Hopped Strawberry Shortcake with Witbier Curd

Cooking with Beer by | Jun 2017 | Issue #125
Photos by Sean Z. Paxton

There are several styles of strawberry shortcake: Some chefs create a layered cake, frosted in whipping cream, while others use angel food cake or biscuits and call it the same thing. This beer-inspired version incorporates barley flour, Witbier, and hops into the popular summer dessert.

Barley Shortcake
This shortcake recipe was inspired by flavors I remember enjoying as a kid. Barley flour adds a slight nuttiness, while the sugar adds just enough sweetness and the sour cream contributes a slight tart tang in the finish. Together, these differences make this shortcake different than a biscuit, enhancing the Hopped Strawberries and the Witbier Curd.

Makes: 12 shortcakes

1 cup unsalted butter, frozen
3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup barley flour, preferably malted
1/3 cup organic sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup sour cream
1 cup organic cream, heavy or whipping
3 tbsp organic cream, heavy or whipping

Topping Ingredients
2 tbsp organic cream, heavy or whipping
2 tbsp organic sugar

Freeze the butter for at least 30 minutes to help keep it intact when it is grated in a later step. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a sheet tray with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper and keep nearby.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, barley flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. In a two-cup liquid measuring pitcher, add the sour cream, leveling it off, and topping with one cup of cream. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons and, using a fork, mix the two ingredients together until they are incorporated. Set aside.

Place a box-style grater on a paper towel. Peel and quickly grate the butter on the largest grate size. Remove the grater and pick up the paper towel from two opposite edges, transferring its contents to the flour mixture bowl. Stir the flour and grated butter together until the butter is evenly distributed into the flour. This technique will help give a flaky, tender texture to the finished shortcake. Now add the sour cream mixture into the butter and flour mixture. Knead in the liquid until a dough is formed.

Lightly flour a clean and clear workspace. Ready a biscuit cutter or a pint glass and a rolling pin. (A chilled 22-ounce bomber works in a pinch.) Transfer the shortcake dough to the center of the workspace and lightly dust with flour. Press the dough down into a rectangle. With a lightly-floured rolling pin, gently roll out the dough into a 10-by-12-inch rectangle. Fold the dough into thirds, much like making your own croissant dough. Take the right side of the rectangle and fold it just past the center of the dough, then fold the left side over the right side. Last, fold the dough toward yourself in half again. This will create six layers, which also improves the flaky texture in the final product.

Lightly press the layers together and then re-roll out the dough into a 10-by-12-inch rectangle, about an inch thick. Use the biscuit cutter or pint glass to cut out the shortcakes. Any remaining dough can be re-rolled out and cut into more rounds. Place each shortcake onto the prepared sheet tray. Using a pastry brush dipped into the cream, completely paint the top of each shortbread. Sprinkle each with an even layer of sugar and let the shortcakes rest for 15 minutes to allow the dough to hydrate, and the baking powder to start working.

Bake for 18–20 minutes, or until the tops of each shortcake are golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature. Shortcakes can be made in advance, but are better when eaten the same day.

Witbier Curd
Traditionally, strawberry shortcake is made up of whipping cream, shortcake, and macerated strawberries. I wanted to add another texture element to this classic summer dessert, building on flavors that enhance the dish. A Witbier, with its coriander and orange peel flavors, along with the wheaty, malty undertone, and a yeast bite, adds to this curd recipe. Instead of finishing off the curd with butter, which can veer too close to diacetyl when paired with beer, I use coconut oil. It still gives that same silky smooth finish and helps thicken the curd slightly when chilled.

Makes: 1 1/4 cup

3/4 cup Witbier, such as Allagash White
2 tbsp orange, tangerine, or Cara Cara juice, preferably fresh squeezed
1/4 cup organic sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 extra-large egg, at room temperature
2 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
4 tbsp coconut oil

Pour the Witbier into a medium-sized saucepan. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the beer to 1/2 cup (about 3–4 minutes).

When the beer has reduced, take the pan off the heat, and add it back into the liquid measuring cup with the orange juice. This will help cool the beer. Pour the beer-juice mixture back into the pot and add the sugar. In a bowl, add the whole egg, egg yolks, and salt. Lightly whisk the eggs until well incorporated and lightly fluffy. Whisk the beer mixture and slowly add the egg mixture, being careful not to scramble the eggs. Mix everything together until the pre-curd is even in color and consistency.

Turn the heat to medium-low, and use a heatproof spatula to scrape the bottom of the pot, forming a pattern across the entire surface. Using a thermometer or IR laser, keep stirring the curd until it hits 170°F, when the egg will finish cooking, thickening the curd, and leaving a streak behind the spatula as you scrape the bottom of the pot. Remove from heat and immediately add the coconut oil, using the temperature difference to cool the curd slightly, preventing it from curdling. Mix in the coconut oil well and transfer to a pint-size canning jar.

Cover the surface with plastic wrap and refrigerate to cool and set. After 2 hours, the Witbier curd is ready to use.

Hopped Strawberries
Sure, strawberries by themselves are delicious. Mother Nature has done all the work. Adding a few flavors to the strawberries along with sugar, helps pull their natural juices out, macerates them, and creates a sauce. This Cuisine à la Bière version uses a hop-flavored sugar, a splash of Witbier, and pinch of salt.

Makes: 2 pints of strawberries, enough for 12 shortcakes

2 pint strawberries, fresh
2 tbsp Hopped Sugar, recipe at chefs-table.homebrewchef.com
1 tbsp Witbier, such as Allagash White
1 pinch kosher salt

Rinse and drain the strawberries in cold water. Trim off the top stems and surrounding leaves with a paring knife. Next, set each strawberry point side up and cut four or five slices down the length of the berry. Repeat with remaining berries. Place into a bowl.

Add the hopped sugar (or regular sugar), along with the Witbier and salt. Gently toss the berries with a spoon until evenly coated. Allow the strawberries to sit for 30 minutes to fully macerate. If not using right away, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. These are best within 12 hours, the longer they sit the more the texture begins to deteriorate.

Strawberry Shortcake Assembling Directions (Per Serving)
1. Cut a Barley Shortcake in half.
2. Add a tablespoon of Witbier Curd onto the bottom shortcake.
3. Scoop a large spoonful of Hopped Strawberries over the curd.
4. Cover with the other half of the Barley Shortcake.
5. Finish with a healthy dollop of whipping cream or Malted Whipping Cream (recipe at chefs-table.homebrewchef.com).