Masa strawberry shortcakes

There is always a debate on what exactly is a strawberry shortcake. Outside of America, it would be fluffy white cake with strawberries and cream. I grew up on that version while I lived in Taiwan. Ironically, the first strawberry shortcake I had featured a yellow cake with strawberries and cream, which I had while on a road trip to the Carlsbad Flower Fields, which was still more in line with the un-American version I was exposed to previously. So when I was introduced to the American version of shortcake, which was a sweetened biscuit with cream and strawberries, I will not lie, I was really confused. While the berries and cream checked out, the biscuit threw me off. I always associated biscuits with either KFC, Red Lobster, or those scones you would get at afternoon tea with the clotted cream. So the idea of stuffing them with berries and cream and having them as a dessert was a bit strange at first. But after trying one, I could see why people, specifically Americans from the South, would enjoy these. The soft, flaky biscuit was made even lighter from the cream, while the tartness of the strawberries balanced everything out. Ever since then, I have enjoyed both kinds of shortcakes!

When I was writing up this recipe, I was thinking of what I would want in an American-style strawberry shortcake. A flaky, crumbly biscuit, cream, and tart but sweet strawberries. With those things in mind, I figured why not add some masa harina into the biscuits? Masa harina is a gluten-free flour made from curing corn in lime juices. It is usually used in tamales and tortillas, but in this case, I used it in place of half of the flour in a shortcake biscuit. As the dough dries out easily and has no gluten, it creates that crumbly texture that results in a flakier biscuit. With the strawberries themselves, I wanted to tie back into the lime flavor in the masa harina, and macerate the berries themselves with lime juice, zest, and sugar. Strawberries and corn, as well as lime and corn, are two pairings that go beautifully together. By mixing all three, you get sweet, tart, and sour, all in one! The lime-macerated strawberries have a nice acidity to them that pairs well with both the crumbly masa biscuits, and the chantilly cream! All in all, this is my take on an American classic.

Makes 8 shortcakes(16 individual shortcake disks):
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup masa harina with more for rolling
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
A pinch of salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cold
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla

In a food processor, blend the flour, masa harina, baking powder, sugar, salt, and butter together until they form a sandy powder. Mix the buttermilk with vanilla. Pour the buttermilk into the sandy flour mixture and stir until just combined. Roll out the dough on a surface dusted with masa harina to about 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out 16 pieces of dough using a 4-inch ring cutter – I took the scraps and pressed them into the cutter to form my remaining two rounds. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes. Allow these to cool before using.

For the chantilly cream:
1 cup heavy cream
a pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp confectioner’s sugar

Whip to stiff peaks. Keep refrigerated in a piping bag until time to assemble.

For the macerated strawberries:
8 strawberries, hulled and quartered
2 tbsp granulated sugar
juice and zest from 1 lime
a pinch of salt

Toss together and allow the ingredients to sit for at least 5 minutes before using.

For assembly:
Confectioner’s sugar

Pipe cream onto one baked shortcake round(I prefer to use the uglier rounds made from the scrap pieces here, as they won’t be seen that way). Place 4 pieces of strawberries on the cream and then pipe on another layer of cream. Top with another shortcake round. Repeat with the remaining shortcakes. Dust with confectioner’s sugar to finish.

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