Strawberry Shortcakes 3 Ways

Spring and Summer bring a plethora of fresh fruits and veggies not to be missed. The asparagus is affordable, the corn succulent and the strawberries are just right. I picked up all three last weekend at Berkeley Bowl and wanted get creative with my berries. Strawberry shortcake won my vote.

Always curious about the strawberry + balsamic vinegar idea, I was intrugied by Strawberry Shortcakes with Balsamic and Black Pepper Syrup and decided to give it a try. Hesitant about the black pepper though, I hedged my bet and made my berries 3 ways:
1) with sugar
2) with sugar + balsamic vinegar
3) with sugar + balsamic vinegar + black pepper

The shortcakes are simple, simple, simple… Similar to a scone, you mix the dry, cut in some butter and add the cream. I did it with a wooden spoon, but it could be even easier with a food processor (per the recipe instructions). Finished with an egg wash and sugar, they are sweet, golden and great even by themselves.
While the shortcakes chill before baking (you want that butter cold so it’ll melt while cooking to yield super flaky pastry) you make the berries. They mingle with their syrups while the scones bake and you make the whipped cream. And at the end, everything is done at the same time, amazing!
So… the verdict… I loved the ones with the black pepper!!! I started with the sugar berries and worked my way up the flavor intensity; by the time I had my last taste all I could say was ‘wow’, and have another bite. The balsamic was not at all overwhelming and the black pepper just added a depth of flavor not found in the others. I would have never guessed it, but it didn’t taste peppery, it was just that something that makes you go ‘mmm, what is that?’ as Rachel Ray would say.
Shocking results, I know, but as the berries become abundant this Summer, don’t be afraid to spice up your shortcakes!
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