Welcome strawberry season with shortcake desserts
March 18, 2014 | Updated: March 18, 2014 10:15pm
The strawberry shortcake at Brennan's restaurant Wednesday March 12, 2014.(Dave Rossman photo)
There was a recent two-week period when temperatures in the Houston area seemed determined not to budge above the 50s. But those cold days when local farmers held off picking strawberries proved to intensify the red jewels.
"Those first ones after that period were the best," Haven chef Randy Evans said of local strawberries. "I bit into them, and they were so sweet. They were amazing."
We're in the "heart" of strawberry season, as Evans calls it, when local strawberries are abundant. Farms such as Froberg's Farm in Alvin and Atkinson Farm in Spring (both of which offer pick-your-own strawberries) are making the best of this year's sweet season that traditionally runs through Mother's Day.
Strawberry season means, of course, it's the perfect time for strawberry desserts. We asked three local chefs - Evans, Danny Trace of Brennan's Houston and Matt Zoch of Prego - for their favorite strawberry desserts. Strawberry shortcake (or in Evans' case, strawberries over homemade pound cake, essentially the same idea) is the ideal showcase for the ripe fruit.
"There's nothing better when strawberries are in season," said Trace, who sources his berries from Froberg's. "It's classic shortbread that's just sweet enough with strawberries and cream. We let the berries do the talking."
Zoch's shortcake is made to order at Prego and is sauced with macerated strawberries as soon as the pastry is pulled from the oven. It comes out of the oven sizzling and soft with crusty edges. It's a little salty, a little sweet, and nice and flaky. It's just so tasty."
Evans, who sources from both Froberg's and Atkinson's, puts his berries and juice over a vanilla-fragrant pound cake that is his mother's recipe. The rich, dense pound cake is sliced, buttered and griddled so that it sports a bit of a crisp. He lashes his dessert with lemon curd and whipped cream in addition to a boozy ladle of macerated strawberries. His mother, however, skipped the booze.
Strawberry pound cake, a staple at Haven since it opened, is something customers look forward to when strawberries are in season. "They wait for it," he said. "It's one of those dishes I can't take off the menu."