Strawberry season is just within reach in Boston, spanning from late May through June. These bright red, succulent beauties are delicious straight out of the box. Another way to use perfectly ripe fruit is to macerate it or soak it in sugar, alcohol or a flavored liquid. Maceration changes the texture and creates juicy, sweet and aromatic fruit. These lightly sweetened strawberries which were soaked in a little sugar and fresh orange juice, can be served simply with a dollop of fresh whipped cream or as a composed dessert.
STRAWBERRIES: Toss the strawberries with the sugar, zest and orange juice. Stir to combine and set aside for at least 20 minutes. You can refrigerate the berries for up to 6 hours or so.
WHIPPED CREAM: Combine the heavy cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a large bowl. Whip the cream with a whisk or an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. The whipped cream can be refrigerated for up to 6 hours or so.
SHORTCAKES: Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a baking sheet or use a silicon pad to cover the baking sheet. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl and stir to mix. Add the butter cubes and cut it into the flour using a pasty blender or your fingers. You want the butter to resemble course meal. Add the cream and stir to mix until the dough comes together. Don’t over mix the dough!
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and press it into a flat round shape. Roll the dough out between 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch thickness. I used a 2-inch biscuit cutter to make smaller cakes, but you could make 3-inch round biscuits. Place the rounds on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Place on a baking rack to cool. These shortcakes can be made in advance and stored in an airtight container.
Slice each cake in half. Using a small ice cream scoop, dollop the cream onto the bottom half of the shortcake. Top with the the macerated strawberries and cover with the top half of the shortcake. Garnish with fresh mint leaves.