Sunday, June 12, 2011

Strawberry Shortcake Cookies

Growing up, Becky and I used to await the day every June when Mama B came home from Costco with a giant tub of red vines. That tub signaled the official start of summer in our house; it was a symbol of the hours of swimming, koosh ball games, and zip-a-dee-doo-dah singing day trips to come.

Man! I couldn't WAIT for that tub of red vines to appear on our kitchen counter every June!

But you know what? If you put a giant tub of red vines in front of me now, yeah, I'd get all nostalgic and grab one red vine. I might even bite both ends off and use the red vine as a straw in a can of fruit punch soda, just for old times' sake.

But then I'd be done. Because just as our summer activities have evolved from playing catch to enjoying free Shakespeare in the park, so have our palates evolved.

Of course, not everything has changed. We do still sing zip-a-dee-do-dah, and do still feel it's not summer until we've had a special treat. With all the baking we've done in the last few years, a new "it's not summer until..." tradition has emerged: strawberry shortcakes.

We're big fans of good ol' Bisquick shortcakes, and I can whip those babies up in less than 20 minutes. But I'll admit that when I recently carried Bisquick shortcakes, plus strawberries, plus whipped cream to a dinner the the rain...I wished I'd had a more portable version of this fabulous treat.

Well, leave it to Martha to grant my wish. These Strawberry Shortcake Cookies gather all the summery goodness of traditional strawberry shortcakes into one easy-to-bake, easy-to-transport, easy-to-eat cookie. If they had sold these at Costco when we were little, well, I might still actually like red vines today. Not that I'm wishing that was the case - I'm happy to have eaten my life's fill of red vines as a kid; it leaves me with the rest of my life to eat strawberry shortcake, in cookie form or otherwise.

What are your "it's not summer until..." traditions?


Strawberry Shortcake Cookies
Adapted slightly from Martha Stewart, via Tracey's Culinary Adventures
Makes 3 dozen cookies

12 oz strawberries, hulled and cut into 1/4-inch dice (2 cups)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2/3 cup heavy cream
coarse sugar, for topping the cookies

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a small bowl, stir together strawberries, lemon juice and 2 tablespoons sugar, then set aside.  

3. In a large bowl, combine lemon zest and remaining 7 tablespoons sugar. Rub zest into sugar with fingertips until moist and fragrant. Add flour, baking powder, and salt to zest/sugar mixture and whisk to combine. Use a pastry cutter to cut butter into flour mixture until you have coarse crumbs.  Add cream to  bowl and stir until dough starts to come together. Gently stir in strawberry mixture.

4. Use a small cookie scoop (about 1 1/2 tablespoons) to portion dough onto prepared baking sheets, spacing the cookies about 1 1/2 - 2 inches apart.  Sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake about 15 minutes, or until cookies are golden brown. Transfer pans to wire racks and let cookies cool.  Cookies are best the day they're made, but can be kept in an airtight container for 1 day.

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