Most people who have experienced biting into a big, red, juicy strawberry while in Norway agree that Norwegian strawberries are in a league of its own. Wild strawberries have been known in Europe since the Roman era, but they were not commercially grown until the 19th century. Strawberries were used as medicine; its juice was rubbed on old wounds along with salt.
Norwegians are known for the record amount of strawberries they consume: Every Norwegian eats a total of four kilos (around 9 lbs) per year! Filled with antioxidants and containing fewer pesticides than strawberries found in other parts of the world, the berries are first and foremost so tasty because they get picked when they are fully ripe, not a bit before, as is the case with imported berries (to guarantee longevity when transported). Additionally, the conditions in Norway are ideal with long, light filled days combined with a cool climate that lengthens the ripening period, allowing the berries to develop great flavors.
I was lucky to grow up with a big backyard and a big fruit and vegetable garden with rows of strawberry plants, and had the luxury of being able to put my flip flops on when waking up in the morning, go in the back and pick ripe, juicy berries right from the ground and bring back for breakfast. Of course, as a young girl, I preferred eating them for dessert – just thinly sliced and covered in cream and a sprinkle of sugar…
Here I am photographed in my early teens in front of our vegetable garden at home in Norway:
Due to the very mild winter Norway experienced this year, the strawberry season this year is the best in many years. I’ve been reading tons of articles about strawberries in Norwegian papers and was inspired by the many recipes that have popped up as a result of this fabulous season. Naturally, living in New York, I seek to combine my two cultures; Norwegian and American, and felt a desire to create a dairy free strawberry shortcake. An American classic and family favorite, it’s hard not to love this dessert, and with this coming Friday being the first official day of summer, it is the perfect seasonal dish!
I’m happy to say my version turned out perfectly and although I wasn’t fortunate enough to have Norwegian strawberries on hand, I found some pretty amazingly flavor packed ones at my local farmer market this past Sunday. The light biscuits get a nice lift and fresh taste by including some lemon zest in the dough, and instead of traditional heavy cream I whipped up coconut cream which added just that extra exotic and exciting flavor to bring the dish all together. If you can’t find tasty strawberries where you are this time of year, feel free to substitute with any fresh fruit of your choice, it will still taste delicious!
I urge you to try this recipe and compare it to your traditional way of making them – I bet you won’t miss the dairy!
SUNNY’S NORWEGIAN STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE
3 cups hulled strawberries, sliced in half
1/2 cup sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp grated lemon zest
6 tablespoons chilled vegan butter or firm coconut butter, diced
1/2 cup almond, soy or other plant based milk
1 x 14 oz full fat coconut milk *
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp confectioner’s sugar
Start by macerating strawberries: Combine strawberries in a bowl with the 1/2 cup sugar and lemon juice, stir and set aside in fridge.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
To prepare batter: In a food processor, pulse together the remaining sugar , flour, sugar, baking powder, lemon zest and salt until well combined. Add the vegan butter or coconut butter, pulsing until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. With the machine still running, add the non-dairy milk alternative gradually, until the dough just begins to hold together and pull away from the sides of the bowl.
On a lightly floured surface, turn out the dough and pat into 8 small round biscuits. Transfer the biscuits to the prepared baking sheet, sprinkle lightly with sugar, and bake about 18-20 minutes, or until golden. Allow the biscuits to cool on the baking sheet.
To prepare coconut cream: *Place can of coconut milk in fridge overnight so that the coconut fat of the milk gathers on top. Carefully open the can and remove the solid “lid” of fat and place in a bowl (you want to whip only the fat/solid mass). Save the coconut juice at the bottom for another time. Add the vanilla extract and confectioner’s sugar and whip in a stand mixer until fluffy and thick. Set aside in fridge until ready to serve.
To serve, slice the cooled biscuits in half, spoon some of the strawberry mixture on top of one half, and place a dollop of whipped coconut cream on top and place the other biscuit half on top. Now you’ve got the taste of summer on your plate!!