthy of both dessert and special breakfast consumption, I went with whole wheat pastry flour to up the nutritional value. I also cut down on the butter found in typical recipes and seriously reduced the amount of sugar to “bring out the berry sweetness.” In this case, a little really does go a very long way.
After a whopping 15 minutes of prep time to get both cakes into the oven and berries sliced/sugared and into the fridge, I sat down and ran some nutrition numbers…
With small modifications, the shortcake, sans toppings, weighs in at 240 calories, 10g fat, 4g protein and 4g fiber. Add in half a cup of berries and 1 tsp sugar, you get 280 calories, 10g fat, 4g protein and 6g fiber.
My end total, with 4 tbsp whipped cream (shush!) and 2 tbsp of vanilla ricotta, was 340 calories, 12g fat, 7g protein and 6g fiber.
To give a little perspective, I compared this with a stack of heart-healthy blueberry pancakes with 1/2 tbsp butter & 2 tbsp real maple syrup: 430 calories, 10g fat, 5g protein, 4g fiber.
Standard morning breakfast? Probably not. Most folks don’t eat pancakes every day. Special breakfast treat? Absolutely!
And breakfast this morning? Delicious.
Whole Wheat Strawberry Shortcake
- 2/3 cup 1% milk
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 2 cups (~8.5 oz) whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 6 tbsp cold butter, cut into small pieces
- 2 lbs fresh strawberries (~4 cups)
- 2-3 tbsp sugar
- Cooking spray
- Turbinado or sanding sugar for sprinkling
- Whipped Cream
- Sweetened Ricotta, see notes
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 400° F.
Step 2: In a small liquid measuring cup, add the 2 tsp lemon juice to the 2/3 cup of cold milk. Set this aside while you prep the rest of the ingredients for the cake. This will curdle the milk, essentially turning it into homemade buttermilk.
Step 3: In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Use a whisk to thoroughly mix everything together. Add in the butter and use a pastry blender, food processor or two knives to cut it in until the mixture resembles coarse meal. (Yes, a food processor works… the gremlins also stole my pastry blender. Grr.)
Step 4: Check on the milk, it should be slightly thick and starting to curdle. If not, give it another minute. Once it looks ready, add it to the flour mixture, stirring just until it’s fully incorporated into the dry ingredients. The dough should be slightly sticky and it will also be very soft. If it’s too sticky, add a little more flour and work it in, about 1 tbsp at a time until you reach the right consistency.
Use a well-floured 3″ biscuit cutter (or the top of a standard water glass) to cut it into 8, 3″ rounds. There should be no leftover dough unless you patted it down too thin. (Then you have thinner cakes, just more of them!)
Place each cake onto the cookie sheet, spacing them at least 1″ apart. Then spritz each one with a small spray of cooking oil and sprinkle turbinado or sanding sugar on top to give them a little extra sweetness!
Step 6: Bake! 12-14 minutes or until the bottoms start to turn a light golden brown.
Step 7: While the cakes bake, prep your berries. If using strawberries, remove stems/tops and slice. I like to slice mine 1/4″ thick, but that’s a preference thing. Some people like thinner, thicker or even cut into chunks. Once sliced/diced/chopped, add the 2-3 tbsp regular sugar (Taste your berries, it depends on how sweet they already are!). Use a mixing spoon to stir this in and fully coat the berries.
Cover the berries tightly with plastic wrap and stick them in the fridge for at least half an hour.
Step 8: Remove the cakes from the oven and let them cool on the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a wire cooling rack. Let the cakes cool for at least half an hour – whipped cream melts on warm things.
Step 9: Assemble & Eat!
I like to slice the cakes in half, add some sweetened ricotta to the bottom slice, then pile high with berries, then add whipped cream and place the second part of the cake on top.
Occasionally I’ll also dust the top layer of berries with cinnamon or powdered ginger for an extra twist.
Yield: 8 servings, 1 shortcake & 1/2 cup berries each
Nutrition / Serving:
280 calories, 47 carbs, 10g fat, 4g protein, 6g fiber, 21g sugar
- For sweetened ricotta, I use 2 tbsp light ricotta cheese, 1 packet splenda and 1/4 tsp vanilla extract per cake.
- You can swap 2/3 cup of buttermilk for the milk & lemon juice. I just don’t bother keeping buttermilk around since I don’t use it often enough.
- If you grind your own flour, you can make your own whole wheat pastry flour by using white winter wheat.
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