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Monday, September 21, 2015

Strawberry Shortcake for One

When my neighbor gave me a flat of organic strawberries straight from the farmer’s market, I knew I had to do something special. Makes 2. You’ll want them both, trust me.

For the Whipped Topping:
6 TBLSP raw walnuts, cashews, or other favorite nut
Soaking water
2 TBLSP freshly squeezed orange juice
½ TBLSP maple syrup
Drop of almond extract (or vanilla, if you prefer)
For the Strawberries:
6-8 fresh strawberries, sliced
1 ½ teaspoon sugar
For the Cake:
6 TBLSP almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
Slosh of apple cider vinegar
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of baking soda
Pinch of salt
Dash of ground nutmeg or ginger

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly oil two ramekins or line with parchment paper. (You can also go free-form on a lined or greased baking sheet.)
Get the Whipped Topping Started:
  1. Cover the nuts completely with water, and leave to soak for two hours or more.

Make the Strawberries:
  1. Place the sliced strawberries and sugar in a small bowl, stir to mix, and refrigerate until you’re ready to assemble the shortcakes. These smell delicious and you may have a hard time resisting.

Make the Cake:
  1. In another small bowl, combine the milk with the vinegar. Set aside to curdle.
  2. In yet another small bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix it up pretty well, because you won’t want to over mix the batter once the milk goes in.
  3. By now, the milk should be curdled. Stir the milk into the dry ingredients until just barely combined. A few lumps are okay, but they should be small ones.
  4. Plop the batter into the ramekins. They will be slightly more than half full. (If you’re free-styling, make sure to leave enough space between two rounds so that the cakes can expand a bit.)
  5. Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely on a baking rack. Mine made lovely mounds of cake, like little top hats.

Make the Whipped Topping:
  1. Drain the nuts and place them in a blender or food processor with the juice, syrup, and extract. Whirl away, scraping down the sides periodically, until it’s a nice smooth and fluffy concoction. This will take 5 minutes or more. Don’t expect it to be like whipped cream—it’s fluffy, but mostly, it’s unctuous and creamy. The important thing is that it be completely smooth.

Assemble the Shortcake:
  1. Remove the little darlings from their ramekins (or just remove one, and serve piled up in the other), and place on a serving dish. I like to slice the tops off and put a layer of topping and some strawberries in there, then close the lid and repeat. But you might like to slather the whole thing in topping and make a lake of strawberries and their juice. Or settle the little preciousness in a puddle of topping and drape the strawberries across the top. It’s up to you!
  2. Of course, if you’re free-styling, you’ve got to get creative in your own free-style kind of way.
  3. Sprinkle with a little nutmeg or ground ginger, if you’re so inclined.

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