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Perhaps the most long-awaited and quintessential spring dessert in my household is the vegan strawberry shortcake. Every spring it plays out like this: I tell my husband that I'm getting a flat of organic local strawberries at the farmers' market and I say, "you know what that means." And he says, "strawberry shortcake!"
No matter how good our dinner is that night, he rushes through it so he can get to dessert. Maybe I should just start serving it first so he can enjoy everything else. It's our tradition, but it should be yours too.
I absolutely refuse to make it any other time of year for two reasons. First of all, strawberries simply taste better when they're freshly picked by some place close to your house. They will only grow close to your house during one special time of year, so if you want the very best tasting strawberry shortcake, you have to make it with those berries.
Second of all, when you buy strawberries out of season, they are inevitably traveling from some far away locale, which gives them a huge carbon footprint. In order for you to enjoy your $3 pint of berries, they must travel 1000 miles in a refrigerated truck, burning hundreds of gallons of fuel, and using hundreds of man-hours.
They're normally picked in sub-ripe condition and need to be gassed in order to be red enough for us to want to buy them at the supermarket. Even if you live close to an ecosystem that can grow strawberries in November, your berries travel far away to be ripened and then travel back to be sold at your local market. Year-round demand also puts strain on the land used to grow them and the people who have to plant and pick.
Enough with my rant. Let's get back to the fact that strawberries taste best when you get them local and in season. Oh, and they're healthier for you too. Most of those amazing berries simply get eaten raw and plain, but a select few grace my vegan strawberry shortcake recipe.
I've plucked this recipe from the most popular "regular" shortcake recipe on the internet and changed it around to make it vegan and slightly healthier, and it's truly delicious. It's also probably easier than making pancakes because you just stir together the batter and bake the shortcakes.
Combine the sliced strawberries and 2 tablespoons of sugar in a bowl and refrigerate until you're ready to assemble your shortcake.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly oil a baking sheet and set aside.
To prepare the shortcake, combine the rest of the sugar, the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the milk and vinegar and allow the mixture to curdle for a few minutes. Once curdled, stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.
Stir just until mixed together and then pour the batter onto the baking sheet in circular dollops. You can either make one large vegan strawberry shortcake, in which case you'd want to equally divide the batter into two circles. Or, you can make smaller individual shortcakes, and you should create circles slightly smaller than you want the resulting cakes to be (they will spread a little bit during baking.)
Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a fork inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the baking sheet and transfer to a cooling rack. Allow the shortcakes to cool completely before assembling.
To assemble, feel free to get creative. I've made these so many different ways, and it's always fun to experiment with serving dishes and presentation. You're basically just stacking strawberries, whipped cream, and shortcake on top of each other. The critical thing to know is that adding sugar to the strawberries allows them to macerate and release their juices, and you want to make sure to get that juice involved. Pour a little onto the shortcake and it will soften it and make it sweet and strawberry-flavored.
Once they're assembled, you should try to put these puppies back in the fridge for a few hours to let them juices soak into the shortcakes so they soften and soak up the flavors. I understand if you can't wait that long though.