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Strawberry Lemon Thyme Shortcakes Inspired By "Comfort Food", A Novel

Strawberry Shortcake-Copyright©Tartelette 2008 Early last month, the lovely Cath from A Blithe Palate and Stephanie of Dispensing Happiness contacted me to see if I wanted to be part of a foodie book club they were creating, The Edible World. The premise: about twice a year, the book club readers would get a copy of a food related novel with the mission (to read it!), pick a dish mentioned in the book, find a recipe for it, make it and blog about it. Guess what I told them?! Count me in!!! I always need something to read on the treadmill and what better way to exorcise demons and calories than read about them, right?!!

Comfort Food written by Kate Jacobs, relates the adventures in cooking and paths of self exploration of a 50 year-old tv cooking show host, Gus, whose ratings are suffering and who finds herself paired with a vibrant young Miss Spain turned culinary school graduate whose claim to fame are cooking snippets on youtube. Gus lost her husband early, taking care of her 2 daughters by opening a sandwich shop without prior culinary experience and discovered by chance by a tv cooking show producer. Gus grew to become a meticulous, detail bordering maniac loving woman, known for her fierce sense of business, suffocating her entourage by what she believes to be the "right thing".

See where I am going with this? Indeed, conflicting visions of Paula Deen and Martha Stewart were doing their mambo-jumbo during the first few chapters settling Gus into characters. Paula, divorced with two boys started a sandwich delivery enterprise to survive and was given a chance later by the FoodNetwork. Martha, divorced also with a daughter, becoming head of a multimedia enterprise and worldly known for her style and meticulously marketed lifestyle. I did not like the book at first for this very reason…I could not shake their faces and personal stories from my head and it made me mad at the writer for not being a little more creative. Then I realised that it was maybe due to the fact that these were so well known of the American public that it would be easier to cross Paula and Martha, add a little touch of Ina and voila! Gus was born and the story could move on…

And what a novel indeed, with rivalry, motherly love gone wrong, friendships blooming in the most unexpected places, people finding their voice, etc…All the characters of the novel growing with the heroine to be the people they really ought to be. All drawn by the same love for food and sharing food with others. The story lines are sometimes obvious and telegraphed but the dialogues are so fresh and surprising at times with a great sense of irony and humor that the book becomes like a good friend. The more you read, the less you want to reach the end…like when I go home for Christmas and all the family in all its neurosis comes together at the dinner table and I never want tomorrow to come.

Strawberry Shortcake-Copyright©Tartelette 2008 The book is filled with dozens of tempting savory dishes and a few Indian desserts did catch my eyes but I ran out of time to focus on those before the family came to visit and when they were here one of their requests was to try a popular American dessert, the Strawberry Shortcakes mentioned in the book became an obvious choice. I find the excerpt where they are mentioned the perfect metaphor to thank Cath and Stephanie for including me in The Edible World and to thank you all for following Tartelette’s adventures!

"Gather round, friends," Alan was saying, as the sky grew dark and the guests were contentedly tired, full of watermelon and punch and Gus’s fresh strawberry shortcake piled high with vanilla-flavored whipped cream. Amid all the hubbub, the Eat Drink and Be tea had managed to sneak in a live so of Oliver showing Troy ho to grill fruit and make a sweet yogurt and honey dipping sauce, Gus mixing cake in the kitchen, and Carmen explaining the wonderful spiciness of chorizo, interspersed with real time action from the party. The crew had been delighted to have their loves ones finally see what it is they actually did on set, and the lightheartedness of the cast had made the episode a joy to film.

Strawberry Lemon Thyme Shortcakes:

Serves 6
Printable Recipe

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup cake flour
1/4 cup sugar + 1 Tb
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
6 Tb chilled, unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
3/4 cup + 1 Tb half and half
zest of one lemon

Preheat oven to 400F. In a large bol, mix together the flours, sugar, baking powder, salt and lemon zest. Add the butter and cut the butter into pea sized beads with a pastry blender, two knives or your fingertips. Add the half and half and quickly gather the mass into a ball. Do not overknead. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, it will be easier to roll out.
Roll the dough out onto a floured surface to about 1/2 inch thick. With a 3 1/2 inch round biscuit cutter, cut as many shortcakes as you can in the dough. Re-roll the scraps and cut out the remaining dough until you get 6 shortcakes. Brush them with the remaining tablespoon of cream and sprinkle with one Tb of sugar.
Bake for 15-17 minutes until golden brown. Let cool completely before filling them.

Lemon Thyme Strawberries: (you may wish to start your prep with those if you want some natural juice from the fruit)
1 pound strawberries
2 Tb sugar
2 Tb fresh chopped lemon thyme (optional)

Hull and chop the strawberries, mix them with the sugar and the lemon thyme in a large bowl and refrigerate until ready to use

Whipped cream:
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp lemon zest

In an electric mixer, using the whisk attachement or balloon beaters, beat the cream on medium low speed for 30 seconds, add the sugar and zest and continue beating, increasing the speed to medium high until you reach soft peaks. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Using a serrated knife, cut the shortcakes in half. Divide the strawberries among the bottom halves, evenly top with whipped cream and cover each shortcake with its cap.

Strawberry Shortcake-Copyright©Tartelette 2008

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Cannelle Et Vanille June 7, 2008 um 5:15 am

Foodie book club… I like the sound of that! Great review too and the shortcakes… hmmm…. i love a good flaky biscuit with sweet strawberries!

Manggy June 7, 2008 um 5:34 am

Comfort food indeed! That looks so luscious!
I’m not sure I can ever be part of a book club as I’m not the reading type, haha 🙂

Unknown June 7, 2008 um 6:03 am

Darlin', I LOVE thyme in cupcakes. It’s just all kinds of fantastic.

Anonymous June 7, 2008 um 6:53 am

What a cool concept…and this little dessert looks wonderful!

Peabody June 7, 2008 um 8:16 am

What a fun concept.

Rosa's Yummy Yums June 7, 2008 um 8:22 am

A refined and delicious combo! Your shortcakes look terribly scrumptious!



Rachel@fairycakeheaven June 7, 2008 um 8:42 am

Sounds fantastic Helen, and a wonderful idea of pulling inspiration from the book too!!!

Suzana June 7, 2008 um 9:55 am

Food and books involving food blogging? What a brilliant idea! And the shortcakes can indeed be a very comforting food.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) June 7, 2008 um 10:38 am

Great book review — makes me want to run out and get it today! The shortcakes are lovely. Maybe I’ll get inspired, though with a heat wave approaching, the thought of turning on the oven is… well, not likely!

Anonymous June 7, 2008 um 11:43 am

I too love the concept. I am going to get the book for my road trip to New England this week. Fabulous shortcakes, and this is such a good American favorite.

spicyicecream June 7, 2008 um 12:39 pm

Great minds think alike! This looks absolutely delicious 🙂

Christy June 7, 2008 um 12:48 pm

The book club sounds awesome! Your strawberry shortcakes look soo good! I’ve never had them before though, can you believe it? It’s not very popular here in Australia, because I think it’s a predominantly American dessert. Any chance of sending a few my way? 😉

Ann June 7, 2008 um 1:31 pm

Shortcake, while so simple, can be so very delightful! This one looks great. I’m intrigued by the book as well.

Mike of Mike's Table June 7, 2008 um 1:44 pm

I love the shortcakes and the lemon thyme seems like a great twist on one of my favorite desserts. I’ll have to keep it in mind!

LyB June 7, 2008 um 2:59 pm

A foodie book club, well I’ll be! That book sounds wonderful, especially since it inspired you to make those luscious looking shortcakes! 🙂

Anonymous June 7, 2008 um 3:06 pm

Helen, thank you so much for joining! I can’t think of few things for fun than friends, food and books. 🙂

LizNoVeggieGirl June 7, 2008 um 3:08 pm

I can understand why you didn’t like the novel at first; but hey, at least it contained some great recipes! :0) Those Strawberry-Lemon-Thyme Short Cakes look divine.

una donna dolce June 7, 2008 um 3:57 pm

Foodie Book Club? How can I join?! That just combines two of my favorite pastimes ever!

PheMom June 7, 2008 um 4:27 pm

Oh! Great job! I love your review. I felt the exact same way through the first few chapters, then kind of settled in to it. Those shortcakes look great!

Anonymous June 7, 2008 um 5:24 pm

I find it so fascinating how many online baking, cooking and cookbook clubs there are.

It’s so neat that people are using the internet to socialize with other people who have similar interests.

Lore June 7, 2008 um 6:01 pm

Sounds like a great concept and I love your strawberry shortcakes! Comfy and perfect for the rainy weather we had today.

Anonymous June 7, 2008 um 7:28 pm

You have a delicious blog here!!!

I’ll be adding you to my blogroll…..

Anonymous June 7, 2008 um 11:52 pm

It’s amazing how well strawberries go with delicious herbs! basil too!

Camille June 8, 2008 um 12:45 am

Books and scrumptious food; two of my daily requirements.

Your strawberry shortcake sounds perfect and the temptation to over indulge too great. But, I think I must…look out treadmill here I come.

Thank you for taking a look at my Opera Cake and for your kind words.

My Sweet & Saucy June 8, 2008 um 12:57 am

That would be the perfect ending to a long summer night!

Patsyk June 8, 2008 um 2:58 am

You’ve got me really interested in this book! I’m going to have to add it to my reserve list at the library now. 🙂

The strawberry shortcakes sound wonderful, and just different enough from the "norm".

Anonymous June 8, 2008 um 5:45 am

Comfort food indeed, they look so good, my mouth is watering.

Foodie book group – now that sounds wonderful 🙂

Susan @ SGCC June 8, 2008 um 7:52 am

A foodie book club! It sounds like a great idea. There are lots of books to choose from. Right now, I am reading one called "The Chocolate Lovers' Club".

I love strawberry shortcake. The lemon and thyme sound like lovely additions to a classic!

Retno Prihadana June 8, 2008 um 8:34 am

looks delicious and great!

Kolenka June 8, 2008 um 9:16 am

This comment has been removed by the author.

Vera June 8, 2008 um 9:27 am

Helen, there’s such a pleasure to read your posts! Great book review.
And the shortcakes look and, I’m sure, taste delicious!

Anonymous June 8, 2008 um 4:21 pm

You are an inspiration.

That Girl June 8, 2008 um 5:45 pm

I’ll have to check out that book!
For once I actually feel ahead of the trend which is sure to ensue – we’re going to be seeing shortcakes all over the internet now!

Anonymous June 8, 2008 um 7:49 pm

Your photos are so gorgeous… Those pictures alone are enough to make anyone crave strawberry shortcakes!

Joy June 8, 2008 um 8:32 pm

Yum yum yum. I love strawberry shortcakes, they’re like a lighter version of the great British scone. I’m looking forward to doing some strawberry picking and I’ll have to give this a try. I’m sure you’ve got a virtual cabinet full of them, but I’ve nominated you for a blogging award on my site!

Fran Z June 9, 2008 um 1:10 am

Wish I could reach through the web, snatch that top picture and gobble it up!

Anonymous June 9, 2008 um 1:58 am

how awesome you’re gonna be part of this new book! With beautiful creations such as these, you should be coming out with your own cookbook soon. We’ll be one of the first to buy one!

Botacook June 9, 2008 um 11:43 am

Très très jolie recette, très appétissante!

Patricia Scarpin June 9, 2008 um 3:56 pm

Helen, that book club sounds like a lot of fun! And this dessert is so dreamy. I absolutely love the use of herbs here!

Anonymous June 9, 2008 um 4:09 pm

i would have never thought to add thyme to strawberries, but now i must try it. maybe in an ice cream? (it’s so hot here that the idea of turning on the oven is too much for me)

RecipeGirl June 9, 2008 um 10:42 pm

Sounds like a delicious book club to be a part of. Fun!

Ginny June 10, 2008 um 4:00 am

Delicious! I love the Thyme and Strawberry combination! 🙂

Garrett June 10, 2008 um 2:51 pm

Shortcakes? YUM! I still need to get around to making a batch, I love those things so much. Sounds like it would be just heavenly with those strawberries.

Unknown June 10, 2008 um 4:36 pm

Oh how funny…I must be reading your mind…I actually just made Vanilla Orange shortcakes on Saturday (I hadn’t even had time to read your post beforehand). I’ve not had a chance to do my post/upload my photos yet, but I hope it turns out half as lovely as yours. Lemon thyme sounds delicous…I’ll have to try this next time.

Anonymous June 11, 2008 um 4:16 am

Thanks for adding my entry! Lots of good photos so far 🙂

amycaseycooks June 18, 2008 um 12:00 pm

Shortcake is one of my favorite desserts. The addition of thyme is a nice touch.

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