I have Carole King’s song “Anticipation” on my mind now for strawberry season.
I know it’s just the end of April, but growers are saying we likely will see those bright red locally produced berries in early May because of the warmer weather. Angie Eckert at Eckert’s Orchards in Belleville said the Country Store will have some homegrown berries available this weekend, with pick-your-own opening Mother’s Day weekend, if not a few days sooner.
In anticipation of that happening, I pulled together a handful of strawberry recipes.
I kept it simple, not combining the berries with any other fruit — letting the flavor stand on its own. I also avoided the usual pie and went with baked goods like scones, a dump cake, crumb bars and the best darned strawberry ice cream you can make just by sticking a pan in the freezer.
If you didn’t know it, strawberries are kind of outliers in the berry family, and technically not even a berry. Why? Because the seeds (about 200 per strawberry) are on the outside.
And when you’re at the store about to pick up the bananas you take home every week, throw in some strawberries: A handful (about eight) contain more potassium than a banana.
How to pick ’em and keep ’em
Buy local. If berries come from far away, they have to be picked before they’re ripe, which means less flavor.
Buy in-season. Berries grown in wintertime are either imported or too hardy a variety to taste very good.
Look for shiny strawberries with perked-up leaves. The berries should be one consistent red color to be ripe.
Leave them whole and unwashed when storing at home. Keep them in their plastic container — it’s well ventilated — in the refrigerator. Wait to wash them just before using.
Strawberry Crumb Bars
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
1 cup cold butter, cut into pieces
1 egg, beaten
4 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped
1/2 cup sugar
4 teaspoons corn starch
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease (or line with foil) a 9-by-13 pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, baking powder, salt and flour.
Cut in the butter using two knives or a pastry blender, until pieces are no bigger than pea sized.
Stir in the egg to form a crumbly dough.
Pat half of the dough in an even layer in the prepared pan.
In a medium bowl, toss the strawberries with the 1/2 cup sugar and corn starch, then spread the strawberry mixture on top of the dough in the pan.
Crumble the remaining dough evenly over the strawberry layer. Bake 45-50 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let cool before slicing and serving. Makes 20 slices.
Strawberry Cream Dump Cake
1 box white or yellow cake mix
1 1/2 (3/4 cup) sticks butter, melted
3 pounds frozen strawberries (about 8 cups), not thawed
2 (6 ounces each) containers strawberry flavor yogurt
1 (8 ounces) container whipped topping
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place frozen strawberries in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Drizzle half of the butter over strawberries, then sprinkle cake mix on top. Drizzle with remaining butter. Bake 50-60 minutes, or until the cake mix is golden on top and the strawberry mixture is bubbly. Cool before serving with the yogurt topping.
Topping: In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat together yogurt and whipped topping until light and fluffy.
No Churn, Strawberry-Vanilla Swirl Ice Cream
1 pint heavy whipping cream, very cold (2 cups)
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup strawberry purée (approximately 8-10 strawberries)
Place 8-10 strawberries in a food processor and blend until smooth. Measure 1 cup of strawberry purée and set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the heavy whipping cream to stiff peaks. Add the sweetened condensed milk to the whipped cream and beat to stiff peaks again.
Place half of the sweetened whipped cream mixture into a 2-quart loaf pan, then pour half of the strawberry purée on top. Gently swirl with a spoon or knife until it looks like ribbons of strawberries and cream. Repeat the process with the other half of the sweetened whipped cream and strawberry purée.
Gently cover (so not to disturb the swirly pattern) with wax paper and place in the freezer for 6-8 hours, or overnight. Serves: 6-8.
For mess-free mixing: Start and keep the mixer on low speed until the heavy cream starts to thicken. Then use medium or high speed to stiff peaks.
If using frozen strawberries: slice and put the strawberries in a food processor, allow the strawberries to thaw and blend until the purée is smooth. If the purée is too thick, add 2 tablespoons water and blend until smooth again.
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar, plus additional for topping
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup cold butter, cubed
1 1/2 cups chopped strawberries
2 large eggs
3 teaspoons vanilla extract or flavoring of your choice
1/2 cup milk (or half and half)
1/3 cup sliced almonds
Whipped cream and sliced strawberries mixed with sugar, for serving (optional)
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt and baking powder.
Using a fork, pastry cutter or your hands, work the butter into the flour mixture until it is unevenly crumbly. Stir in the strawberries.
In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, vanilla and milk or half and half. Reserve 2 teaspoons of the milk mixture.
Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients. Gently fold together and then dump the mixture onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Coat your hands in flour and divide the dough in half. Form two circles that are between 1/2-inch and 3/4-inch thick. Brush each circle with reserved milk and sprinkle with sliced almonds, sugar and a pinch of salt.
Using a knife or a pizza cutter, slice each circle into six pie-like wedges; do not separate. For best texture and highest rise, place the pan of scones in the freezer for 30 minutes, uncovered. While the scones are chilling, heat the oven to 425 degrees.
Bake the scones 15 minutes and remove them from the oven. Cut through the score lines again, then bake for another 8 to 10 minutes, or until the scones are golden brown.
Remove the scones from the oven, and cool briefly on the pan. Serve warm with strawberries and whipped cream for a shortcake-inspired spring treat.
When they’re completely cool, wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for up to several days.
Adapted from a recipe by King Arthur