Better News Network

Recipes: Three ways to make strawberries even tastier

Strawberry cheese galette, in New York, on May 18, 2023. Simmering berries briefly in a sugar syrup concentrates their flavor and keeps them from weeping into the crisp crust. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews. (Christopher Testani/The New York Times)
By Melissa Clark | New York Times
May 31, 2023 at 4:54 a.m.
Last winter was a terrible time to be a strawberry in California and maybe an even worse time to be a strawberry farmer.
At Harrys Berries in Oxnard, California, the rain came down so hard it flattened acres of strawberry beds like pancakes, said operations manager Kristopher Gean, whose grandfather Harry Iwamoto started the farm more than 50 years ago. Each bed had to be dug up by hand, costing the farm more than $100,000 in labor.
Even then, the berries that survived to make it to market were bloated, insipid and expensive. Everyone on Instagram was complaining: These berries dont taste that good, Gean said. And they were right.
From January to March, bad weather and bland berries were the rule for farmers across California, who grow about 85% of the commercial strawberries in the United States. And the devastated crops, with their low yields, astronomically drove up prices for any berries you could find.
Things have finally turned around: California berries are back on the market, sweet as ever, and at a more reasonable cost. Strawberries from other regions are also becoming available as the weather warms, making their scarlet way to farmers markets and supermarkets across the country.
And what better way to celebrate their return than with a berry-laden dessert?
While many strawberry-filled baked goods get a little soggy from the raw berries weeping moisture into the crumb or crust, these three new recipes are different. They treat the berries before baking simmering, roasting or macerating them to condense their juices and allow them to hold up better in pastries and cakes.
An elegant, flaky tart simmers the strawberries briefly in a sugar syrup until they glisten like rubies. Then, theyre arranged on top of a tangy cream cheese mixture spread on a sheet of puff pastry. The tart emerges from the oven with a crisp, buttery crust that stays that way for hours, perfect for making ahead.
Macerating the berries in sugar before baking them into biscuits prevents them from becoming gummy. Then, you can sandwich those biscuits around more macerated berries and whipped cream for the fruitiest, juiciest double strawberry shortcakes imaginable, with poppy seeds for extra crunch.
Last but not least, in the tender almond cakes, rich with browned butter, berries are briefly roasted before being mixed into the batter, for an intense flavor and caramelized juices that lend a jammy vividness.
These techniques will help any berries show their best, and theyre also great to keep in your back pocket for next winter, in case bad weather and bland berries return.
But right now, this years berries are ripe and ready for all your baking and beyond.
Strawberry Almond Cakes
Strawberry almond cakes, in New York, on May 18, 2023. Roasting caramelizes strawberries and makes them especially easy to fold into a dense batter like the one for these tender almond cakes. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews. (Christopher Testani/The New York Times)
These tender, strawberry-filled almond cakes are a riff on financiers, diminutive French pastries made from almond flour and browned butter. To get the most intensity from the berries, they are briefly roasted before being mixed into the batter. Roasting condenses the berries flavor and helps keep them from leaking juices into the cakes, which can make their light crumb heavy and a bit damp. Serve these cakes by themselves as a simple dessert or teatime snack, or with a scoop of strawberry ice cream or sorbet for something richer and fancier. Although theyre at their crisp-edged best served on the day theyre baked, theyll keep for a day or two stored airtight at room temperature.
By Melissa Clark
Total time: 1 hour 20 minutes
7 ounces/200 grams fresh strawberries, cut into 1/2-inch chunks (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar, plus more for the pan
3/4 cup/170 grams unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
2 cups/230 grams confectioners sugar
1 cup/100 grams almond flour
3/4 cup/90 grams all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
5 large egg whites
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, mix strawberries with 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar and transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast until the strawberries have released a bit of juice and are just tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.
2. In a small saucepan, melt butter, letting it cook until it turns nut brown and smells toasted, about 5 minutes. Pour into a heatproof bowl and let cool. (Do not scrape up any black bits from the bottom of the pot.)
3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine sugar, almond flour, all-purpose flour and salt. Using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and set on low speed (or use a whisk and a strong arm), beat in egg whites until the flour mixture is damp. Add butter and beat on medium-high speed (or vigorously by hand) until very smooth, about 2 minutes. Beat in vanilla. At this point, the batter can be used immediately or refrigerated for up to 4 days without the strawberries.
4. Right before baking, drain the roasted strawberries from their liquid and blot on a paper towel or clean cloth. Fold the roasted strawberries into the batter. (You may have about 1 to 2 tablespoons of strawberry syrup left to add to yogurt or seltzer.)
5. Butter 12 (1/2-cup) muffin cups and coat all over with a little granulated sugar. Divide batter across the cups, and bake until financiers are golden brown and the tops spring back when lightly pressed, 15 to 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack before unmolding.
Strawberry Cream Cheese Tart
Briefly simmering fresh strawberries in a light sugar syrup before baking them into a tart keeps the berries plump and juicy and the crust from becoming soggy. Here, the syrupy berries are layered with a cream cheese filling and baked on a sheet of store-bought puff pastry, which turns golden and flaky in the oven. Quick to put together and elegant to serve, its a terrific way to showcase the fresh berries.
By Melissa Clark
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes
1 1/2 pounds fresh strawberries, trimmed and halved or quartered if very large
1/4 cup/50 grams granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
For the Tart:
1/2 cup/4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
All-purpose flour, for rolling
1 (14- to 18-ounce) package puff pastry, preferably all-butter, thawed if frozen but still cold
1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. In a medium saucepan, combine strawberries, sugar and salt. Let mixture sit for 20 minutes, tossing

Wednesday, May 31, 2023 at 9:54 am

Full Coverage