Adapted From Around My French Table
Here's a tip: Before you start cooking any recipe -- or really, before you even go shopping for the components of a recipe -- read the full instructions all the way through.
Not that we're good about following that advice ourselves. Time and again, we find ourselves barreling toward the end of a dish, and suddenly -- ohhhhh, cripes! -- "Let rest for 90 minutes before proceeding to next step."
We were glad to see this tip, submitted by Chef John Besh, included in Food Network Magazine's terrific May feature, "The 100 Greatest Cooking Tips of All Time." It bears repeating: "Take the time to actually read recipes through before you begin."
Of course, sometimes things turn out okay. In fact, not heeding that advice led us to make this strawberry shortcake. More on that in a moment.
But first: strawberries.
Strawberry season is upon us, at least in our neck of the woods. If you're south of our nation's capital, you no doubt already have them by the bushels. Folks up north: Hold tight! They're coming. Our CSA kicked off this week, with a small quantity of strawberries, but it sounds like a bunch more are on their way to Chez Bitten Word.
We have some favorite recipes we'll revisit, like Strawberry Dumplings, or maybe this Strawberry-Citrus Salad. We also love making Freezer Jams, so that we have all that deliciousness on hand year-round (or at least as long as we can ration it).
And then there's shortcake.
We've made a handful of strawberry shortcakes here on the blog, our favorite being these Balsamic and Brown Sugar Strawberry Shortcakes. The compote was our own, but the shortcake itself was from Everyday Food, and it was very good.
But it looks as if we may have found a new favorite shortcake recipe.
We've featured Dorie Greenspan's beautiful cookbook Around My French Table on the blog before, but we haven't yet written about a dish we've made from the book.
Last week we invited three friends over for a mid-week dinner. For dessert, we planned to make some Strawberry Ricotta Dumplings from a cookbook called A Southerly Course (a new fave around our house, which we'll write about very soon!).
We made our lists, checked them twice, and did all our shopping. We even came home from work a little early on the night of the party, so we wouldn't be in a rush.
We decided to start on the dessert first, afraid that it would be the most time-intensive part of the cooking. Re-reading the recipe to begin, we realized that we missed one crucial step: The ricotta needed to drain for an hour before using it. And friends, we did not have an hour.
So we scrambled, still eager to do something with strawberries. We grabbed Dorie's book. And there, on page 435, was this recipe for "visitandine," described as a "simple, very white cake with an elegant small-grained-crumb, a lovely springy sponge, and a pure butter and sugar flavor that makes it perfect plain or paired with jam, fruit, chocolate, citrus curds, cream frosting, or glaze." Dorie even suggests using it for a classic strawberry shortcake.
We needed no convincing. Not only is it easy, but we also had all the ingredients on hand.
After dinner, when it was time for dessert, we sliced the cake into small wedges and topped it with compote and cream.
It was the first time of the year that any of us had had strawberries, and the compote was wonderfully sweet and fresh-tasting. But the cake, both on its own and paired with the compote, was spectacular! The springy texture was just as Dorie had described. You could almost say it's a little chewy, like a brownie, but still somehow light and airy. It's pretty magical.
This is an excellent, basic white cake for just about any use. We can see ourselves making two of them and stacking them with filling in between, or making it again just to eat on its own. So the cake was a huge success (thanks Dorie!) and dessert was not only saved, but was truly phenomenal.
And now we're off to use an unopened container of ricotta...
Have a favorite strawberry recipe? Hatching a plan for when they're available to you? We'd love to hear about it.
4 large egg whites, preferably at room temperature
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Choose a pan of your liking (we used a 10-inch Pyrex pie plate). Note that if you use a pan that is larger than 10-inches, the cake will require less cooking time.
Butter the pan and line it with a circle of parchment paper; butter the parchment.
Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, whip the egg whites until they hold firm peaks but are still glossy.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Pour in the melted butter, followed by the vanilla, and, using the whisk, stir until the ingredients are fully blended. Dorie writes that the mixture will clump and look "slightly hopeless."
Using a whisk, slide half of the egg whites onto the batter, using the whisk to stir them in gently. Using the whisk, fold in the remaining egg whites. Scrape the batter into the pan and jiggle the pan to even the top.
Bake the cake for 33 to 38 minutes, or until it's beautifully browned and starting to pull away from the sides of the pan. Once out of the oven, run a blunt knife around the edge of the cake. Still in the pan, place on a cooling rack for 3 minutes, then invert the cake onto the rack, remove the parchment, and allow the cake to cool to room temperature.
[BITTEN WORD NOTE: We served the Visitandine with a Simple Strawberry Compote and freshly whipped cream.]